NPCA Featured Group - August 2016

It has been forty years since the last Peace Corps Volunteers served in India. But that doesn't mean the Peace Corps connection to the country has ended. For nearly thirty years, the thousands of Volunteers and dozens of Peace Corps training groups have been connected through the Friends of India, our featured NPCA affiliate group for the month of August!

Name of Group: Friends of India (FOI)

  • Representing 133 Vounteer Groups who served in India
  • Approximately 5,500 RPCVs from 1961 to 1976

Three words that best describe your group: 

Commitment, Respect, Generosity

What makes Friends of India successful:

STAYING CONNECTED!  We have remained connected to one another, and supportive of each other, and we share a common respect and love for India and its people. Friends of India (FOI) started this in earnest in 1988; twelve years after the last Peace Corps group (India 133) finished its tour in 1976. In India we were in groups with specific goals and often relied on one another for moral and technical support. After our service, there was a strong desire to stay in contact with one another and to continue helping India. FOI initially evolved from all-group gatherings and then to reunions of individual India groups. The establishment and improvement of the FOI website in the past few years gave a place for individual India groups to set up their own sub-websites within the FOI website. The website provides space for photos, videos, stories, recollections, memories, obituaries and much more.  It is rewarding to see India RPCVs making more use of the FOI website to share their experiences during and after their Peace Corps service.

How does your group still connect to your Country of Service:

One group working with a university and a sister university in India brings students to India as well as Indian students to the U.S.  Others stayed or returned as Peace Corps staff or returned to India for PhD studies or as professionals working for the US Agency for International Development (USAID), UNDP, Ford Foundation and higher educational institutions in the US such as Michigan State in study abroad programs. Finally we stay connected through email sharing, reunions and personal visits, and importantly through individual India group reunions and finally the Friends of India website.

Give a brief summary of your group’s history:

We started training with a three day briefing session at Great Northern Hotel in NYC, then one month Outward Bound training in Puerto Rico (warm) and then to the University of Minnesota, St Paul campus (cold!!!!) for technical, cross-cultural and language training, Panjabi taught to those going to north India and Kannada to those going to the south. We were trained to work in poultry development, youth clubs and as nurses. Many of us had unclear assignments.  Nevertheless, as a group, we hung in there and were able to make small solid achievements that could be built on by our Indian coworkers and future Peace Corps groups.

What is the best thing your group has done in the past year:

Attending a celebration of life (“Juneteenth Party”) for one of our Volunteers who was a respected and popular leader in our India 3 group. 

A group visit after 40 years to India accompanied by other professionals on their first visit to India.  A good time was had getting together with former India colleagues. 

Key advice that you can offer to other NPCA Affiliate Groups:

  1. Join NPCA and develop a country group (or sub-group) affiliated with NPCA
  2. Develop a website and a newsletter, 1 or 2 issues a year. People still like paper. 
  3. Develop a website where individuals can leave
    1. Stories, obituaries, messages, opinions,
    2. A place to find other RPCVs in your group or country,
    3. NOTE: As we age and can no longer travel, a website helps keep groups connected
  4. Hire someone (like a son or daughter of one of your former volunteers) to develop and maintain the website. This is helpful for continuity as we age. 
  5. Keep the personal contact— hold group reunions.  After the end of the first one, schedule the next one. 

Why is your group affiliated with the National Peace Corps Association?

NPCA keeps us connected with the wider world of Peace Corps, the domestic and government perspectives on Peace Corps as an Agency. We can learn about other Peace Corps programs around the world. 

Please share a phrase, tradition or custom that exemplifies the spirit of the country where you served:

Namascara” in South India and or “Namaste” in Northern India greeting … hands held palm to palm, under the chin  meaning that my spirit acknowledges your spirit. 

What else should RPCVs know about your group?

We are open, friendly and willing to help others in any way we can!! 

 

Thanks to Jack Slattery and other members of Friends of India for providing this profile. 

Get connected! There are over 150 NPCA member groups – geographic groups, country of service groups, and special interest groups. Find links to all of them on our website. Get involved with an affiliate group today! 

Want your NPCA member group to be featured in the coming months? Contact us.