Peace Corps volunteers have a ton of expertise to offer, and returned volunteer Mike Loop is no exception. Loop graduated from Eckerd College in 2012 with a dual major in Physics and East Asian Studies with a minor in Chinese. After graduation, Loop was at a crossroads; he had a mind for service, and after a chance meeting with a Peace Corps recruiter at a job fair, decided to apply.
“I just really enjoyed what he had to say,” Loop said.
Although his educational background seemed to lead to a service in Asia, he was placed in Togo, a small coastal country in West Africa. His previous experience as the President of the Garden Club in college led to his assignment as an agriculture volunteer.
With little expectations of what life would be like in his new home, Loop departed for Togo. Integrating into his host community was not difficult at all--but that may be because he had a brilliant strategy. Each morning, he woke up, grabbed his tools and headed into the fields. Loop offered help farming to the first person he came across, and little by little he got to know the people in his village. It also helped him establish credibility and gave him a chance to practice the local language, N’tcham.
This can-do attitude served Loop well as he continued his service. He first worked with a cooperative in his village raising rabbits. At the time, the cooperative had a good system already established, but they were housing the rabbits in their own homes. Loop worked to help them grow their infrastructure so they could raise rabbits in a sanitary environment away from their own living spaces. He worked with USAID in a Feed the Future project to further improve rabbit husbandry in the village. Loop wrote a grant that built five structures for the project, while the community donated labor and building materials and provided transport.
In addition to his work raising animals, Loop also educated people in his village about malaria prevention. Each year, more than 1,500 people die of malaria in Togo alone. Loop employed the grassroots side of Peace Corps service as he and his community counterpart visited each neighborhood, one by one, in his village to talk and answer questions about malaria. He also educated people on refined techniques of extracting neem oil, which can serve as an insect repellant.
Throughout his service, Loop was in awe of the people he served. These were “people who were so smart, so capable, so good at public speaking,” Loop said. They inspired him to work harder every day, to know his environment, to carry himself with respect and to engage with his community.
“Peace Corps wake up something inside of people,” Look said.
He is currently working on his masters project in Idaho as he researches rainbow trout production. Peace Corps has given him the confidence to keep pursuing his education in agriculture, along with language and cultural skills and a heart to serve.