By Sandi Giver
Remember the feeling of being in your country of service for the holidays, far away from home and family? For some, our first holiday season back in the States also evokes a similar sense of disorientation. Because of this, RPCVs can help support other members of the Peace Corps community this time of year.
Some individuals returning home might be medically evacuated from their posts, or dealing with post-service illness, injury or trauma. Others may be struggling to find a job or housing. Still others may find that family or friends don’t “get” their service, or ask questions that require much more than a one sentence response. For these recently returned RPCVs, or those in periods of transition and uncertainty, sometimes fellow RPCVs are best suited to offer understanding and support — especially during the holidays. What can you do this year?
5 Tips to help as an RPCV this holiday season:
1. Find new friends to welcome home. Is there an country of service or local affiliate group you can connect with? A Facebook page or other forms of group communication can be a vehicle to reach out to newly returned PCVs to welcome them home. Within your message of welcome, include an offer to connect via phone, email or in person. Face-to-face conversations may make the most impact to connect with others, but using social media might put the word out faster that your door is open.
2. Host a Holiday or New Year’s Event for New RPCVs. Invite others over who need a place to “escape”, eat, watch holiday movies, and feel connected to those who know the Peace Corps experience first-hand. Something simple, flexible, and welcoming.
3. Create a safe space. Some individuals may still be working through challenges and that is okay. Don’t push for details, but if they are offered, listen and be empathetic. If an individual has the need to step away for a minute, let them. Welcome them back and treat them normally.
4. Share diverse holiday stories. How did your community in service celebrate the holidays? Think about what the holidays mean to you and how that fits into your current life situation. Find the commonalities and unique aspects alike.
5. Be you. The fact that you want to support others and are making an effort is tremendous.
At the end of the day, it’s on all of us to remember and welcome RPCVs who may be facing challenges both during holiday season and throughout the year. That’s why one of the initiatives of the NPCA in 2017 is to begin establishing stronger health support networks for members of our community. That’s also why we have started to raise funds to establish an NPCA Benevolent Fund to assist RPCVs in need. If you are able, please consider a financial gift to the NPCA Benevolence Fund so we can reach our goal of $25,000 needed to successfully launch a fund that will be meaningful and sustainable.