As most Peace Corps Volunteers know, the third goal of Peace Corps aims to help Americans understand the people and culture of countries where Peace Corps Volunteers serve. We begin our Peace Corps experience as ambassadors of the US, but during our service we slowly transform into ambassadors for the countries in which we serve through sharing our accounts of our day-to-day realities. Since 1961, technology has come a long way and the Peace Corps Volunteer experience has evolved due to the development of information technologies such as Skype, Google, and other computer applications. Volunteers can now videochat with students in classrooms, write about their experience on blogs, and update friends and family with pictures on Twitter and Facebook.
On Wednesday, March 28, I gave a presentation at the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SF SPCA) to youth attending a Spring Break Animal Camp. I was showcasing my experience with Kiersten Anderson’s Peace Corps project in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), called the Vincentian Society for the Protection of Cruelty Against Animals (VSPCA) (refer to the last news letter to learn more about the VSPCA). I wanted to create an interactive presentation for the students, so I kept their attention and gave them a virtual tour of SVG. I created a slide show of pictures and interesting facts about the VSPCA’s work, animals in SVG and animal cruelty in SVG. I knew these topics might interest the students, but in today’s society, it is challenging to keep children’s attention for more than five minutes. I talked to Kiersten and we decided it would be a great idea for her to appear for half of the presentation on Google Chat, talking with the children about her experience, answering questions, and showing them Vincy animals in real time.
Although the students enjoyed my component, Kiersten’s part was a great success! They became lively and curious when Kiersten appeared on the screen with a puppy. The students were excited to meet current six-week-old VSPCA foster puppies: Sessi, Georgie, and Badger, as well as Kiersten’s rescue dog, Isla. She also answered questions on what it was like to live in SVG, what type of work she was doing in schools, what the dogs ate, and what kind of difficulties a stray animal in SVG had to face. It was a unique experience to see a Peace Corps Volunteer at the mid-point of her service virtually beamed into a classroom 4,000 miles away, teaching students and enlightening an audience on her project.
The SF SPCA enjoyed the presentation so much that they invited us back to present to another group of students on April 11. I don’t know if President John F. Kennedy could have envisioned Kiersten speaking from SVG to a class in San Francisco, but our presentation keeps true to Kennedy’s vision and Peace Corps objective in its third goal. I was glad to be a part of this experience and it instilled in me the importance of continuing to teach and educate people about the Peace Corps, the culture and people in the countries we served in, and the work we accomplished and our experience abroad.
Nicholas Jeffrey-VSPCA Social Media Strategist & RPCV Uganda 08-10