Returned Peace Corps Volunteer

  • Ana Victoria Cruz posted an article
    The founder of Long Way Home, helping the people of Comalapa, Guatemala see more

    For nearly two decades he has partnered with Guatemalans to address injustices against indigenous peoples.

    By NPCA Staff

    Photo of Matthew Paneitz courtesy Long Way Home

     

    National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) is pleased to announce the winner of the 2020 Sargent Shriver Award for Distinguished Humanitarian Service: Matthew Paneitz.

    The Shriver Award is presented annually by NPCA to Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who continue to make a sustained and distinguished contribution to humanitarian causes at home or abroad, or who are innovative social entrepreneurs who bring about significant long-term change. The award is named in honor of the first Peace Corps Director, Sargent Shriver, who founded and developed Peace Corps.

    For 18 years, Matthew “Mateo” Paneitz has devoted his life to the redress of ethnic violence and systemic oppression perpetrated against the indigenous peoples of Guatemala. He has been doing this while living and working in San Juan Comalapa, a town of 40,000 primarily indigenous Kaqchikel Maya, located in Guatemala’s Western highlands.

     

    In Comalapa, Paneitz was exposed first-hand to the brutal aftermath of the Guatemalan Civil War, a colonialism-driven conflict that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives — primarily indigenous people.

     

    The Peace Corps brought Paneitz to Guatemala in 2002 and shifted his trajectory away from a middle-income career in the U.S. life to a life of unwavering dedication to equitable development in Comalapa and Guatemala. In Comalapa, Paneitz was exposed first-hand to the brutal aftermath of the Guatemalan Civil War, a colonialism-driven conflict that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives — primarily indigenous people.

    Throughout Guatemala, extreme environmental challenges and inequality, as well as high rates of unemployment and illiteracy, currently stymie equitable and sustainable development. To address these issues and to provide better living conditions for Comalapans, Mateo founded Long Way Home, a 501(c)3 non-profit, in 2005. Led by Mateo, Long Way Home utilizes green building, employment, and education to mobilize people to actively participate in democracy and create innovative pathways to economic and environmental justice. 

     

    Green building as a pathway to learning

    In 2009, LWH began the construction of Centro Educativo Técnico Chixot (CETC), a grade school and vocational school that uses green building as a pathway for teaching principles of environmental stewardship and active democratic participation. The school itself serves as a model for the effectiveness of green building and is constructed using 500 tons of repurposed waste and over 15,000 used tires. School walls are built from eco-bricks (plastic bottles stuffed with unrecyclable soft plastics) and car tires rammed with trash and earth. Skylights are made from recycled glass bottles. And roof shingles are made from aluminum cans and liter-sized soda bottles. 

     

     

    In the CETC classrooms, students are taught to assess and address local opportunities and challenges through a nationally accredited, project-based curriculum. As part of their learning, students conduct surveys to identify key development issues in surrounding communities: poor smoke ventilation, access to clean water and sanitation, and earthquake-resilient infrastructure. Using these results as a guide, students work with teachers to build stoves, water tanks, latrines, and retaining walls for families identified in the survey. To reflect the work of their students, Paneitz gave this curriculum the apt name “Hero School.” Since the implementation of the curriculum in Grades 7 through 11 in 2017, students have constructed 39 smoke-efficient stoves, 25 water tanks, four compost latrines, and two tire retaining walls. Students at CETC are forming a new generation of entrepreneurs uniquely equipped to lead their communities with innovative solutions to complex local and global challenges. 

     

    Since the implementation of the curriculum in Grades 7 through 11 in 2017, students have constructed 39 smoke-efficient stoves, 25 water tanks, four compost latrines, and two tire retaining walls.

     

    In 2021, CETC will refine and expand this curriculum to all grade levels, K–11, and begin to build the infrastructure to deliver the Hero School model at partner schools in Livingston, Guatemala and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Through Long Way Home’s international volunteer program, volunteers also receive an immersive education focused on cultivating real democratic participation skills — assessing local challenges and opportunities, partnering across disciplines and context, assembling resources, and implementing a plan for development that uplifts all.

    On a global scale, Long Way Home has engaged more than 2,000 volunteers through its constantly evolving volunteer program. Collaborations with established volunteer organizations such as Engineers Without Borders have secured access to clean water for more than 1,000 families across Guatemala.

    To ensure the global impact of the principles at work in Comalapa, Paneitz collaborated with green building experts to publish A Guide to Green Building. He also developed a hands-on, month-long companion course, The Green Building Academy, to teach students from around the world how to directly apply green building principles in the real world. Deepening his contributions to the green building sector, Paneitz has contributed to humanitarian green construction projects in Colombia, Venezuela, South Africa, Sierra Leone, and the United States.  

     

     


    Nominations for the Sargent Shriver Award for Distinguished Humanitarian Service are accepted year-round. To nominate an individual, please download the Shriver Award nomination packet, and submit all nomination materials to vp@peacecorpsconnect.org

  • Ana Victoria Cruz posted an article
    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,” Gary 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, Gary 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 discipine 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 togther. “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

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    We mourn the recent loss of members of our community. see more

    We honor members of the Peace Corps community whom we have recently lost.

     

    Whether in local office, the judiciary, the military, or through civic engagement, members of the Peace Corps community are committed to — in the words of founder Sargent Shriver — “Serve, Serve, Serve!” We recognize and honor the contributions of many of these public servants whom we lost in the recent past.

     

    John Early (1946 – 2020) was a member of the 70th group of Peace Corps Volunteers to serve in India, joining in 1968 after his graduation from Cornell University, and serving until 1972, beyond the standard two years. His family ties to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts would bring him there following service. And, like his longer than average Peace Corps service, Early’s commitment to community and service went far beyond the norm. Living in the town of West Tisbury, Early served on the West Tisbury Board of Selectmen for 30 years. He was a member of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission for 20 years, a volunteer firefighter for 40 years, and president of Island Elderly Housing for 14 years. Not surprisingly, he was honored in 2014, receiving the “Spirit of the Vineyard” award.

     

    Judge Geoffrey "Geoff" P. Morris (1942 – 2020) was born in Yorkshire, England during World War II. His family immigrated to Toronto around 1950. His family moved to Louisville, Kentucky four years later. Geoff attended the University of Louisville (UL), and joined the Peace Corps in 1965 upon graduation. He volunteered as a secondary English and social studies teacher, and coached several sports. Geoff returned home to UL, earning a law degree in 1970. He became a chief trial attorney for the public defenders office and would later join the Commonwealth Attorney’s office as Division Chief. He returned to private practice and became president of the Louisville Bar Association in 1981. Ten years later, he was elected to the circuit court, presiding over trials for 20 years. His many honors and awards included being named Judge of the Year by the Louisville Bar Association in 2009, the Judge Charles Allen Advocate of Fair Criminal Justice Award, and the Bnai Brith Award for organizing students to march on the state capitol of Frankfort with Martin Luther King Jr.

     

    He organized students to march on the state capitol with Martin Luther King Jr. 

     

    Paula Gibson Krimsky (1943 – 2020) graduated with a degree in history from Smith College in 1965. She then joined the Peace Corps, conducting community development work in Chile. Paula worked in the Latin America division of Citibank in New York and at a local bank in Los Angeles. In the mid-1970s Paula joined her husband, George, overseas when he began his work as an international correspondent for the Associated Press. This journey took them first to Soviet Russia (where they were expelled by the Soviet government) and Nicosia, Cyprus during the Lebanese Civil War. They returned to the United States, residing in Rowayton, Connecticut, and eventually Leesburg, Virginia. Paula left her mark in her communities of residence: She helped launch an annual “Trash Bash” in Rowayton, an event that continues four decades later. At the nearby Frederick Gunn School she served as an archivist and educator and launched a Gunn Scholar program to engage students in independent study, using a wealth of primary archival materials found in the school’s basement. In 2017, the school established a new facility called the Paula and George Krimsky Archives. In Leesburg, she helped bring together seven churches of different denominations to create an Easter Passion Play.

     

    Jose Andres “Andy” Chacon (1925 – 2020) served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, surviving the sinking of the USS Ommaney Bay by the Japanese. He returned to service following the war, graduating from West Point in 1951. As an Air Force flying officer during the Korean War, Andy was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, two air medals, and six other awards and decorations. Following the Korean War, he moved to New Mexico, working for 12 years at Sandia Labs. During this period he served as chairman of the Public Welfare Board. He earned a master of arts from the University of New Mexico, and in 1964 took a leave of absence from Sandia to accept a position with the Peace Corps, serving as associate director of the Peru program. Following service, Andy held White House positions in the Johnson and Nixon administrations, including a period as executive director of the President’s Committee on Mexican American Affairs. Andy then went on to work for Atomic Energy Commission and at USAID, where he served as science and technology advisor for all of Central America. He returned to the U.S. in 1981, where he taught management and economics at the undergraduate and graduate levels in New Mexico, Maryland, and Ohio, as well as in Iceland and Bermuda.

     

    Michael Zimmerman (1942 – 2020) imbued in Jewish tradition, engaged in the practice of Tikkun Olam – Healing the World. Joining the Peace Corps and serving in the Philippines was a notable component of that practice. Mike went on to marry and have a daughter; later divorced and came out as gay, while maintaining a loving and engaged relationship as a father and (eventually) as a grandfather. He was a longtime member and officer of the LGBTQ-focused Congregation Sha'ar Zahav. He wrote a play about gay sons of Jewish mothers, and he was thrilled when his grandson Jared had his bar mitzvah. Although trained as a lawyer, he spent most of his professional life as a development director, grant writer, fundraiser, legal consultant, and administrator for numerous cultural, human rights, and environmental protection organizations, including Volunteers in Parole, Friends of the Urban Forest, the Homeless Action Coalition, the Community Music Center and Lamplighters.

     

    He received a Rockefeller Foundation grant to find the students he taught while in the Peace Corps and write about them. That experience resulted in a 1982 article in The New York Times magazine and an essay in his book “Going Up Country.”

     

    Leonard Levitt (1941 – 2020) was born in the Bronx and raised in Long Island. He joined the Peace Corps in Tanzania following his graduation from Dartmouth College. Upon his return he attended and graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Leonard worked for the Associated Press, the Detroit News, and Time Magazine before returning to his hometown to continue his career in journalism over the next five decades. He joined the staff of Newsday and then was hired by the New York Post. Around 1980, he received a Rockefeller Foundation grant to find the students he taught while in the Peace Corps and write about them. That experience resulted in a 1982 article in The New York Times magazine and an essay in his book “Going Up Country.” Leonard is best known for his many years as a police reporter in the greater New York region. His investigative work in southeastern Connecticut contributed to the re-investigation of the murder of Martha Moxley, which led to the conviction and eventual overturning of the verdict against Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel. He wrote several books including “NYPD Confidential: Power and Corruption in the Country’s Greatest Police Force.” Leonard worked at Newsday until the paper closed in 1995. He resumed his regular writing on police issues with his NYPD Confidential blog.

     

     

    Below is our In Memoriam list for members of the Peace Corps community who recently passed away:

     

    PEACE CORPS STAFF

    Brian Howard Kern, 8/28/20

     

    MULTIPLE COUNTRIES

    Gordon Bremer (Peru 1967-69; El Salvador staff 1970-73), 8/24/20

    John “Jack“ Milon (Malawi; Marshall Islands), 9/3/20

    John Paulas (Morocco 1969-71; Mauritania 1989), 8/21/20

     

    BOLIVIA

    Joyce Moore (1966-68), 8/21/20

     

    BRAZIL

    Kenneth S. Bridgeman, 8/22/20

    Jane R. French Mead (1967-69), 8/23/20

     

    CAMEROON

    Emma Schnurle (2003-05), 8/18/20

    Reuben Serna (mid 1960s), 8/16/20

     

    CHILE

    Paula Krimsky (1965-67), 8/30/20

     

    COLOMBIA

    Elizabeth Novinger, 8/7/20

     

    COSTA RICA

    Karen Marter (1962-64), posted 8/10/20

     

    CZECH REPUBLIC

    Emil Eugene "Gene" Jemail (1996-98), 8/17/20

     

    DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

    Kenneth S. Johnson, 8/27/20

    Gunton “Geer” Wilcox (1963-65), 7/17/20

     

    ECUADOR

    John C. Cheney (1968-70), 9/10/20

     

    ESWATINI (Swaziland)

    James Flannan Browne, 8/11/20

     

    FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA

    Frank Burkett (1986-87), 8/14/20

    Michael Wolf (1975-77), 9/4/20

     

    INDIA

    John Early (1968-72), 9/11/20

     

    KENYA

    Andrea Rime (late 1980s), 8/25/20

     

    MALAYSIA

    Ron Erickson (1966-67), posted 9/1/20

    George E. Peverly, 9/9/20

     

    MALI

    Shawn J. Grady (1993-97), 9/8/20

     

    MOROCCO

    Kay Ostrom (1965-67), 8/18/20

     

    NEPAL

    Laxmi Ji (host country national staff), 9/3/20

    Rev. John D. Lane (1966-68), 8/30/20

     

    NIGERIA

    Margaret R. Blue (1963-65), 8/11/20

    H. John Matthews (late 1960s), 8/26/20

    Norris Wayne Owens, 9/2/20

    John Robert Weed, 9/12/20

     

    PERU

    Jose A. Chacon (staff Mid 1960s), 8/16/20

     

    PHILIPPINES

    Michael Zimmerman (1966-69), 7/20

     

    POLAND

    Stephen Ravosa (1989-91), 7/25/20

     

    SENEGAL

    Thomas Francis Shamrell, 3/12/20

     

    SIERRA LEONE

    Judge Geoffrey P. Morris (1965-67), 9/2/20

     

    SOUTH KOREA

    Charles St. Cyr (1967-69), 8/20/20

     

    TANZANIA

    Felix Karpain (late 1980's),  7/22/20

    Leonard Hugh Levitt (mid 1960's), 5/18/20

     

    THAILAND

    Nancy E. Olsen Ross (1962-64), 6/14/20

    John Tidner (1978-80), 8/31/20

     

    TONGA

    Charles Edgemon, 9/7/20

     

    TUNISIA

    Jerrold William Anderson, 8/18/20

     

    COUNTRY OF SERVICE NOT SPECIFIED

    Cara L. Joe (South America), 8/25/20

    William L. “Larry” Rich, 8/27/20

    Ronald Yasui (South America), 8/23/30.

     


     

    If you have information you would like to share for our monthly In Memoriam post, contact obituary@peacecorpsconnect.org.

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    We’ve got some learning and some work to do. see more

    We’ve got some learning and some work to do.



    That’s true for the Peace Corps community. For this nation. For this planet.

    We’re facing hard questions and grappling with systemic injustices that have been centuries in the making. We envision a vibrant and united community, here at home and around the world.

    What we do know: Working together as partners is essential. Rok Locksley is the Volunteer who took this photo in the Philippines. He supported Nibarie Nicolas in work developing sustainable projects for communities and protecting marine areas. They quickly learned to paddle together, learned new ways of seeing.

     

    Our work is just starting.

     Support Volunteers back in the States and their ongoing work around the globe.

    Give Now

  • 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.

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Equality and justice. Empathy and compassion. see more

    Equality and justice. Empathy and compassion.

     

    Teaching health or English, working in youth development or fisheries, nurturing enterprises or advising in agriculture.

    Building friendships to help the world understand our complex and troubled nation, bringing understanding of a wider world back home. 

    Navigating lives as individuals and parents, children and siblings, citizens and friends in a time of need.

     

     

    Colt Bradley calls North Carolina home now. He took this photo of the primary school in Missamana, Guinea, where he was serving as a Volunteer until he was evacuated in March. As tough as the journey sometimes is, beauty and wonder are part of it, too. So is community.

    Support work guided by Peace Corps values.Become a National Peace Corps Association Mission Partner.

    peacecorpsconnect.org/join

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Volunteers had projects and grants to fund them. They had to leave and the money was frozen. see more

    Volunteers had projects and grants to fund them. They had to leave and the money was frozen. But that’s not the end of the story.

    By Bethany Leech

     

    Photo: Katherine Patterson and students of Bumbuta Secondary School in Tanzania. Patterson started the Save the Rain project to provide clean water for the school community.

     

    When Peace Corps Volunteers were evacuated from around the world, we heard from thousands asking for advice and help. They were not only worried about their own well-being, but time and again they wanted to know: What about the communities they left? the work they were doing? the projects developed together — already approved for Peace Corps grants that would now be frozen?

    Our answer: the Community Fund. We set up an application process for Volunteers and reached out to the Peace Corps community for crowdfunding support. Regulations for the Peace Corps grant programs require a Volunteer to be in a community to oversee a project. As a nonprofit organization, National Peace Corps Association ramped up a more flexible solution. That especially makes sense when many Volunteers are in regular contact with their host communities. Thanks to your support, some projects are already fully funded. Some are seeking contributors. We get new applications from evacuated Volunteers each week—and we welcome more. peacecorpsconnect.org/give

     

    Vanuatu | Chelsea Bajek

    Home: Rochester, New York / Arlington, Virginia

    For close to two years I served as a Community Health and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Education (WASH) Volunteer. I lived and worked in a small rural community on Paama Island, where I was given the name Lumi. I helped facilitate water and sanitation projects and programs to improve awareness on health, nutrition, and hygiene. I had been accepted to extend my service for a third year to work with the Ministry of Health in the capital on public health initiatives. When we were evacuated, I left behind not only my belongings, my house, my work, but also my community and my family and friends. I left behind people I called Mama and Papa, auntie and uncle, brother and sister, and countless abus (grandparents).

    One of the projects I was working on was with the local women’s group, helping them to raise funds to purchase sewing machines and related materials to be used in skill-building workshops. We had an open Peace Corps Partnership Program grant, but we lost funding when Volunteers were evacuated. There are limited resources on this small remote island, and supporting the Paama Women’s Handicraft Center will help increase opportunities for women’s economic development and empowerment; the clothing and baskets they make will be sold to pay school fees and support families. Though I am back in the United States, I continue to work with the women’s group on this project, believing it can provide real change for these women. 

     

     

     

    Benin | Cristal Ouedraogo | FUNDED!

    Home: Montgomery County, Maryland

    In Benin, women and girls face more barriers to education than men and boys. As an education volunteer, I heard people in my community express a desire to bridge that gap. So we put together a plan for a literacy and research center to create a safe space for girls to pursue academic excellence and increase gender equity in school—and give them the tools needed to be independent, lifelong learners outside the classroom. The project will benefit some 500 secondary school students — boys as well as girls — and provide technology training for teachers and community members as well.

    The project was approved for a Peace Corps Partnership Program grant that was suspended when I was evacuated. But with support the Peace Corps community has given through NPCA, we’ll still help these students — and inspire boys and girls to thrive academically, socially, and creatively.

     

      Speak and Spell: Cristal Ouedraogo was working with these students in Benin when she had to evacuate. A grant from the Community Fund will ensure the project she started becomes reality. 
     

    Moldova | Alyssa Gurkas

    Home: Westfield, New Jersey

    To combat violence against women and empower the female population in Hînceşti, Moldova, I worked with colleagues at the Mihai Viteazul Middle School to develop a plan for a tech-equipped community room. It would also host seminars on domestic violence, financial literacy, and online safety. It will benefit teachers and parents and scores of students. The funds will be used to purchase a smartboard, a computer, speakers, printer, paper, markers, flip-chart, notebooks, and lunches for seminars.

    Originally this project was going to be funded through Peace Corps’ Small Project Assistance Program, but due to the COVID-19 evacuation the project was canceled before it even began. The school actually had installed internet and already purchased chairs and desks fulfilling their community contribution — 25 percent of the grant that was required — only to find out that the project was then canceled. That hit my colleagues hard.

    But when I let them know that the Community Fund might still make it possible, English teacher Aliona Goroholschi wrote me: “I felt happiness without edges … Anything is possible when you have people who care and support you.”

     

    Colombia | Elyse Magen | FUNDED!

    Home: San Francisco, California

    As a Peace Corps Volunteer I was working with a women’s group in Santa Marta who harvest cacao and make artisanal chocolate desserts. These women are all cacao farmers themselves and have had little economic opportunity. They have not had a formal education; at a young age, they were displaced due to violence in their region. But with the business they have started, Transformación, they will be building disposable income in a culture where women have little opportunity to work.

    The grant provided by the NPCA Community Fund will allow them to carve out a workspace that complies with health sanitation codes. It will allow them to purchase machinery to make an edible chocolate bar, which will expand their market and increase profits. This, in turn, will allow them to provide for their families and invest not only in themselves but also in their children. Transformación hopes that other women can get involved in their business and that it can symbolize a wave of social change.

     

     

    Tanzania | Katherine Patterson | FUNDED!

    Home: Washington, D.C.

    With the secondary school in my community of Bumbuta, I was working on a rainwater catchment system and handwashing stations to increase access to clean water. Right now, students must carry large buckets containing drinking and cleaning water to school every morning; the water that many bring comes from unsanitary sources. With a rainwater catchment system, the school community will gain access to clean water — and improve education on water, sanitation, and hygiene practices.

    The project was approved but funding was halted as a result of the COVID-19 evacuation. I was over the moon when I found out there’s another option for funding. My ward executive officer messaged: “We wanna thank you so much tusaidie ... we love you so much!”

    Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To leave the world a bit better ... to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—that is to have succeeded.” I’ll be able to keep a promise to myself to leave my village in a better place than when I arrived. More important, this will enable students to live healthier lives! 

     


     

    Colombia | Joshua Concannon

    Home: Kansas City, Missouri

    I was working on an effort to train dozens of women in clothing design and production by providing them with technical workshops and entrepreneurship classes from professionals. Their community is heavily reliant on agriculture for its source of jobs, so this project will diversify the economy — and provide jobs and sources of income for women. We worked together on a grant application and were approved through the Peace Corps Partnership Program. The women were overjoyed — and justifiably proud.

    One week later, all Volunteers were evacuated and Peace Corps rescinded the funds. But the opportunity with NPCA has revived my hope. Edilsa Mascote, the leader behind the project, was very emotional when I told her that there is still a chance we can get the funding. She started tearing up because she thought all hope was lost. She told me it was the perfect light they needed in their lives during this very dark time.

     

    Learn more about these and other projects supported by the Community Fund — and make a gift to help Volunteers complete them.


    Bethany Leech is International Programs Coordinator for NPCA. She served in 
Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) 2011–13.
     

    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.

    Thanks for reading. And here’s how you can support the work we’re doing to help evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    An early leader of the Peace Corps community has passed away. see more

    National Peace Corps Association and the Peace Corps community mourn the passing of Roger Landrum, who died early on Saturday, December 9, at his Washington, D.C. home following a brief illness.

    Roger was a central figure in the creation of what is now the National Peace Corps Association.  In his career in Washington, D.C. Landrum also became a leader in the national service movement, becoming the founding president of Youth Service America and the later Youth Service International.

    For several decades Roger worked closely with the Ford, Kellogg, and Mott foundations, and other philanthropies that supported non-government movement to offer voluntary community service in programs modeled after the Peace Corps. He worked closely with other champions of national service, including Senator Harris Wofford and Father Theodore Hesburgh.

    Roger was dedicated to the notion that all young people find their voice, take action, and make an impact on vital community issues. He helped lead efforts resulting in the passage of the National and Community Service Acts of 1990 and 1993. For this work, Roger was recognized by his alma mater – Albion College – with an Honorary Doctorate in Public Service. Before his death, he endowed a fellowship program for students at the college.

    Roger served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nigeria from 1961 to 1963 (Nigeria One) and became the subject of a popular documentary, “Give Me a Riddle,” that was filmed by a close friend and fellow Nigeria volunteer, David Schickele. 

    Seven years after the formation in Iowa of the National Peace Corps Association (originally known as the National Council of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers) Roger, as president of the RPCVs of Washington, D.C., played a lead role in the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Peace Corps. The 1986 gathering drew more than 5,000 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to the nation's capital. As Roger wrote in a blog post published on the Peace Corps Worldwide website, “The most enduring impact of the 25th anniversary conference was engaging the growing number of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers as an organized force supporting the three goals of the Peace Corps.”

    As NPCA affiliate groups continue to serve as a major force in our community, a quantum leap in development occurred in the immediate aftermath of the anniversary conference, where the number of affiliated groups of RPCVs surged from a handful to over 100.

    "Roger was a pivotal figure in the history of NPCA" says NPCA President & CEO Glenn Blumhorst. "He personified a lifelong commitment to Peace Corps ideals, and his legacy of leadership through service will long be remembered by the Peace Corps community." 

    Along with a longstanding commitment to service above self, Roger also excelled in the field of photography. During his Peace Corps service, he grew increasingly interested in photography, resulting in work and recognition in fine art photography. In 2008, Roger received the Prix de la Photographie Paris. He was a first-place winner in the 2008 International Photography Awards (IPA) and received further recognition for his work by the IPA in 2009.