PCVL means Peace Corps Volunteer Leader. Although in this case it is a title, as we all know, leadership is a choice not a position. After a year of thinking about this (as my friends and family can attest to last May) and after months of applying, I received a call from my Country Director yesterday to inform me that next year I will be a PCVL alongside my fellow third year Peace Corps Volunteers Kyle and Amber. I feel very honored and privileged to have this opportunity and the choice that comes with it.
What is PCVL?
PCVL is a relatively new position in Mongolia, only existing ten out of the last twenty years, and it's a position still only available in select Peace Corps countries. In fact, in our region of 20 Peace Corps countries there are only 4 PCVLs and 3 of them are in Mongolia. However, as Peace Corps expands globally and doubles in size, the role of PCVLs is increasing around the world. In many ways we are not only serving as PCVLs here in Mongolia, we are serving as models for a position around the world.
PCVLs have many responsibilities, but basically they fall into four categories:
- Providing assistance and counsel to Peace Corps Volunteers
- Helping Peace Corps Staff work better with Peace Corps Volunteers
- Helping Peace Corps Volunteers work better with Peace Corps Staff
- Informing Peace Corps Volunteers about important information and resources
PCVLs in Mongolia work part-time in host country agencies (I will be working with the World Health Organization or WHO) and part-time in the Peace Corps headquarters. We are Volunteers who have decided to extend our service beyond 27 months, to become third year Volunteers.
Peace Corps Expansion
We stand at a dynamic time in Peace Corps Mongolia's history, inheriting 20 years of procedures, experiences and resources before the post doubles in size over the next three years. During our service as PCVLs we will see three separate inputs of Volunteers, three Pre-Service Trainings and an estimated 180 incoming M21s and M22s. This is unprecedented. It will require expanded office space, increased staff hires, and increased quality in Volunteer support. For years we have heard the concerns many people (including the Senate) have about growing Peace Corps and one of the most often cited concerns is that quantity should not increase without quality. PCVLs can be essential in this role not only in Mongolia but in global Peace Corps operations.
As Peace Corps expands rapidly nearing its 50th anniversary, global operations is seeking to implement effective strategies across more country posts including opening more PCVL positions and groups like Volunteer Advisory Councils (VACs), which have been demonstrated to be very effective at improving the quality of a country post from within. I think we will demonstrate throughout our service just how clear and effective the role of PCVL can be. I know I'm a little crazy, but I think we could be some of the best PCVLs in the world and this would be a great service not only to Peace Corps Mongolia but to the entire Peace Corps operation globally.
So, as always, the choice remains. Leadership is always a choice. It is the ability to influence others, to find your voice and help others find theirs. It isn't about titles, positions or being different from anyone else. It's about being the same, seeing the potential that we all have to make change, to help others, to become better. That choice presents itself every day and I'm very excited to be here with my fellow Volunteers to accept the challenge. We will be working today, tomorrow and the next day to lead as Peace Corps Volunteers and I look forward to spending the rest of my service earning the title.