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Celebrating 50 Years of Service - Peace Corps

Date: July 9, 2011
Place: Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Washington DC
Interview: Patricia Wand, Elizabeth Spellman and Laura Kutner, Former Peace Corps Volunteers

Patricia Wand
We're celebrating 50 years of Peace Corps service. And in those 50 years, more than 200,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps.

It's a program that allows people from the United States to volunteer 2 years of their lives to live in another country. And when they live and work in another country they work side by side with the people who live there. And the person from the United States usually brings some technical skills to help develop some industry or education or business in some way in the country that they serve.

Elizabeth Spellman
My name is Elizabeth Spellman. I'm a recently returned Peace Corps volunteer from Zambia where I served as a health volunteer from February 2008 until May 2011.

So in front of me we have a pedal powered maize sheller and what this is, it's a simple kit that you can attach to your bike. The way they farm maize, is they dry it in the fields and then they collect it. And once they do that, they have to take these kernels off, and the way they do that traditionally is with their thumbs.

All right, pedal forward.

Something like this, again, 10 to 20 times faster than the traditional method and can save up to 800 work hours per year.

Laura Kutner
My name is Laura Kutner and I served in Guatemala from 2007-2010.

When I first arrived in my site, there was the frame of two classrooms they wanted to finish. And one day I realized that the bottle that I was drinking was the exact width of this frame.

Basically what you do is you stuff a bottle, a 20-milliliter bottle that's full of plastic, all plastic trash – plastic bags, chip wrappers, wherever it's not paper and not cardboard.

And you stuff it really, really full. It has to be really full, kind of like an eco-brick is what it's called and then you have a frame that you build and this serves as just like the stuffing of a wall, which is called insulation. And this is a wonderful way to teach about the environment because we have a lot of plastic that we have wasted.

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