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  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    Updates from the Peace Corps community — across the country and around the world see more

    News and updates from the Peace Corps community — across the country, around the world, and spanning generations of returned Volunteers and staff.


    By Peter Deekle (Iran 1968–70)

     

    Lisa Woodson (pictured) is working with Indigenous populations in the Amazon basin on health research. A new film produced by Bryn Mooser on the 2021 Refugee Olympic Team. Entrepreneurial success. Honoring an advocate for the land.

    Have news to share with the Peace Corps community? Let us know.

     

     

    AFGHANISTAN

    Dancing with Angels book coverW. Brunhofer has recently released Dancing with Angels: Songs and Poems from the Millennium. The exploration of poetry is produced by Christian Faith Publishing. From Shakespeare to Yeats, Brunhofer explores favorite poems of inspiration and presents a series of personal writing dating back to the 1970s.

     

     

     

     

     

    CHINA

    Andy Dieckhoff (2017–19) has joined the staff of the Madras Pioneer in Madras, Oregon, as its new sports editor. He is a lifelong Oregonian and was raised in Corvallis. 

     

     

     

     

     

    COLOMBIA

    Douglas and Cheryl Hunt were honored on September 1, 2021 by the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship with the Barstow Driver Award for Excellence in Nonviolent Direct Action in Retirement. They are both retired educators who have been peacemakers for most of their lives. They have devoted themselves to gun violence prevention, climate change, and efforts to support communities in Colombia.

     

     

     

     

    ETHIOPIA

    Stephen Foehr (1964–66) has published Warrior Love in July 2021. The novel is a murder mystery.

     

     

     

     

     

    Asian Trail Mix book coverEric Madeen has published Asian Trail Mix: True Tales from Borneo to Japan. He is an associate professor of modern literature at Tokyo City University and an adjunct professor at Keio University.

     

     

     

     

     

    THE GAMBIA

    Bryn MooserBryan Mooser (2001–04), an Oscar-nominated producer who founded the nonfiction film and television studio XTR in 2019, will produce with Waad Al-Kateab a documentary film on the 2021 Refugee Olympic Team. Al-Kateab is the director of the documentary. Mooser is also part of the inaugural NPCA “40 Under 40” cohort.

     

     

     

     

    GUINEA-BISSAU / CAPE VERDE

    Estela Divino (1988–90) is a McKnight Senior Living 2021 Women of Distinction honoree. She is the Palliative Care Coordinator at Flushing Hospital Medical Center in Queens County, New York.

     

     

     

     

     

    IRAN

    Harry Conklin (1968–71) died in 2021 and, in addition to a long career in law, served on the board of the Community Land Trust (BCLT) in the Southern Berkshires for more than four decades. The BCLT will honor his legacy through the establishment of the Harry Conklin Fund for Farmsteads. The purpose of the Fund is to support secure, long-term access to land for farmsteads for small-scale farmers, while retaining ownership of the land in a community organization.

     

     

     

     

    JORDAN

    Allison Monroe (2002) is the CEO at Language Learning Market (LLM) – Educational Resources in All Languages. LLM joined nonprofit accelerator Impact Ventures’ Spring 2021 cohort, later receiving a $10,000 prize at its 2021 showcase pitch competition. LLM comprises a marketplace to buy educational resources from businesses large and small and micro-entrepreneurs worldwide, a directory of resources and places to learn, and an education-focused media network.

     

     

     

     

    MACEDONIA

    Mary O’Connor (2006–08) is an architect, educator, and writer. She is the recent author of Free Rose Light (University of Akron Press, 2021), a story of Akron’s South Street Ministries and its founders Duane and Lisa Crabbs. Duane Crabbs was a Cuyahoga Falls firefighter disturbed by the lack of diversity in the department.

     

     

     

     

    NEPAL

    Ron Ryanson (1964–66) has produced “'Tattooed Trucks of Nepal – Horn Please” — a documentary film that draws on his own experience of traveling on the back of a truck from Kathmandu to villages 57 years ago. He was 23 years old at that time, and the film has knit together the varied stories of road travel in Nepal as well as the multi-dimensional cultural aspects of Nepal. 

     

     

     

     

    Lisa Woodson has received a Fulbright-Fogarty Fellowship toward a year in Peru where she will conduct research among an Indigenous population within the Amazon basin. Her research focuses on perceptions of health seeking behaviors and changes to those behaviors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic consequences, as experienced by Indigenous Amazonian peoples.

     

     

     

     

    NICARAGUA

    Robert Frisch (2007–09) was awarded Cornell University’s Stein Family Prize in 2013 in the Cornell Hospitality Business Plan MBA Competition. He is the founder of Firelight Camps — inspiring adventure and getting more people outside by means of stylish, social, eco-friendly, and rejuvenating upscale campgrounds.

     

     

     

     

    PARAGUAY

    Laura Johnson, a board member of the Vermont Beekeepers Association, has been appointed University of Vermont’s new extension pollinator support specialist with the Applied Research and Education Pollinator Program. She started with the Migrant Education Program in 2017 before moving to an agronomy outreach role with the UVM Extension Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

     

     

     

     

    VANUATU

    Santiago Pardo Sanchez (2017–18) is now completing an MBA at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, focusing on sustainability and entrepreneurship. He is a managing editor of Harvard Mapping Past Societies, a digital atlas project within the Initiative for the Science of the Human Past at Harvard, where he focuses on climate change, and on economic and political projects.

     

     

     

     

    ZAIRE

    Charles Kosak photoCharles Kosak is presently the Department Of Energy Faculty Chair at the National Defense University’s College of International Security Affairs. In this role, he helps prepare U.S. and partner-nation national security professionals and future leaders to better understand emerging threats to peace and security and develop innovative approaches to strengthen U.S. and partner-nation capabilities and capacities.

     

     

     

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    Evacuation, some Peace Corps history, and #apush4peace see more

    Evacuation, some Peace Corps history, and #apush4peace

    When Coronavirus Unmapped the Peace Corps' Journey
    Jeffrey Aubuchon (92252 Press)

     

    Reviewed by Jake Arce and Steven Boyd Saum

     

    In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led to the unprecedented global evacuation of Peace Corps Volunteers. Jeffrey Aubuchon brings together stories of some evacuees chronicled in WorldView: Chelsea Bajek, who was working with a women’s group in Vanuatu; Jim Damico, evacuated from teaching in Nepal; Benjamin Rietmann, yanked from his work with farmers and young entrepreneurs in Dominican Republic; and Stacie Scott, who left behind the community she was serving as a health volunteer in Mozambique.

    Aubuchon follows in greater depth two Southern California high school sweethearts, Jacqueline Moore-DesLauriers and Dylan Thompson, who served together in Morocco. In Sefrou (pop. 80,000), on the outskirts of Fez, they taught English classes and hosted a STEMpowerment workshop for girls at the local dar chabab (youth center). They established a girls’ volleyball team that played its first game on March 5. Ten days later, Peace Corps announced its global evacuation.

     

    “Never in the last 40 years has the Association’s mission been more vital.”

     

    The book also serves up some context for 2020 — when each week seemed like a year unto itself. And National Peace Corps Association gets more than a passing nod — particularly its crucial work advocating for evacuated Volunteers, which helped secure additional benefits for them and $88 million in supplemental funding for Peace Corps. “Never in the last 40 years has the Association’s mission been more vital,” Aubuchon writes. “Indeed, on March 16, 2020, NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst released a statement not only voicing support for all of the EPCVs, but also outlining a national plan to coordinate support for these evacuees among the Peace Corps, the NPCA, and the RPCV community itself.”

    Aubuchon served as a Volunteer in Morocco 2007–09. “I walked my own Peace Corps journey in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the Casablanca bombings of 2003,” he writes. He applied for and received grant funding to help build four libraries. In fall 2019, he was teaching a course in Advanced Placement U.S. History at a high school in central Massachusetts. A lesson in Cold War history led students to do more than merely talk about global problems; they founded a youth venture — and began raising funds to support Peace Corps Volunteers’ projects. Taking the acronym for the class, APUSH, they hasthtagged their effort #apush4peace. They convinced community members to put up $1,000 in seed funding — and then, through fundraising, more than tripled that, “allowing them to help a PCV in Zambia build a hospital clinic ward and help another build a library in Mozambique.”

     

    Paama Custom Arts Festival: Traditional basket weaving on Vanuatu. Chelsea Bajek worked with these women to launch a business project. Photo by Chelsea Bajek

     

    One of those APUSH students, Olivia Wells, takes over the closing chapter of the book. She observes: “Few people know that there are ways to help educate adolescents in Eswatini (Swaziland) about HIV/AIDS, or to help local farmers in Malawi construct an irrigation system to decrease water erosion on their farmland.”

    This is a project that’s meant to give back; one dollar from each copy sold goes to Kiva.org to support microfinance projects, and another dollar goes to support National Peace Corps Association. 

    As for the stories of the Volunteers who were evacuated: Those journeys continue beyond the pages of the book. For example, Jim Damico, a three-time Volunteer, didn’t wait for Peace Corps to return to Nepal. He went back on his own in January 2021 and has been mentoring teachers. Chelsea Bajek, who was serving in Vanuatu, had successfully applied for a Peace Corps Partnership Program grant to purchase equipment and materials for skill-building workshops at the Paama Women’s Handicraft Center. But those funds were cut off when Bajek was evacuated. Thanks to crowdsourcing and NPCA’s Community Fund, in 2021 that project was fully funded and will, Bajek reports, increase opportunities for women’s economic development and empowerment. 

     

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    Books recognized with the Peace Corps Writers Award see more

    Dreams and disillusionment. A 3,000-mile ultramarathon and a library in a Mayan village. Catching up with books recognized with the Peace Corps Writers Awards.

     

    Baked into the mission of the whole Peace Corps experience is the work of telling stories: of listening, catching, giving voice and shape and form with a sense of fidelity to people and place, and an awareness of audience. Nurturing stories from the Peace Corps community in words and images can be a way to foster understanding and empathy, stuff lately in short supply. Back in 1989, returned Volunteers John Coyne and Marian Haley Beil launched a print publication that has grown into the digital environment known as Peace Corps Worldwide, which is an affiliate group of National Peace Corps Association. They also began publishing books by Peace Corps writers. In 2020 they recognized the following books with Peace Corps Writers awards.


    Moritz Thomsen Award for Best Book about the Peace Corps Experience
    Eradicating Smallpox in Ethiopia
    Peace Corps Volunteers’ Accounts of Their Adventures, Challenges, and Achievements

    (Peace Corps Writers)

    Read more in this review by Barry Hillenbrand.

     

     

     

     

    Rowland Scherman Award for Best Book of Photography
    Bill Owens
    Altamont 1969
    (Damiani)

    December 1969. Bill Owens is working as a photographer for the Livermore Independent when friend Beth Bagby, another photojournalist who shoots for AP, calls and asks if he wants to join her and photograph the free concert at the Altamont Speedway, in hills to the east of San Francisco Bay, with the Rolling Stones as headliners. It will be the West Coast answer to Woodstock. Owens’s editors give him the day off in exchange for giving them dibs on photos.

    Saturday morning, December 6: Owens rides to Altamont on his motorcycle. Speaking of bikes: Hells Angels are providing security for the show and are being paid in beer. Three hundred thousand people show up at a venue where preparation had begun only two days before.

    On the bill with the Stones: Santana, Jefferson Airplane, the Flying Burrito Brothers, plus Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The Grateful Dead are scheduled to play too, but don’t. Acid, wine, and mayhem are there aplenty.

     

    Bug, beer, flag — and a “sea of people with no borders, no limits, and no shepherds,” writes Sasha Frere-Jones. “The only protection for the band was a comical piece of sisal twine stretched across the stage.” The twine didn’t last long. Photo by Bill Owens.

     

    Perched in a sound tower with two Nikons, three lenses, 13 rolls of film, a sandwich, and a jar of water, Owens shoots the scene: hippies in corduroy and afghans and birthday suits, dancers and trippers, Mick Jagger led by cops through the crowd, Hells Angels beating a man with a pool cue. When a biker threatens to clobber Owens with a pipe wrench and break his effing skull unless he comes down, our intrepid photog flashes his press card. The Angel is not impressed.

    Owens decides it’s time to bail. Before the day is done, one Black man, Meredith Hunter, is stabbed to death. Another man tripping on acid drowns in an irrigation ditch; two more are killed in a hit-and-run. 

     

    Music, acid, wine, vioolence. Photo by Bill Owens.

     

    Four decades later comes Altamont 1969, with new and previously unpublished photographs from that day. Some call it rock ’n’ roll’s darkest hour, the end of the peace and love ’60s. Back in the day, Bill Owens published some photos under a pseudonym; he didn’t want the Hells Angels coming for him or his family, thinking he had photographed the murder of Hunter. Indeed, when Owens and friend Beth Bagby loaned some negatives to a married couple who planned to publish a book, that couple’s house was burglarized, the negatives stolen. Some of the negatives that survived are what make up this book.

     

    Faces in the crowd. Photo by Bill Owens.

     

    Owens served as a Volunteer in Jamaica 1964–66, an experience that launched his career in photography. He made a name for himself as a photographer with the big-thinking and warmhearted series Suburbia — profoundly different than the work in Altamont. He has also made a name for himself with Buffalo Bill’s Brewery as a pioneer in the craft beer movement. His encore to that: trailblazing work in craft distilling.


     


    Paul Cowan Award for Best Book of Nonfiction
    Charles B. Kastner
    Race across America: Eddie Gardner and the Great Bunion Derbies
    (Syracuse University Press)

     

    Eddie Gardner, distance runner extraordinaire. Solomon Sir Jones Films, Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

     

    Charles Kastner traces Eddie “the Sheik” Gardner’s remarkable journey from his birth in 1897 in Birmingham, Alabama, to his success in Seattle as one of the top long-distance runners in the Northwest, and finally to his participation in two transcontinental footraces where he risked his life: As a Black man, he faced a barrage of harassment for having the audacity to compete with white runners. Kastner shows how Gardner’s participation became a way to protest the endemic racism he faced, heralding the future of nonviolent efforts that would be instrumental to the civil rights movement. Kastner served as a Volunteer in the Seychelles 1980–82.

     

    The course: East to West, with particular peril for a Black man running through the South. Map courtesy Joseph Stoll, Syracuse University Cartographic Lab.

     

    From the book: On April 23, 1929, the bunion derby returned to the Jim Crow South. On that day, Eddie “the Sheik” Gardner, an African American runner from Seattle, Washington, was leading the bunion derby across the Free Bridge over the Mississippi River that separated Illinois from Missouri. He was flying, blazing over the short, by derby standards, twenty-two-mile course at a sub-three-hour marathon pace.

    “First into St. Louis in Cross Country Race”—with the American flag on his chest. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 24, 1929.

    Eddie was wearing the distinctive outfit that earned him his nickname, a white towel tied around his head and a white sleeveless shirt and white shorts, but he had added something new to his outfit. Below his racing number, “165,” he had sewn an American flag, a reminder to all who saw him run that he was an American and, that day, the leader of the greatest footrace in the world. He was setting himself up for another collision with southern segregation.

      


    Peace Corps Writers Award for Best Short Story Collection
    Kristen Roupenian
    You Know You Want This: “Cat Person” and Other Stories

    (Gallery/Scout Press)

    Spanning a range of genres and topics — from the very mundane to the murderous and supernatural—these are tales of sex and punishment, guilt and anger, the pleasure and terror of inflicting and experiencing pain. “Cat Person,” published in the New Yorker, garnered deserved acclaim. Reviewer Marnie Mueller zeroed in on the collection’s narrative pace, edgy dialogue, descriptive power, and dark humor. The stories fascinate and repel, revolt and arouse, scare and delight in equal measure. As a collection, they point a finger at you, dear reader, daring you to feel uncomfortable — or worse, understood — as if to say, “You want this, right? You know you want this.” Roupenian served as a Volunteer in Kenya 2003–05. She was named to the inaugural National Peace Corps Association “40 Under 40” list, published in our spring 2020 edition; her fiction has appeared in these pages as well.

     

    Peace Corps Writers Award for Best Peace Corps Memoir
    Nancy Heil Knor
    Woven: A Peace Corps Adventure Spun with Faith, Laughter, and Love 
    (Peace Corps Writers)

    Through intimate first-person accounts and letters, Woven invites readers to accompany Knor on her journey into the jungles of Belize, where she served as a Volunteer 1989–91. She introduces readers to Mayan families she comes to love; she seeks deeper understanding of the dynamics of the K’ekchi Maya culture — and helps build a library.

     

     

    Maria Thomas Award for Best Book of Fiction
    William Siegel
    With Kennedy in the Land of the Dead: A Novel of the 1960s
    (Peace Corps Writers)

    The novel begins on the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas: November 22, 1963. Gilbert Stone, a Peace Corps Volunteer teacher in Ethiopia, returns home, shattered by the loss of his hero. In the years that follow, Stone struggles to integrate his Peace Corps experience and the trauma of Kennedy’s death. Siegel himself served as a Volunteer in Ethiopia 1962–64.

     

     

    Peace Corps Writers Award for Best Book of Poetry
    Bill Preston
    Strange Beauty of the World: Poems
    (Peace Corps Writers)

    These poems invite reflection: on how past impinges on present, how events long ago inform who we are now; on paths taken and not taken, and unintended consequences of those choices. They ask us to bear witness to cruelty and injustice; to summon the creative imagination to resist the mundane, challenge the rehearsed response. They pay homage to beauty and its weird, wonderful diversity and expression. Preston served as a Volunteer in Thailand 1977–80.

     

     

    Peace Corps Writers Award for Best Travel Book
    Steve Kaffen
    Europe by Bus: 50 Bus Trips and City Visits
    (SK Journeys)

    Through 50 journeys over a two-year period, traveler and prolific author Steve Kaffen — who served as a Volunteer in Russia 1994–96 and once met Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary hiking in the Himalayas — weaves together a fascinating travelogue with experiential guidance on how to explore Europe by bus — something that, in the age of COVID-19, suddenly belongs to another time.