Around the World in Raleigh
By Jonathan Pearson on Monday, May 2nd, 2011
One of the colorful and engaging elements of this past weekend’s 50th Anniversary Expo in Raleigh, North Carolina were more than 20 exhibits organized by local Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to showcase their countries of service and Peace Corps experiences.
About 125 RPCVs, Peace Corps applicants, parents of volunteers and others came to the Raleigh Convention Center for the celebratory gathering, jointly organized by the National Peace Corps Association, the Peace Corps and the North Carolina Peace Corps Association (NCPCA).
“You just look around and see smiles on the faces of people telling their stories,” said Fred Baars (Malaysia volunteer/staff, Western Samoa staff 66-70) of Raleigh. Reed Altman of Cary – who manned his Liberia table – agreed. Reed joked that nearly 25 years after his service, “talking about Peace Corps experiences is still part of our readjustment!”
Loren Hintz of Chapel Hill (El Salvador 78-80; Honduras 80-82) continues to share his experiences with various groups and organizations, but noted this was his first pure Peace Corps event in a number of years. Active in the past with NCPCA, Loren said he reconnected with some friends he hasn’t seen in fifteen years. ”It was fun to look at everyone’s displays and talk, especially to those who have been in Peace Corps more recently.”
For those who have not served, the Around the World Expo provided a forum for questions on a range of topics. Zac Arcaro of Cary (Namibia 02-04) said questions included everything from the application process to what to bring to job assignments to volunteer housing. Zac served with his wife Sera, who noted she was
approached by the mother of a current volunteer who was undergoing difficulties getting settled in her first months of service. Sera advised that the first year is the toughest – a time of learning and making some mistakes. ”It’s the second year when you start to know what’s going on and start having an impact.”
RPCVs are generous in noting they often receive much more than they give. But the contributions should not be underestimated. Karen Ulberg of Raleigh said she didn’t realize her impact until 30 years after her 1970′s service in Sierra Leone. ”I went back and met a number of former students and found they had done so well, attaining Masters degrees and PhD’s.”
In other instances, the Peace Corps contribution comes from where it is least expected. Charlene Reiss of Durham (Slovak Republic 00-02) still gets emotional
when she thinks back to her group’s last gathering during Pre-Service Training wtih Host Country National staff. When asked how volunteers could best help in the post-communist era, Charlene was moved by the response. ”They said ‘You bring
hope and optimism and a willingness to take risks…You think that anything can be done.’ The education, the skills we bring, that’s all well and good. But sometimes simply who you are is what is most important.”
Follow this link for more photos from the 50th Anniversary Expo in Raleigh.