Rockford resident organizes Azerbaijani Boys’ Leadership Experience

Activities benefit thousands of community members around the world

Throughout the summer months, Peace Corps volunteers worldwide facilitate educational, empowerment and environmental summer camps for girls and youth of all ages. Many volunteers raise a portion of the funds for each camp through the Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP), which helps support Peace Corps volunteer and community projects worldwide.

Today, five percent of Peace Corps volunteers work in the youth development sector, working with communities to form youth groups, clubs and sports teams. Volunteers also develop extracurricular activities that help local youth build confidence and develop decision-making, communication and leadership skills that promote positive relationships with peers, parents and adults.

One example of Peace Corps volunteer-led camps taking place this summer is Peace Corps volunteers Colin Jones of Las Vegas, Nev., Nate Storey of Phoenix, Md., Jacob Winn of Falmouth, Maine, and Richard Wiersma, 24, of Rockford, Mich., are working with local community members and Peace Corps staff to organize the seventh annual Azerbaijani Boys’ Leadership Experience (ABLE) camp from July 14 to 16 in Azerbaijan. During the camp, 50 boys aged 13 to 17 will participate in sessions on topics including leadership skills, teamwork and how to make a positive impact locally. A portion of the funds for ABLE camp will be raised through the PCPP.

“The primary objective of ABLE camp is to show campers how they can make a positive difference in their communities,” said Wiersma, alum of Liberty University and Grand Rapids Community College, who has been serving in Azerbaijan since 2011. “We guide them in a process of defining community, identifying needs and assets, and leading initiatives that benefit their communities such as park cleanup campaigns or creating educational opportunities for students. We also emphasize teamwork, motivation, and respect for others.”

One hundred percent of each tax-deductible PCPP donation goes toward a development project. Those interested in supporting camp ABLE can visit www.peacecorps.gov/donate. The project number for the camp is 314-098.

Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order on March 1, 1961, more than 200,000 Americans have served in 139 host countries. Today, 9,095 volunteers are working with local communities in 75 host countries. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment and the agency’s mission is to promote world peace and friendship and a better understanding between Americans and people of other countries. Visit www.peacecorps.gov for more information.

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