A Memorable 50th Weekend for Friends of Guatemala
By Guest Contributor on Thursday, January 5th, 2012
Approximately 100 of the 5,000 volunteers who have served in Guatemala reunited in Washington to celebrate Peace Corp’s 50th Anniversary and 48 years of Peace Corps work with the people of Guatemala. The group, representing every decade of Peace Corps service in Guatemala, participated in a full range of Peace Corps and National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) activities, as well events specifically celebrating service in Guatemala – enjoying these rare opportunities to see old friends and connect with new ones. Guatemala-specific events included a reception with the Guatemalan Ambassador and a day of service in coordination with Bikes for the World collecting and processing bicycles to be sent to Guatemala.
The reception on Friday September 23rd, organized by Friends of Guatemala, was held at the Woodley Park residence of the newly appointed Guatemalan Ambassador to the US, His Excellency Julio Martini and Mrs Rosa Martini. We were fortunate to have several other special guests including former Ambassador Francisco Villagran, Carol Bellamy, a former Guatemala RPCV and the first RPCV to become Peace Corps Director, and Dr. Timothy Shriver, CEO of the Special Olympics and son of Peace Corps founding Director Sargent Shriver.
On behalf of the Embassy, former Ambassador Villagran thanked the assembled volunteers for their work in Guatemala that has touched and made a difference in so many people’s lives. He also acknowledged continuing efforts by RPCVs to help Guatemala develop. Ambassador Villagran serves on the Board of one such organization, Partner for Surgery.
Dr. Shriver recalled his father’s work in the early sixties to create an organization that believed in the power of big ideas to change the face of the world by addressing global poverty. Throughout his life, reunions of Peace Corps volunteers were among Sarge Shriver’s greatest joys.
Dr. Shriver told of the summer he and his cousin John spent as “junior” Peace Corps volunteers. Still in their teens, the young men studied Spanish and were sent to Rabinal to aid in reconstruction after the 1976 earthquake. Through this experience Dr Shriver came to understand the reciprocal nature of Peace Corps work. Volunteers may come to teach or work, but they leave with a greater knowledge gained from the people and countries where they have served.
In concluding his remarks, Dr. Shriver noted that lately our country hasn’t been as effective at tapping into people’s desires to contribute to a better and more peaceful world. He urged the group to continue efforts to demand of our political leaders support and expansion of Peace Corps and to find ways to challenge our country to be its best again.
This piece was contributed by Margaret Rice (Guatemala 83-87).