Megan Patrick posted an articleHow to support PCVs and RPCVs this year see more
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.
Jonathan Pearson posted an articleRead about one person working to provide support to the Peace Corps community. see more
I am Sandi Giver and I know firsthand how vital a support network is for individuals who have experienced injustices.
I am a data point along a data set of others who were sexually assaulted while serving our country as a Peace Corps Volunteer. RPCV survivors like myself face the typical challenges of readjustment after service such as finding employment, housing, and next steps. Combine that with additional challenges such as physical or mental health issues, ongoing legal cases, feelings of isolation or difficulty connecting with others. Life at times can seem very overwhelming and as if in a constant crisis mode.
Thankfully, it doesn't have to stay that way. As RPCVs, we have a rich community that can provide a network of resources and support to RPCV survivors as they continue their healing journey.
For myself, I was able to connect with individuals I had met during medevac to help with some basic needs: an RPCV Benin friend provided a place to stay for a month; an RPCV therapist was able to connect me to an individual who had a part time contract job that worked around my legal case and other obligations; other RPCVs became my adopted family where I felt accepted and belonged.
I know firsthand the generosity and compassion that RPCVs are willing to give. Our service to others did not stop when we COS'ed- now, we need RPCVs to serve and support each other. Through conversations with fellow RPCV survivors, I realized that as a community we can do more. Oftentimes, individuals RPCV survivors interacted with were unaware of what support was needed or tangible ways they could make an impact.
As a social work graduate student, I sought out NPCA and Glenn to see if there was a more formal way I could pay forward the support I received and explore ways to get others involved. I was attracted to NPCA's goal of helping members and affiliate groups thrive, helping them fulfill their potential together.
By creating a more formal RPCV support network, we are committing to support RPCVs where they are to help them thrive. We can be the connectors to support and resources that they need.
If you are as passionate about supporting others as I am, please email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can see where you fit.
If you are a survivor or friend and are aware of support gaps, please provide info on what support types should be on our radar.
If you want to support RPCV survivors in a financial way, please make a financial contribution to the benevolence fund: Click Here.
As RPCVs, we have a lot to offer. Please join me and others as we commit to support our fellow RPCVs.