Peace Corps Takes the Big Apple
By Abad Allawi on Tuesday, March 15th, 2011
Being an NPCA Intern has its perks and one of the perks was receiving the blessing of my boss, Director of Communications Erica Burman, to attend a two week meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations in New York City. This was a hectic time for NPCA — the 50th anniversary house parties were around the corner, advocacy events, private meetings — and with all that hustle she still managed to let me go.
At the UN almost every sub-Saharan organization or individual country was represented, as were nations from Latin America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. I also met youth organizations that were there to learn more and connect. I was startled to hear that the ratio of women to men at the Commission on the Status of Women was 1036 to 64, but what was more startling was the number of young women who, when I told them that I intern for NPCA, said they are prospective Peace Corps Volunteers. I was bombarded with questions, excitement, and some reservations about safety and security, which was followed by more excitement. I was very happy to hear that there are so many people interested in promoting the Peace Corps mission. As someone with a foreign background and having traveled the globe I found a connection with the people I spoke with, like I was part of a family
Because I was so fortunate to go to New York City, I felt a duty to do what I could for the office while I was gone. Let me tell you, the Big Apple is larger and more confusing then one might think…Going from Harlem to Time Square to take photos of the monitors commemorating Peace Corps, the Empire State Building to see the red white and blue lights, and the best House Party on the Upper East Side in a two hour time frame is much harder than it looks. The confusion between the N and R and F trains was too much for a guy who is used to the order, efficiency and cleanliness of DC Metro, and I was devastated that I missed the Time Square commemoration. Fortunately for me Darcy Neill, who was the Peace Corps country director for Jordan, got the photographs and sent them my way.
I reached the 50th anniversary house party hosted by Liz Fanning (Morocco 93-95). Tired, sweaty, and determined to go on, stocked with an iPhone 4 camera, I managed to snap a few flash photos, which all but failed. This party, unlike the other parties, was also the kick off to Corps Africa, “a project of the NPCA which will help create a culture of public service within developing nations by giving volunteer participants the opportunity to apply their skills and energy towards helping their fellow citizens overcome extreme poverty.” I was very excited, as there was a lot of food, fun and laughter—and two cute black cats running around all
over the place. I met RPCVs who just returned from abroad, including one gentlemen who used to live in my old neighborhood back in San Antonio, Texas. Talk about small world! Everything was brilliant except one thing…I was surprised that so many people were not familiar with NPCA even though the logo was all over the delicious cupcakes. I then proceeded to explain and represent the nonprofit I have come to love.
It was such a good time. Most of the RPCVs were from Morocco and I found myself asking all of them how their Arabic was so that I could speak with them in my native language! My most fun conversation was with Ms. Neill in regards to Jordan and Mr. Ainabi a citizen of Morocco and his vast expertise of Moroccan tea, which I might add is the best tea on this planet. As much as I wanted to continue to mingle, the night was coming to a close and I had one last mission before it all came to an end…rush 50 blocks south and take shots of the Empire State building sporting the Peace Corps red, white and blue colors! Finally after a day of countless blocks I returned to Harlem. The two weeks I spent were very memorable for me and I am glad that through all the blisters from walking, running, train catching, mass confusion, that everything started and ended flawlessly and exactly the way it needed too, and most important of all, that I met people that I shall never forget along the way.