RPCV/CO and partners welcome Ashley Bell

 

Ashley Bell, Peace Corps Associate Director of External Affairs and a Trump appointee, visited Colorado at the Invitation of the Global Livingston Insititute and Partnering for Peace. A limited number of RPCVs were invited to hear him speak.  This is the write up of the event by Suzanne Smith, President of RPCVs of Colorado.

“On Thursday, December 8, a reception was held for Ashley Bell, Peace Corps Associate Director of External Affairs. The reception was organized in partnership with the Global Livingston Instituteand Partnering for Peace, the affiliate network group working to strengthen ties between Rotary and Peace Corps. Though Mr. Bell has been to Denver a few times since being named Associate Director of External Affairs, this reception was the first time there has been an opportunity to talk with him about the future of Peace Corps and how to further the partnership between Rotary and Peace Corps. Following a brief time to mix and mingle and words of introduction from the various co-hosts, Mr. Bell spoke for a while and responded to questions from the reception attendees.

Mr. Bell shared some details about his background, including that he is a Rotarian, former small business owner, and lawyer. With a passion for volunteering, he expressed his understanding and appreciation for the commitment to service held by Peace Corps Volunteers. He recognized the power of RPCVS to promote and keep the iconic Peace Corps program going. In response to questions about the future of Peace Corps, Mr. Bell shared that there is strong support for Peace Corps in Congress, but it will be important for every PCV, RPCV, and Peace Corps friends and family members to talk to members of Congress about the important of the program. Peace Corps is currently going through a “right sizing”, with staff positions in D.C. not being filled in order to direct funding directly to the countries served by Peace Corps. If there can be an increase in the number of volunteers, that might lead to increases in the number of D.C.-based staff in the future.

In response to questions about how to further the Peace Corps and Rotary partnership, he shared that these organizations with “such similar DNA” have only scratched the surface of the possibilities for partnership. In his role with Peace Corps, Mr. Bell shared that there is “nothing more important every day than supporting volunteers in the field” and the connection to resources such as Rotary is one way to provide this support.  He encouraged attendees to become in involved Rotary Clubs and seek out opportunities to partner at the local level. This includes seeking out local Peace Corps staff with a connection to Rotary in the countries served by Peace Corps. This is seen as a way to demonstrate there is grassroots support for this partnership.”

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  • Concerning what to partnership on, my thoughts go back to 2009, and the last major effort I personally was involved in: namely to do something to preserve the discontinued Humanitarian Surface Shipping, which for years had been the means by which PCV teachers were able to create school libraries and obtain textbooks, and other educational supplies. Various efforts on a much larger scale have continued, but as far as I know, nothing ever was instituted to replace all of those small-scale, individual book efforts put together by church groups, schools, civic organizations back home, in support of their volunteer. This was the last thing that I discussed with the late Stewart Udall, before his death in early 2010. For the amount of taxpayer money saved, Stewart thought it was a deplorable decision. SO, what better place to start than revitalizing that mainstay of the Peace Corps: the volunteers’ library and book projects at their schools. John Turnbull New Mexico

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