Peace Corps Experience
- Community Economic Development
- Cornell University
I live in a small village in the jungles of Suriname, South America, approximately four hours by car and three hours by motorized canoe from the capital. I work with local organizations and individuals, including the local school, health clinic, community government, cultural museum, several general stores, and a women's group. And I focus on community economic development and youth development.
One of my largest projects is designed to stimulate renewable energy in Suriname, funded by the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA). This project: 1) Supports entrepreneurs in the interior of Suriname who want to sell small solar energy devices, and 2) Educates consumers about climate change and how they can benefit from renewable energy. It's meant to help set up an enduring source of knowledge and a sustained supply and demand for solar devices.
Another long-running project has been a youth group with local sixth graders. Many of my kids have attended life-skills and HIV/AIDS awareness camps and I've participated as everything from roadie to project director. We do various life skills lessons including English, computer training, and educational games. Our primary activity, though, is to make and sell juice as a hands-on business lesson for the kids, with all profits going toward the group and goals the children set for themselves.
I graduated from Cornell University in 2007. Cornell gave me a strong, balanced education that prepared me to tackle a variety of challenges with a practical, focused mind. My college experience prepared me to interact with a diverse group of people working through a diverse set of problems, although not nearly to the degree that I have experienced in Peace Corps.
I love living in such a different world, as part of a community that has truly welcomed me into the fold. I am constantly reminded about how wide the world is and how much diversity there is in culture and lifestyle and context. I see every day that we are more the same than different. I feel lucky to experience that connection while surrounded by the everyday adventure of living and working in the rainforest.