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Response Volunteer finds her role a perfect fit

Response Volunteer finds her role a perfect fit
PEACE CORPS RESPONSE Volunteer Cara Maloney, left, and the staff of the School for Children with Special Needs. Back in November, the school’s staff surprised Maloney with a Thanksgiving lunch, complete with a singing, dancing and turkey.

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by LAINIE STEELMAN

ACCORDING TO THE 2018 Peace Corps Factsheet, which is published by the Peace Corps, four per cent of currently serving Volunteers are Peace Corps Response Volunteers. A unique sector of the Peace Corps, Response Volunteers are highly skilled in their field, often have advanced education, and serve for less than two years in an immediate and unique need.

There are four Peace Corps Response Volunteers currently serving in St Vincent. One of those Response Volunteers is Cara Maloney. Maloney serves at the School for Children with Special Needs in Kingstown. A special education teacher with 23 years of experience, Maloney applied for a Peace Corps Response position after deciding to take a mid-career break.

“When I got into teaching 23 years ago, I said I would do it as long as I was having fun, Maloney explained in a recent interview. “I really enjoy teaching and I love the kids and I love my coworkers. But the last couple years had gotten more and more tough. And so I just decided I needed to switch it up, just do something different. Do something different, go someplace different, and really be in the service of others. My cup was getting empty, and that was going to fill my cup.”

Maloney didn’t want to commit to two years of Peace Corps service, but a shorter-tem, one-year assignment as a Response Volunteer was a perfect fit. Since starting at the School for Children with Special Needs last August, Maloney has served as a computer teacher and teacher trainer.

Maloney previously taught in a co-teaching environment, and that has helped her in her new role as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer.

“I think definitely my team teaching experience has helped me connect and work with teachers a little bit more,” Maloney said. “Because even though we don’t team teach per se, there’s a lot of collaboration… So I do feel lucky to be able to use those skills.”

Serving alongside the teachers at the School for Children with Special Needs and working with the students has been the most rewarding part of Maloney’s Peace Corps Response position.

“They just really took me in and have been really great, not only with helping with school stuff but with culture, with events and things that are going on within country,” she said of the school’s staff. “And the kids, they’re just really fun. And I like the joy they bring to school each day. It checks your own perspective about life, and it makes you appreciate what you have. So the people have definitely been the best part.”

Naseem Smith, principal of the School for Children with Special Needs in Kingstown, said Maloney’s learning about the Vincentian culture allows her to better understand the students.

Smith also likes the diversity Cara brings to the school.

“The diversity is a huge one,” she said. “It’s a reciprocal relationship. She brings her experience and background in special ed, and she learns from the staff.”

Organizations interested in working with a Peace Corps Response Volunteer should contact Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean’s Response Coordinator, Remidene Aboko-Cole Diakite. She can be reached at [email protected] peacecorps.gov.

Lainie Steelman is a Peace Corps Volunteer currently serving in SVG.

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