Meeting Purpose: This meeting was dedicated to going over various new and upcoming partnerships as well as to get background on the Peace Corps from our newest UCP-SARnet member who volunteered with the organization.
Date: February 24, 2012
Time: 9am – 11am
Updates of Partnerships:
Dr. Wosinski recently got into contact with Dr. Rimjhim Aggarwal from the ASU School of Sustainability. One of her research areas is irrigation systems in India with focus on sustainable water use and improving agricultural practices. Dr. Aggarwal would be an amazing advisory board contact as well as a connection for Jain Corporation whom we will soon be collaborating with.
Two new knowledge partners that focus on development in various African countries have been added to our website - 1) Leaders De Demain who Dr. Wosinski and Osee signed an MOU with during their time in Africa in November last year and 2) Care for Life who will be presenting to our team during next week's meeting.
Also the International Association of Special Education will hopefully be one of our new knowledge partners soon. Iris Drower, president elect of IASE, is a part of the ASU community and we look forward to collaborating with her and IASE.
UCP-SARnet Website Needs:
If anyone knows an ICT person that can join the team as a volunteer or intern that would be great. We currently have a lot on the website that needs updating. Dr. Wosinski will additionally meet with the interns this Wednesday evening at 6pm in his office to go over a lot on the website that the interns can work on updating this semester.
Chris Wells on Peace Corps Experience:
Chris is here to speak to us about his experience with the Peace Corps. He is an ASU alumnus and during his time as a student here he took one of Dr. Wosinski's classes and also was a Teaching Assistant for Dr. Wosinski. Chris attended Graduate School before his experience as a Peace Corps volunteer and felt that he could give more back to the community this way - by having more of a professional background. He was assigned to Ethiopia which is located on the horn of Africa and is surrounded by really unstable countries. Chris's focus was on a major public health issue - HIV prevention.
Before hearing his input, we first watched a video off the YouTube Peace Corps Channel (link to video 12:42 min) to get a background on this organization. The Peace Corps mission is to promote world peace and friendship. US citizens volunteer and are assigned to areas in need around the world where they give over 2 years of service to their country of assignment. The volunteers go through a lot of training to live in their assigned communities - language training, culture training, safety and health training. The 6 program areas that volunteers address are: Education, Health, Business and Information & Communications Technology, Environment, Youth & Community Development, and Agriculture. Volunteers get a living allowance and other amenities. Living arrangements vary greatly but always meet minimum Peace Corps standards. It is described by former volunteers as a truly humbling experience.
The best volunteers are flexible and are there to help the community to accomplish what the community needs in a way that the community wants this need to be addressed. The Peace Corps model is about connecting with local organizations and finding out what the needs are there, not pushing a personal agenda. This is why the first year of the Peace Corps experience for all volunteers is dedicated to assimilating in the new region, learning the culture and language and figuring out what the specific needs are in the community. It is about really observing the people and the volunteer figuring out what role they can play best to address the major needs outlined.
One of Chris's assignments was to study the attrition rate of students at Hawassa University over the past few years. It was found that many more female students drop out of the university than male students, and furthermore the rate of female students dropping out was rising rather than the plateaued rate of male dropouts. The underlying reason for this as per statistical analysis is that the girls either get pregnant and/or contract HIV; females are a more susceptible demographic to this virus as well as university students in general. Chris was part of a prevention campaign that was held at Hawassa University. They held a sort of seminar/concert that was really popular with the students; the university auditorium seats were packed and a lot of people elected to stand and crowd around just to be a part of the experience. They had famous Ethiopian musicians come out and give a presentation that was more suitable to the student's culture. They also made a point to restore student faith in the on-campus resources available to them. The campus nurse came by and gave an overview of the health services the university has allocated for students. The University initially had a general nurse office and a separate HIV testing office which was obviously not effective since no one wants the stigma of visiting the "HIV office", so the offices were merged together so students would be more comfortable going out of their way to get checked up often. Overall, Chris' time in Ethiopia was an eye-opener and an invaluable life & learning experience.
Peace Corps Reflections:
Due to the amazing international outreach this organization has, we would really like to get them onboard as a UCP-SARnet knowledge partner. It would be amazing to be able to connect with volunteers that have real and tangible experiences in many of these countries that have major MDG needs. We will need to follow up on reaching out to Peace Corps and figuring out how we can collaborate with them.
Welcome to the team Chris.