History of the Peace Corps in Turkmenistan
The Peace Corps first entered Turkmenistan in 1993 with an education project. In this project, Volunteers taught English in secondary schools, institutes of higher learning, and the Institute of Curriculum Development. Volunteers are catalysts in addressing Turkmenistan’s desire to expand English education programs in primary and secondary schools nationwide, to increase English teachers’ ability to communicate in the language, and to introduce contemporary teaching methodologies.
To support Turkmenistan in its efforts to improve English education, the education project emphasizes the teacher-training component. Local teachers are already well qualified to teach grammar, but Volunteers can contribute significantly to their communication skills and are placed more in regions where teachers’ needs are the greatest.
In 1995, the Peace Corps began working in the health sector, offering training to maternal and child health providers. Responding to the needs of Turkmenistan’s healthcare system, the Peace Corps later shifted the project to community health, placing more emphasis on community health education, extension, and prevention.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Turkmenistan
Peace Corps/Turkmenistan now works in two areas: education and health. The objective is not to teach the people of Turkmenistan “American” values, or to impose our sense of efficiency, but to help them help themselves within their own cultural framework.
Most community health Volunteers work at rural “houses of health” (clinics). They support medical professionals in strengthening, and sometimes even establishing, community health education programs. Health Volunteers share their knowledge and skills with local healthcare providers and conduct seminars for both the providers and community members. They also work at schools, helping Turkmen teachers teach health education to students. Besides promoting reproductive health, breast-feeding, and nutrition, Volunteers are involved in secondary projects such as “Clean Planet” environmental projects, women’s health clubs, and youth projects.
Peace Corps is expanding into more non-traditional sites as well, including nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), organizations that work with disadvantaged and special needs populations, and with youth.
The Peace Corps plans to continue working in these areas for the foreseeable future to meet the needs of the communities we serve.