My Peace Corps service is supported by some of the most dedicated staff and supportive staff in the Peace Corps world. Every now and again, I like to interview them to learn more about who they are and what they do to make Peace Corps possible. Today I am honored to introduce you to the head honcho himself, Mr. Tom Kennedy – Country Director for Peace Corps Zambia.
Tom Kennedy – Country Director
You were a Peace Corps Volunteer yourself. Where did you serve?
I served in Cameroon between ’83-’86 as part of their aquaculture program. We were known as “fishheads”.
What’s your educational background like?
I triple majored during my undergrad: biology, politics, and evironmental studies. My graduate degree is in international relations and microfinance.
What inspired you to join Peace Corps in the first place?
I traveled extensively after high school, and met a number of volunteers. I was intrigued by the Peace Corps mission and the idea of volunteers helping others to help themselves. After college, I was still intrigued by the Peace Corps model of development and applied.
Did you work for Peace Corps before becoming Country Director?
I did. Iworked for Peace Corps Washington (D.C.) between ’95-’99 as a Chief Administrative Officer. Peace Corps has a “five year rule” which disallows most staff members in administrative positions from holding any one post for more than five years. This can be a controversial rule, as some people believe it limits the institutional memory of Peace Corps. However, the rule was originally implemented to keep staff from viewing or treating Peace Corps as a career, and to keep a fresh flow of ideas and mindsets coming in and out of the agency.
After reaching my five year limit with Peace Corps in the ’90’s, I went to work for USAID where I focused on economic growth and microfinance work. Five years ago, I left USAID to serve as the country director for Peace Corps Zambia, and in May will reach my five year limit in this position. I plan to go back to working with USAID once I’m finished. [Editor’s note: we are very sorry to be losing Mr. Kennedy!]
As Country Director, what does your job entail?
No two days are the same, really. I am responsible for the guidance, direction, and vision of Peace Corps Zambia. I try to direct the program to best support volunteers in the field while at the same time implementing and enforcing Peace Corps policy. In essence, “the buck stops with me.” I also develop partnership with other international development agencies, and of course promote and represent Peace Corps both in and out of Zambia.
In your opinion, what makes for a great volunteer?
Great volunteers are dedicated to their assigned communities, have integrated themselves to truly be a part of their community, and work for and with the community to meet the community’s needs. I like to see enthusiasm, fresh ideas, new perspectives, and energy out of volunteers.
Thanks Mr. Kennedy!
*While I have written this and other “Meet _______” posts in the first person, this post is a summary of my interview with Mr. Kennedy and does not reflect direct quotes by him unless actually written in quotes.