Peace Corps Ecuador country director Alexis Vaughn was happy to provide an update on Peace Corps programming. There are some major changes. VAC volunteer-managed projects will end, which might mean the end of annual calendar sales. Importantly, the Natural Resources program will come to an end, which follows on last year’s end to the agriculture program. Going forward, TEFL and health will be the major priorities. See her letter below.
In fact, this has been a very busy quarter. We have made important programmatic changes and refreshed our Web site to highlight what it is like to serve in Peace Corps Ecuador today. In addition, we have discontinued volunteer-managed Volunteer Advisory Council (VAC) Grants, per a requirement from the Office of the Inspector General, and transitioned the existing VAC funds to a post-managed small grant program to continue to apply the funds as intended. Please see the info below for additional details, and thanks, as always, for your ongoing support.
Once again, change is afoot. One of the exciting challenges of working in a rapidly developing country is the requirement to look ahead and to anticipate its direction. As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” To that end, Peace Corps is constantly evaluating our host country economic, social, and political conditions to ensure the best possible alignment with in-country development needs and our own resources. This latest assessment has led to three important programmatic decisions for Peace Corps Ecuador:
Going forward we will accept no new Natural Resources Conservation (NRC) Volunteers Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) will double its annual intake in 2015 to 30 trainees Community Health and Youth & Families will grow its annual intake by 5 trainees each for a total of 20 trainees in each program
Sandra Loor, our NRC Program Manager, has done an outstanding job of leading the NRC program through many changes over the past few years. However, as I look ahead to the development objectives of the Government of Ecuador over the long term, it is clear to me that our host country counterparts are moving away from enlisting international cooperation focused on our skill set in environmental education and moving toward development relationships that can provide large-scale funding, specialized technical expertise, and highly skilled project management resources. Sandra has worked hard to develop sites for our current NRC volunteers that are in our current wheelhouse and that provide opportunities for meaningful engagement. We will continue to support the excellent work these volunteers do until the natural end of their Peace Corps service. Sandra will stay on and lead the team through April 30, 2016, coinciding with the end of service for Omnibus 111, our last NRC group to serve in Ecuador.
It has been clear for some time now that TEFL is our biggest growth opportunity here in Ecuador. With demand for up to 300 TEFL volunteers per year, versus the 15 volunteers per year that we currently bring in country, the potential is enormous. In 2015 we will grow the annual number of TEFL volunteers from 15 to 30. In order to support this expansion, we will also hire an additional TEFL PTS. Maria Dolores Chacon, our TEFL Program Manager, has already identified 30 new site placements and is ready to lead the charge.
Community Health and Youth and Families will grow by 5 volunteers each in 2015, bringing the annual trainee total for each program to 20 people. I believe that both of these programs are well aligned with the Government of Ecuador’s development objectives and with our volunteer talent pool. Our Program Managers are doing a terrific job, and we enjoy strong host country support in both areas.
I know that change can sometimes be challenging, but it is constant and inevitable. I want to emphasize that I, and all the Peace Corps staff, value and support the work that volunteers do and have done here, and that Peace Corps Ecuador is emerging, I believe, ready to be the most relevant and effective development partner we can possible be for the changing face of Ecuador.
Thanks to each of you for your contribution and dedication.