As the U.S. Peace Corps celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, my husband and I were fortunate enough to spend it with our great friend, Sheila, who is now working as the Country Director for the Peace Corps program in Romania. Sheila and I met ten years ago on our flight to Ukraine to serve as Peace Corps Volunteers ourselves. Little did we know we’d be back in the same part of the world a decade later continuing to fulfill the goals of the program John F. Kennedy started half a century ago.
For those less familiar with the Peace Corps, it has 3 simple goals:
1. Bringing technical skills to interested countries through volunteer service
2. Promoting a better understanding of Americans in the countries where volunteers serve
3. Promoting a better understanding of other countries and peoples through volunteers
The 3rd goal is the one all volunteers are compelled to achieve after coming back home as Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs). Opportunities arise all the time to share stories of experiences and help others learn more about a part of the world they maybe knew very little about.
During my trip, I came to realize that for me, there’s an unwritten 4th goal:
4. Continuing to repeat goals 1-3.
When Blackboard announced the re-launch of CourseSites in early 2011 as a free, fully-hosted and supported cloud offering, I immediately thought about how this could have helped me when I was teaching and collaborating with other volunteers nearly ten years ago. With the increased prevalence of internet in most parts of the world, I also thought about what value this could bring to Peace Corps Volunteers and their counterparts today.
When I booked my trip to Romania, I asked Sheila if part of our itinerary could involve meeting with some volunteers and introducing them to CourseSites. I crafted an introductory note for the volunteers to see if anyone was interested. This small bit of outreach resulted in a meeting with 2 volunteers and more than 20 librarians in the region of Ramnicu Valcea to introduce CourseSites and discuss ways in which it could help them meet their objectives. My first ever experience with translators, we had an incredible discussion around how librarians currently use technology and how something like CourseSites could help address their needs to share professional resources, conduct online training, and collaborate across the entire country.
Hands down, these two hours with a room full of librarians in the middle of Romania goes down as the ultimate coming together of my 12 year career to date. Connecting my classroom teacher roots and Peace Corps experience in Eastern Europe with my current Product Marketing role at Blackboard was an awesome addition to an already incredible vacation. I was able to relive the 1st two Peace Corps goals while there and continue to fulfill goal three as I share this story again and again.