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Talking with poet Katie Speicher (Senegal)
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Jody Olsen (Tunisia) to receive U of Md “President Award“
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House Signatures: We’ve Got One Week—From the NPCA
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RPCVs and Arizona State University Community Build Digital Libraries
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Martin Ganzglass’s (Somalia) new short stories GOATS
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A Writer Writes — “The Cotton Trenches of Uzbekistan”
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Talking to Ted Wells (Ethiopia) author of POWER, CHAOS & CONSENSUS
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An Update from the RPCV Oral History Project
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60 Years of Peace Corps History Preserved Through New, Continuing Partnerships With UK Libraries’ Nunn Center
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The Volunteer Who Became an Ambassador to Five Countries — Chris Hill (Cameroon)

Talking with poet Katie Speicher (Senegal)

  In her literary debut, Katie Speicher invites readers to join her in Senegal with her poems on beauty, strength, questioning, nostalgia, heartbreak, and contentment. Her poems have sprung from her Peace Corps service and from reaching deep into memory. Here Katie tells about herself and her writing. • Katie — where and when did you serve in the Peace Corps? Senegal 2016-2018 What was your Peace Corp project assignment? Agroforestry Specialist Tell us about where you lived and worked. I lived in Koumbidia Soce, a Mandinka village of about 700 people in the Kaffrine region of Senegal. What were your living conditions? I lived with a host family. I had my own hut within a family compound. At the time I was there we had no electricity, and water was pulled everyday from a well. During my service electricity went up in the village, but my family did not . . .

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Jody Olsen (Tunisia) to receive U of Md “President Award“

Thanks for heads up from Steve Kaffen — A CELEBRATION OF TERPS FEATURING THE MARYLAND AWARDS ABOUT THE EVENT HONOREES FRIDAY, APRIL 23, 2021 7:00 – 8:00 P.M. • Jody Olsen is to receive the University of Maryland Alumni Association’s “President” award. She is one of six recipients of “The Maryland Awards,” which celebrate and honor the achievements of outstanding Terps [(Terrapins) – graduates of the U. of Md.]. The virtual ceremony will be held April 23, 2021. The published bio accompanying the announcement (presented below) emphasizes her years of service with the Peace Corps and with the University of Maryland. Josephine (Jody) Olsen, Ph.D., MSW, was sworn into office as the 20th director of the Peace Corps in March 2018. Olsen began her career as a Peace Corps volunteer, serving in Tunisia from 1966 to 1968. She has since served the agency in multiple leadership positions:as acting director in 2009; . . .

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House Signatures: We’ve Got One Week—From the NPCA

The Work We Have to Do One year ago the Peace Corps community was rallying to help thousands of evacuated Volunteers — and many were diving in to help their communities in crisis. Now in 2021, we’re working to bolster support for the most comprehensive Peace Corps legislation in decades — which will shape a better and stronger Peace Corps for the future. We’re calling on the Peace Corps community to raise their voices and make sure that we enlist the support of more members of Congress than ever before in this effort. This week we’re also celebrating the fact that a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer has stepped into a role to lead long-needed reforms in the State Department: Career diplomat Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, who began her service to this country as a Volunteer in Oman, has been named the first-ever chief diversity and inclusion officer. If we want our diplomatic corps to . . .

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RPCVs and Arizona State University Community Build Digital Libraries

announcement from Arizona State University “Volunteers from the Phoenix Peace Corps Association and the Arizona State University community came together April 3 to build dozens of portable, digital SolarSPELL libraries. The small devices are powered by a solar panel connected to a rechargeable battery and a tiny computer built by Raspberry Pi. The small containers cast a Wi-Fi signal that allows any user to connect a smartphone, tablet or computer in areas with no telecommunciation infrastructure, and the libraries are loaded with relevant, localized educational information. The batch of devices assembled and tested at the Polytechnic campus — the first build day since the pandemic began — are destined for an Ethiopian refugee community; future build days will focus on building the libraries for Peace Corps partnerships so serving Peace Corps volunteers can carry them to communities worldwide and further their work. SolarSPELL, which is short for Solar Powered Educational Learning Library, is a student-centered . . .

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Martin Ganzglass’s (Somalia) new short stories GOATS

  A tenured professor writes the definitive history of Philip of Macedon with help from a most unusual source. A visit to the Metropolitan Opera trips up an embezzler who has planned the perfect escape. The day before Thanksgiving from a dog’s eye view. An aging Italian man with a secret past in East Africa. Two families grapple with the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd. Friendships and rivalries boil over in a veterans’ retirement home. In ten imaginative short stories, Martin Ganzglass weaves together the mundane and the supernatural to reveal relationships that are at once humorous and humane. • Goats: And Other Stories Martin Ganzglass (Somalia 1966–68) Peace Corps Writers March, 2021 305 pages $10.00 (paperback)

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A Writer Writes — “The Cotton Trenches of Uzbekistan”

    by Beatrice Grabish Hogan (Uzbekistan 1992-94) Dispatch from Uzbekistan’s cotton campaign November 1993   On the fifth day of barf (Tajik for “snow”), the troops surrendered. The war, a.k.a. the cotton harvest, lasted eight weeks this year and yielded (only) 87% returns. I had watched my students pile into a 25-vehicle motorcade and wind around the mile-long university boulevard amidst handkerchief waving and cheers from teachers and other onlookers. Two days later, much to the horror and surprise of my women colleagues at Samarkand State University, I joined the students’ work camp. On October 5, I arrived at the collective farm called Guzelkent, about 40 kilometers outside the city limits. The place was a collection of brown-streaked, whitewashed houses made of mudbrick, rising like Oz out of acre upon acre of cotton fields. It was a scene framed by purple mountain peaks and a flawless blue sky. At . . .

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Talking to Ted Wells (Ethiopia) author of POWER, CHAOS & CONSENSUS

  Ted, where are you from in the States? I was born in Boston, Massachusetts and raised in a small town called Sharon 20 miles south of the city. I started a 5 year degree in Architecture at the University of Oregon in Eugene, but finished it at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where I met my wife-to-be, Helen, who was born in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, but had moved to Colorado just before I arrived. Why the Peace Corps? I was strongly opposed to the Vietnam War and would have emigrated to Canada with my wife of ten months had we not both been accepted into the Peace Corps immediately after I graduated from university. Thankfully, my Draft Board accepted this as an alternative to Vietnam. Why Ethiopia? We would have accepted any assignment anywhere in the Peace Corps, but Community Development work in Ethiopia was the only choice . . .

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An Update from the RPCV Oral History Project

  The RPCV Oral History Project was begun by Robert Klein (Ghana I) more than twenty years ago.  After his death in 2012, RPCVs continued his work, collaborating with the JFK Library and now the University of Kentucky.  The Oral History Project is a NPCA Affiliate group.  All RPCVs are eligible to participate. The Oral History team includes RPCVs Evelyn Ganzglass, Pat Wand, and Cedar Wolf. To learn more about the archive CLICK HERE Here is more information from the Oral History Project newsletter: “Over the past few months, we’ve been focusing primarily on two topics: COVID-19 Evacuees, and Many Faces Peace Corps. We have interviewed 60 PCVs who were evacuated from their sites due to Peace Corps suspension of programs in March 2020.  The Many Faces of Peace Corps collection focuses on the diverse Peace Corps community, particularly those from under-represented populations.  Excerpts of some of those interviews have been compiled into . . .

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60 Years of Peace Corps History Preserved Through New, Continuing Partnerships With UK Libraries’ Nunn Center

  The University of Kentucky is the home of the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History.  It has now partnered with the RPCV Oral History Project. Here is the story from University of Kentucky’s Campus News. • LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 2, 2021) — On March 1, 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order that established the Peace Corps as a volunteer agency in the U.S Department of State. Sixty years later, as the agency celebrates its diamond anniversary, University of Kentucky Libraries’ Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History is continuing its work with local and national partners to preserve many of the stories and experiences of the more than 241,000 Americans who have served in the Peace Corps. From stories of volunteers evacuated from their host countries at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to accounts from some of the first groups to volunteer with the . . .

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The Volunteer Who Became an Ambassador to Five Countries — Chris Hill (Cameroon)

by Jeremiah Norris (Colombia 1963–65) • After graduating from Bowdoin College with a degree in Economics, Christopher R. Hill then served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cameroon from 1974 to 1976. He credited his work with Peace Corps for teaching him his first lesson in diplomacy. As a Volunteer, Chris worked with credit unions. When he discovered that one Board of Directors had stolen 60% of their members’ money, he reported on the malfeasance to their members — who promptly re-elected the board because they had reflected the carefully balanced tribal interests, and it really did not matter to the members if the Board Directors ran a good credit union or not. Chris commented: “When something’s happened, it’s happened for a reason and you do your best to understand that reason. But don’t necessarily think you can change it.” Chris joined the State Department in 1977, serving as Secretary . . .

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