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Courtney Yuskis: Working in Samoa

Courtney Yuskis grew up in a small farming community in Illinois. She graduated in Business Management & Administration at Bradley University and joined the Peace Corps in 2003.

Throughout my university years I worked for Caterpillar, Inc, developing a program to encourage young school children to pursue a career in math or science. Upon graduation from university, I worked as a Program Manager for Beeline Managed Services ( a human resources Cie). I left this position in June 2003 for my Peace Corps assignment in Samoa. As is typical for a Peace Corps volunteer, I did not choose my assignment and I found out about the "Future Farmers of Samoa"(FFS) project upon arrival in Samoa, during training. Once I understood the potential impact of this FAO project, I considered myself quite lucky to be a part, and fortunate to have been given the opportunity; hopefully conveying the idea that agriculture is a viable career option

I was the project coordinator and liaison between the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) staff and FAO staff. My job was to continually assist the MOA staff in first and foremost understanding the significance of the project, and then determining the most effective means to implement it. It was exciting and beneficial for the MOA staff in that they were learning from the project as well. Training and leadership roles were also offered to the staff -we were training them as trainers - and they were given a common goal to work toward.

Benefits in each of the ten communities served by the project were immediately visible. It offered village youth an opportunity to generate steady income without leaving their families or their village. Basic business skills were taught, at no cost to the communities, to all youth group members that wanted to/were able to attend. Entire villages came together in support of the project.

My daily life in the community
I lived on the agricultural research compound. At times, it seemed I was living in a fishbowl! Privacy was not an option, which was a drastic change for me. The more I understood the culture and spoke the language, though, the more comfortable I became in my new environment.

A typical day for me would include going for a run, take a cold shower, and then walk the 100 yards to my office. The office was also much different from what I was accustomed to - the power went out on a regular basis, equipment was outdated (if it existed at all), and the overall work ethic was much more laid back. I also had to learn about "island time", which truly does exist. Finding transportation to Apia (approximately 6 miles) was sometimes difficult, but always made for an interesting day. Again, the longer I lived and worked in-country, the more I loved my environment.

A life-changing experience
This experience did, and continues to, impact my life and career choices. Beyond igniting my passion for travel, it enhanced my level of patience and humility. The experience also built upon my project management skills, allowing me to undertake a level of responsibility that may not have been available State-side for a young professional with fairly limited experience. Working with FAO broadened my horizons, and I will soon be pursuing a graduate degree in International Development - a degree I would not have considered prior to my Peace Corps assignment.

Courtney Yuskis has been a US Peace Corps Volunteer in 2003
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