News and updates from the Peace Corps community — across the country, around the world, and spanning generations of returned Volunteers and staff.
By Peter V. Deekle (Iran 1968–70)
Bill Owens (pictured, Jamaica 1964–66), beer enthusiast and famed photojournalist, published the interactive graphic novel, The Delco Years: A Dystopian Novel, in April. Cindy Nofziger (Sierra Leone 1985–87) cut the ribbon on the 42nd school building she helped construct after founding Schools for Salone — an organization focused on improving education and building schools in Sierra Leone’s rural villages. Andre and Kjessie Essue (Lesotho 1967–68) founded Barn Swallow Gardens — a family farm for mountain-grown, seasonal flowers that began offering a subscription delivery service for fresh flowers after California’s devastating 2021 Dixie Fire to help rebuild their local community’s economy. We share news about more awards, books, advocacy, and new roles from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
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In August, President Biden announced that he intends to nominate Arthur W. Brown (1991–95) to serve as U.S. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Ecuador. Brown, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister-Counselor, has served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe since 2021. He was USAID Mission Director in Harare 2020–21. He was USAID Director in the Dominican Republic for four years and, before that, USAID Director at the U.S. Embassy in Managua, Nicaragua. Brown has served in Kabul, Afghanistan, and in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, as USAID Deputy Director. Other assignments include Botswana, Guinea, Nigeria, and regional activities in Sierra Leone, Haiti, Jamaica, Barbados, and Namibia. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, Brown served as a Rural Community Development Extension Agent.
Weijin “Gina” Leow (2014–16) serves as Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at PBS, a post she has held since November 2021. She helps oversee DEI initiatives within PBS, including coordination of the DEI Council and related Committees, Employee Resource Groups, DEI messaging and events, employee training and education, restorative justice practices, reports and other initiatives. Leow also serves as Vice President of the Board of Directors for the New York City Peace Corps Association. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, Leow served in Miangyang, Sichuan, where she taught undergraduate students at Mianyang Teachers College.
Skip Auld (1973–74) met with staff of Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) in August to advocate for the U.S. return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — an agreement reached in 2015 on the Iranian nuclear program. During the meeting, Auld was joined by fellow RPCVs Patricia Wand (Colombia 1963–65) and Peter Deekle (Iran 1968–70). Auld has served as the Chief Executive Officer at Anne Arundel County Public Library for more than a decade.
Bill Owens (1964–66), beer enthusiast and famed photojournalist, published the interactive graphic novel titled The Delco Years: A Dystopian Novel in April. The novel tells the story of a pandemic mitigated by drinking unpasteurized beer and the community of craft beer drinkers who flourish and survive after the dystopian event. Owens’ passion for beer predates his novel and stretches as far back to the early 1980s. He helped launch the U.S. craft beer movement by advocating for the overturn of the tied-house restriction then present in California, prohibiting a brewer or brewery to sell directly to the public. By 1983, the passing of the landmark California Assembly Bill 3610 officially legalized brewpubs in California, and Owens’ dream of opening his own brewpub, Buffalo Bill’s Brewery, became a reality. Owens continued to be a fierce advocate for the assembly bill and its extension across the nation. Over the years, Owens has published the book How to Build a Small Brewery as well as a series of maps which chronicled the early craft beer movement in Northern California and magazines such as American Brewer and Beer.
Andre and Kjessie Essue (1967–68) founded Barn Swallow Gardens — a family farm for mountain-grown, seasonal flowers — located in Taylorsville, California. Named for the birds who return each spring after long migrations, Barn Swallow Gardens began offering a subscription delivery service for fresh flowers nine months after California’s devastating 2021 Dixie Fire to help rebuild the local community’s economy. Shortly after the fire, Kjessie Essue applied to and received a scholarship with Floret, a leader in the local flower movement that offered a six-week intensive course in business and marketing. In her essay required for the scholarship, she wrote, “We need beauty like never before, and I have deep clarity that flowers is the direction I need to take our small farm. Creating beauty is an act of love.” During Barn Swallow Gardens’ first week, the subscriptions sold out mostly due to customers outside the area who were buying flowers for friends impacted by the fire. The Essue family aims to expand the business over the coming years to include more services, such as classes and a garden for tourists.
Alex Garcia (2007–09) is taking on a new role as Deputy Director of AmeriCorps-NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps). “I am incredibly excited to return to the AmeriCorps / National Service family, with which I’ve had previous experience as an employee of a national direct grantee and as Chairman of the Maryland Governor’s Commission on Service and Volunteerism,” he wrote. For nearly seven years, Garcia worked with Peace Corps Response, first as a recruitment specialist, and for the past four years as chief of operations. In 2021, Peace Corps Response celebrated its 25th anniversary. It was also through Peace Corps Response that Volunteers were deployed domestically in 2021 to assist with community vaccination efforts in the United States. Those efforts shaped a special edition of WorldView magazine.
Greg Moydell (1990–92) joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) as a park ranger on Fort Gibson Lake in Oklahoma. Moydell worked for Nature Conservancy as a stewardship biologist prior to serving as a high school science teacher and robotics instructor for more than two decades. As park ranger, Moydell’s responsibilities include performing visitor assistance activities, patrolling properties owned and managed by USACE, and performing environmental management stewardship activities. When talking about his job, Moydell said, “One of the biggest rewards is working to provide safe recreational opportunities for the public and working on ecological and environmental projects, but there are several challenges like trying to get everything done in a timely manner with the funding that is available, and the search and recovery of drowning victims is the most difficult duty.”
Marc-Vincent Jackson (1986–89) won the 2022 Maria Thomas Fiction Award for his debut novel, A Thousand Points of Light, inspired by his Peace Corps service. A Thousand Points of Light is a tale exploring interwoven lives and voices in 1980s Senegal. Presented since 1990 by Peace Corps Writers, the award is named in honor of novelist Roberta Worrick (Ethiopia 1971–73) who wrote under the pen name Maria Thomas and died in a plane crash in 1989. Jackson has worked as an educator specializing in world languages for nearly three decades and taught three different languages across three continents.
Cindy Nofziger (1985–87) cut the ribbon on the 42nd school building she helped construct after founding Schools for Salone — an organization focused on improving education and building schools in Sierra Leone’s rural villages. Since the inception of Schools for Salone, Nofziger has also established three libraries, built numerous water wells, and provided thousands of scholarships and books to support children from low-income communities in Sierra Leone. Schools for Salone conducts reproductive health education for girls and boys as well as distributes Days for Girls menstruation kits. On September 17, 2022, Schools for Salone will host its annual fundraising gala in Seattle to raise funding to build more schools, train more teachers, and give the gift of learning to children in vulnerable communities across Sierra Leone.
Mark Gearan, who served as Director of the Peace Corps 1995–99, has returned to lead The Hobart and William Smith Colleges as president. He stepped down from his post leading the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School to take on the role as president. For Gearan, it’s a return to familiar territory; he served as president of Hobart and William Smith 1999–2017 and led work to double the schools’ endowment. Gearan served as the 14th Director of the Peace Corps under President Clinton, and under him the agency launched Crisis Corps — now known as Peace Corps Response — to leverage the experience and commitment of the Peace Corps community through short-term, high-impact assignments around the world. Gearan’s previous roles in American politics and government include White House Communications Director and White House Deputy Chief of Staff. He has served as the Vice Chair for National and Public Service of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service; read more about that here.