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2008 | June | RPCVw Newsletter

2008 | June | RPCVw Newsletter

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Returned Peace Corps Volunteers - Washington / June 2009 Newsletter / More information about our organization can be found on http://rpcvw.org
Returned Peace Corps Volunteers - Washington / June 2009 Newsletter / More information about our organization can be found on http://rpcvw.org

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10/09/2009

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JUNE 2008

Celebrating RPCVw and Peace Corps Partnerships! RPCVw Peace Corps Partnership Reception Date: Thursday, June 26 from 6-9pm Location: TORO Mata The Art of Peru, 2410 18th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009 You are invited to a special celebration of Partnerships. As a Board, we decided that we wanted to incorporate the idea of a "Partnership Reception" to be about all kinds of RPCVw Partnerships: Our organization's support of a Peace Corps Project as well as a venue to gather with other groups in the area with which we can form partnerships. Corps to respond to the more than 20 countries that have requested programs for which there are insufficient funds. Come and learn more about this exciting advocacy initiative and learn how you can become involved. We extend a special invitation to all of the "Friends of" Groups in the area to come to this year's Partnership Reception. Come and introduce yourself to our members, taking this opportunity to informally discuss our mutual goals and events for the coming year. All of the donations that you can give at the Partnership Reception and through our website will go to support Sarah's project in Cape Verde. We hope that you will give generously. Please check out our website and list serve for more details we look forward to seeing you there! Best regards, Jim Gore, President Molly Mattessich, Vice-President

This year we are supporting a volunteer, Sarah Mendelsohn, who is helping her village in Cape Verde to build solar panels for a community center. More information about Sarah's project can be found on the RPCVw website. We are asking you to donate what you can to help with this great project. See below for a special message from Sarah.

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington Annual Picnic!
Where: The Capital Yacht Club : 1000 Water Street, SW Washington, D.C., 20024 When: Saturday, July 12, 2008 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Fellows will receive a half graduate assistantship which carries a yearly stipend of $6,350 and five credits of tuition remission per semester. All other credits will be charged in-state tuition rates. Fellows/USA participants will also be eligible for other merit-based assistantships. More information can be found at

http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resour ces.media.press.view&news_id=1345.
The Peace Corps Master s International program combines graduate school with Peace Corps service. Typically, students complete one year of graduate school and then serve 27 months in the Peace Corps, after which they return to the university to complete any remaining degree requirements. More than 50 universities currently partner with the program. Among these are six in the greater Washington DC area: American University, George Mason, George Washington, University of Maryland College Park, University of Maryland Baltimore County, and Johns Hopkins University. Virginia Tech is also a participating school. In many of these MI schools, RPCVs play an important role in attracting students to the school s program as well as in retaining their interest in the Peace Corps while they are taking courses prior to going overseas. If you are interested in being a part of this in any way, please contact Eric Goldman at 202-692-1896 or at egoldman@peacecorps.gov. Chris Gilson became the Regional Office Manager of Peace Corps Mid-Atlantic Regional Recruiting Office in April 2008, overseeing recruitment, management and outreach activities for Washington, DC, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware and North Carolina. He served as a Volunteer in Ecuador from 1984-1986, working on water and sanitation projects. Following that he attended graduate school and then worked for Catholic Relief Services for over 14 years. Chris warmly welcomes the support and collaboration of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, DC and invites RPCVs in the area to: 1) take advantage of the career development resources located in the Rosslyn office; and 2) to help support recruiting efforts in the region. Please contact him at 202-692-1040 for further details.

Please join us for this fun, family-friendly event at the DC waterfront. This will be the last opportunity to meet and vote for the candidates for next year's RPCV/W board. Don't miss out! Chef Kyle will once again be dazzling our palates with treats from the grill and our friends at Professionals for Non Profits will be picking up the drinks and offering their career services. Tickets are $15 for members of RPCV/W, $20 for nonmembers and $5 for kids under 10 years old. Tickets will be available for purchase on www.rpcvw.org in the next week. Hope to see you all there! Please contact specialevents@rpcvw.org with any questions.

Words From Returned Volunteer Services
A few things from Peace Corps and the Office of Domestic Programs with information of interest to RPCVs
The Peace Corps recently welcomed the University of Maryland, College Park as its newest Fellows/USA partner school. The campus joins more than 45 other institutions in offering the Fellows/USA option to returned Peace Corps Volunteers. College Park s program, housed in the Maryland School of Public Policy, will grant successful Fellows master s degrees in either public policy or publicmanagement. Volunteers who have satisfactorily completed their Peace Corps service will be eligible for the program which, besides class work towards the degree, will include work with high-needs populations in and around the College Park area. Work placements will be coordinated in concert with the Community Partners Program of the Engaged University.

Robert Michon Assistant Director Office of Domestic Programs Returned Volunteer Services and Peace Corps Week 202-692-1441

A Recap of the RPCVw Annual Cherry Blossom Potluck Picnic
By: Corey Taylor

RPCVw Cinco de Mayo Style
By: Lesley Pories

Although the actual number of attendees was lower than in previous years, RPCVW s Annual Cherry Blossom Potluck Picnic was formidable in terms of pure entertainment and interesting new friendships made. On the afternoon of Saturday March 29th, approximately 17 RPCVs arrived at the Jefferson Memorial and partook in cheeses, fruit salads, beverages and Safeway sandwiches that would have proven massive even for Dagwood Bumstead. The surrounding cherry blossoms enshrined each tree like droplets of pearls and rubies, while tourists clicked away with their cameras and recording devices to preserve the images of flora beyond their brief annual appearance. The wave of pedestrians made it somewhat difficult for us to find each other initially, but after a period of time we managed to rely on the instinctual tracking skills (cell phones) that permit folks of our legion to find each other in a public space of hundreds. Providing informal entertainment for our picnicking crew were members of the self-declared Lost Tribe of Israel, a religious commune of young men and women from Virginia, whose Earthy and gregarious nature harked back to a time when their beards and long hair would have linked hand and hand to 1960s peace and flower power. The Lost Tribe were a festive clan, expressing themselves through jam sessions of circular group dancing, banjo & guitar playing, and a healthy helping of bass drums. They were setting up their instruments next to our picnic blankets and kindly asked if they could perform next to us we informed them that it wouldn t be an issue. After several renditions of Hava Nagila, the members of the Lost Tribe shared their herbal tea with us the brew was made of flowers and plants well beyond the conventional Celestial Seasoning products found in the supermarket. Despite the strong aftertaste, a few of us had more than one cup. We, in turn, shared the customary delicacy of RPCVs store bought fruit salad. Afterwards, several of us traversed through the adoring blossoms groupies, snapping pictures of our own and still savoring the aftertaste of flowered tea and commune musicians.

Over 30 RPCVs and friends celebrated Cinco de Mayo in style with a cooking class led by RPCVw's favorite chef, Kyle Vermeulen. Margaritas and Mexican beer flowed as Kyle instructed the group on the art of preparing a number of tasty dishes, from a yummy goat cheese/crab/avocado dip, mango salsa to shrimp quesadillas, tortilla soup and a mango rice pudding.

"It was great," said Julia Strange (Uzbekistan 03-05). "I love getting the chance to cook new dishes, and I think I'll be able to do some of these at home. We should do this again." Cooking itself was a shared experience under Vermeulen's skillful guidance. Faced with a large group, relatively limited space and no prep time, the chef managed everything to everyone's complete satisfaction. Not a RPCV himself, Kyle still fits in well with a crowd that is used to making the most of any circumstance. "I like challenges," he explained. "They keep me on my toes." This probably explains why Vermeulen has catered the Annual Holiday Party and Annual Picnic for several years running, and still likes to work with us.

Not a soul left the class on an empty stomach, and some carried tupperware with leftover food back home. If we're lucky, this event will happen again next year.

5k Run for Julia
On Thursday April 24, 2008 over 200 people crossed the finish line at the Run for Julia 5K at Bluemont Park in Arlington, VA. The race honors Julia Campbell who was tragically killed on April 8, 2007, while serving in Peace Corps Philippines. Julia grew up in Fairfax, VA where she was an avid runner. The race is sponsored by the Northern Virginia Running Club (NOVA) and they hope to host it every April in her memory. NOVA reported that many family members and friends of Julia participated, including her parents, siblings, and many RPCVs. At the pre-race gathering and postrace picnic, photos of Julia's life and work were on display. Find out more about the foundation created in Julia's name at http://www.jcmf.org/ . Photos and mementos of Julia was tasked with raising money toward their fundraising goal of $1,000. Team RPCV/W met that goal and then some by handing over $2,218 to Greater DC Cares. Much of that success is thanks to Trish Calamari who single-handedly raised $1,153 by hitting up her friends, family, and co-workers for donations. Way to go, Trish! Other fundraising standouts included Sara Mayer, Leigh Ann Evanson, Amanda Putnam, and Aaron Sabino. Each year in the spring, Servathon mobilizes thousands of volunteers to complete more than 11,000 hours of service in one marathon day of service. Besides choosing worthy recipients of all that human muscle and good intentions, Servathon helps to raise awareness of the importance of volunteerism in Washington, DC. Thank you so much to all those RPCV/W members and donors who helped us to exceed our goal this year!

Not Your Typical Saturday Morning By: Amy Kunz On the morning of Saturday May 3, 2008 a team of 16 RPCV/W members rolled out of bed early to don old clothes and wield paint brushes in an effort to spruce up the cafeteria, restrooms, hallways, and even the principal's office of Sousa Middle School in SE Washington, DC as part of Greater DC Cares' annual Servathon event (http://www.servathon.org ). The team's efforts actually began several weeks before that day. Each team member

BE ON THE 2009 RPCVw BOARD RPCVw is currently accepting nominations for next year's Board of Directors. Being a member of the Board requires commitment and a passion for service. Each board member is expected to participate in the annual planning retreat in August, attend monthly meetings, lead a committee or task, conduct outreach, and be committed to RPCVw's mission. Positions are elected annually, and Board members are expected to serve for one year starting after the Annual Picnic in July. Interested? Email communityservice@rpcvw.org if you are interested in nominating yourself for a position, or if you have questions about certain board positions, time commitment, etc. We hope to have a great, energetic 20082009 RPCVw board!!!!!!!!! BOARD DESCRIPTIONS: PRESIDENT: Direct strategic planning and ensure that the board is taking action to meet goals and that all activities support RPCV/W's mission and vision. Preside over meetings, plan board retreats, engage in fundraising, respond to general inquiries, and represent RPCV/W to media and other organizations. VICE PRESIDENT: Lead board in the absence of the president. Develop and monitor compliance with event protocol and surveys. Maintain and report on event tracker. Coordinate annual Peace Corps Partnership donation as well as Reception. SECRETARY: Record and distribute meeting minutes. Lead annual elections of new officers and coordinate annual report. Maintain archives. TREASURER: Make budget recommendations. Produce monthly financial reports on revenue, expenses, and cash flow trends. Maintain financial records; prepare deposits of member dues; oversee financial matters related to events and activities; and ensure financial compliance with any tax laws.

WEB DIRECTOR: Produce the bimonthly newsletter; maintain the RPCV/W website; and work with Communications Director to develop ways of conveying the overall image and mission of RPCV/W. COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Keeps members informed of RPCV events. Serve as first point of contact for people who have general comments or questions. Write and edit content for newsletter. Work with other members in ways of conveying overall image and mission of RPCVw. PROGRAMS DIRECTOR: Organize educational events, such as author readings, film events, and lectures on a variety of topics including women in development, crosscultural issues, and the environment. Gather and share information on similar opportunities in the region. DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR: Direct development efforts, including fundraising efforts such as raffles and the Holiday Party Auction. Research potential partnerships with businesses, including advertising sales and member benefits. SOCIAL ACTIVITIES DIRECTOR: Organize social events such as potlucks and monthly happy hours. Work with membership and new member chairs in recruiting new members. SPECIAL EVENTS DIRECTOR: Coordinate special events such as Annual Holiday Party, Cherry Blossom Picnic, and Annual Picnic. MEMBERSHIP DIRECTOR: Maintain the membership database; coordinate renewal notices; produce monthly reports on membership levels, including new, lapsed, and renewed members. Produce membership lists as needed for event organizers. Coordinate recruitment efforts with New Member Director.

NEW MEMBER DIRECTOR: Connect and develop relationships with new members and potential members. Support new members with events (such as welcome brunches) and information for transitioning to living and working in the D.C. area. Develop ways to and help ensure that all events attract new members. COMMUNITY SERVICES DIRECTOR: Develop community service opportunities for members. Gather and share information on volunteer and speaking opportunities in the area, including opportunities with partner organizations and members needing volunteers. Coordinate annual wreath-laying event at JFK memorial.

Wreath Laying Ceremony to Honor JFK May 15, 6:00 p.m. Arlington National Cemetary

Every year near the anniversary of his birthday in May, RPCVw honors President John F. Kennedy, who helped to promote the creation of the Peace Corps and called the citizens of this country into public service. Placing a wreath at his gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery, provides an opportunity for former volunteers of all ages as well as their family and friends to hear how his dream of international service and cultural exchange lives on. This year, we teamed up with the Peace Corps Office of Returned Volunteers Services and also recognized RPCVs who served in the 13 original countries. We were especially honored that Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter who was accompanied by his wife Nancy both who were among some of the first volunteers sent to India in the 1960s was able to speak to attendees.

Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter addresses the crowd.

The Journey Back to the Beginning: Bolivia Then and Now By: Jeff Lovelace

While it may not be stocked-full of meats and vegetables like Campbell Soups it is filling, then after soup comes the main dish which is a plate heaping with rice, salad, chuños and chicken or beef. I was full after the soup. All polished off with a Fruit Zumo or natural fruit juice. What also struck me was the independence of the children. Anna, a little three-year old that will figure prominently later on, was always just walking about into and out of the restaurant, into and out of the street. Parents here would probably be charged with child neglect, but in Bolivia this was how children learn the ways of the world. There was a story of how at two and a half, she got out of bed, left the house, crossed a major road, walked three blocks to find her mother to tell her that it was time to come home and go back to bed. Mom was out celebrating. And no sooner that night did I find myself celebrating. Toasting to the Pacha Mama, to Bolivia, to el chuño to la hoja sagrada coca, and playing many games of cacho the Bolivian Dice game. I think that when the night ended there was more than one empty caja (box) of cerveza. But somehow the next morning the effects of sharing and draining more than 16 one liter cervezas did not come to haunt me it must have been the blessings of the Pacha Mama welcoming me back to Bolivia. After a few days in El Alto it was time to make the journey back in time to Chuñavi, where 11 years ago there was a small community of 600 inhabitants, no public transportation, one church, a three-room schoolhouse, two mini stores, no restaurants and no electricity, because the townspeople wanted to live offthe-grid and get free electricity via hydropower it might seem romantic, but the project never got off the ground, so Chuñavi was sans luz for four years, two of which were during my stay. In that time I had developed some lasting friendships and was blessed with two godchildren. So after packing my gifts from the United States (crayons, coloring pads, etc), buying 25 oranges (the children never seem to get enough fruit) and packing extra layers for warmth the three of us set out (myself, my comadre and her son). The first was task was

In his autobiography A Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela writes, There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged, to find the ways in which you yourself have altered. Well it was with this motto in my head that I returned to Bolivia last week wondering what would be different, would I see myself different, would I see the Bolivians in a different light, would they see me differently? Would the wisdom of Nelson Mandela s sentence ring true to me? Flying into El Alto altitude 13,323 feet always leaves one feeling breathless. It may be for the lack of oxygen (or actually lack of atmospheric pressure), it may be the sheer clarity and deep blue of the sky, or perhaps seeing Lake Titicaca, with depths of over 900 feet, or it may be seeing the Andes Mountains, snowcapped year round in this age of warming, with peaks that tower over 20,000 feet. Or perhaps that breathlessness is when you step into the street and realize that yes, this is the second poorest country in the Americas and while they are trying to remove all the diesel consuming vehicles, there is still an incredible amount of pollution that spews black as night from the exhausts of buses and trucks. The type that makes you wonder if you should stop in the nearest Farmacia and pick up a surgical mask. After a week of trekking with friends in the Peruvian highlands on the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu, I figured this would make for perfect acclimatization. From Cuzco at 10,800 feet to La Paz at 13,323 it would be a piece of cake and what better time than to return to Bolivia, La Paz, and Chuñavi (my site for two years) and home of the freeze-dried potato, or el chuño. So I called family, friends and relatives, only three had e-mail and two cell phones, to let them know of my imminent arrival and that I was back in Bolivia like no time had passed at all! What amazed me was how familiar it all was. The friendly faces, the invitations to partake, the we have missed you, it has been so long, but yet we feel as if you were just here yesterday, remarks. I do not remember the first day, except for being stuffed. For six bolivianos or approximately 83 cents you get a FULL meal of an overflowing bowl of soup, perhaps quinoa, pasta, chicken, chuño etc.

finding the correct Toyota mini-van that went in the direction of my site. Well they used to stop here and so we waited but perhaps we should try another place, so trusting local knowledge we moved up further down the road to major intersection. Aha here were all the mini-vans. All we had to do was to look for the ones with the luggage racks on top those where the long-haul ones we would need. But we wanted to find one that was almost full, if we got on an empty one, we would have to wait and wait while it filled up So on we got and down the PanAmerican Highway (read two-lane road) we set off. Nos Quedamos (we re getting off) I had to shout as I realized that we were passing our destination. And off we tumbled with our over-stuffed bags of clothes and food and prepared for the 30-minute hike to town. Well, it used to be 30 minutes, when I was practiced and in shape but now it seemed to take a bit longer (like and extra 15), but still the path was the same. It wound in and out of papa fields, quinoa and barley fields. There was the occasional cow they are so skinny pointed out Francisco, a youth of 10 from el Alto. Yup not much to eat out here, pretty dry and barren. After a number of breaks to drink water and find a bathroom, Francisco was looking for a proper toilet we told him he was in the countryside and anyplace would do, we made it to the school and the bridge to nowhere. A bridge! There was a bridge, there never used to be a bridge in Chuñavi. It does not even look as if cars use it and the bridge terminates at a wall of rocks. Strange, perhaps a misguided project we thought. The school there was the school but in the past 11 years it had doubled in size. The old three-room classroom had more than tripled with the addition of a middle school, offices for teachers as well as wash and bathrooms for the children. And even the old Mapa Del Mundo that was done with the schoolchildren was still there a bit faded and deteriorated. Wow progress had come to Chuñavi. We even learned that the bridge was for the cows, so that they could cross the river in the rainy season without fear of being swept away.

As we wandered through Chuñavi it was amazing to remember the familiar faces and good times that we had. My godchild, now 13 was huge. But mom and dad were grateful for the visit, gifts and oranges. They invited us in, shared soda, bread, while we shared coca with them. They told us how the town had grown to over 1,000 and of the new church that was built, how they now had electricity, a new middle school, and even taxi service from the main road. Unfortunately Emiterio had passed away, but Fernando was still around, we heard how Amaya lost his bus (of 44 passengers) over the embankment on the way back to town from market, but fortunately most everyone was okay. But sadly there were injuries and some that did not survive and the trip had been planned specially for a celebration of Chuñavi. As we left Chuñavi, in the back of a truck, I reflected that we had all changed. My comadre, godchild, myself had all become older but the important bonds of friendship were there as strong as before. The ride back in the truck was cold, but we watched as the sun set, the crescent moon appear and the Southern Cross brightened in the southern sky. Ohh I almost forgot about little Anna. Well on that same day as the visit to Chuñavi, as I am about to go to sleep at 9 p.m., exhausted and preparing for an early departure the following morning at 4:30 a.m there is a knock on the door and in waltzes Anna. Estas dormiendo, tienes que tomar cerveza. (are you sleeping, you have to drink cerveza) she says. Well Anna s mom had prepared a little surprise and she walked in with her eldest daughter Paola, six one-liter bottles and a statement followed by a simple question. The gist of which was you remember Paola from when she was a little girl you see there was a favorite bar of the PCVs of Bolivia a place for us to relax and get together and Paola was one of the little children that seemed to always gravitate to us. And we got to know her mom and friends as well. Well Paola had now grown up and was about to graduate high-school and mom was looking for a godfather for her. Of course a huge honor, but also a huge challenge in that I was not in Bolivia and would not be able to complete many of the traditional roles of the compadre or godfather. Six hours later, countless cervezas later and many blessings, ch allas, coca and dancing we all toasted to her new godfather/padrino. And I left Bolivia a few hours later, surely bedraggled and not placing a good name for the gringo to the flight attendants on American Airlines, but I was richer in experience and family. The next journey will be in December for her Baptism.

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