Peace Corps’ Return to Colombia has Roots in RPCV Gathering
By Jonathan Pearson on Wednesday, May 12th, 2010
Another nation with a rich Peace Corps history will soon see the return of volunteers after a nearly 30 year absence.
Peace Corps’ announcement that volunteers will return to Colombia follows announcements late last year that volunteers will also be returning to Sierra Leone and Indonesia.
Undoubtedly one of the most excited members of the Peace Corps–Colombia family is California Congressman Sam Farr, a leading champion for increased funding for Peace Corps and a returned volunteer who served in Colombia from 1962 – 64. “The two years I spent in a small barrio outside Medellin was a defining time in my life. I commend Colombia and the Peace Corps for finding solutions necessary to get our volunteers back in the country. I look forward to hearing the many new stories about good work done by Peace Corps volunteers in that wonderful country, and I’m proud of the small part I played in opening those doors once more.”
Part of the role Congressman Farr played came during a three day conference in February 2008. Organized by the Embassy of Colombia and the Friends of Colombia (FOC), nearly 200 Colombia RPCVs traveled to Cartegena for meetings with various government ministers for country updates. Farr spoke at one of the events that included an extended meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. While one might expect a head of state to make a brief appearance at such a gathering, President Uribe met with the Colombia RPCVs for several hours, and presented the FOC with a medal of honor for their continued service to the nation. As FOC President Arleen Cheston notes, “RPCVs have maintained a connection to Colombia and it’s people through personal friendships and development projects. The Peace Corps goals continued in Colombia even though Peace Corps was not officially present. Due to this continuing bond, the hope that Peace Corps would return to Colombia was kept alive.”
Another Colombia RPCV, David Miron (who has been extremely active in grassroots mobilization through the MorePeaceCorps Campaign), recalls that one of the most memorable and moving moments at the conference came when the assembled RPCVs sang Colombia’s national anthem to the delight of the president and other country officials.
But perhaps most important was the end result of the conference in which President Uribe pledged to support the return of the Peace Corps.
A new generation of Colombia Peace Corps volunteers is expected to begin service this fall.