* Peace Corps

Peace Corps Third Goal Blogging: An Unofficial Guide

PC Third Goal Blogging

Back in August 2013, we were thrilled to be able to participate in Peace Corps’ Third Goal Summit in D.C. with the other winners of the Blog It Home contest. We gained a renewed motivation to use our blog for PC’s Third Goal: to promote a better understanding back home of this new country and culture we’re experiencing.

Peace Corps HQ: Blog It Home
Peace Corps HQ: Blog It Home

The Summit also sparked a whole lot of great ideas for Third Goal blogging and allowed us to collaborate with the other blog winners from Thailand, Ethiopia, and Mexico as well as the Office of Third Goal. 

We were learning so much from each other, we decided it would be worthwhile to put all our thoughts together and create a practical resource for Volunteers who want to use their blogs for the Third Goal. 

Blogging Guide

This guide, created by volunteers, for volunteers, has already helped us become better bloggers and better Third Goal ambassadors. It is meant to be an ongoing and collaborative effort, so additional suggestions and contributions are encouraged. We hope Volunteers around the world will find it useful.

Even bloggers outside of Peace Corps will find this guide useful for sharing about cross-cultural experiences, service or mission trips, and travel.

To access the guide, start with the links below. You can also find the pages in our tabs above, under Peace Corps Info.

Blogging About Third Goal

> Includes: Why you should consider blogging about Third Goal topics, and serves as a homepage for the other resources

Resources in the guide are:

Principles for Third Goal Bloggers 

> Includes: Simple steps to improve the quality of your blog writing so that you can become a more effective ambassador of your host country’s culture and increase your readership

How To: The Nuts and Bolts

> Includes: Practical tips and tricks from blog settings to getting ideas for content, great for beginners and those wanting to up their game

Blog Post Idea Bank

> Includes: An extensive list of ideas for Third Goal-related blog posts, with examples from recent PCV blogs, so you can keep your content fresh and interesting

Again, we’d love to include tips, ideas, and examples from other Volunteer bloggers around the world, so if that’s you, don’t hesitate to provide suggestions using the comment form at the bottom of each of those resource pages.

* Peace Corps

Jamaican Culture: Top Posts

Some grateful senior citizens recently gave Jedd the book Jamaica Fi Real!: Beauty, Vibes and Culture as a thank you for teaching them how to use computers. And it’s a keeper. The images are great; the content is relevant; the commentary is on point.Jamaica-Fi-Real-CoverThe books is fantastic and its words resonated with our experiences of this country. For example:

It’s possibly the most contradictory country on the planet. Jamaica combines a Third World standard of living with an almost First World life expectancy. It is one of earth’s most stable democracies, yet has one of its higher homicide rates. It is reputed to have both more churches per square mile, and a higher out-of-wedlock birth rate, than any other place on the globe… (pg. XVII)

Are Jamaicans happy people? Well it’s hard to say; while few people go hungry, there are pockets of real poverty, and a fair amount of physical discomfort. Polls say about half of Jamaicans would emigrate to the US if they could, and a high crime rate is not usually the sign of a contented populace. Then there is the constant complaining, for people here are world-class grumblers. Yet Jamaicans interact with such vitality and humour, that it’s hard to conceive of them as being fundamentally miserable and disgruntled. There can’t be many places where people laugh as easily or as often, and no matter how bad things get, folks here always find reasons for outbursts of merriment. (pg. 11)

Throughout our Peace Corps service, we’ve tried our best to Continue reading “Jamaican Culture: Top Posts”

* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Our Peace Corps Process: From Application to Moving In

bamboo avenue
Bamboo Avenue, South Coast highway, Jamaica

Values: Choosing Freedom October 2009. You could say this is where it all started. We were well on our way to buying a house but instead, we changed the trajectory of our lives.

The Waiting Game The challenges of being nominees in the Peace Corps application process- a process which apparently has changed since we’ve been serving in Jamaica (hopefully for the better).

You Want to Send Us Where? Things with our placement did not turn out as we expected. This was a difficult bump in the road but it turned out for the best.

Looking Back At 2011: Our Year In Review (VIDEO POST) With almost nine extra months on our hands before our new departure date, the door of opportunity swung wide open. 2011 was packed full of adventures we never dreamed were possible.

Peace Corps Invite!!!!!!!!! (VIDEO POST) A short video capturing the very exciting moment when we opened our official invitation. We knew the region in advance but were surprised to learn our country.

Crossing the Waters (VIDEO POST) In March 2012, we were finally off to meet the other 36 members of PCJ Group 83. The video depicts our transition from home- farewell parties and packing- to staging in Atlanta.

Community-Based Training (Part One) (VIDEO POST) Upon our arrival in Jamaica, we moved quickly from orientation in Kingston to our first home-stay community for several weeks of general training.

Life Pon di Hill and Rise and Shine: A Morning in the Life of a Trainee Here’s a glimpse into each of our “Hub” communities where we spent about 5 weeks doing sector-specific training while living with host families. The video on this page also shows more of the education sector’s Hub training.

Volunteer Shadowing (VIDEO POST) Having the chance during our training to shadow a currently serving Volunteer brought our soon-to-be life as a PCV that much closer.

Shortly after we arrived, these two were born.
Shortly after we arrived at site, these two characters were born in the yard. They’ve grown with us ever since.

Swearing In After about 10 weeks of training, we were finally sworn in as official Peace Corps Volunteers. Jedd was chosen to give one of the speeches at the ceremony (his speech transcript is included in this post).

Home Sweet Home (VIDEO POST) Before swearing in, we found out our permanent site placement and were able to visit for a few days. After swearing in, we got settled in to our apartment, got to know our amazing host parents in the house above us, and started work at the community center and school. (We also celebrated our 4th anniversary!)

There are many more posts from our Peace Corps journey, experiencing the ups and downs as well as sharing what we’ve learned about Jamaican culture… Browse here.

* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

On Thankfulness

Blog It Home 2013 winners at Peace Corps headquarters with acting PC Director and Third Goal staff. Photo courtesy of OTG.
Blog It Home 2013 winners at Peace Corps headquarters with acting PC Director and Third Goal staff. Photo courtesy of OTG.

The past month has really taught me a lesson about the things I’ve taken for granted. It’s one of those lessons that you thought you already knew, but a certain experience makes it really come to life and sink into your heart.

For one, I realized how much more thankful I am when I have less. Returning to the “first world,” I became blissfully happy at simple things I used to take for granted. Some of them were material things- like a hot shower, fast internet, comfortable pillows. Others were more nostalgic- eating raspberries, walking in a park. Most were linked to a particular luxury I had never truly considered before: freedom. The freedom to go wherever I want whenever I want to, Continue reading “On Thankfulness”

* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps, Videos

Video: A Volunteer’s Thoughts

One of the rewards of being a Peace Corps Volunteer is getting to meet amazing people who serve alongside you and making new friends who live all over the U.S. This video is an interview with a very special woman. Although we weren’t in the same training group, we were lucky enough that our terms of service on island overlapped more than a year, giving us the opportunity to share some time together here and there. In the video, she shares some of her funny stories and serious reflections from living two years in Jamaica. I think you’ll enjoy it!

If you want to see more, this is a link to the extended, “uncensored” interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ed7fA20blcA


* Life Updates, * Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Summer Soon Come: An Update

The colors and textures of my classroom
The colors and textures of my classroom

The photos above come from my little room at the school where I do pull-out groups and one-on-one sessions for struggling readers. On especially chaotic days, this place becomes my haven. Can you tell what each photo is? (I’ll post the answers in the comments section of this post.)

What’s Happening
The Jamaican school year continues through the first week of July. I’m currently wrapping up my last full week of classes as we will be attended our Mid-Service Conference all next week and then graduation is the Tuesday after we get back. The Mid-Service Conference (MSC) is the second of three Peace Corps conferences, strategically placed around the one-year-of-service mark. We gather with the other volunteers from our original training group and also bring a Jamaican counterpart for the first three days. We’re both really looking forward to it. Once summer break hits, we’ll be involved in some summer camps, both at my school and at the community center where Jedd volunteers; then we’ll get to take our first, big two-week leave! This summer is going to fly by.

Progress Reports
At school, I’ve done some end-of-year testing to see how the kids have progressed. I started with grade three and was sort of underwhelmed at first. There were 13 third graders that I worked with at least 20 times in the past school year (some up to 38 times each, a combination of group and one-on-one sessions). Everyone improved in one way or another, but none of them are all the way up to their grade level yet. Two of them are close. When I got to the fourth graders, I was surprised to see that many of them had advanced by two whole grade levels. I thought about how these kids had been stuck at a kindergarten level for the past three years, many of them not knowing what sound the letters make, not recognizing the most common two-letter words. With just a little more individualized attention, they finally started to move ahead! It feels really good to see that tangible improvement. I have a feeling the effect is even more significant with my grade one and two students. Next year, I plan to narrow down my classes so I can invest more time into each student and hopefully push them even further.


* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Topics in PCJ #3: Goals

Continued from previous post(s)IMG_3660

The Peace Corps’ mission has three simple goals:

  1. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.

  2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.

  3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

In my last post on cultural challenges, I started to mention that we as volunteers have to remember that our work is only one third of the Peace Corps’ goals. We have to turn in reports full of numbers to prove ourselves to the higher-ups and the tax payers, and there is pressure to have some tangible project to justify our presence here to people back home. I’m not saying that our work has no value in itself. But it is easy to forget that we should also find success in intangible, interpersonal ways. In fact, more likely than not, our greatest and most lasting impact as Peace Corps Volunteers will not come from our work. Continue reading “Topics in PCJ #3: Goals”

* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Better with Both: The Advantages of Peace Corps as a Couple

Jedd and I joined Peace Corps for the challenge of growing as individuals and as a couple in an unfamiliar, cross-cultural environment. We knew that the Peace Corps experience would help us conquer new obstacles, refine our values that will guide the rest of our lives, and bring us closer together as a couple through common shared experiences and overcoming challenges. Being the practical (and sometimes pessimistic) one, I was gearing up for two years of tumult, knowing that the every-day stressors in our lives were about to get magnified. But what pales in comparison to the normal, surface-level clashes in our marriage is an underlying thankfulness: I’m so glad I’m not doing this alone!

Some of the single Peace Corps volunteers, who make up the majority of our crew on the island, have told us Continue reading “Better with Both: The Advantages of Peace Corps as a Couple”

* Life Updates, * Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Getting Started At Work

After almost a month at our site, we are both just starting to scratch the surface of our work projects. I (Michelle) have transitioned away from observing classes and started the initial phase of my own literacy pull-out groups. That means, I gathered lists from each teacher of students who are reading below grade level (the total came out to 28% of the school), and now I am in the process of meeting one-on-one with each of those students.

Continue reading “Getting Started At Work”

* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps, Videos

PCJ Education Sector Volunteers

Today is our last day of “Hub training” where the eleven of us education volunteers have been meeting for the past five weeks. We have successfully completed our practicum assignments, which involved tutoring two primary school students in literacy over a period of two weeks, as well as other education and patois language-related assignments. We’ve heard from a number of presenters, including several from various branches of Jamaica’s Ministry of Education, and we’ve even toured some important sites to the country’s education system on our field trips. As the Jamaicans say, we’re “ready fi touch di road” (sort of like: “ready to hit the road running”). They often tell us that although five weeks is not enough to prepare us for everything, we are prepared enough to begin our work and go until our next training in September (Early Service Conference). We’ve also learned a lot outside the classroom, namely with our wonderful host families who feed, house, and watch out for us while we’ve been here. We will be leaving our host families on Sunday afternoon and heading back to Kingston where we’ll (finally!!) find out our site placements for the next two years.

A 5th grade class on break tells me all about what they’re learning in school

I’ve been working on several videos lately but in an effort to get something posted quickly and have it not be too lengthy, the first video (posted above) is simply some interviews of the education trainees who have spent the last five weeks with me. Hopefully you’ll get a taste for the diversity of volunteers who are in my group as well as some idea of what it’s like to be an education trainee. The next video will include more of the sites and activities we’ve experienced in our time at Hub training. Until then…