Wednesday, June 15, 2016

U.S. Peace Corps and IBM collaborate to benefit Los Baños science community

MANILA, Philippines—Three Peace Corps Response (PCR) volunteers were sworn in recently by U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg at the Peace Corps Office in Manila.

Ambassador Philip Goldberg (6th from left) joined by IBM-PCR volunteer Melody Balcet (6th from the right), Peace Corps Country Director Jean Seigle (5th from the right), IRRI Director for External Relations Corinta Guerta (5th from the left), IBM President and Country General Manager Luis Pineda (4th from right) and the rest of the IBM and IRRI executives.
One of the volunteers, Melody L. Balcet, an  IBM employee, will work for three months with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the world’s premier international research organization dedicated to reducing poverty and hunger, improving the health and welfare of rice farmers and consumers, and protecting the rice-growing environment for future generations through rice science.

The volunteer will serve as an institutional strengthening specialist to help build the capacity of IRRI’s voluminous research information assets through digitization, big data analytics, and cloud computing, among other IT transformation strategies.

She will also be working as part of a team that is serving the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), a nonprofit research and training center mandated to strengthen institutional capacities in agricultural and rural development in Southeast Asia. IRRI and SEARCA have been active member agencies of the Los Baños Science Community for many years.  

Launched in December 2015, the Peace Corps Response program is part of the innovative public-private partnership between Peace Corps and IBM. The partnership allows highly skilled IBM corporate professionals to serve overseas in short-term, high-impact pro bono consulting assignments.

The volunteer will serve alongside a 14-member IBM Corporate Service Corps (CSC) team of IBM employees from the U.S., Brazil, South Africa, Slovakia, Italy, Spain, Mexico, the Netherlands, and India that will arrive in July 2016 to serve the country for one month. The CSC is IBM’s pro bono consulting program, which was created in 2008, to help solve some of the most challenging problems in communities around the world while providing IBM employees with unique leadership development.

IBM employees spend four weeks in groups of 10 to 15 working collaboratively with their host government and community counterparts to develop blueprints that address issues such as economic development, energy and transportation, education, and healthcare.

PYXERA Global, an international NGO, which specializes in pro bono programs and one of IBM’s global implementing partners of the Corporate Service Corps, is part of the coordination team that is carrying out the program in Los Baños, Philippines.

The Peace Corps and IBM partnership, one of its kind, is working with three countries in 2016. The Philippines is the second to host the project. The first was recently completed in Ghana, Africa supporting girls’ empowerment and education through the Let Girls Learn initiative in March. The third engagement will be in Mexico this August supporting an environmental project.

In 2015, the PCR program fielded 332 volunteers globally, the highest number in its 20-year history. PCR was originally founded as Crisis Corps in 1996 and has fielded more than 2,900 volunteers serving more than 80 countries. The Philippines has the largest PCR program, which started in 2007. This year more than 20 response volunteers are scheduled to serve.

(This article is a Peace Corps press release). 

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