Jared, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) and a graduate student of ASU’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society, joined the SolarSPELL team last year and traveled with the team to Comoros. He shares his experience below:
In December of 2019, I was fortunate enough to be part of an expedition to Comoros that brought so many powerful experiences of mine full circle. Being less than 2 years removed from finishing my own service as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV), having the opportunity to get back out on the ground to work alongside current PCVs was a very special endeavor for me. I never would have thought back in June of 2016, when SolarSPELL attended my own PCV training in Micronesia to equip me with their invaluable resources to take to my site (pictured below, with my 8th grade students), that I would one day join the SolarSPELL team and help them continue their mission elsewhere over 3 years later.
Standing in the picture below with the current crop of Comoros PCVs really was something special for me as I recollected my own thoughts in that moment of how exciting it was to gain knowledge in those trainings, knowing how much of a positive impact it could have on my students afterwards. As a member of the SolarSPELL team now, it helps me continue to fulfill my dream of affecting deserving youth around the world despite having returned from my PC service.
Relating with people when you return home from the Peace Corps after such a unique 2 year adventure is not always easy. This made trading service stories with the current Volunteers in Comoros such a treat. On top of that, having the opportunity to present about how I used SolarSPELL at my site and impart best practices for them to utilize with their own students was the cherry on top. My presentation wasn’t perfect, especially with having to chunk the delivery in order to allow for translating, but my points were made and now I can look forward to improving my talk in the next country we visit! (I’m asking for questions below, alongside my wonderful, local translator, Haina, from the Peace Corps Comoros staff.)
Besides the training of the current PCVs and their in-country counterparts, the other vital component of a SolarSPELL trip is conducting Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) via site visits, interviews and surveys that the team will use to continually improve the technology/educational content being offered. Long, rickety, tiring, hot bus rides up, down, and all around the volcanic island to get from one remote site to another was always worth it in the end when you got to hear the stories of SolarSPELL impact on the ground, especially in the places that have no alternative resources at their disposal. Dr. Hosman and I are pictured below interviewing a local teacher at his school, who was trained to use the SolarSPELL a year prior. The information from these interviews will prove to be invaluable as the team compiles the data representing successes that can be built upon as well as limitations that can be improved upon.
I couldn’t be happier about SolarSPELL allowing for me to continue the work that I wholeheartedly believe in. From being trained to use the SPELL technology to enhance the limited education of my own students in the remote Ulithi Atoll, to now traveling and furthering the education of children in additional under-served communities, I have not only been able to help but I’ve also been able to grow professionally beyond measure.