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  • Steven Saum posted an article
    A group to link evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers with the help they need see more

    A group to link evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers with the help they need. Sometimes that’s just someone to listen — and hear.

    By Steven Boyd Saum

     

    The day after Peace Corps informed Volunteers around the globe that they were being evacuated, a new group took shape to help them: Returned Peace Corps COVID-19 Evacuation Support [Community-Generated] was launched by returned Volunteer Joshua Johnson. The group had 200 members within the first hour. By the end of the day on March 16 that number had grown to 2,000. Soon nearly 10,000 returned Volunteers and parents joined. And a dozen administrators began to chip in to manage it.

    There were outpourings of sympathy and dismay and immediate offers of help: A place to stay for self-quarantine in Boston or Tucson, Baltimore or Seattle, Central Pennsylvania or East Tennessee. A welcome home and a ride from the airport in Washington or Syracuse, Columbus or LAX (with free air hugs). A grocery run in New York. Questions about what’s the status of Volunteers evacuating from Ethiopia and Morocco, Indonesia and Panama.

    Evacuations differed country by country, and so did instructions from country directors. So questions for the group were legion: about readjustment allowances and benefits, health insurance and reimbursement for those having to self-quarantine in a hotel. There were questions about pets: bringing cats and dogs back home. One wanted to know about transporting his machete. Amid economic meltdown, there were many questions about unemployment and would the evacuated Volunteers be eligible? After all, they were not technically “employees.” 

    What they were, per a new community-generated acronym: ERPCVs, for Evacuated Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.

     

    Pin our hopes: The community offered places to stay and airport rides, financial help and comfort. Sometimes it was the little things, like lost and found—a Botswana pin scooped from an airport floor in Doha. Photo by Carrie Cowan Angell
     

    There were differences in status: Some were initially placed on administrative hold. Ultimately, all were COS’d — a verbification of the acronym for “close of service.” That status unlocked benefits that otherwise would not have been available to Volunteers kept on hold. But it felt like a gut punch to many. And it led to this Washington Post headline: “The Peace Corps isn’t just bringing home 7,300 volunteers because of the coronavirus. It’s firing them.” Not exactly. But there was this: To formally COS, Volunteers needed medical checkups, which had to be done back home; nationally, non-critical medical appointments were on hiatus.

    The Facebook group provided updates and advice; it steered members to the latest news and programs from National Peace Corps Association, as well as new policies rolled out by the Peace Corps agency. Group members have provided job help and resume reviews, interview tips and advice for grad school, opportunities for community service to help battle the pandemic here at home. It became a place to connect as many took to the streets to protest against racial injustice. In June it carried news that evacuated Volunteers could now apply for reinstatement or re-enrollment. 

    Joshua Johnson, who served as a Volunteer in The Gambia 2009–11, started the group with other RPCVs because they realized they didn’t need to wait for someone else to take action — they could help by bringing the community together and centralizing resources. “Leaving Peace Corps after months of preparation was difficult enough,” Johnson says. “I can only imagine what it is like to be so quickly pulled out of site.”

     

    “Responding to an emergency situation by coming together as a community gets to the heart of Peace Corps values, and really is what we have trained for.” —Joshua Johnson

     

    Joshua Johnson and family. Photo courtesty Joshua Johnson

      

    And Johnson says the kindness he has witnessed has been inspiring. “In reality, responding to an emergency situation by coming together as a community gets to the heart of Peace Corps values, and really is what we have trained for. In the face of an uncertain situation, and with limited resources, we are able to use our creativity and resourcefulness to come together to make sure that everyone is taken care of.”

    The group has also been a platform for ideas. “What has really given me the most hope is seeing how the evacuating Volunteers have responded to this,” Johnson says. “Yes, there have been many moments of grief or frustration shared, but I also see a lot of hope as Volunteers have found ingenious ways to continue their project work, and continue to connect with their communities.”

     

    Tasha Prados (Peru 2011–13) contributed to this story.

     


    Quick Take: Peace Corps Efforts to Help Evacuated Volunteers

     

    Volunteer Ana Santos, evacuated from Rwanda

     

    THE FUNDAMENTALS

    Providing evacuation and readjustment allowances, a wellness stipend, extended health insurance, health and quarantine instructions and resources, information and webinars for federal government job opportunities, job postings for other private sector positions, and graduate school options. Volunteers who were evacuated qualify for Non-Competitive Eligibility (or NCE), which makes it easier from them to join the federal workforce. They qualify for Coverdell Fellowships available for graduate school study. Volunteers who seek to return to their host countries or seek a new assignment will be given expedited consideration over the next year. 

     

    ONGOING HELP 

    Nearly all evacuating Volunteers are finishing Virtual Completion of Service conferences, which provide training to assist Volunteers with their transition back to the United States and allow closure of activities in their countries of service. Courses through LearningSpace, the agency’s internal online learning management system, are already online, with more in the works to help returning Volunteers: prepare for employment; maintain health and well-being; understand COVID-19; and learn the future process for returning to service once circumstances allow. 

    Federal agency webinars: Thirty and counting to introduce the work of their agencies, especially as it relates to COVID-19 response. Many more have asked to host a webinar and/or present for a second and third time. Hundreds of evacuated Volunteers have participated in each of these events. The Office of Personnel Management has hosted eight sessions covering themes related to working in the federal government, showcasing opportunities available across the country, discussing how to prepare a successful federal resume and navigate USAJobs for their job search. Hundreds of evacuees have benefited. Bulletins that provide answers to pressing concerns and questions and direct Volunteers to an increasing number of resources available from the Peace Corps and other partners and sources, such as the National Peace Corps Association, RPCV Support Groups, Rotary International, universities offering tuition discounts, and hoteliers offering lodging discounts. New info posted daily.

     


    This story was first published in WorldView magazine’s Summer 2020 issue. Read the entire magazine for free now in the WorldView app. Here’s how:

    STEP 1 - Create an account: Click here and create a login name and password. Use the code DIGITAL2020 to get it free.

    STEP 2 - Get the app: For viewing the magazine on a phone or tablet, go to the App Store/Google Play and search for “WorldView magazine” and download the app. Or view the magazine on a laptop/desktop here.

  • Ana Victoria Cruz posted an article
    We are listening, and we stand in solidarity with all who are actively driving efforts for change. see more

    Ideas and actions — and the principles that guide us

    By Maricarmen Smith-Martinez and Glenn Blumhorst
     

    As Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, current and former staff, host country nationals, family, and friends, we uphold a commitment to creating a better world, one that promotes world peace and friendship. In this spirit, National Peace Corps Association envisions a united and vibrant Peace Corps community. We Stand Against Racial Injustice and affirm our commitment to empathy and justice — around the world, and here at home.

    Yet in the midst of national unrest ignited by systemic injustice, a vision of unity and vibrance is not enough. We must take more concrete steps to ensure a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture for all RPCVs and members of our community. 

    Evidence of racial inequity exists in many forms, and the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed deep systemic problems in our country. Continued violence and police brutality against the Black community has ignited protests from coast to coast — and in scores of other countries. Economic insecurity, impacting tens of millions of Americans, disproportionately impacts people of color. Black Americans are dying at higher rates due to health disparities rooted in a problematic healthcare system. And while the ongoing struggle for racial equity and social justice resonates strongly with core Peace Corps values, Volunteers of color continue to share challenges of racism, bias, and exclusivity, describing experiences during recruitment, in service, and after returning home. 

    It is humbling to acknowledge shortcomings, and it is difficult to change a system — but we will not succeed if we do not try. Inherent in this effort is the need for change within NPCA itself. Our staff and Board of Directors must consistently reflect the diversity we champion. Our programming must proactively incorporate values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

     

    Roadmap for the Future

    To that end, the NPCA Board of Directors is charting a course for progress toward a more diverse and inclusive culture within our Board of Directors, our staff, and our Peace Corps community. We are developing a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Framework with cross-cutting priorities across our strategic plan, addressing the need for systemic change not only within our organization but also within Peace Corps, in our membership and Affiliate Group Network, and in our global social impact. 

    As a starting point, the policy will serve to:

    • Ensure diversity and inclusion within the NPCA staff and Board.

    • Ensure training to improve the organization and the workplace, such as training to better understand unconscious bias.

    • Support efforts to help the Peace Corps be the best it can be and address racism and inequity within the institution.

    • Support efforts to empower members and affiliate groups to thrive by ensuring opportunity for diversity and inclusion at NPCA events such as Peace Corps Connect; enhancing outreach efforts to RPCVs and affiliate groups of color; and building capacity for the Affiliate Group Network to facilitate conversations about social justice and to mobilize members to take action.

    • Support efforts to amplify the Peace Corps community’s global social impact by proactively seeking applications for projects that focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion — bolstering work with minority-owned startup enterprises and leveraging our new home at Peace Corps Place in the Truxton Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C., to engage in activities that address systemic racism.
       

     

    Join Us in this Work

    Our board and staff have taken the first steps to demonstrate NPCA’s proactive and deliberate leadership reflected on our new We Stand Together For Change web page. NPCA has also adapted existing tools to contact Congressional representatives, leveraging opportunities for RPCVs to advocate for racial equity and social justice legislation. We facilitated a Group Leaders Discussion: Affiliate Group Stand for Racial Justice. Our staff has formed a DEI Working Group with dedicated hours and budget. And we have more work to undertake together. 

    We understand that RPCVs are ready to support this cause. We recognize the difficulty of sharing experiences with racism and bias — from decades past or just last week. And we applaud those who are able to speak out and voice their experiences. We also acknowledge the discomfort of approaching conversations about race from a point of privilege. We commend the RPCVs and affiliate groups that have facilitated events, such as the RPCV/W Town Hall for Racial Justice, to not only advance the conversation but also take action. 

    We are listening, and we stand in solidarity with all who are actively driving efforts for change. On behalf of the NPCA Board and leadership, we seek your feedback, encourage your recommendations, and invite your ideas. And we welcome your shared commitment to this crucial work now — and for the long haul. 

     Visit Page


     Maricarmen Smith-Martinez is Chair of the Board of Directors for National Peace Corps Association. She served as a Volunteer in Costa Rica 2006–08.

    Glenn Blumhorst is President and CEO of National Peace Corps Association. He served as a Volunteer in Guatemala 1988–91.

     

  • Ana Victoria Cruz posted an article
    Share your story—whether it’s video, pictures, text. This is just a beginning. see more

    On March 15 more than 7,300 Peace Corps Volunteers were told they needed to leave the communities they had called home—an unprecedented global evacuation. They were uprooted from the lives and work they had come to know, sometimes without the opportunity to even say goodbye. They are returning to a country in crisis.

    National Peace Corps Association is working to ensure they have the resources they need during these uncertain and difficult times. We also want to make sure the world hears their stories.

    We are gathering here first-person videos and stories, as well as interviews with evacuated Volunteers from around the world.

    We invite you to participate, too. We want to share your story—whether it’s video, pictures, text, or you’d like to talk to one of our writers. This is just a beginning.

     

    Stories


    Daniel Lang
    Mongolia
    Home: Originally the Midwest — now North Las Vegas, Nevada

    English Education and Community Development Volunteer

    “To me, Peace Corps wasn’t just about teaching languages. It was about promoting equity.”

    Learn More

     

    Meg Holladay
    Ghana
    Home: Amherst, Massachusetts

    Peace Corps Health Extension Volunteer

    “Peace Corps work is so powerful because it’s work we do together with our communities, based on their priorities. It’s work that can become sustainable as we share knowledge and learn together.”

    Learn More

     

    Danielle Shulkin
    Panama

    Home: Sharon, Massachusetts

    Teaching English, Leadership, and Life Skills (TELLS) Volunteer helping teachers improve their skills and develop new teaching methodologies. She had one hour to pack before evacuating. Now she is a contact tracer with Partners In Health.

    "I'm still hoping to go back to Panama one way or another, mostly because I feel very indebted to the whole country and I really want to pay that back...I can only hope that we have the opportunity to do that moving forward."

    Learn More

     

    Chelsea Bajek
    Vanuatu

    Home: Rochester, New York by way of Arlington, Virginia

    Community health Volunteer in a rural community, focusing on water, sanitation, and nutrition.

    “Even though I am back in the United States, I continue to work with the women’s group on this project, believing it could provide real change for these women.”

    Learn More

     

    Charles Castillo
    Namibia
    Home: Medford, New Jersey

    Teaching information communication technology and art classes to deaf students in northern Namibia.

    “I would also like for Peace Corps Volunteers to help empower deaf and hard-of-hearing people to let them know that they are just as capable as hearing people in achieving their dreams, and to not let anything hold them back.”

    Learn More

     

    Elyse Magen
    Colombia
    Home: San Francisco, California
    Working on economic empowerment of women in Colombia — helping women who harvest cacao and turn that into chocolate products*

    “These women [entrepreneurs] have been fighting really hard … a lot of people telling them they can’t.”

    Learn More

     

    *Through NPCA's Community Fund, Elyse's project was fully funded!

     

    Danielle Montecalvo
    Madagascar
    Home: Rochester, New York
    Post-secondary English educator at the University of Mahajanga

    “I left behind the most extraordinary community … If it is not possible to personally reinstate or return to Metangula, I hope that Peace Corps is able to reinstate its programs in Mozambique so that Metangula will receive another volunteer in the future.”

    Learn More

     

    Kevin Lawson
    Ukraine
    Home: Greensboro, North Carolina

    Youth Development Volunteer in Apostolove, Dnipropetrovs'ka oblast

    “Ukrainians and I are asking the same question: When will I come back? And more important: When will Peace Corps come back?”

    Learn More

     

    Jim Damico
    Nepal
    Home: Kansas City, Missouri

    Three-time Peace Corps Volunteer teaching English — and had hoped to extend to three years of service in Nepal. Previously served in Thailand and Mongolia.

    “I left students behind — many that were lower level students that most teachers had written off. … Many of them have begun to be excited about learning … I want to return as soon as possible.”

    Learn More

     

    Stacie Scott
    Mozambique
    Home: Louisville, Kentucky

    Serving as a community health services promoter

    “I left behind the most extraordinary community … If it is not possible to personally reinstate or return to Metangula, I hope that Peace Corps is able to reinstate its programs in Mozambique so that Metangula will receive another volunteer in the future.”

    Learn More

     

    Ryan Blackwell
    Togo
    Home: Greater Washington, DC Area

    Serving as an English teaching and gender education Volunteer

    “We need to get the Peace Corps opened up again as soon as possible. … [They’re] doing incredible work, especially supporting girls’ education.”

    Learn More

     

    Sierra Drummond
    Thailand
    Home: Thousand Oaks, California

    Working as part of Teaching Empowerment for Student Success (TESS) program, teaching alongside a Thai teacher.

    “Peace Corps really provides an outlet for creating a global community, and I think there always be a need for that.”

    Learn More

     

    Lucy Baker
    Mongolia
    Home: San Francisco, California

    Working as a Public Health Education Volunteer

    “Mongolia loves Peace Corps! … I really hope that—in enough time—Peace Corps will send Volunteers back and be able to continue the work going on in the country.”

     Learn More

     

    Benjamin Rietmann
    Dominican Republic
    Home: Condon, Oregon

    Working with dairy farmers on economic development and entrepreneurship.

    “Much of what I was doing seemed like it would soon have promising results.” 

    Learn More

     

    Jae Cho
    Kyrgyz Republic
    Home: Gloucester, Virginia

    Teaching English as a foreign language in a school in a small village. Unfinished business: building a resource center for learning English to help students, faculty, and staff.

    “I hope everyone stays safe, and I will be back as soon as possible.”

    Learn More

     


    Steven Boyd Saum served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine 1994–96 and is the editor of WorldView magazine. Reach him at worldview@peacecorpsconnect.org.

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    Achievements in the Peace Corps community from 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)

     

    Pioneering Black women in leadership roles with the Department of Labor and Department of State. Bringing expertise to work on the National Security Council and in the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador. Recognition for work toward equity in health and forest stewardship. And a new role in journalism. 

    Photo: A Twitter moment with Janelle Jones, the new chief economist for the Department of Labor. She’s the first Black woman to serve in that role. 

     

    CAMEROON

    Erin Swiader took on responsibilities in January 2021 as Acting Forest Supervisor for the Santa Fe National Forest in northern New Mexico. She will oversee the management, protection, and productivity of the 1.6 million acres of the national forest. Swiader comes to this role from the Northern Region for the Forest Service, where she serves as chief of staff. The Northern Region is headquartered in Missoula, Montana, and encompasses nine national forests and the Dakota Prairie Grasslands across five states.

     

     

     

    CAMBODIA

    Jalina Porter (2009-2011) was appointed in January 2021 to serve as deputy spokesperson for the U.S. State Department. She is the first Black woman in history to serve in that role. She was formerly communications director for Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-LA), who has been appointed a senior advisor to the Biden Administration. Learn more about Porter and read her interview with civil rights attorney Elaine Jones in the new edition of WorldView magazine.

     

     

     

    ECUADOR

    Maurice Lee has received the Fifth Annual Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Award for Health Equity. The award, presented by the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, began in 2016. Dr. Lee is Chief Medical Officer and Medical Director of St. Vincent de Paul’s Virginia G. Piper Medical and Dental Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona. In 2016 Dr. Lee founded the Arizona Safety Net, collaboration among 40+ Phoenix-area free and low-cost clinics aimed at improving health equity for Arizona’s uninsured. 

     

     

     

    ETHIOPIA

    Topaz Smith is the founder and CEO of EN-NOBEL, with a vision to improve global peacefulness and sustainable socioeconomics in culturally rich communities.

     

     

     

     

    THE GAMBIA

    Megan Vigil was recently appointed by the Lake County Commissioners as the county’s new Public Health Officer. She is a family practice physician with St. Luke Community Healthcare in Ronan, Montana. 

     

     

     

     

    GUATEMALA

    Juan Gonzalez (2001–04) has taken on responsibilities as Special Assistant to the President and National Security Council Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere. He previously served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs during the Obama administration. 

     

     

     

     

    JAMAICA

    Steven Lawrence is an adjunct professor of American government at Walters State Community College. He has been appointed as a Hamblen County Election Commissioner by the Tennessee State Election Commission.

     

     

     

     

    KOSOVO

    Michaela Washington (2018–20) was sworn in in December 2020 as an Equal Opportunity Specialist with the Chicago’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

     

     

     

     

    MOLDOVA

    Robert Allen Jr. (2019–20) has been selected as a 2021 Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellow. The fellowship is funded by the U.S. Department of State, administered by Howard University, attracting and preparing outstanding young people for Foreign Service careers in the U.S. Department of State. It welcomes the application of members of minority groups historically underrepresented in the State Department.

     

     

     

    MOZAMBIQUE

    Ethan Fogg (2017–19) has begun an 11-month internship to bolster community and economic development efforts undertaken by Grow Gillespie, the local volunteer group focused on the economic growth of Gillespie, Illinois.

     

     

     

     

    NIGER

    Stacie Haines (1997–2000) is the development director at Maine Conservation Voters, and has been appointed by the governor as an expert in the delivery of environmental services to communities and individuals.

     

     

     

     

    John D. Mann (1988–91) has been reappointed by Californiia Governor Gavin Newsom as Deputy Director of Legislation at the California Department of Technology, where he has served since 2017. He served as communications director in the Office of California State Senator Tony Mendoza from 2014 to 2017, and as communications director on the Alex Padilla for Secretary of State Campaign from 2013 to 2014, and in the Office of California State Senator Alex Padilla from 2011 to 2014. 

     

    Robin Martz (1993-1995) is the director of the USAID Rwanda Health Office. She has worked on maternal and child health in Laos, polio in Afghanistan, HIV in Haiti, and emerging pandemic threats in Thailand and Cambodia.

     

     

     

     

    PARAGUAY

    Brendan O’Brien assumed the position of the Charge d’Affaires of the United States Embassy in San Salvador in January. Previously, he served as Deputy Chief of Mission (2019–21), Consul General at the United States Embassy in San Salvador (2017–19), and at the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires. Aires, Argentina (2014–17). 

     

     

     

    PERU

    Janelle Jones has taken on the role of Chief Economist for the U.S. Department of Labor — the first Black woman to serve in this top post. Previously, she has worked for the Economic Policy Institute (2016–18) and the Center for Economic and Policy Research (2011–14). One place to start to learn more about her work and ideas: a piece she co-authored last summer for the Washington Post, “The Federal Reserve could help make the job market fairer for Black workers.”

     

     

     

    SENEGAL

    Rajiv Joseph’s play, “Red Folder,” is the opening production for the new year by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago. It is the third of six productions debuting on its Steppenwolf NOW virtual stage.

     

     

     

     

    TOGO

    E. Scott Osborne (1980–82) is the president of the board of the Gulf Coast chapter of UN Women USA. She leads seminars on gender equality and speaks often to young people in the Sarasota, Florida, area. She has also raised the profile of the nonprofit organization’s Through Women’s Eyes film festival, an annual event that screens films by women directors from around the world. The festival is now in its 22nd year.

     

     

    UGANDA

    James Wilterding was appointed in January to serve as executive director of University of New Mexico Student Health and Counseling (SHAC). The pandemic has emphasized the essential role healthy campus communities have on student success.

     

     

     

      

    ZAMBIA

    Andy Blye (2017-2018) was hired by the Phoenix Business Journal to cover financial services and technology. Previously, he was a reporting intern at Dow Jones News Fund. He was also a graduate assistant at Arizona State University and has served as a market intelligence specialist at bChannels.

  • Ana Victoria Cruz posted an article
    Community news highlighting achievements of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers see more

    Achievements in the Peace Corps community from across the country — and around the world

    By Peter Deekle (Iran 1968–70)

    From new books to leadership roles, working with students and refugees, in conservation and the church. Plus a story of gratitude for all the Volunteers who served in Korea — with a thank-you and help in a time of pandemic.

    Photo: Shenna Bellows, who served as a Volunteer in Panama, is sworn in as Maine’s Secretary of State — the first woman to serve in that role. 


     

    BOTSWANA

    Connie Czepiel (2009–11) has a career in international finance. She is also recently author of Dream On! The Alarm Clock of Your Life Hasn’t Gone Off Yet, a chronicle of her overseas work for Mission Aviation Fellowship, Peace Corps, Mercy Ships, and Samaritan’s Purse.

     

     

     

    Marni von Wilpert (2006–08) was one of five new members joining the San Diego City Council in December 2020. She was a social worker for the Peace Corps in Botswana during an AIDS epidemic there, providing experience with virus testing and contact tracing for today’s pandemic. 

     

     

     

     

    CHINA

    Felicia Singh (2013–15) is a Democratic Party candidate for New York City District Council 32, with education reform as a major campaign objective along with utility management and women’s empowerment. The election will be held in June 2021.
     

     

     

     

    COSTA RICA

    Jim LaBate began his Peace Corps service in the mid-1970s in Costa Rica. He recently retired from Hudson Valley Community College where has was a writing specialist. His sixth novel, Streets of Golfito, published in 2020 is loosely based on his Peace Corps experience. 

     

     

     

     

    COTE D’IVOIRE

    Polly Dunford was named president and CEO of IntraHealth International, a large global health organization based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina just as Covid-19 was emerging as a threat to the world.

     

     

     

     

    DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

    Edward Crawford (2004–06) is the co-founder and president of Coltala Holdings in Dallas, Texas. He recently announced a $150 million partnership with Trive Capital. He has authored works regarding “conscious capitalism” and the potential rise of this socially responsible economic and political philosophy. Crawford is also in the inaugural cohort of the National Peace Corps Association 40 Under 40.

     

     

     

    ECUADOR

    Mildred Warner (1979–81) received the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, Inc. (ACSP) Margarita McCoy Faculty Award for the advancement of women in planning in higher education through service, teaching, and research in November 2020

     

     

     

     

    ESWATINI

    Father Michael Fuller, a priest of the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois, has been named associate general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in November 2020. Before arriving at the USCCB, he served as chairman of the Department of Spiritual Theology from 2011 to 2016 and chairman of the Department of Christian Life from 2002 to 2011 (University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary). He also was editor of the Chicago Studies Theological Journal.

     

     

     

    ETHIOPIA

    Christen Marie Smith (2007–09) has taken a new role as Vice President of LMI federal health and civilian market. She aims to continue LMI's efforts to help government customers manage health care delivery and federal work environments as well as drive scientific and space innovation efforts.

     

      

     

     

    GUINEA

    Jackson Willis has been named a Rhodes Scholar in the first-ever virtual selection process, necessary due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He will pursue Master of Science degrees in economics for development and in global governance and diplomacy at Oxford.

     

     

     

     

    KAZAKHSTAN

    Michael Hotard (2009–11) manages research projects related to undocumented immigrants and health care at Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab. In late October 2020 he discussed the experiences and struggles that have shaped his career in an online presentation to current Stevenson Center Fellows at Illinois State University.

     

     

     
     

    KOREA

    Sandra Nathan (1966–68) was among the Korea RPCVs who received a surprising gift from the people in her Peace Corps community more than fifty years earlier – a "COVID-19 Survival Box."  The box containing expressions of concern and support was sent to former Volunteers who served in Korea during the early 1960s. Here’s the story from The New York Times.

     

     

     

     

    KYRGYZSTAN

    Michael Drake is the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Taza Aya (“fresh air” in Krygyz). The company has been named an awardee in the Invisible Shield QuickFire Challenge, a competition created by Johnson & Johnson Innovation in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. The program seeks protections from airborne viruses with minimal impact on daily life.

     

     

      

    LIBYA

    Randy Hobler (1968–69) interviewed 101 of his fellow RPCVs in depth for his new book: 101 Arabian Tales: How We All Persevered in Peace Corps Libya.

     

     

     

     

     

    PHILIPPINES

    Zac Schnell (2012–14) was named the Pamlico Community College’s 2020 Instructor of the Year. He also began assisting with Occupational Safety and Health Administration training for Continuing Education students.

     

     

     

     

    MACEDONIA

    Cal Mann (2017–20) will share his experience as a Rotarian serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Eastern Europe before the 2020 pandemic evacuation. Tune in on February 11, 2021 with the Rotary Club of Northfield at 12:00 PM via Zoom (Meeting ID: 853 8396 5788; Passcode: 601997).

     

     

     

     

    MEXICO

    Kyle Fredrickson (2014–16) is District Forester for Aitkin County Soil and Water Conservation District. His work with an aerial drone for conservation purposes in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region has deepened understanding and created new educational opportunities. “To cross a wetland, it could take two to three hours to reach the site,” Hughes told a reporter recently. “The drone can do it in five minutes, plus we can’t get that perspective from the ground.”  

     

      

     

    MONGOLIA

    Katie Murray is the new executive director of Oregonians for Food & Shelter (OFS), a nonprofit agribusiness group. At OFS she aims to safeguard necessary tools for natural resource industries while ensuring users aren’t left without alternatives if regulatory changes occur.

     

     

     

     

    PANAMA

    Shenna Bellows (2000–02) has been elected by Maine’s 130th Legislature to be Maine's new secretary of state. She is the first woman elected to serve in the role. During her remarks at her swearing-in in January, she noted that her grandmother, who celebrated her 101st birthday just days prior, was born in the year that saw the final ratification of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote.

     

     

     

     

     

    PAPUA NEW GUINEA

    Christopher Davenport (1994–96) published the memoir Tin Can Crucible through Lume Books in December 2020. The title, an account of modern-day sorcery, was previously available via NetGalley. The author is a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State.

     

     

     


     

    PARAGUAY

    Estee Katcoff (2011–14) founded in 2016 the Superkids Foundation, a nonprofit in Paraguay that fills in literacy gaps and trains students to be educational leaders. In 2017 she founded GMAT/GRE test prep company PrepCorps in Seattle to recruit top test-takers to teach courses while fundraising $60,000+ for international education.

     

     

     

     

    SENEGAL

    Jet Richardson (2008–10) has completed his first year as Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity Tri-County Partners.  Prior to that he has completed nearly four years with the International Crisis Group — an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict.

     

     

     

     

    TANZANIA

    Adeel Amed has been appointed by the University of Nevada, Reno, Extension, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources as Lyon County educator, focusing on community and economic development. He was born in Pakistan and immigrated to the United States as a child before entering college and serving in the Peace Corps.

     

     

     

     

    THAILAND

    Kari Miller (1997–99) is the Founder and Executive Director of International Neighbors. She works with Charlottesville, Virginia's refugee and SIV population (special immigrant visa holders, who worked for the United States during the conflicts in Afghanistan or Iraq), equipping these new neighbors with the network and skills needed for them to thrive — not just to survive — as aspiring Americans.

     

     

     

    Dick Sandler is known as Thailand’s “Grandfather of eco-tourism” and was one of the early pioneers in Thailand’s now burgeoning eco-tourism sector.  A Fulbright scholarship in research economics led to him joining Peace Corps staff in Thailand. He has also worked for the United Nations Development Fund and the World Bank, focusing on rural development projects. His latest resort project in Thailand is Our Jungle Camp in Khao Sok.

     

     

    Melissa Wurst (1989–92) is the owner and founding member of Language Solutions, Inc. Founded in 1998, the enterprise is assisting those with limited literacy, translation, and interpreting skills.

     

     

     

     

     

    UGANDA

    Renee Manneh (2007–09) is a doctoral candidate at Campbell University for a degree in Health Sciences. She is the Executive Director at her private practice where she also sees clients as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. 

     

     

     

     

    VANUATU

    Brianna Russell (2008–10) is the Founding Executive Director of Girls Leading Girls, Inc., a nonprofit organization in San Francisco that trains young women in leadership and life skills. 

     

     

     

     


    Please share your news with us! Email Peter Deekle.

  • Ana Victoria Cruz posted an article
    Community news highlighting achievements of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers see more

    Achievements of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Across the country — and around the world

    By Peter Deekle (Iran 1968–70)

     

     

    ALBANIA

    Ackeem Evans (2018–20) is the co-founder of EVERYONE EATS FOUNDATION, Inc. He is the project manager for World Central Kitchen, helping feed Louisiana refugees and first responders in the 2020 aftermath of Hurricane Laura

     

     

     

     

    BENIN

    Megan McComb (2018–20) received a Fulbright fellowship for the 2020–21 grant year. She will serve as English Teaching Assistants (ETA) abroad. While the COVID-19 pandemic postponed travel plans, she will be able to begin her placement as soon as January 2021, conditions permitting.

     

     

     

     

    CAMEROON

    Cody Grasser has been promoted to the position of Ohio State Coordinator of Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever. Grasser will lead the organization’s partnerships in the state, including relationships with the United States Department of Agriculture – Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio Division of Wildlife, and other partnership efforts. 

     

     

     

    Mauricia Baca was recently named by The Nature Conservancy in Nevada as the chapter’s new state director. She began her new role on November 16 and is based in Las Vegas. ­­She brings 25 years of experience in nonprofit and conservation organizations.

     

     

     

     
     

    DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

    Danielle Nierenberg received the Smithsonian Institution’s Julia Child Award in October 2020. She is an activist, an advocate who works behind the scenes to find ways of making the world’s food system more equitable through her seven-year-old nonprofit Food Tank.

     

     

     

     

    ECUADOR

    David Schweidenback founded and runs New Jersey-based Pedals for Progress and Sewing Peace. The organization partnered with the Newtown Rotary Club in October 2020 for its 18th annual bike and sewing machine collection drive. Bicycles collected by Pedals for Progress are reconditioned and shipped overseas to needy countries where they are used as vital transportation modes and to move goods from one village to another.

     

     

     

    ETHIOPIA

    Andrew Tadross (2011–2013) served as a lecturer at the University of Mekele in the Tigray region and has recently published an all-ages coloring book, What is Ethiopia? It depicts various subjects in the country during the current turbulent time.

     

     

     

     

    GEORGIA

    Terrell J. Starr is a senior reporter for The Root whose writing covers Russia, Ukraine, the 2020 election, race, and security issues. He recently joined the Hamilton Lugar School (Indiana University) as part of its speaker series on Race, Gender, and Power in Global Affairs. He is working on a book project that examines U.S.-Russia relations from a Black perspective.

     

     

     
     

    GHANA

    Jacob Foss wrote “Let’s Talk About Food Loss” for the October edition of Whole Foods Magazine. He is the Chief Operating Officer of Agricycle Global Inc., an organization of ethical brands using a systems-based zero waste approach to international development.

     

     

     

     

    GUATEMALA

    Joi Latson (2019) joined the World Food Prize Foundation as a Program Coordinator. She will be responsible for assisting the Director of Youth Leadership Development in the implementation and creation of the annual World Food Prize Global Youth Institute, which brings together over 200 students and teachers from around the globe each year.

     

     

     

    Nora Wynne is a middle school Spanish teacher in California. She was selected as one of only five teachers statewide to be named “Teacher of the Year” for 2021 by the California Department of Education. During her Peace Corps service, her original assignment was to help farmers learn about organic agricultural methods, but she ended up teaching in elementary schools, changing her future career path toward education.

     

     

     

    HONDURAS

    Paul Hicks (1993–95) is a project manager for Catholic Relief Services. Living and working in El Salvador for the past 11 years, he and his colleagues have spearheaded an initiative called Blue Harvest around sustainable agriculture related to coffee.

     

     

     
     

    INDONESIA

    Paige Stewart (2018) was nominated for the Kansas Horizon Award, a program that identifies and recognizes first-year teachers who perform with distinction. 

     

     

     

     

     

    KOREA

    Gerry Krzic accepted the national Peace Corps Association’s Loret Miller Ruppe Award for Outstanding Community Service on behalf of the Friends of Korea. He is the president of Friends of Korea and the Ohio Program of Intensive English.

     

     

     

     

    KYRGYZSTAN 

    Jia Tolentino (2010–11) is a staff writer at The New Yorker. Jai hosted a virtual reading and Q&A for Manhattan College’s Major Authors Reading Series in October 2020. 

     

     

     

     

     

    LESOTHO

    Paul Johnson (1995–97) has been named Chief Information Officer at Poly, a global communications company supporting connections and collaboration.  

     

     

     

     

     

    MALAWI

    James Melonas has been named the next Forest Supervisor of the National Forests in North Carolina. He began his new role in late November 2020.

     

     

     

     

     

    PANAMA

    Zach Barricklow (2005–10) is the Vice President of Strategy at Wilkes Community College. Zach has been named as a 2020 Trailblazer by Business North Carolina magazine.

     

     

     

     

     

    PARAGUAY

    Ben Doyle (2001–03; regional recruiter, 2004–06) started his job as president of the Preservation Trust of Vermont in early October 2020. He served as Assistant State Director for Rural Development from 2018–20.

     

     

     

      

    Nick Gengler, a wildlife ecologist and conservationist at the University of Florida, has received a National Science Foundation research grant. The COVID-19 travel restrictions have put his research in Paraguay’s Atlantic Forest on hold for the time being. Right now he is analyzing data from other studies that are similar to his planned project while he waits.

     

     

     

     

    PHILIPPINES

    Diane Glover (2018–20) served through October 2020 as a Community Compact coordinator at Emory’s Oxford College, helping inform Emory students about her service and supporting them in upholding the Community Compact, introduced in Fall 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She was evacuated from Peace Corps service in the Philippines in March 2020. She recently began a position as program analyst with the General Services Administration. 

     

     

     

      

    SENEGAL

    Amy Maglio (1996–99) received the Gender Equality Award from the UN Women USA Chicago Chapter in October 2020. She is the founder of Women’s Global Education Project, which creates opportunities and equality for girls in marginalized and rural communities.

     

     

     

     


    Please share your news with us! Email Peter Deekle.

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    Recognizing contributions to community service by two groups founded by Returned Volunteers see more

    Recognizing contributions to community service by two groups founded by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers

    By NPCA Staff

     

    National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) is pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 Loret Miller Ruppe Award for Outstanding Community Service: Friends of Korea and Friends of Tonga. The awards were presented on September 25 at the annual meeting of NPCA.

    Named for the widely admired 10th Director of the Peace Corps, the annual Loret Miller Ruppe Award is presented by NPCA to outstanding affiliate groups for projects that promote the Third Goal of Peace Corps — “strengthen Americans’ understanding about the world and its peoples” — or continue to serve host countries, build group spirit and cooperation, and promote service. Announcing the awards this year was Mary Ruppe Nash, daughter of namesake Loret Miller Ruppe. 

    Here’s how these this year’s honorees have taken Peace Corps ideals to heart. 

     


    Friends of Korea: A guide to understand the transformation of a country

    “We left Korea, but Korea never left us,” Gerry Krzic wrote recently. Krzic serves as president of Friends of Korea, a group founded by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who served in the Republic of Korea from 1966 to 1981, when the Peace Corps program was closed. 

    Friends of Korea was established in 2002 to foster connections between people in U.S. and Korea — and between Korean-American communities stateside and wider communities. The group has also sought to foster cultural awareness and cultivate philanthropy.

     

     

    In 2016, Friends of Korea started the Project “Study Guide to Accompany The Korean Transformation,” an easy-to-use manual for educators and workshop facilitators to use when teaching about the dramatic economic, social, and political development of Korea. The guide can be used independently or in conjunction with the “Korean Transformation” DVD (previously made by Friends of Korea). The Study Guide was planned for an initial printing of 40 copies for distribution — however, close to 300 were printed due to great demand. The Study Guide was promoted via electronic media, conference presentations, and teacher/young adult workshops. 
     


    The main purpose of the Study Guide was to promote a better understanding to the American public of the dramatic story of modern-day Korea’s development. In addition to the activities devoted to the story of Korea, the guide purposely included “extension” activities so that students can understand about the diversity in their local community, the Peace Corps and community service, and transformative learning — all of which lend themselves to the development of group spirit, cooperation, and the inclination to serve. The guide also helps Friends of Korea to stay connected with the country where they served by spreading one unique story in particular: Korea is the first Peace Corps partner country in the world to launch its own government-funded overseas volunteer service corps, “World Friends Korea.”

     

    Korea is the first Peace Corps partner country in the world to launch its own government-funded overseas volunteer service corps, “World Friends Korea.”

     

    In accepting the award on behalf of Friends of Korea, Gerry Krzic also paid tribute to Loret Miller Ruppe, addressing her daughter Mary Ruppe Nash: “Mary, I know you have said your mother recognized that peacemaking is a lifelong mission and that she was committed to a spirit of cooperation and service,” he said. “We continue to share the same vision with her.”

    As a book published this year by University of Washington Press details, Peace Corps Volunteers who served in Korea are also credited with playing an instrumental role in developing Korean studies as a discipline in the United States. 

     

    Learn more about Friends of Korea

     

     


    Friends of Tonga: Helping kids tell their stories — and building connections across the world

     

    “On February 11, 2018, Cyclone Gita, with winds that topped 233 km/h — category 4 hurricane strength — slammed into the Pacific island nation of Tonga,” Michael Hassett and Chiara Collette wrote for WorldView magazine. “It was the worst storm in over 60 years and wrought horrendous damage on the islands of Tongatapu and ‘Eua, resulting in two deaths and numerous injuries. More than 2,000 homes were damaged, crops were destroyed across both islands, and 80 percent of the Tongan population was left without power.” 

    Hassett and Collette had served as Peace Corps Volunteers in Tonga. In the wake of that devastating storm, they and other Returned Peace Corps Volunteers mobilized. And the nonprofit Friends of Tonga was formed — to ameliorate the devastation, but also to help fill gaps in delivering education in Tonga.

      

      

    As one of their projects, Friends of Tonga designed and implemented a pen pal exchange program between schools in the United States and Tonga. Teachers are provided with a pen pal guide that gives an overview of the program and its process. When possible, a Friends of Tonga representative has gone to participating schools to introduce both Tonga and the project to the teachers and students. When Friends of Tonga is unable to deliver a presentation in person, slideshows have been created for both Tongan and U.S. teachers to orient their students to the other culture. 

    To increase the impact of the program, teachers can also request specific presentations to match their units of instruction. For example, a kindergarten class in the U.S. requested a presentation that focused on transportation in Tonga.

    To promote sustainability and engagement, a timeline was developed that takes into account the different countries’ school schedules and encourages each school to receive three letters per year. After the presentation is delivered, students are given a letter to respond to from their Tongan pen pal. These letter exchanges typically begin with basic introductory information (e.g. name, village name, favorite sports, and food, etc). As pen pal friends in Tonga become more proficient in English and become more comfortable with their pen pal in the States, the letters become more elaborate with detailed descriptions of life in Tonga.

     

    Class act: Michael Hassett teaching a lesson on Tonga. Photo courtesy Friends of Tonga


    This program enhances literacy rates in Tonga, raises awareness of Tonga and its people, and has increased event participation and donations. “This project is extremely replicable!” says Michael Hassett. Friends of Tonga partners are provided with guidance and an orientation PowerPoint deck to present to their classes, digitally. All of these resources can be found online.

    Why the focus on education? For Hassett, it’s personal. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tonga 2012–14, he taught in a rural primary school. “It was probably within my first two months at site, when a PTA parent asked if I would be willing to tutor her son in the evenings,” he said in accepting the award on behalf of the group. “ I agreed, and we planned to meet that very night. While waiting on my front porch for my new student to arrive, I was quietly listening to the evening sounds of my village: the pigs and chickens running across my yard, my neighbors preparing the cooking fires, and so on. Just out of eyesight, I heard a commotion. People were yelling in Tongan, ‘Sione, alu ki fe?’  (John where are you going?) Apparently, he answered — because parents began running out of their houses to yell-ask if Maikolo would also teach their kids.”

     

     “Just out of eyesight, I heard a commotion. People were yelling in Tongan, ‘Sione, alu ki fe?’  (John where are you going?)”

     

    It’s a story he tells to underscore how important education is in the community where he served. “Before my eyes, my one student multiplied into a crowd of high school kids from around the village, all bearing plates of food, watermelons, or loaves of bread to give to the palangi who was going to teach their kids English,” he said. “Naturally, I was both amused and shocked at how quickly a one-on-one tutoring session evolved into Maikolo’s Po’ ako (night class).”

    And, Hassett says, as returned Volunteers Friends of Tonga are inspired by that spirit of the village coming together. “To be successful in Tonga, we had to adopt this sharing paradigm,” he said. “It seeped into who we are and it changed us.”

     

     Learn about Friends of Tonga

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    Community news highlighting achievements of RPCVs. see more

    Achievements of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Across the country — and around the world

    By Peter Deekle (Iran 1968–1970)




    Angell Kim (far right) served in the northern coast of Colombia as a Peace Corps Volunteer in education and community development from 2016- 2018. Picture courtesy of Peace Corps. 


    BULGARIA

    Jerramy Dear-Ruel is a candidate for Montana’s House District 6 in 2020. He is a former Peace Corps Volunteer, detention officer, anf law enforcement park ranger. Jeremy is also the founding executive director of Sparrow’s Nest of Northwest Montana, a nonprofit dedicated to helping homeless high school students.

     

     

    COLOMBIA

    Angell Kim (2016-2018) was selected as a 2020 Donald M. Payne International Development Fellow and upon receiving her master's degree, she will serve as a U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID) Foreign Service Officer with a commitment of five years.

     
     

    CZECH REPUBLIC

    Maria Patrizio is a candidate for the Orange County (NY) Family Court judge position in 2020. She has twenty years of service exclusively with the Legal Aid Society of Orange County and is now a supervising attorney. She was a teacher during her Peace Corps service.

     

     

    ECUADOR

    Trent Blare (2005-2008) has become the newest researcher and assistant professor at Tropical Research and Education Center (TREC) of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).  In his new role at TREC he will facilitate policy development at the local and state level to promote agriculture sustainability that can also preserve natural resources.

      

    Juan David Ospina (2010-2012), a public health advocate and Army Combat Medic veteran, is running for state representative for Connecticut’s 145th district, representing Stamford.

     

     

     

    GUATEMALA

    Madelynn Hirneise (2011-2012) is the CEO of Families Forward. The nonprofit, formed in 1984, helps at-risk and homeless families to regain economic independence and find a stable home for their children, among other services.


     

    KENYA

    Dan Weinberg (1968-1970), a former Montana State Senator, donated a personal collection of art books to the Montana Museum of Art and Culture at the University of Montana in 2018. The museum hosted a new exhibition of his art books in September 2020, lasting into December 2020. The art books were published by the New York-based Vincent FitzGerald & Co., honoring the lifelong work of his friend Vincent FitzGerald, a fellow RPCV.

      

    MALAWI

    Jack Allison (1967-1970) was honored with The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest award the Governor of North Carolina can bestow on a civilian. He has recently published a memoir (January 2019) entitled The Warm Heart of Africa, documenting his Peace Corps experience as a health clinic Volunteer and unexpected pop star in the country. During his service he wrote a jingle encouraging the use of peanut butter in children's diets for protein. The tune became the number one hit song on Malawi's single radio station for three years.

     

    MEXICO

    Merle Parise (2007-2009), a Newcastle (ME) farmer and forestry consultant, is the Republican candidate for Maine House District 90 in 2020.

     

     

    MONGOLIA

    Anne Tulkin (2003-2005) is the founder and director of Accessible College, providing support for students with physical disabilities and health conditions and their families to ensure a successful transition to and through higher education. In September 2020 Accessible College and The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation have announced their new partnership.

     

    MOROCCO 

    Mark Apel (1982-1986) pictured second from left, has been volunteering in his original Peace Corps assigned country of service. He returned to Morocco in 2017 and 2018 as a Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer with the High Atlas Foundation, which he continues in 2020 virtually.

     
     

    TURKMENISTAN

    Peter Rengstorf (2010-2012) became the Senior Customer Success Agent at Meister (Seattle) in August 2020. Prior to his current appointment, he was Customer Success Manager at Raken Inc.

     

      


    Please share your news with us! Email Peter Deekle.

  • Ana Victoria Cruz posted an article
    Community news highlighting achievements of RPCVs. see more

    Achievements of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Across the country — and around the world

    By Peter Deekle (Iran 1968–1970)

     

    BURKINA FASO

    Tyler E. Lloyd (20122014) is an environmental protection specialist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and author of a memoir, Service Disrupted: My Peace Corps Story (August 2017). Tyler hosts My Peace Corps Story podcast, aiming to tell some of the many diverse and rich stories of Peace Corps Volunteers in their own words. The podcast is temporarily suspended, to be resumed later in 2020.

     

    Yoruba Mitchell is a community health educator with Doctors without Borders, teaching people how to prevent malaria, cholera,  Zika, and Ebola. Since early 2020, she has been addressing community readiness in the face of COVID-19.

     

     

    CAMBODIA

    Darlene Grant (20092011; Mongolia 20122015; Kosovo 20152019) was appointed in August 2020 as the Senior Advisor to the Director of the Peace Corps. She will work to increase and champion a diverse staff and Volunteer corps, aiming at increased inclusiveness, removing barriers for underrepresented groups, and creating a more just and equitable Peace Corps. During her career in higher education administration, she was named 2006 Social Worker of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

     

    CAMEROON

    Kristen Walker (20132015) is a biologist at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the Agriculture Research Service (ARS), where she investigates the genomics of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) and works to create a toolkit of immune reagents for swine. 

     

     

    CHILE

    John Tapogna (19951997) is President of ECONorthwest, a consulting firm based in the Pacific Northwest specializing in economics, finance, and planning. Since his arrival in 1997, he has built consulting practices in education, healthcare, human service, and tax policy.

     

     

    CONGO

    James Ross (19751977) published Hunting Teddy Roosevelt (Regal House Press) in July 2020, a fictional account of Roosevelt’s 1909 African safari. Ross’s short fiction has appeared in various print and online publications including The South Dakota Review, Santa Clara Review, Whiskey Island Magazine, Phantasmagoria, The Distiller, Lost River Lit Mag, and Embark.

     
     

    THE GAMBIA

    Ashley Garrison has received the 2020 Young Forester Leadership Award from the Colorado-Wyoming Society of American Foresters. The award recognizes outstanding leadership by a young forestry professional. She is pursuing a Master of Natural Resource Stewardship degree from Colorado State University.

     

     

    GUATEMALA

    Imani Lucas (20012003) has been appointed regional program manager for Region One at the California Complete Count – Census 2020. Lucas has been director of the Safe Neighborhoods Health Education Council since 2015.

     

     

    HONDURAS

    Amy Pressman (19871989) was appointed to the OpenGov board in August, 2020. Amy is the co-founder of Medallia, which makes software for businesses to measure and improve the customer experience in real time.

     
     


    KENYA

    Nancy Stearns Bercaw (19881989) is the new Senior Director of Communications and Marketing at Johnston Community College’s in North Carolina. She has written for publications around the world including The New York Times, Huffington Post, Korea Herald, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, CBS 48 HOURS, MariaShriver.com, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a 17-time All-American swimmer, National Champion, and Olympic Trials qualifier.  
     


    KYRGYZSTAN

    Scott Frederick (20032005) has been elected as one of 15 new shareholders for the law firm of Baker Donelson. He recently worked in Washington, D.C. for USAID.

     

     

    MALI

    Paul Dragon has been appointed to the Vermont Adult Learning Board of Trustees. Over the past 15 years, he has worked at the Agency of Human Services, including as the Deputy Secretary for the Agency, the Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, and most recently as the Director for Field Services.

     

     

    MOROCCO

    Stacey Ann Ferguson (20052007) has been selected as the new administrative and business services officer at Cape Cod National Seashore. Since 2018, she served the National Park Service as business manager for the deputy director for management and administration in Washington, D.C. She was a staff member at the Peace Corps in Washington for more than eight years.

     
     

    PARAGUAY

    Chris Heppe has been appointed Bureau of Land Management (BLM) central California district manager. He most recently served as the assistant field manager for the BLM Arcata Field Office, overseeing a variety of natural and cultural resource programs.    

     
     

    Besem Obenson (19921993) has been recognized as one of three “Hometown Heroes” by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) as part of its annual World Humanitarian Day (August 2020). She heads the UNHCR office in Medellin, Colombia, where she helps Venezuelan refugees. 

     
     


    PERU

    Greg Emerson (Morocco 2003; Peru 20032006) has been appointed Senior Director of Product at The Atlantic following several editorial positions. He oversees the end-to-end story experience for the magazine. He was transferred to Peru within months of Peace Corps service in Morocco following the U.S. invasion of Iraq.   

     

     

    RUSSIA

    Jonathan Slaght (19992002) has published Owls of the Eastern Ice (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux), a memoir of his work with Blakiston’s fish owls in Russia’s far east. He is the Russia and Northeast Asia Coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Society, working for both the Asia and the Arctic Beringia Regional Programs. He earned a Ph.D. in Wildlife Conservation from the University of Minnesota in 2011, and this year received an Early Career Alumni Award from the University.   

     

     

    SLOVAK REPUBLIC

    Kim Warren (19941995) was appointed as the new Associate Dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion at The School of Social Welfare at The University of Kansas in July 2020. Kim is a specialist in U.S. women’s history, has held the positions of director of undergraduate studies and director of graduate studies in two departments, and has been a faculty fellow in the Center for Teaching Excellence.  

     
     

    TANZANIA

    Donald Wright became the 19th U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania in April 2020. Prior to being named Ambassador, he served as the acting Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. He also directed the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the Office of Research Integrity, and the Office of Occupational Medicine. In addition, he served as the Executive Director of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition. 

     

     

    THAILAND

    Alan Abramowitz (19901992) has been reappointed as executive director of the Florida Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office for another three-year term. The Guardian ad Litem Program represents abused, abandoned, and neglected children in Florida’s dependency system. Abramowitz has been the program’s executive director since 2010. 

     

     

    UZBEKISTAN

    Jessica Jackson Shortall (20002001) is a founding board member of The 19th, a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom by and for women that launched in August 2020, reporting on gender, politics, and policy issues.

     
     


    Please share your news with us! Email Peter Deekle.

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    Community news highlighting achievements of RPCVs. see more

    Achievements of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Across the country — and around the world

    By Peter Deekle (Iran 1968-1970)
     

    RETURNED PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS (RPCV) MADISON 

    The Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Madison, Wisconsin, is the recipient of the Global Citizen Award from the United Nations Association of America, recognizing its annual production of an international events calendar, ongoing community programs (such as Freeze for Food walk), and a long history of service reflecting the United Nation’s mission, values, and goals.

     

    DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

    Alexander Battaglia (2018–20) has received a Fulbright award for the 2020–21 academic year from the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. His Peace Corps Spanish literacy service was interrupted due to COVID-19. Due to the pandemic, his award to teach English in a Madrid high school is expected to begin in January 2021.

     

    FIJI

    Courtney Finkbeiner (2017–19) is the Student Engagement Coordinator for SolarSPELL, a solar-powered backpack library that empowers learners globally by providing localized educational information and the training to build 21st-century skills in offline environments. She used the backpacks in her community in Fiji and is now working with about a dozen returned volunteers in Help from Home.

     

    GUATEMALA

    Samra Brouk (2009–11) led health equity initiatives as a Peace Corps Volunteer and is a nonprofit leader. She is also a 2020 candidate for the New York State Senate, 55th District.

     

     

    Nora Wynne (1997–99), a Spanish teacher and instructional coach at California’s McKinleyville Middle School, has been named the 2020 Humboldt County Teacher of the Year.

     

     

    JORDAN

    Marty Feess (Jordan 2005–07, Albania 2013–15) has received his third award for his 2019 book, American Heroes. This book has won the Arizona Authors Association 2019 first place for non-fiction books; Story Monster 2019 Certificate of Excellence for educational reference works; and Skipping Stones Magazine 2020 Honor Award for multicultural children’s books.

     

    REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA

    Kim Dixon (2014–18) has accepted a temporary position with the National Peace Corps Association, leading its community development campaign and cultivating greater diversity and inclusion of RPCVs. Kim has over two decades of experience in sales, marketing, project management, and consulting capacities with IBM and other professional engagement.

     

    MALAWI

    Brendan Manning (2006–08) became Laguna Beach, California’s Emergency Operations Coordinator this July. He last served as a disaster management advisor with the U.S. Forest Service embedded with the National Disaster Risk Management Commission in Ethiopia.

     

     

    SENEGAL

    Rajiv Joseph (1996–98) is the playwright of Letters of Suresh, which is anticipated to have its world premiere at New York Second Stage’s off-Broadway Tony Kiser Theater in the Spring of 2021.   

     

     

    Nick Roll (2018–20) served as a health extension agent until COVID-19 ended his Peace Corps service. He is currently a Case Investigator employed by the Cincinnati Partners in Health in coronavirus contact tracing.

     

     

    TANZANIA

    Peter Reid (1964–66) has published Every Hill a Burial Place (September 2020, University of Kentucky Press), an account of the trial concerning the death of PCV Peggy Kinsey in 1966.

     


    THAILAND

    Quilen Blackwell (2007–09) leads the Chicago Eco House, an inner city sustainability social enterprise with the mission of reducing poverty. The Chicago Eco House has sites in three Chicago neighborhoods as they operate their flower farm and 3D printing social enterprises for at-risk youth.

     

     

    TOGO

    Dario Borghesan (2002–04) has been appointed as a new justice to the Alaska Supreme Court, announced in July 2020. He previously worked as the chief assistant attorney general for the Alaska Department of Law in Anchorage and supervised the department’s civil appeals section. Borghesan graduated from Michigan Law School in 2008 and clerked in Fairbanks for Justice Daniel Winfree.

     

    TONGA

    Kaitlyn Fontaine (2017–19) is heading up an effort to put books in the hands of Hollister, California’s youth to help bridge the gap created by distance learning and issues of limited access due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In just over a month, Fontaine has collected and distributed nearly 3,500 books to K–8 students.


     

    ZAMBIA

    Chloe Blaisdell (2019–20), following her pandemic-related evacuation from Zambia, is now the farm assistant at Matthew 25, a non-profit farm serving those in need in Central New York. Matthew 25 includes some multicultural farmers who cultivate assigned plots at the farm.

     

     


    Please share your news with us! Email Peter Deekle.

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Food for thought — and life — in a time of crisis see more

    Food for thought — and for life — in a time of crisis

    By NPCA Staff
    Photo: Ackeem Evans, left, with a volunteer for World Central Kitchen. Courtesy Ackeem Evans. 

     

    Here are two stories that inspired us in the past two days: Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who have carried their sense of community and commitment to the critical work they’re doing at a time of a global pandemic, and when people across the United States and around the world have taken to the streets to protest racial injustice.

     

     

     

    Ackeem Evans was serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Albania when an earthquake struck, killing scores and injuring thousands. In the aftermath, he worked with World Central Kitchen (WCK) to provide meals to those affected by the earthquake. When he was evacuated in March, he connected with WCK in his home town of Atlanta. He’s now leading operations for WCK in Georgia, ensuring tens of thousands of free meals get to the needy and underserved.
     

    Thanks to Henri Hollis with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for this story.

     




    Jocelyn Jackson served as a natural resources Volunteer in Mali 2005-06. “To spend two years in a small village, with less than 500 people, in the Sahel area was all the sadness and it was all the beauty, it was all the joy and it was all the sorrow,” she writes. “And being able to hold those things simultaneously was one of the biggest gifts of that experience.”

    She has written an essay for Eater of her remarkable journey to this point in time. One moment: Her parents’ families came from the South. “In my mom’s case, it was a three o’clock in the morning train escaping Mississippi in order to survive, in the face of family members and friends of the family being lynched.”

    She also earned an M.S. in environmental education and cofounded People’s Kitchen Collective in Oakland, California to serve the community. And that’s what makes her story so powerful now. Amid the pandemic and protests against racial injustice she asks:
     

    “It is so heartbreaking that in a moment of pandemic, so much racialized violence is happening that we will die in order to prevent our deaths. We will die in order to prevent our deaths. And I don’t know if that has sunk in for the broader community yet. But that is the difficult non-choice at this moment. If not now, when? Our black and brown community is risking their lives.”

  • Ana Victoria Cruz posted an article
    An ideas summit to ask some big questions about the Peace Corps community in a changed world. see more

    We’re convening for an ideas summit to ask some big questions about the Peace Corps community in a changed world. 


    In the next few weeks, we’re also bringing together members of the Peace Corps community around issues of racial injustice and climate change — to help shape our agenda for the future.

    In March 2020, Peace Corps Volunteers were evacuated globally because of a global pandemic still taking its toll. That created an unprecedented and enormous challenge on its own.

    We want to help reignite the work of Peace Corps around the world. So how do we do that, and make sure that Peace Corps — and our community — is the best that it can be?

    Join us to help answer these questions — and take action.

     

    Learn More & Register

  • Amanda Silva posted an article
    Becoming a mission partner is more than a financial contribution, it's a continuation of service. see more

    By Maricarmen Smith-Martinez (Costa Rica 2006-2008)  

    As Peace Corps Volunteers, our desire to impact our communities and effect positive change drives us to invest our time, our skills, and our passion. Providing guidance as a community leader, as a mentor, and as a friend, I impacted my community in Costa Rica in many ways. Back at home, the investment continues as the community grows. You can “close the service” of a Volunteer, but you can never take away our passion to serve.

    As a Mission Partner of the NPCA, I know that my contributions support our larger Peace Corps community and allow us to increase our impact both at home and abroad. As a Shriver Circle member, I contribute my financial support, providing NPCA with the flexibility to employ it where it’s needed most. As an advocate, I share my Volunteer experience, encouraging Congress to build a bigger, better Peace Corps.

    As the Coordinator of the Affiliate Group Network (AGN) on the NPCA Board, I partner with staff to enable our affiliate groups to thrive. Working with AGN leaders at the grassroots level, we identified necessary resources and developed a platform to provide better methods for groups to engage and connect. Our nearly 160 affiliate groups are always looking for tools to engage their membership, expand their reach, and increase their impact. As a result, we launched the Purpose-driven Group webinar series, enabling groups to build their capacity through best-practices on topics such as legal considerations or how to host a Story Slam. The webinar series also provides the opportunity to learn about NPCA benefits like SilkStart, the Community Builder platform that offers comprehensive technology for website and membership database management.

    As a proud member of the Peace Corps community, I make an impact by continuing to serve.

    Make your impact. Become a Mission Partner of the NPCA.

  • Ana Victoria Cruz posted an article
    Community news highlighting achievements of RPCVs see more

    Community News - Achievements of RPCVs

    Author: Peter Deekle
    February 2020

     

    AFGHANISTAN

    Tony Agnello is preparing a presentation in 2020 for a sermon at a local Unitarian Church entitled Afghanistan - Where Empires Go To Die. The sermon will address the fate of Iran and Khorasan which have been linked throughout history.

     
     

    CHILE

    Jesse Dubin (1964-1966) reported in 2020 that a Peace Corps Volunteer Scholarship Award at SUNY College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry, Syracuse, NY has been funded by RPCV graduates of the College. It is presented annually. Interested parties may contact S. Scott Shannon, Dean of the Graduate School at sshannon@esf.edu.

     

    DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

    Lisa Peña (2003-2006) is Manager for the Hispanic Initiative for the Girl Scouts of Northeast Kansas and Northwest Missouri, and founder of Urban Hikes (Kansas City).

     


     

    MOROCCO

    Liz Fanning (1993-1995) is the founder and executive director of CorpsAfrica, modeled on Peace Corps and AmeriCorps programs. Started in 2011, the organization recruits individuals from African countries to work and live in high-poverty communities within their own country for one year, creating small-scale, high-impact projects that address barriers for economic growth and prosperity.


     

    PHILIPPINES

    Kristina Engstrom (1962-1964) is the author of the memoir I Had Servants Once: Peace Corps Volunteer Tell All, published in October 2019 by Levellers Press. The book recounts the author’s experiences at educational improvement and disease prevention in various countries.

     

    RWANDA

    Mary Rose Rutikanga (2009-2011) served for the past five years as Senior Administrative Analyst in Calaveras County, CA. She was appointed Sonora City Administrator in February 2020. Her Peace Corps tenure included health services and community development.


     
     

    SIERRA LEONE

    Mary Onken (1964-1966) has been selected to referee the upcoming Olympic trials for track and field.

     

     


    UKRAINE

    Steven Boyd Saum (1994-1996) was appointed editor of NPCA’s WorldView magazine. He will lead the editorial focus, solicit content from the Peace Corps community, write feature articles, incorporate advertising, and supervise the art director in developing and producing WorldView

     


    Please share your news with us! Email Peter Deekle.

  • Ana Victoria Cruz posted an article
    We want to hear from you! see more

    What global issues do you care most about? What global issues do you think the Peace Corps Community nationwide is in the best position to address and affect real change? 

    These are among the critical questions we are asking in a short survey that represents proactive leadership by National Peace Corps Association. The results will likely shape our future efforts in helping our members pursue the Third Goal of the Peace Corps. Your input will help us identify the global issues our community cares about most and the actions we might take together to address them. By completing the survey, you also will be eligible to win a FREE conference registration, plus coverage of lodging and domestic travel costs to attend the Peace Corps Connect conference in Seattle on July 16-18, 2020. You don’t have to be an NPCA member to take part in the survey.

     

    Complete the Survey