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8 Peace Corps Volunteers Who Are Using Sports To Strengthen Communities Abroad

From organizing the inaugural Special Olympics Africa Unity Cup to coaching cricket in Vanuatu, Peace Corps Volunteers are contributing to their host countries through sports. Serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer to make the most of your world.

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1. Basketball in Mongolia

Eva Riddick, second from right, former captain of the University of Delaware’s Division 1 basketball team, says the worlds of college basketball and the Peace Corps have a lot more in common than you might think: both involve flexibility, adaptability, and resiliency. Riddick brought her love of basketball to her Peace Corps service and used it to help youth develop leadership skills and self-esteem. She initiated the Healthy Hoops Project with 50 Mongolian young people. “Basketball was one of the few things in my community that was familiar. I was able to identify a passion that both my community and I shared, and subsequently built a strong foundation for my work at site,” said Riddick.
Courtesy of the Peace Corps

Eva Riddick, second from right, former captain of the University of Delaware’s Division 1 basketball team, says the worlds of college basketball and the Peace Corps have a lot more in common than you might think: both involve flexibility, adaptability, and resiliency.

Riddick brought her love of basketball to her Peace Corps service and used it to help youth develop leadership skills and self-esteem. She initiated the Healthy Hoops Project with 50 Mongolian young people. “Basketball was one of the few things in my community that was familiar. I was able to identify a passion that both my community and I shared, and subsequently built a strong foundation for my work at site,” said Riddick.

2. Building a Sports Court in Costa Rica

Chris Norris came from a family with a tradition of military and public service, and he felt compelled to join the Peace Corps out of a fierce belief that optimism can change the world. As a volunteer in Costa Rica, Norris built a multi-use sports court at a high school. He hosted athletic camps with his community and regularly played soccer with local high school students. "My Peace Corps 'itch' will probably never go away and I’ve decided that’s just fine because to me that’s the one thing I hope every volunteer brings home," said Norris.
Courtesy of the Peace Corps

Chris Norris came from a family with a tradition of military and public service, and he felt compelled to join the Peace Corps out of a fierce belief that optimism can change the world. As a volunteer in Costa Rica, Norris built a multi-use sports court at a high school. He hosted athletic camps with his community and regularly played soccer with local high school students. "My Peace Corps 'itch' will probably never go away and I’ve decided that’s just fine because to me that’s the one thing I hope every volunteer brings home," said Norris.

3. Organizing the Inaugural Special Olympics Africa Unity Cup

Courtesy of the Peace Corps

During her service, Peace Corps Response Volunteer Meisha Robinson worked with 12 other Peace Corps Volunteers, Special Olympics staff, and community members to organize the inaugural Special Olympics Africa Unity Cup in South Africa. Fifteen soccer teams with disabled youth from Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia competed in the tournament. “I have been continuously inspired by and in awe of the Special Olympics athletes, partners, and youth leaders,” Robinson said.

4. Machete Fishing in Senegal

Frustrated by failing to achieve success at pounding anything in a tuguloo (a large mortar and pestle), Emily Johnson was determined to show her Jaxanke Senegalese village that she could engage in local customs like a pro. Her wish came true on one of the most important days of the year — the first day of the rainy season, when the entire village spends a whole day xa yeego muuta, capturing fish. She got her first fish via the traditional means: machete. She was happy to contribute to the village welfare alongside community members.
Courtesy of the Peace Corps

Frustrated by failing to achieve success at pounding anything in a tuguloo (a large mortar and pestle), Emily Johnson was determined to show her Jaxanke Senegalese village that she could engage in local customs like a pro. Her wish came true on one of the most important days of the year — the first day of the rainy season, when the entire village spends a whole day xa yeego muuta, capturing fish. She got her first fish via the traditional means: machete. She was happy to contribute to the village welfare alongside community members.

5. Cricket in Vanuatu

As a huge sports fan, Jack Smith immediately sought out ways to get involved in the local sporting community while serving with the Peace Corps in Vanuatu. He started training and refereeing for local football and volleyball teams, working with community members to teach sports and sportsmanship. Smith knew nothing about cricket, but when a local teacher approached him about helping with an under-10 cricket team, he jumped at the chance and immediately started reading up on cricket. It turned out to be one of the most exciting parts of his service — his team won the tournament! “But what made me the most proud of what they’d learned was watching them immediately run to slap hands with the team they’d beat, and to congratulate them on a game well played,” said Smith.
Courtesy of the Peace Corps

As a huge sports fan, Jack Smith immediately sought out ways to get involved in the local sporting community while serving with the Peace Corps in Vanuatu. He started training and refereeing for local football and volleyball teams, working with community members to teach sports and sportsmanship.

Smith knew nothing about cricket, but when a local teacher approached him about helping with an under-10 cricket team, he jumped at the chance and immediately started reading up on cricket. It turned out to be one of the most exciting parts of his service — his team won the tournament!

“But what made me the most proud of what they’d learned was watching them immediately run to slap hands with the team they’d beat, and to congratulate them on a game well played,” said Smith.

6. Ballet in Dominica

For Rebecca Warthen, ballet is everything that makes life worth living: beauty, romance, music, joy, passion, and physicality. So when she saw a Peace Corps Response opening for a ballet instructor and teacher trainer on the Eastern Caribbean island of Dominica, she applied immediately, hoping to change lives with the art form that changed her own. Warthen said one of the best things about dance is that you don’t need expensive equipment. “All you really need is your body, space, and the desire to learn, and your future is yours to determine… More importantly, they’re learning something new from a culture different than theirs, from a person with a different skin tone and different background, and through that they will become more accepting, open-minded people, which is what this is all about, isn’t it?”
Courtesy of the Peace Corps

For Rebecca Warthen, ballet is everything that makes life worth living: beauty, romance, music, joy, passion, and physicality. So when she saw a Peace Corps Response opening for a ballet instructor and teacher trainer on the Eastern Caribbean island of Dominica, she applied immediately, hoping to change lives with the art form that changed her own.

Warthen said one of the best things about dance is that you don’t need expensive equipment. “All you really need is your body, space, and the desire to learn, and your future is yours to determine… More importantly, they’re learning something new from a culture different than theirs, from a person with a different skin tone and different background, and through that they will become more accepting, open-minded people, which is what this is all about, isn’t it?”

7. Ultra-running in Macedonia

Emily Nagle accidentally signed up for the Krali Marko 65-kilometer Ultra Race while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Macedonia. She decided to do the race anyway. Not only did she have one of the best days of her life and become an ultra-runner, she met Trajche, an incredibly knowledgeable local who became a good friend and trusted source of information on Macedonian trails. It turned out Trajche organized Krali Marko — he started coordinating races in 2005. “It's about promoting the sport and community in Macedonia,” said Trajche.
Courtesy of the Peace Corps

Emily Nagle accidentally signed up for the Krali Marko 65-kilometer Ultra Race while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Macedonia. She decided to do the race anyway. Not only did she have one of the best days of her life and become an ultra-runner, she met Trajche, an incredibly knowledgeable local who became a good friend and trusted source of information on Macedonian trails. It turned out Trajche organized Krali Marko — he started coordinating races in 2005. “It's about promoting the sport and community in Macedonia,” said Trajche.

8. Ultimate Frisbee in Cambodia

Vicki Chan was disappointed not to see many women playing sports at the Provincial Teacher Training College where she worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer, so she introduced a new sport: ultimate Frisbee. She brought a few discs to school, and the sport caught on surprisingly quickly with women — perhaps because it didn’t have any previously conceived gender norms surrounding it. She organized weekly practices to help the new players build skills and confidence. Chan worked with the Phnom Penh Ultimate Association to arrange a tournament for her 15 new players — half of them women!
Courtesy of the Peace Corps

Vicki Chan was disappointed not to see many women playing sports at the Provincial Teacher Training College where she worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer, so she introduced a new sport: ultimate Frisbee. She brought a few discs to school, and the sport caught on surprisingly quickly with women — perhaps because it didn’t have any previously conceived gender norms surrounding it. She organized weekly practices to help the new players build skills and confidence. Chan worked with the Phnom Penh Ultimate Association to arrange a tournament for her 15 new players — half of them women!

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you’ll use your passion to make an impact in a community abroad. Do the unexpected.

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