Peace Corps beyond awareness to action

provided by the Peace Corps Los Angeles Regional Office
eace Corps volunteers are on the cutting edge of environmental is- sues around the world. Not only do Peace Corps volunteers increase awareness of the scope and magnitude of environmental problems, but they also go beyond awareness to action by empowering people to become involved in solving and preventing environmental problems.

Peace Corps volunteers are working in several national parks in Uganda, including Queen Elizabeth, Bwindi Impenetrable, Mgahinga Gorilla and Rwenzori Mountain. Peace Corps volunteers have played a major role in increasing ecotourism and helping preserve large undeveloped tracts of land. Volunteers establish trails for gorilla tracking and mountain climbing, promote conservation, open visitor centers and start walking-safari tourist projects. In the last three years, the impressive impact of tourism has led to similar projects being initiated in three other parks.

In a partnership that includes the Nature Conservatory, the Fundacion Ornitologica del Ecuador and the Department of Interior, Peace Corps volunteers lead the fight to save the endangered Andean Condor, which is Ecuador's national bird. Peace Corps volunteers help gather information on condor populations and their habitat, including nesting sites, population, food, and habitat disturbances. In some communities, Peace Corps volunteers develop education programs aimed to change negative myths about the condor, and decrease practices such as condor hunting and poisoning.

In Nepal, Peace Corps volunteers are working with national parks to teach local communities how to conserve their resources without destroying the natural habitat. In Shey-Phoksundo National Park, which is in the remote Dolpa region of northwestern Nepal, the community faced a crucial point in its history. The area is a relatively new park region that has been isolated for centuries, and local villagers have only been exposed to outsiders for about a decade. Trekkers are quickly discovering the area, poaching is on the increase, and there are no facilities electricity, drinking water, roads, or hotels for the soaring number of tourists. Peace Corps volunteers are working to address many of these issues, including training park staff and improving the facilities at the park, with help from the U.S. Park Service.

Environmental volunteers needed

Peace Corps is working to increase the number of environment volunteers in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The Peace Corps in Turkmenistan has worked in conjunction with the Ministry of Education for the past two years to promote environmental awareness through activities geared towards students. For example, in 1996 Earth Day activities were organized under the theme of "Water and Waste Management," and three competitions were organized for students in all grade levels. The students focused on environmental themes in a drama competition involving skits and poetry, they learned the value of recycling through building sculptures from discarded items, and they used their artistic talent in a poster contest, again emphasizing environmental issues.

The experience of being a Peace Corps volunteer offers a unique opportunity to learn about critical development issues from the inside by helping people address the problems they have identified. Approximately 6,500 Peace Corps volunteers serve in 87 countries around the world, providing assistance not only in the environment, but in education, health and nutrition, agriculture and small business development. Since 1961, more than 148,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps. If you have courage, patience and commitment to service, Peace Corps has a place for you.

For more information, please contact the Peace Corps Los Angeles Regional Office, 11000 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 8104, Los Angeles, CA 90024, (310) 235-7444.