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In Class With Peace Corps Volunteers in Africa, Asia

Amanda Pease is a Peace Corps science teacher in Sierra Leone
Amanda Pease is a Peace Corps science teacher in Sierra Leone

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This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Peace Corps. President John Kennedy began the program in nineteen sixty-one. The Peace Corps sends American volunteers to provide technical assistance in education and other areas in developing countries.

Amanda Pease is one of almost forty volunteers serving in rural schools in Sierra Leone.


Ms. Pease teaches science at Saint Joseph’s, a high school in eastern Sierra Leone. She studied chemical engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles. She decided to serve for two years in the Peace Corps after she finished her degree.

AMANDA PEASE: "I was trying to decide between going the academic route and doing a postdoctoral degree and go into industry, and then I had been doing some volunteer work and the idea was kind of always of floating around."

Peace Corps volunteers left Sierra Leone in nineteen ninety-four because of civil war. But now they are back.

Science teachers are in especially short supply. Efforts in Sierra Leone to get more children through primary school have led to crowded high schools.

Amanda Pease is the only chemistry and physics teacher at her school. She says she has to work hard to get students more interested in learning, as she thought they would be.

AMANDA PEASE: "I kind of had sort of a romantic idea coming to a developing country where everyone is super motivated but just does not have opportunities, and that is not exactly how it is. Not that I am saying the opportunities are so great, because of course there [are] limited opportunities if you compare it to America, but I think one of the biggest things is literally just motivation."

What she loves best about her experience, she says, is the magical moment when students understand a chemical process or ask her for more exercises.

More than eight thousand Peace Corps volunteers are currently serving around the world. Volunteers become part of the community where they work and live. Travis Bluemling from Pennsylvania teaches English in a rural Indonesian community.

TRAVIS BLUEMLING: “Even if some of these kids can't get to college, learning English and at least having some knowledge of the language can separate themselves from the people next to them when they are looking for a job or meeting people.”

Mr. Bluemling's family expressed concern for his safety in a country where Islamic militants have sometimes attacked Westerners. But what concerned him, he says, was the thought that leaders in his village might not welcome him.

TRAVIS BLUEMLING: "However, I could not have been more wrong. They have allowed me to enter their house. I joined them in their Muslim meetings. I joined them with fasting and I have even entered the mosque."

In addition to Indonesia, Peace Corps volunteers in East Asia serve in China, Thailand, Cambodia, Mongolia and the Philippines.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report. If you have a Peace Corps story to share, go to or post a comment on our Facebook page at VOA Learning English. I'm Steve Ember.


Contributing: Brian Padden and Felicity Thompson

Watch a video report from Indonesia

Watch a video report from Sierra Leone