Shriver Winner Displays His Wares
By Jonathan Pearson on Monday, July 4th, 2011
(At the Smithsonian Folklife Festival) In the past thirteen years, the Colorado based non-profit Trees, Water and People (TWP), co-founded by RPCV Stuart Conway, has planted four million trees and built 48,000 clean cook stoves in Central America and Haiti.
Over the next week, thousands more people will know about the work of this winner of the National Peace Corps Association’s 2010 Shriver Award. TWP is being featured at Washington’s annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival as one of the sustainable development programs that demonstrate – not only the mission and ideals of Peace Corps service – but also the continued commitment of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. (Note: NPCA recommended Stuart and TWP to the Smithsonian exhibit curators.)
“Stuart is very steadfast and persistent,” says wife Jenny Bramhall. Jenny and Stuart served together in Guatemala between 1984 and 1987. A founding member of the TWP Board of Directors, Jenny reflected on the success of the organization saying “I thought we’d plug away at projects and do a good job…We don’t get carried away. We keep an eye on what we do well and keep doing it.”
“(The Festival) has been going great,” says Stuart. ”We’ve been talking to lots of RPCVs as well as other people.” Along with meeting individuals from across the country and across the world, Stuart says one unexpected highlight was reuniting with Cornell graduate school friends (who were also RPCVs) they hadn’t seen in fifteen years.
Another unexpected highlight? The group hotel for festival exhibitors. Jenny noted with excitement how they are sharing meals and hanging out with musicians who are performing as part of the rythym and blues tribute, nationals from various Peace Corps countries which are being showcased and the contingent from Colombia (this year’s featured country). ”It’s like being in an Olympic village!”
Along with general questions about TWP and its work, Stuart says he’s fielding a range of questions. Many are about tree seeds they use for planting. People also want to know more about how the cook stoves operate. Some botanists in the crowd have asked more detailed questions. And, there’s also been discussions on solar cookers – both the benefits of solar power for cooking but also the limitations.
Stuart, Jenny and their team have also gotten questions of why they are at the Festival. What’s the Peace Corps connection. ”All the lessons we learned from Peace Corps are being applied (in our work) today,” says Jenny.
Not only that, TWP is also involved in training a new generation of volunteers. Since 2002, the non-profit has worked with Peace Corps to train more than 300 volunteers in El Salvador. It also has a proposal in the works to expand training to neighboring countries.
The Trees, Water and People tent can be found at the northeast corner of the Peace Corps
exhibit, which includes other demonstration projects, discussions at the “Peace Porch”, a Kids Corps area and a designated section for returned volunteers.
When asked if the non-RPCVs visiting the festival are knowledgeable about the Peace Corps and its mission, Conaway smiled. ”I think most people do seem to be familiar…Well, they certainly do by the time they get to our tent!”
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival continues on July 4th and resumes on July 7 – 11, from 11 AM to 5:30 PM.
The Colorado RPCVs are partnering with Trees, Water and People to support clean cookstove projects in El Salvador. Follow this link to learn more.