Meet Our New Staff

A woman smiling in a sunny outdoor setting with green trees behind her. Kristen Molyneaux joined Firelight a few short months ago as a Program Officer. Hear a little more about what she'll be doing, what led her to Firelight, and her passion for international education. You've been here a few months now and you’re learning the ropes quickly. Tell us a little bit about the work you’ll be doing at Firelight.

As a Program Officer I am going to be in charge of the Zambia portfolio as well as some new partners we’ll be working with in Tanzania that are specifically working to increase education opportunities and learning outcomes. My work right now is centered on bringing these organizations on board with Firelight. Next, I’ll work with these organizations to find out where they are in the monitoring of their programs and how they can better assess the learning outcomes of their participants and the effectiveness of their program model. What these groups are doing is really good, but we’ll be helping to strengthen their models and their evaluation framework. Eventually these organizations will play a mentoring role to other organizations.

A lot of your work will focus on learning outcomes, what are you hoping to see happen?

We’re hoping that we see improved reading and literacy scores and mathematical scores. But the major thing is that we are trying to find out what kind of support from home and community can lead to learning improvements and a child’s betterment in school.

Your background is in education, what brought you to that work?

I started college as a Zoology major and eventually I realized that teaching was something that I had always enjoyed doing and was passionate about. So I became a science teacher and I did that at the elementary school level for several years. Then I decided to join the Peace Corps, which is how I got into international education. I was a primary school teacher trainer for the Peace Corps in Uganda and a preschool teacher trainer for Peace Corps in Cape Verde. Since then, my career has been about how to improve learning opportunities and school environments for kids. Not just learning outcomes, but also the experience of being in school. Many schools in sub-Saharan Africa are focused on rote memorization for testing purposes, as national examinations are the gatekeepers for educational advancement. I would like to see schools moving toward meaningful learning experiences in an environment that is conducive to learning.

So what made you want to join the Peace Corps?

I had always wanted to be a Peace Corps Volunteer. I remember the commercials as a kid; it just always resonated with me. I wanted to travel and see the world even though no one else in my family wanted that. So I got the application in college, but didn’t apply until years later. Once I was there it was hard, but it was great too. I learned so much. It changed my perspective on the entire world. I learned what it means to be an American and to be from a developed country. I also feel that I truly learned the importance of socially responsible development work and why it’s so important. When doing development work it is easy to become divorced from communities and the lives of the people that you are impacting, but it is so important to be connected to the people you are working with and to understand what is really happening in their lives. It is only through that kind of connection and collaboration that we can find long-term solutions that fit the context.

Thanks Kristen, welcome to Firelight!

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