Inside the Peace Corps: Kristine in Caibiran, Biliran, Philippines

Kristine Pierce, M.S. '12 candidate, MIPCV Philippines

For the past seven months, I have been working in the municipal Department of Agriculture in. Since the Department of Agriculture is responsible for agriculture, livestock and coastal resource projects, it has been a challenge to find a focus for the specific projects that I am involved in. I work mostly with my direct supervisor, the Municipal Agriculture Officer and the fisheries technician in the office. We have discussed a number of projects and goals for the coastal resource management sector of the office. Specifically, my supervisor would like to strengthen fisherfolk organizations in the coastal barangays and re-establish the BFARMCs. Additionally, he would like to see management of the two fish sanctuaries improved through formal trainings and education campaigns. A loftier goal, that may or may not be feasible, is to establish a new fish sanctuary in one of the outlying coastal barangays. Lastly, he would like to create a coastal resource management plan for the municipality.

Currently, I am working through socioeconomic data collected by student interns working for the Department of Agriculture for the summer. The surveys include questions about the fish sanctuary management, specifically targeting the two barangays with fish sanctuaries. We are particularly interested in this information and will hopefully use it to guide our trainings and education campaigns. In addition to conducting socioeconomic surveys, the summer students also had the opportunity to see one of the fish sanctuaries firsthand. Another volunteer and I gave an impromptu talk about the roles and benefits of a fish sanctuary and taught the students how to use a snorkel and mask. Taking the students snorkeling was a really rewarding experience since it was the first time that all of them had had the opportunity to see corals and fish. It was a major educational tool and proved to be a very successful activity.

Recently, I have been working with one of the science teachers at the high school to plan an environmental camp for members of the science club. We are aiming to have the camp in September, which is “Science month.” We are planning to have lessons and activities pertaining to fish sanctuaries and coral reef ecosystems of the Philippines, mangroves, solid waste management and climate change. Similar to the activity with the summer interns, we plan to take the students snorkeling in the fish sanctuary as a part the two-day camp. We hope to be able to include other activities such as mangrove planting and waste segregation. We are currently working on the details and funding proposal. The camp will be a joint effort between the high school, the Department of Agriculture and a select number of Peace Corps volunteers, with all parties participating in the lectures and activities. It is very important that this camp be mainly a product of the local organizations in order to make it their own. My fellow volunteers and I will merely share our experience and knowledge of the subject matter, but will not be completely in charge of running the camp.

Other projects that we have in mind include biophysical trainings for monitoring the fish sanctuaries and an education campaign in the schools of the coastal barangays. We are waiting to work on any new projects until after the newly elected officials have taken office. The recent elections have really slowed work in the LGU, as many people have been focused on campaigning. We have also been unable to hold meetings as part of the election restrictions, but hopefully things will return to normal soon.

There are challenges, and at times, I have really struggled with working in the Department of Agriculture. My supervisor tends to be out of the office much of the time and my counterpart does not like to do anything without his permission. At times, it feels like I am not accomplishing anything here, but I have to remember that I am making an impact by just being here. I have heard multiple times from my coworkers that they really appreciate me and would like me to stay as long as possible. I am still finding my way around the office and learning how to create new projects. I am learning something new every day, whether it is a new word, a different Filipino tradition, or a new idea for a project based on community need.

— Kristine Pierce, M.S.’12 candidate, is currently in her first year of Peace Corps service in the Phillipines working on marine conservation and in her second year of the MI Program at Bard CEP.

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