Remembering John Jacoby, Esteemed Peace Corps Veteran

Peace Corps South Africa Country Director John Jacoby -- who served in Nepal as a Volunteer from 1970 to 1972 -- with his wife, Carolyn, at Peace Corps Night with the Brooklyn Cyclones last summer.

Former Peace Corps South Africa Country Director John Jacoby — who served in Nepal in the early 1970’s — attended Peace Corps Night at a Brooklyn Cyclones game with his wife, Carolyn, last summer.

Peace Corps Northeast mourns the loss of John Jacoby, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and former Country Director for Peace Corps South Africa, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 66.

John — who served as an education Volunteer in Nepal early on in Peace Corps’ legacy — devoted almost half a century to supporting the agency both in the field and on the home front. During his service, the Manhattan native taught science at a local school in his Nepalese village.

In the years after completing his service, John worked as a management analyst for the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and the general manager of Newark Liberty International Airport. Once he retired in 2011, the Boston University alum found his way back to Peace Corps working as a Country Director in South Africa.

Despite fighting a long battle with pancreatic cancer, John strove to give back to his Peace Corps community and stay connected with other Returned Volunteers. Last summer, John attended Peace Corps Night at a Brooklyn Cyclones game to throw the first pitch of the night.

John is survived by his wife, Carolyn, and his daughters Sara & Maggie.

Funeral arrangements can be found here.

Learning More by the Shore

Patrick McGettigan, who served in Mozambique from 2012 to 2014, currently works as a Peace Corps Recruiter in the Northeast region.

Patrick McGettigan, who served in Mozambique from 2012 to 2014, currently works as a Peace Corps Recruiter in the Northeast region.

In celebration of Earth Day, Peace Corps Northeast recognizes the natural conservation efforts of Peace Corps Volunteers serving around the globe. Returned Volunteer Patrick McGettigan — who now works as a Peace Corps Recruiter in the Northeast region — educated young people in Mozambique about preserving the island’s coast.  

While serving in Mozambique from 2012 to 2014, Peace Corps Volunteer Patrick McGettigan organized a three-day Ocean Fair to promote coastal conservation in the African nation.

The “Feira do Ocano” featured both cultural & educational events, including beach clean-ups, a sand sculpture competition, an ecotourism workshop & educational presentations on fishery management & marine reserves. Residents & tourists attended, with many of the activities targeted toward children.

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“I love the ocean & have shared that passion with kids in my community,” said McGettigan, who graduated from Boston University with a bachelor’s degree in marine science. “The potential for tourism & economic development exists here, but a focus on coastal conservation is necessary if that potential is to be realized.”

McGettigan taught English to 11th & 12th grade students in his island community in Mozambique. The 2006 Haddonfield Memorial High School graduate also worked with students at the local school through an art club, making art from trash, and partnered with a local nongovernmental organization to start a library.

Click here to read more about Peace Corps’ eco-friendly tips for Earth Day.

Reading Between the Cultural Lines

Volunteer Christopher MacAlpine-Belton teaches literacy & critical thinking skills to grade school students in the Dominican Republic.

Volunteer Christopher MacAlpine-Belton, back right, teaches literacy & critical thinking skills to grade school students in the Dominican Republic.

While serving in the second largest city of the Dominican Republic, Staten Island resident Christopher MacAlpine-Belton enjoys taking time to appreciate the Caribbean island’s natural beauty.

“The availability of tropical fruit is a major perk and I don’t have to wander far to obtain it,” said Christopher, who currently serves as an Education Volunteer. “Strangely enough, I have been to the beach maybe four times in my service but my visits have always been memorable.”

With a degree in geography & international development from Clark University – which landed in the top ten ranking of Peace Corps’ Small Colleges & Universities for producing Volunteers in 2014 – Christopher managed to apply his studies in the union of culture, politics, environment & physical location to his firsthand experience overseas.

“At Clark, I had the opportunity to investigate the connections between these aspects of humanity,” he said, “ and subsequent service in the Peace Corps gave me the chance to put a lot of my academic exploration into practice in the field and make connections between theory and everyday realities facing millions of individuals around the world.”

Working at an 1,800-student public school, Christopher has striven to help kindergartners to eighth graders become completely literate with a proficiency in Spanish through a variety of projects.

“I have had the chance to develop reading materials for use in the classroom and promote the use of electronic resources in my barrio – a fundamental part of working with a population in an urban context,” he said. “There is also a fair amount of cultural exchange between me and my host country counterparts. This allows me to promote a deeper, more nuanced understanding of Dominican culture among Americans while at the same time sharing elements of my own experience.”

Aside from his primary assignment, Christopher has launched multiple other projects such as working as a supplemental instructor and literacy promoter for local students & training educators to hone a greater technical skill set in the classroom. He has also offered his services to the Escojo Enseñar Initiative, a group that provides teachers and school administrators with the opportunity to share their work strategies with other educational actors in the nation and institute changes in their respective communities.

“As a representative of ethnic minority native to the U.S., many Dominicans – the majority of whom have never left their country – are not familiar with the diversity present in other countries outside of the Latin American context,” he said. “This is a larger learning process that unfolds out of a classroom as one could imagine and it is almost as fundamental as the primary work I execute at my school.”

Click here to read more about Peace Corps Dominican Republic.

How a Food Cooperative Built a Cooperative Village

Alexandra Clayton learned many Nepali customs while serving in the South Asian nation from 2012 to 2014. Here she is celebrating Nepal's national women's festival with her host sister.

Alexandra Clayton learned many Nepali customs while serving in the South Asian nation from 2012 to 2014. Here she is celebrating at a national women’s festival in Nepal with her host sister.

After completing her two years of service last November, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Alexandra Clayton recalled her favorite moments from living in a small village in Nepal – particularly how monkeys roamed the backyard of her house, which sat beside a river, a forest & rice paddies.

“Oftentimes, my favorite parts of service were just hanging out & chatting with community members over a cup of dudh chiyaa, which is Nepali milk tea,” Alexandra added. “I also miss my homestay family a lot & could not have asked for a more caring or welcoming family to spend my two years with.”

Once she earned her bachelor’s degree in biology in 2012 from Bucknell University – which landed on Peace Corps’ list of top small colleges & universities for producing Volunteers in 2014 – the Washington State resident set off for Nepal that same year to serve as an Agricultural Extension Volunteer.

As the first Peace Corps Volunteer in her host village, Alexandra initially conducted an assessment of economic, educational, environmental & primary health needs of the local population to improve the food security of rural families. In support of her efforts, she received a grant from USAID – a U.S. government agency that is designed to end extreme global poverty – for over $5,000 in the development of a collection center & business management training.

“This project allowed community members to build a collection center & form a cooperative to sell vegetables at a larger market, resulting in increased income & crop production,” Alexandra said. “The construction of the building also served a secondary purpose as a gathering center for the community during inclement weather.”

Her other projects included facilitating two map mural projects for students at a local secondary school that incorporated art & geography, establishing a school library with outside funding & developing a local division of Camp GLOW, a female empowerment & life skills camp.

“The camp totaled over 50 hours of sessions focused on leadership, confidence building, gender based violence prevention, healthy relationships & sexual health for 36 adolescent girls & nine adult chaperones,” she noted.

Looking back on her service, Alexandra believes that her time at Bucknell prepared her for Peace Corps with various opportunities for community service, including a trip to rural West Virginia with Habitat for Humanity & the Bucknell Brigade, which is a student-initiated service project in Nicaragua.

She also gained a strong biological background at college that helped her to manage various agriculture programs as a Volunteer, especially when explaining certain concepts to the Nepalese people.

“While I am extremely proud & excited that my village & I were able to construct our vegetable collection center, I think that oftentimes the most impacts we make as Volunteers are through everyday actions & conversation,” Alexandra said. “I’d like to think that through the map projects & library at the school, that maybe one or two kids develop a passion & love for reading at a young age like I did, or a student is inspired to learn more about geography & the world around them.”

“I’d also like to think that my community learned more about what they thought of as ‘crazy American culture’ through me,” she added. “A lot of the friends I made in my village loved hearing about American holidays & the latest technology & how our school system worked. In turn, they would teach me about Nepali holidays & other aspects of the culture.”

Click here to learn more about Peace Corps Nepal.

Pushing for Social Change in the Field & the Classroom

De-Ann Abraham, who spent part of her service in Cameroon teaching science to high school students, currently studies nonprofit management at The New School as part of the Peace Corps' Coverdell Fellows Program.

De-Ann Abraham, who spent part of her service in Cameroon teaching science to high school students, currently studies nonprofit management at The New School as part of the Peace Corps’ Coverdell Fellows Program.

Growing up on the Caribbean island of Dominica & later the U.S. Virgin Islands, De-Ann Abraham has bred a passion for public service from a very young age, lending her voice to causes such as wetlands restoration and sea turtle protection.

After moving to the United States years later, De-Ann remembers catching an ad for the Peace Corps while in college and felt compelled to join as a Volunteer.

“I saw this as a chance to work in another country doing what I loved best,” said De-Ann, who later served as a Community Health Volunteer in Cameroon. “There was one issue, however: I wasn’t an American citizen.

“For the following two years I worked through the naturalization process and on December 18th, 2008, I became an American citizen,” she added. “That night, I entered my naturalization number and submitted my completed Peace Corps application.”

In her three years of service, De-Ann worked in two Cameroonian communities – first in a small village for two years teaching biology, chemistry and computer sciences at a local high school, and later in a bustling city with the Regional Delegation of Public Health’s Malaria Unit.

When settling into her first host village, De-Ann found it difficult to explain the cultural diversity of America to her neighbors, especially since they had only dealt with white Peace Corps Volunteers in the past.

“My biggest struggle was being black, young, and female in Cameroon. I say this because never in my life was I constantly reminded of these three labels on a daily basis,” she said. “These labels worked well allowing me to integrate into my community. However, in regards to networking and building partnerships, I found that I had to assert myself and validate that I am a Peace Corps Volunteer.”

With the encouragement of her Country Director in Cameroon, who also identifies as a black woman, De-Ann strove to dispel many of the stereotypes associated with American culture while collaborating with the Cameroonian people on several projects.

“It wound up being a personal triumph for me because I was very introverted as a child,” she added, “And being forced to push past these challenges in a leadership role gave me a lot of confidence and, in the end, boosted my self-esteem.”

Among her projects included small income generation education, a primary school dental hygiene program, library formation at a school that served differently-abled students and co-editing the first women’s empowerment magazine in the Northwest.

She also designed a project for the Delegation of Women’s Empowerment and the Family.

“While looking at the region’s public health data, I observed that there was a significant percentage of women who had never been screened for cervical cancer,” De-Ann explained. “During World Cancer Week 2012, creating partnerships with local women’s groups, NGOs, schools and governmental agencies, I conceptualized, planned, implemented, and evaluated a Breast and Cervical Cancer Awareness Project in which I engaged in cervical and breast cancer awareness interviews, adult school visits, a women’s cervical cancer prevention summit, and screenings for cervical and breast cancer that benefited more than 500 rural poor women.”

Once she completed her Peace Corps service and returned to the U.S., De-Ann felt even more motivated to become an agent of social change. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in nonprofit management with a specialization in social entrepreneurship at The New School as part of the Peace Corps’ Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program.

“I have not forgotten my Peace Corps roots and the role it has played in my career trajectory,” she said. “For my master’s thesis, I am focusing on how to increase the social impact of Peace Corps Volunteers on the communities they serve through social innovation approaches.”

Click here to learn more about the Peace Corps’ Coverdell Fellows Program.