There is a proverb of unknown origins once repeated by famous anthropologist Margaret Mead that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It is thought that the saying can be attributed to an indigenous culture, either African, Native American, or some other communal culture where the expression would make more sense. As I became more aware of the large number of Peace Corps and Country Partner staff needed to coordinate a VSP Project, I have been meditating on this saying. Thus, I tweaked this adage to read, “It takes a village to support a Virtual Service Pilot Volunteer with the Peace Corps!
It Takes a Village to Host a Virtual Service Pilot PC Volunteer!
Jenner Edelman is the Philippines Peace Corps Country Director. I met Jenner on the very first night of my Virtual Service Orientation and received a wonderful welcome to service. On her welcome page, she notes some fascinating details of the country, among them being “well over 7,000 islands in the Philippines, a dizzying 87 officially recognized languages, and many more dialects. With regard to religion, the country is overwhelmingly Catholic, with an increasing number of other denominations—and a significant Muslim minority, largely in the south” (Edelman, par. 3). Edelman also observes that the Philippines suffered greatly under the Covid-19 Pandemic with an economy that is “a study in contrasts: extreme wealth and poverty, with a serious income-distribution problem that leaves more than 50 percent of the population living on less than $2 a day” (Edelman, par. 4). While her welcome page is directed toward the traditional Peace Corps Volunteer, she calls attention to shared similarities between both the in-country PC Volunteer and the Virtual Service Pilot Volunteer (VSP) in terms of the characteristics and values placed upon both forms of service: “Peace Corps Philippines and our Philippine partners place a very high value on the potential of each Volunteer, both to contribute meaningfully to the positive development of people in a community and to gain experience, knowledge, and a broadened understanding during service” (Edelman, par. 5). She mentions three characteristics of the PC Volunteer that I have found to be true of my own service, “adaptability, flexibility, and resiliency” (Edelman, par. 5).
IT Specialist Ronald is the next person of importance in supporting the VSP Philippines Volunteer presence in the PSHS STEM Curriculum Revision Project. I met Ronald on the night of October 13, 2022, when he gave an excellent presentation on IT Safe and Best Practices. His talk included using Zoom for virtual web meetings, WhatsApp Messenger, Cloud Storage and sharing files and the use of similar platforms. We were cautioned not to share sensitive information, to set folder restrictions, and keep the OS (Operating System) up-to-date. Firefox, Chrome, and Opera were three web applications he recommended, along with an antivirus application like McAfee. Other recommendations included using an OTP (One Time Pin), and encrypting your backup drive.
CYF-PA Joefil delivered an excellent overview of the Peace Corps Child Protection Policy on the evening of October 13, 2022, during my week of Orientation. As noted in the SLA (Signed Letter Agreement), I am expected “to follow safety and security guidelines for online engagement to ensure [the VSPP] safety and that of the Host Country Partner and their counterpart, and any beneficiaries of the engagement.” To this end, the Peace Corps has issued MS 648 Child Protection Policy effective July 30, 2019, that “outlines proper conduct while working or engaging with children during Peace Corps service or employment.” Joefil also covered the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children convened in 1989, and the Republic Act No. 7610 issued by the Ninth Congress, Republic of the Philippines, June 17, 1992, known as the “Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.” When coupled with IT security best practices, these policies are designed to ensure the highest levels of safety for children and all those engaged in Peace Corps Service.
Ma. Hershey Regaya. In closing this blog update on my VSPP service project thus far, I wish to give a warm and congratulatory farewell to Ma. Hershey Regaya, Science Education Specialist IV, Philippine Science High School, has been one of the group’s critical members with whom I’ve collaborated on the STEM Curriculum Revision Project. She has left us temporarily to pursue a Doctor of Education Degree (Ed.D.) with a STEM focus at the University of Queensland – congratulations! We already miss her but wish her much success as she embarks on this next step of her professional career with Philippine Science High School.
I wish to recognize all those dedicated Peace Corps Staff who make our Virtual Service possible – “It takes a village to support a Virtual Service Pilot Volunteer with the Peace Corps! Please check back as I plan to blog regularly about my virtual service engagement with this Philippine Science High School Curriculum Review and Development Project. I invite you to join me on this new journey! I encourage all RPCVs and those of you who may be interested in Peace Corps service to check out the following links.