To Make a Long Peace Corps Reunion Story Short
By Jonathan Pearson on Wednesday, June 13th, 2012
Webster’s dictionary defines the word reunite as “to bring together again.” But it’s not that simple when it comes to the Peace Corps community. Just as the languages we learned during our service often carried a precision which unfolded the deeper complexities of an object or experience, the same can be said when we start sharing our stories of reunion.
A key element of Find the 250K, our effort to find all Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) and former staff, is to bring our community together. You can’t be reunited if you aren’t connected. One of the most enjoyable parts of our work at the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) is helping to facilitate and sharing our stories of reunion.
In its most basic form, there’s the coming together of fellow volunteers from the same country and era of service. Last year’s 50th anniversary and upcoming fifty year celebrations in individual countries continue to spark these reunions, among them an historic gathering of Iran RPCVs and the return of Colombia I volunteers to their training site. Last summer’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival provided opportunities for RPCVs to gather by country, as did the many celebrations during NPCA’s 50th anniversary celebration last September.
Of equal note are the poignant, lifetime connections between the U.S. volunteer and those they worked with. One of the most memorable in the recent past was the 2010 reunion of RPCV Roberta Rabinoff and Sierra Leone Deputy Chief of Mission Ibrahim Conteh. Our ongoing commitment to service continues to provide countless opportunities for inspiring encounters, such as one that occurred at the 2010 annual meeting of the Friends of Cote D’Ivoire.
A local friendship was enhanced during a 2006 NPCA stop in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. As a small group gathered in a local restaurant, an RPCV looked up with surprise as one of his local friends entered the room. “What are you doing here?” he exclaimed. She asked him the same question. While friends for a number of years, this was the first time the two realized they both served in the Peace Corps! In more urban areas, regular opportunities to connect present themselves, like a recent gathering in Orlando, or in dozens of other cities that are home to NPCA member groups. Our coming together can also serve as a catalyst for host country national connections, such as one that occurred two years back in Peoria, Illinois.
We increasingly come together through the workplace. It can be the type of work, such as smallpox eradication, or a place of work, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It is noteworthy that the dozens of EPA RPCVs – moved by their shared experience – have recently been approved as the newest NPCA member group!
All reunions carry a degree of reflection, remembrance, and emotion. In the recent past, perhaps none so unforgettable as the 50th anniversary celebrations at the University of Michigan. Perhaps none more moving than the spiritual connection achieved by RPCV Gordon Radley.
Please Share Your Story!
In the comments section below, share your story of reunion past, present, or future. Share a few sentences or more if you wish. Why are these connections we have so lasting, meaningful and rewarding. Imagine the power of these connections, if we all come together!