Veronica with her students in Mozambique
When Veronica Armstead-Williams, 24, left her home in Moorestown, N.J. to depart for service in Mozambique, she prepared to work as a secondary English education Volunteer at a local school. It wasn’t until she finished training that her role changed to teach another language – one that’s a bit more high-tech.
Despite training in multiple levels of Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Veronica was eventually assigned by her school’s director to work as a tenth grade Information and Communications Technology teacher. With four years’ experience working at Best Buy Mobile under her belt, the Fordham University alum chose to step up to the challenge with any teaching resources that were available.
“How do you teach ICT with just a chalk board and chalk? With a lot of patience and creativity,” she explained.
Veronica learned that for her to teach about technology, she would need the technology. Her school’s computer lab was equipped with only three computers, which could accommodate about 2,500 students in a school of more than 4,000.
To furnish her classroom with more tech supplies, she wrote a Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP) grant to raise funding for these tools, which is currently around $200 away from its $9,786 goal. She also acquired two SmartBoard systems from the local Ministry of Education, along with a modem, wireless router and firewall that were installed by the school.
While she still seeks financial support for high-tech teaching materials, Veronica has now supplied her classroom with five working computers that have helped her teach students how to use multiple programs and software.
“I am proud to say, through practical testing, all 464 of my 11th grade students can turn on a computer, use a mouse and keyboard and open Microsoft Word to type a document,” she said. “It may not seem like much, but most of these kids hadn’t even touched a computer mouse before this year.”
Aside from her work as a secondary Education Volunteer, Veronica has also devoted her time to several secondary projects, particularly JUNTOS – a youth activist program started by Peace Corps Volunteers and their counterparts to promote positive behavioral change among Mozambican youth. Such change is aimed to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in Mozambique and reinforce the ability to identify cultural norms and unhealthy gender stereotypes through cultural expression.
Last year, the JUNTOS group offered weekly Health Education courses to five classes of 56 students each in local schools. The group is currently planning to collaborate with the local Health Center and other community organizations to build a small youth center, in which students can meet with peer educators to learn about the prevention of malaria, HIV/AIDS and early or unplanned pregnancies.
After months of educating local youth on managing technology and healthy lifestyles, Veronica said she has spent some of the most fulfilling years of her life in Mozambique and looks forward to next year’s adventures with “full anticipation.”
“No one can fit 27 months into two suitcases,” Veronica said, “And I wouldn’t have been able to even imagine my life folding out the way it has over the past 24 months.”
“It is something that takes commitment, patience and flexibility,” she added. “You have to become part of the community and with that comes creating relationships and memories that will last for a lifetime, let alone the relationships created within the Peace Corps community.”
Click here to learn more about Veronica’s PCPP grant or to make a donation.