My upods (or people who are with you so you won't be alone) as I wait for the trike to leave

Working on a Gender Division Matrix with ladies in Barangay Langob

A batch 3 volunteer (who served in 1963) with 4 current volunteers (batch 268) at the Sto. Nino festival in Bobon. (The volunteers to the right and left of him are both UofM alumni)

Name: Leah Ettema
U-M Affiliation: Alumni

Where do you work?

I am currently a PCV

When did you serve in the Peace Corps?

PST in August of 2009, PCV from November 2009 - 2011

Where did you serve (which country/countries)?


What were your main responsibilities as a volunteer?

I am a Coastal Resource Management volunteer, trying to improve food security and environmental integrity by using the Participatory Coastal Resource Assessment method and the 5 phases in CRM planning. Essentially, I work with the local government unit to empower the fisherfolk communities and help them manage their own resources.

Is there a specific person (or persons) who made a strong impression on you during that time?

My Filipino supervisor (not PC staff) - he is one of the most motivated people I have ever seen and really understands community organizing (maybe from his 35 + years of experience). I am constantly trying to just keep up with him, and am continually motivated by his passion to create positive change.

What was one of the most memorable moments you had as a volunteer?

I have been at site for about 7 months now, and one of my most memorable moments was having Secretary of State Hilary Clinton swear us in as volunteers, reaffirming America's commitment to volunteerism. Another memorable moment was during my first month here, I traveled for courtesy calls to a really remote barangay (community). I walked around the community and by the end, I had about 75 kids following me. So, I stopped and tried to speak the little bit of language that I knew, asking them simple questions like how old are you, what is your name, etc. That lasted about 15 minutes, before I ran out of things I could say in Waray-Waray. But I still had their attention, so I decided to just try and dance and sing with them (something I never envisioned myself doing in the states), and had several laughs doing it. One thing I realized, though, was how effective the arts can be at expressing what words lack and bridging cultural barriers.

In what ways did your Peace Corps experience affect your life and/or career decisions?

To be determined... but so far one thing I have noticed is an increase in my confidence to tackle the unknown, whether it is leading your co-workers in a project that you don't know will succeed or figuring out how to get to another city many miles away on the fly.

In what ways did your U-M education, both inside and outside the classroom, prepare you for your Peace Corps experience?

I participated in GIEU in 2006, which sparked my interest in Peace Corps. That brief (1 month) cultural exchange in a "3rd world country" gave me a brief glimpse of the experience I could have as a PCV. It gave me some idea of how I handle cultural experiences and some basis for improving my cultural/community integration abilities. The interdisciplinary nature of my PitE education also helped in providing a more holistic view of environmental problems, which has served to be invaluable.

What advice would you give to others who are contemplating going into the Peace Corps?

Don't compare yourself to other volunteers. This is your journey, and every volunteer's experience is different.

What is the value gained from the Peace Corps experience?

Living and integrating into a different community teaches you to think in a totally different way than in the states. That different perspective offers a creative input that no other experience could provide. There is also value in learning the methods and approaches developing countries are taking to preserve their environment, many of which apply in the States. Last, their are the many friendships formed, people from both the host country and other PCVs, who you will be able to share memories, stories, and new experiences with for a lifetime.

What lessons did you learn in the Peace Corps that you carry with you today?

You never know where you could meet a valuable contact.

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