History of the Peace Corps in Kazakhstan
Since the first Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Kazakhstan in 1993, approximately 700 Volunteers have served here. The first group consisted of 50 English language and economic development Volunteers.
Peace Corps Programming in Kazakhstan
Peace Corps/Kazakhstan’s objective is to increase the knowledge and improve the skills of Kazakhstani citizens, strengthening their ability to compete in the global marketplace. Volunteers meet this objective by participating with Kazakhstanis in community work and life focused on two broad program areas: education and organizational and community assistance.
In Kazakhstan, English is viewed increasingly as a tool to help students get access to information and technology, achieve broader academic goals, and pursue more diverse professional opportunities. Peace Corps/Kazakhstan is assisting the Kazakhstani Ministry of Education by improving English language education throughout the country. Education Volunteers are placed in village schools where students have had little chance to tap into the kinds of learning to move them up the economic ladder.
During pre-service training, education trainees receive intensive instruction and hands-on practice in student-centered, highly participatory methods of teaching English as a foreign language in primary, secondary, or postsecondary schools. Emphasis is shifting from conversational English to multi-skill coursework, where students can practice decision-making, problem-solving and critical thinking. Volunteers also help Kazakhstani English teachers improve their own language facility. They work with them to develop professional networks, gain access to information, and develop teaching materials and resources through formal means (e.g., university teacher training programs) and informal means (e.g., English teacher associations, language conferences, etc.).
Outside the classroom, Volunteers become involved in a range of activities depending on their interests and skills as well as their community’s needs. Volunteers have worked with their local counterparts to organize summer camps, environmental clubs, student-run companies, and HIV/AIDS trainings to name a few.
Governmental and Nongovernmental Organization Development
Organizations in Kazakhstan range from very small, loosely organized groups with a single mission to well-funded and managed agencies with a complex set of objectives.
However, many organizations need help in working with their communities to define needs and develop strategies for accomplishing goals. Volunteers participate in community self-appraisals and they recruit, train, and motivate local volunteers. They help plan and implement economic development strategies and provide essential computer skills training for office and project management. They help define mission statements, develop and deliver training seminars, assist with public relations, and participate in grant writing and other fundraising activities. By being on the job, day in and day out, they help mentor and build skills one-on-one. Organizations where Volunteers have been placed include business incubators, women’s cooperatives, environmental organizations, school resource centers, public health information offices, governmental agencies, and regional small business consulting centers. During the 12-week pre-service training, trainees receive intensive coursework and hands-on experience in the core competencies for organizational capacity-building and community participation.