On Earth Day and every day, Peace Corps volunteers lead grass-roots efforts to protect and preserve the environment in the countries in which they serve, the Peace Corps said in an April 22 press release.
Volunteers promote reforestation, build fuel-efficient cookstoves, enhance food security and institute environmental education programs. By strengthening awareness and understanding of environmental issues, volunteers share knowledge that empowers their communities to develop their own programs and make their own choices about how to best protect and preserve the local environment, the Peace Corps said.
About 17 percent of Peace Corps volunteers focus on environment and agriculture projects, while many others incorporate environmental protection into their classroom activities and secondary projects.
In Cameroon, Peace Corps volunteer Rachel Warner of Waukesha, Wisconsin, is planting 2,000 trees at a local school with her community. The trees will provide shade for the students, who are often outside exposed to the sun and heat, and also revitalize the land.
“The soil will be enhanced by the trees and will help in the fight against desertification,” Warner said. “Students will also learn about these subjects during our environmental club meetings, which will take place before the planting.”
A portion of the funds for Warner’s project is being raised through the Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP), which supports Peace Corps volunteer community projects worldwide. A local tree nursery will donate 1,000 trees, and community members will help plant the trees and lead a free training session on tree planting to contribute to the project. The PCPP grant will also supply bags and poles for proper protective care that will allow the trees to survive the dry season. To maintain the newly planted trees, students at the school will implement a tree-watering plan.
In China, Peace Corps volunteers Sam Patwell of Philadelphia; John Guen-Murray of Chicago; Daniel Schoolenberg of Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Angelina Loverde of Burke, Virginia, are planning the Fifth Annual Eco Leadership Camp coordinated by Peace Corps volunteers. The camp is a five-day summer camp held at an organic farm designed to teach students about the environment, local ecology and sustainable agriculture.
Future leaders and educators from diverse backgrounds will learn how environmental issues affect their communities and how to promote environmental awareness, all while improving their English skills.
“The students attending the camp are all English students,” Loverde said. “They will be immersed in an English-speaking environment that will feel safer, more intimate and more natural than the classroom.”
A portion of the camp’s funding is being raised through the PCPP, and community donations are providing for student transportation, food and lodging.
In Peru, Peace Corps volunteer Natalie Lake of Minneapolis is installing wind turbines with her community at local schools to educate students about renewable energy and deliver electricity to the schools.
Lake has installed one 500-watt turbine at the largest secondary school and four smaller turbines at four additional schools. The large turbine will provide 560 students and 30 professors with electricity that will power the school during the day and allow for security lights at night. The small turbines are serving as climate change education tools by showing how the wind’s kinetic energy is converted into electrical energy.
“We knew the project would benefit the school economically, but it will also serve as an invaluable educational tool,” Lake said. “My community partners and I organized an interactive workshop on wind energy for the students to attend. The results of the workshop showed that the students were able to grasp complicated concepts, which were demonstrated during presentations they later gave to their teachers, parents and community leaders.”
The turbines were partially funded by a $1 million U.S. Department of State grant in support of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas. The grant funds Peace Corps volunteer efforts that increase rural access to energy, mitigate the effects of climate change and promote the use of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies in Central and South American communities. Other projects funded include the installation of solar panels, fuel efficient cookstoves and biodigesters.
Lake’s project has inspired a nearby university to install four additional large turbines in the area.
President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961 to foster a better understanding among Americans and people of other countries. Since then, more than 215,000 Americans of all ages have served in 139 countries worldwide.
Learn about other Peace Corps projects related to Earth Day and the environment on the Peace Corps website.