Cat Cvengros

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Peace Corps • Armenia • Catherine Cvengros

Description of Peace Corps Volunteer Service

After a competitive application process stressing applicant skills, adaptability and cross-cultural understanding, Ms. Catherine Cvengros was invited into Peace Corps service. She was assigned as a Community Health Educator at the non-governmental organization Martuni Women’s Community Council (MWCC) and later at the Yeghegnadzor Medical College and Polyclinic.

Ms. Cvengros entered training on June 3rd of 2004, participating in an intensive 11-week training program in Dilijan, Armenia. Language training included the acquisition of both written and spoken Armenian, Ms. Cvengros’ proficiency ranking advanced high. Area Studies training included the history, economics and cultural norms of Armenia. In addition, as part of the language and cross-cultural component of the training program, Ms. Cvengros lived with an Armenian host family. Technical training included the history of the Health Care System in Armenia during the Soviet period and Post-Soviet period: Including, current trends in the Health Care System in Armenia, with specific emphasis on village Health-Posts and Polyclinics.

Ms. Cvengros arrived in Martuni, Armenia, a former Soviet industrial town with approximately 10,000 people, in August 2004 as a Peace Corps Health Volunteer. She conducted community needs assessments and performed both qualitative and quantitative statistical analysis for the region before beginning work with local secondary schools and MWCC. Ms. Cvengros organized and assisted in the production of student-run theatrical productions at Secondary School #2 as well as team-teaching with Armenian counterparts about health related topics. To aid in community integration and language proficiency, Ms. Cvengros lived with an Armenian host family for seven months.

Ms. Cvengros initiated and developed a Domestic Violence Shelter proposal for Martuni Women’s Community Council to the Netherlands-based organization Mama Cash. She designed, wrote, and supervised all aspects of the proposal and project, including the budgeting, the delegation of responsibilities, and the monitoring and evaluation of the project from inception to completion. MWCC was awarded the grant in July 2005 and has successfully completed the re-opening of the Martuni Women’s Domestic Violence Shelter in September 2005. Martuni’s Shelter is the only one of its kind in the Republic of Armenia.

Ms. Cvengros assisted her Armenian counterpart, Anahit Gevorgyan, and Doctors Without Borders in passing local legislation to make mandatory medical visits a regular occurrence to regions of Martuni without transport or telephones. As part of this program, Ms. Cvengros and Ms. Gevorgyan accompanied the local news team from Zangak news station to visit the affected villages to publicize the new policy and to record community response.

With MWCC, Ms. Cvengros held HIV/AIDS, anti-smoking and women’s health seminars for the citizens of Martuni and surrounding villages. With her Armenian counterpart, Anahit Gevorgyan, Ms. Cvengros developed and translated seminars and curriculum for regular use. During her time in Martuni, Ms. Cvengros taught a total of 110 students.

In cooperation with Martuni State University, Ms. Cvengros taught American Culture and History to the senior class for the spring semester, 2005. There she developed a curriculum and lesson plans for teaching a variety of information about the United States’ culture and history, with special emphasis on civil rights and women’s equality. During her time at the university, Ms. Cvengros taught a total of 40 students.

Ms. Cvengros worked in Stepanavan, Armenia for six weeks as a volunteer with Unite For Sight (UFS), a charitable organization based in the United States. Ms. Cvengros collaborated with international volunteers and the hosting Armenian organization, Stepanavan Youth Centre, as they organized daily eye-exams free of charge for citizens of Stepanavan and the surrounding villages. Ms. Cvengros led the committee on rural education, making lesson plans for children and adults in an effort to educate community members about common eye diseases and prevention methods. The program closed with the distribution of free eyeglasses to participating needy community members. Ms. Cvengros assisted in training 15 volunteers from Stepanavan Youth Centre, educating 240 community members, and providing eye-screenings to 480 community members.

In August 2005, Ms. Cvengros transferred work-sites to Yeghegnadzor, Armenia, to work at the Yeghegnadzor Medical College and Polyclinic. There she developed a curriculum and lesson plans in Armenian for teaching a variety of life skills courses for student nurses, with topics ranging from hygiene and smoking to HIV/AIDS and women’s health. Ms. Cvengros has taught a total of 180 students during her time in Yeghegnadzor.

Ms. Cvengros initiated and developed a Medical College Technological Improvement proposal for the Yeghegnadzor Medical College to Armenian Support Project (ASP) based in Yerevan, Armenia. She designed, wrote, and supervised all aspects of the proposal and project, including the budgeting, the delegation of responsibilities, and the monitoring and evaluation of the project from inception to completion. ASP awarded the computers to the college in February 2006 and has successfully integrated new teaching methods and Internet-based information in the classrooms.

Ms. Cvengros organized and facilitated a three day first aid seminar series in collaboration with Red Cross, Vayots Dzor Branch and fellow Peace Corps Volunteers James Applegate and Jillisa Overholt for Yeghegnadzor Medical College. The seminar focused on CPR and minor wounds, providing the nursing students with experience working with CPR dummies and fellow classmates during first aid role-play activities.

In honor of International Women’s Day Ms. Cvengros organized and facilitated a six-week seminar series for the students of Yeghegnadzor Medical College. The series included local guest speakers, video showings, debates and discussions, and a judged essay contest in Armenian. Ms. Cvengros and her Armenian counterparts worked in tandem with the American Bar Association and CEELI to promote the education of The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) during the series.

In collaboration with the Yeghegnadzor Pedagogical Institute and IREX, Ms. Cvengros developed and facilitated a two-month seminar series focused on the integration of the Internet in the classroom. The series included lectures, guest speakers, videos and basic instruction on Internet searching and website evaluation.

Ms. Cvengros facilitated a trans-Caucuses pen-pal program for students from Armenia and Georgia. The students, via letters and photographs, communicated in English to one another regarding national customs and traditions, politics, hobbies, families and daily life. Ms. Cvengros’ Armenian tutor, Alla Aghabekyan, continued the program for the students after her departure from Peace Corps service.

As a part of World Wise Schools, Ms. Cvengros maintained contact with junior and senior students from Mr. William Hartley’s American Government classes at Lecanto High School of Lecanto, Florida. Throughout her service Ms. Cvengros organized pen-pal programs between the American students and her Armenian students, as well as regularly sending updates about life in a developing country.

Ms. Cvengros facilitated a three-day Project Design and Management Workshop to 41 Peace Corps Volunteers and their Armenian counterparts in February 2006. The workshop provided the participants with practical and theoretical tools on developing, designing and managing a project.

As the elected chairperson for the Peace Corps Armenia HIV/AIDS Initiative, Ms. Cvengros assisted in the development of a seminar series and poster contest implemented nationwide in 11 different regions of the Republic of Armenia during the course of her service. A total of 450 students attended the three-day seminars. As chairperson, Ms. Cvengros also collaborated with the National AIDS Prevention Center and numerous non-governmental organizations to distribute HIV/AIDS-related literature and host guest speakers in the rural regions of Armenia. In partnership with APEC, Peace Corps volunteers and their Armenian counterparts will annually have the opportunity to attend locally taught courses about HIV/AIDS.

Lessons Learned

About Cat Cvengros Today

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