Reunion Tent Tales
By Jonathan Pearson on Wednesday, July 6th, 2011
(At the Smithsonian Folklife Festival) When Erick Myers of Baudette, Minnesota read in NPCA’s WorldView magazine that this year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival would feature Peace Corps, he incorporated a Washington side-trip into his plans to visit his brother in West Virginia.
When Erick went online and found that Panama Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) and staff would be meeting at the festival’s reunion tent on July 4th, he timed his visit accordingly.
His timing paid off, as Erick reconnected with Jaime Clark (02-04) and Jamie Thornberry (01-03), colleagues he hadn’t seen in more than six years.
The three RPCVs caught up on each other’s lives, talked about changes in Panama and reflected on one of the secondary projects they were all involved in – gender and development conferences designed to build self-esteem and self-confidence in women and girls.
Clark (above, left), who serves as Treasurer of Peace Corps Panama Friends, says one of the other big discussion points involves plans for a reunion in Panama in 2013 to mark 50 years of Peace Corps service in that country.
Ashley Lippolis says for her and Penelope Kim, the reunion tent gathering and the Peace
Corps presence at the festival was “like a personal welcome home party for us!” That’s because Ashley completed her service in Costa Rica one month ago, while Penelope returned home only two days ago! Along with being welcomed back by other Costa Rican RPCVs, Lippolis – who is engaged to a Costa Rican – met another RPCV at the reunion tent who also got married and was able to share experiences and advice.
As for Penelope, she says connecting with Ashley so soon after her return to the United States is making her readjustment easier.
Yes, you never know who you might run into at the reunion tent. ”Hi, I’m Mike,” said the
mid 1960′s era RPCV to several other more recent returnees from El Salvador. What some might not have realized was that the unassuming gentleman was California Congressman Mike Honda. After spending more than an hour at the reunion tent, Honda shared some of his Peace Corps experiences during an end-of-the-day discussion.
Meanwhile, the July 4th time slot for the Dominican Republic at the reunion tent featured Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams, who met with about fifty fellow RPCVs from that country.
The reunion tent isn’t just about RPCVs and it’s not just about the past. That was demonstrated admirably on Monday by BJ Warren, a Peru RPCV who attended the Dominican Republic gathering in her capacity as staff from 1964-67. Warren is one of the founders of Fondo Quisqueya, a foundation to support education and training for low-income Dominicans. ”We figured education was something you can never take away from someone.”
Working with the Friends of the Dominican Republic, Fondo Quisqueya has donated
nearly $125,000 to nearly 700 individuals and groups since 1987. According to Anne Kopley (DR 00-02), a member of the Board of Fondo Quisqueya, “BJ is the spirit” of the foundation.
The Folklife Festival resumes July 7th and runs through July 11th. Follow this link to see if your country of service has a gathering scheduled at the reunion tent.