October 7, 2013 1 Comment
The American Peace Corps is an amazing network of people who give their time and talents to change the world in many ways. After publishing a story about a new volunteer Angelique Loverde (’11), we heard from April Muniz (’90) about her Peace Corps experience. It was April’s email that led to more and more JMU Peace Corps people. Over the next few months, we’ll be telling their stories — and populating the map you’ll find at the end of today’s post . Can you find the gold JMU star? (We’ll be adding more!)
Today’s post by April includes an interview with Lyzz Ogunwo (’08).
Finding a deeper understanding
by April Muniz (’90)
Sharing your Peace Corps service with other volunteers is the ultimate bonding experience. Although we each were assigned to our own posts, often a great distance from one another, we made an effort to meet up periodically to help with group projects and to catch up and socialize. I was happy to find three other JMU graduates among the 200+ Peace Corps Volunteers serving in Senegal with me, Elizabeth “Lyzz” Ogunwo, Kourtney Rusow, and Amanda Cassiday. They had attended JMU much more recently than me (all are from the class of 2008) but we shared a love of the ‘Burg and a common path. We are all now Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) living back in the states. I spent the 2012-13 academic year working as the Peace Corps Campus Recruiter at the University of Virginia and am now working full-time as a Community Liaison/Event Coordinator for Harvest Moon Catering in Charlottesville and am heading up the company’s green initiative and sustainability efforts. I also serve on the advisory board of Better World Better, Charlottesville’s favorite resource for green living.
I was curious about my fellow-Dukes’ Peace Corps experiences and wondered what they are doing now, so I asked them:
First up, Lyzz Ogynwo, (’08) who served the Peace Corps in Senegal from 2010-12 working with community economic development.
What were some of the reasons you decided to join the Peace Corps?
LO: Having majored in International Affairs, with an Africa Concentration at JMU, I aspired to have a deeper understanding of international development on the ground. Ultimately, I wanted to use my talents and strengths to help catalyze progressive change in the community I would be placed in, while helping that community leverage its own strengths. My hope was, and is still, to be a part of sustainable development that will benefit Senegal for years to come.
LO: My Peace Corps community was located in Guéoul in the northwestern region of the country. As a business volunteer from August 2010 to August 2012, I developed a waste management system that had a compost profitability component. I also helped the village infomatique (computer learning center) to become profitable through business trainings in marketing and computer classes. Additionally, I helped develop an IT Training University in my town, mentored 75 girls from the lowest income homes through a weekly girl’s empowerment club, and taught English.
Prior to joining the Peace Corps, what type of work were you involved in?
LO: Prior to Peace Corps, I was a Virginia Field Organizer for the Barack Obama Campaign in 2008 as well as an associate working with senior staff in the White House Executive Office of the President in 2009 where I helped select political appointees to the administration. After that, from 2009 to 2010, I was appointed Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of Energy at the Department of Energy.
What are you doing now?
LO: After working on the president’s re-election campaign and for the inaugural committee, I moved to New York to work at Living Cities Inc. on poverty-reduction initiatives in our major U.S. cities. Living Cities harnesses the collective power of 22 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions that scales new approaches for creating opportunities for low income people and improving the cities where they live. As a member of the staff, we work to prepare people for 21st century employment opportunities; to ensure cities enable and connect people to those opportunities; and to find sufficient opportunities that exist to grow income and reduce income inequality in cities.
Within the next year, I plan to return to my Peace Corps site to help establish a non-profit bakery managed and run by the women leaders I worked with during my time abroad.