* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Do It Yourself: Peace Corps DIY Ingenuity

Peace Corps Volunteers live on a minimal budget and, often, the resources and supplies that were so readily available at home are harder to come by in our countries of service. This brings out some very creative ways to make do. The spirit of resourcefulness is also a big part of Jamaican culture. One of our PCV friends had a brilliant suggestion that we compile a list of all the ingenious, crafty, make-shift creations that current volunteers have made while living in Jamaica. We were pretty impressed with the results.

(And there were so many responses that we have to split them into two posts- so for all those PCVs out there who still have something to share, it’s not too late to send us your crafty photos for the second edition.)

The #1 Carpenter/Handy-man: Kevin 
bamboo gutter-kevin
“Bamboo gutter: I made so we could catch water to mix concrete up on the hill of the demo farm. We have since put metal gutters up, but the bamboo did its job in the interim. Linnae made a fancy video for the not so fancy gutter.”

carpentry- kevin
“Kitchen Counter: I made this last year as a Christmas present for Linnae. Made for a lot more space for meal prep and storage of kitchenware and canned goods.
Chick Cage: I made this because we had an issue with a mongoose eating baby chicks. We fed chicks until they got big enough to survive and find a safe roost at night.
Bush Easel: I made this using a machete, hammer, and nails. Worked fine for a couple of Farmer Field Schools.”

Most Ambitious Make-shift Maven: Kate 
solar oven- kate
Solar Oven: “One of my favorite community activities is to rope neighbor children into informal learning environments. Recently, this sibling pair (ages 6 and 4) helped me build a fully-functioning solar oven. Yes, I let a 4-year-old spray paint. And it went well! We baked muffin bread in it. Twice.”

AC- kateAC Unit: The Do It Yourself Air Conditioning unit uses insulated ice and an electric fan to blow cold air into a room.
egg carton keyboard- kateKeyboard: This is a computer keyboard replica made out of egg cartons so students can learn a little about typing when computers are not available.

Most Functional Fixes and Cutest Creatures: Phyllis
mailbox/hook- phyllis
Mailbox/Hanger: “I tried to buy “s” hooks at the hardware here and they don’t sell them.  I wanted something to hang my grocery bag on while I unlocked my 2 padlocks.  It takes a while and you get pretty wet on a rainy day.  It works for the trash you need to take out too! (Recipe:  lima bean can, mayo lid, 2 screws/nuts/washers, a little bit of tape and hot glue, plastic bottle cap and more hot glue, wire you can find on the ground at the community center.) If you pull on the bottle cap you can leave love notes or get your JPS bill from the landlord.  My Son visited the end of September and we made the ‘mailbox.'” 

coffee filter- phyllisCoffee Filter: “The coffee filter I use every day.” The filter is cotton fabric from the nearby market town, hemmed by hand, and layed over an all-purpose strainer to drain.

kids creatures- phyllisToys and Trinkets: “The other stuff I made for the JOAM Children’s Village PC booth.  Mostly found-on-the-ground items:  Wire, yogurt cups, bottle caps, Styrofoam lunch box material, zip tie (for whiskers), lid cover for something (pig snout), some Cup Noodle cardboard, etc.”  

Widest Variety: April 
makeshift- april
Letter Tiles, Crocheted Tie, and Container: “The majority of my crafts have been school supplies, but I didn’t want to go crazy with teacher promotion. I’ve included one pic of my letter tiles, which were made from cereal boxes. Another picture is a cheez whiz jar serving as a container to hold my q-tips, and I have another at school which holds my chalk. Third, a little crocheted tie to hold my back curtains. And not included in the pictures is a scratching post for my new kitty, made from a cardboard box. I’ve also crocheted a scandal bag holder out of scandal bags.” You can see these additional creations and more on April’s blog post, Turn Your Hand.

Most Stylish: Marie
jewelry holder- marie
Jewelry Holder: “This is a tuna can, cleaned, wrapped in wrapping paper, and filled with glitter and more glitter. I use it as a jewelry holder. I made three of them in different colors [stuck to the tile with double-stick wall tape].”

Coolest Souvenirs: Adri

Souvenir cups and Lantern: These cups and candle holder were made using a string soaked in acetone to cut the bottles. The edges just need to be sanded down after cutting. The Red Strip cups are a great up-cycled, Jamaican souvenir or gift.

Most Professional Crafter: Elizabeth
knitting- elizabethKnitted Creations: “I’m a big knitter. I’ve gotten an embarrassing amount done here, with meetings starting late and down time and what not. I find knitting to be super comforting. Very repetitive and soothing (great for stress relief!).” 

Guest Artist: Sara’s Arts and Crafts in Thailand 

Sidewalk Chalk and Magazine-Paper Beads: We met Sara in DC through Peace Corps’s Third Goal Summit and Blog It Home competition. She is volunteering in Thai schools. The crafts featured on her blog include an entire magazine-paper bead project, DIY sidewalk chalk, origami, TP roll lanterns, and other recycled craft projects.

Are you a Peace Corps Volunteer with a crafty, ingenious, or make-shift item to share? Please leave a comment by November 30 so we can tell you how to get your photos in the second edition of this series. A very big thank you to everyone who has contributed so far!

4 thoughts on “Do It Yourself: Peace Corps DIY Ingenuity”

  1. Thank you for featuring my crafting! The crafts from PC Jamaica are also really awesome; I have a stack of yogurt cups just waiting to become animals 🙂 Looking forward to more artistic inspiration in your next DIY post!

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