Archive - June 2013

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Review of George Packer's (Togo 1982-83) The Unwinding
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The Peace Corps Finally Does Something About RPCV Health Issues
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Kennedy's Eternal Flame Returns to New Ross, Ireland
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Review — A HERO FOR THE PEOPLE by Arthur Powers (Brazil)
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Fran Koster (Sierra Leone 1964-66) Discovering the New America
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Peace Corps, Mondelēz International Partner to Strengthen Capacity in Developing Nation
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Peace Corps Deputy Director Talks Junk Food With Coyne
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Review of Peter Hessler's (China 1996-98) Strange Stones-Dispatches from East and West
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George Packer’s (Togo 1982-83) new book reviewed in Sunday NYT book section
10
Review of Molly Melching (Senegal 1976-79) However Long the Night

Review of George Packer's (Togo 1982-83) The Unwinding

The Unwinding by George Packer (Togo 1982-83) Farrar, Straus and Giroux $27.00 432 pages 2013 Reviewed by Mark Brazaitis (Guatemala 1991-93) It seems unfair to criticize something for not being what it never intended to be. Imagine Hemingway being criticized for not including an analysis of 1940s fishing yields in the Caribbean in The Old Man and the Sea. Or the Rolling Stones being rebuked for not slipping a violin concerto into Exile on Main Street. Or Georgia O’Keefe being taken to task for not depicting an occasional tractor or bulldozer or tomato soup can in her orchid series. In his June 9 review of George Packer’s The Unwinding, David Brooks, in the New York Times Book Review, faults the author for failing to provide a “theoretical framework and worldview” that would explain the lives and situations Packer examines. Brooks, a Times op-ed columnist, compares The Unwinding to John Dos . . .

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The Peace Corps Finally Does Something About RPCV Health Issues

Carrie Hessler-Radelet has served as deputy director of the Peace Corps since June 23, 2010. She was a PCV in Western Samoa 1981-83 and has had more than two decades of experience in public health focused on HIV/AIDS and maternal and child health. When she came into the Peace Corps as the deputy, she was determined to do something about the poor health support that RPCVs receive after their come home from their tours. Now, she has just announced a new program to help PCVs and RPCVs. Carrie emailed me today from Africa where she is visiting PCVs, “John, we are trying to reach out to currently serving  Volunteers and RPCVs who have concerns about their health care.  We have created two separate email hotlines. — one for currently serving Volunteers who have concerns about their health care or would like a second opinion; and a second for RPCVs who . . .

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Kennedy's Eternal Flame Returns to New Ross, Ireland

Dennis Grubb (Colombia 1961-63) forwarded the story in today’s Washington Post of the ceremony yesterday by the Irish Embassy where the eternal flame from JFK gravesite will go to Ireland for the 50 anniversary of Kennedy’s visit. Kennedy in the summer before his death visited Ireland and  vowed to return–but that never was.  The event was organized by the Embassy of Ireland with a reception afterwards at the residence. Tim Shriver, Head of the Special Olympics, spoke at the Ireland Embassy, spoke about service  and the fact that because of JFK, “as we are gather here today at the Embassy of Ireland to celebrate  thousands of Peace Corps Volunteers are working around the world.” Tim Shriver related a personal story, saying that once at  a Sunday dinner he asked his Uncle Ted why he thought JFK sparked “hope” in people he met. Ted responded with a story of a party in Palm . . .

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Review — A HERO FOR THE PEOPLE by Arthur Powers (Brazil)

A Hero for the People: Stories of the Brazilian Backlands Arthur Powers (Brazil 1969-73) Press 53 170 pages 2013 $17.95 (paperback), $.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Patricia Taylor Edmisten (Peru 1962-64) • I prefer novels to short stories, but I loved this book. Arthur Powers’ love for Brazil and its people began with his Peace Corps service in Brazil in 1969. Later Powers worked for the Catholic Church in the eastern Amazon region, where he organized subsistence farmers and rural worker unions. The author has received a Fellowship in Fiction from the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, three annual awards for short fiction from the Catholic Press Association, and the 2012 Tuscany Press Novella Award for this book, A Hero for the People, his first collection of short stories. The book’s subtitle, Stories of the Brazilian Backlands, is fitting. All of the stories are located in Brazil’s backlands, although some take place more than . . .

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Fran Koster (Sierra Leone 1964-66) Discovering the New America

Discovering the New America: Where Local Communities Are Solving National Problems by Francis P. Koster (Sierra Leone 1964-66) The Optimistic Futurist, $25.25. 264 pages 2013 Reviewed by Matt Losak (Lesotho 1985-88) In Francis Koster’s Discovering the New America (The Optimistic Futurist, 2013), the author offers a volume chockablock with proven,  innovative ideas for solving common community problems like conserving water and homelessness and nationwide scourges such as obesity and criminal recidivism. Koster, an “optimistic futurist” by trade and thinking, is selling his badly needed brand of the Peace Corps can-do tonic for anyone who might slow their gate in front of his friendly wagon. Sadly, though, in today’s climate, where truth and reason are too often being burned at the stake, this catalogue of optimism might seem a little out of touch for the increasingly embittered and paranoid American audience. I mean, I actually have relatives who still believe our . . .

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Peace Corps, Mondelēz International Partner to Strengthen Capacity in Developing Nation

This is the press release from Peace Corps describing the program that was discussed in the interview John Coyne conducted with Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet.   (Correction: 6/20/20) This is an ongoing Peace Corps program.  From the Friends of Dominican Republic: Community Economic Development: Volunteers in this program partner with farmers’ associations, artisans, tourism service providers and community-based groups to improve organizational capacity, business skills and financial awareness. Those who attended the 50th Anniversary celebration and conference and took the “Tour de Chocolate” in El Seibo saw a wonderful example of successful volunteer work in this sector. Over the years volunteers have worked with a cacao cooperative and a community farm demonstration. Another project, now in its fifth year, is the national youth business plan competition called “Construye tus Sueños .” Local NGOs and private sector donors provide support for this program. Like many of the major Peace Corps projects, the Build Your Dreams . . .

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Peace Corps Deputy Director Talks Junk Food With Coyne

Last week shortly before Deputy Director of the agency, Carrie Hessler-Radelet  (Western Samoa 1981-83 ), rushed out her office door for a trip to Morocco, she was kind enough to pause and respond to a few questions I had about what is happening with the Peace Corps, given the recent news that the agency and Kraft Foods had reached a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on a ‘collaborative relationship.’ This MoU promoted (of course) comments from RPCVs, such as, “The Peace Corps Eats Junk Food.” RPCVs also wanted to know about the agency’s new training ‘model’ (yet again, the Peace Corps has a new training model) as well as this special project on malaria control that we reported on several weeks ago? Here’s what Carrie had to say. Carrie, describe this new Training Model: “Focus In/Train Up.” Clever phrase but give us an example of what makes it different and better. . . .

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Review of Peter Hessler's (China 1996-98) Strange Stones-Dispatches from East and West

Strange Stones—Dispatches from East and West By Peter Hessler (China 1996-98) Harper Perennial trade paperback; $14.99 354 pages May 2013 Reviewed by Richard Lipez (Ethiopia 1962-64) Strange Stones is Peter Hessler’s fourth book that’s all or mostly about China, and it’s as fresh, meaty, and irresistible as the acclaimed three others, Country Driving, Oracle Bones , and his exemplary Peace Corps memoir, River Town .   The new book is a collection of eighteen pieces, most of which first appeared in The New Yorker, where Hessler is a staff writer now reporting from Cairo . Having picked up some anti-Chinese sentiment in Thailand and Burma , I’ve never been all that eager to set foot in the Peoples Republic .   Their neighbors to the south tend to regard the Chinese as aggressive, exploitive and rude, and I’ve witnessed a good deal of this behavior.   I have more favorable second thoughts about . . .

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George Packer’s (Togo 1982-83) new book reviewed in Sunday NYT book section

New York Times columnist David Brooks in the Sunday (6/9) Book Review gives a long and largely positive review of George Packer’s (Togo 1982–83) new book The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America recently published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Brooks compares Parker’s book to the novels of John Dos Passos U.S.A. trilogy (1930–1936) that came out during the Great Depression. The difference being that Packer’s characters are real, and Packer is not writing fiction. Brooks writes that The Unwinding is “a gripping narrative of contemporary America” and goes onto say in his long, long review, that “the stories that do fill its pages are beautifully reported.” Brooks major complaint is this: “Packer does an outstanding job with these stories, The Unwinding offers vivid snapshots of people who have experienced a loss of faith. As a way of understanding contemporary America, these examples are tantalizing. But they are . . .

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Review of Molly Melching (Senegal 1976-79) However Long the Night

However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s (Senegal 1976-79) Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph by Aimee Molloy HarperCollins/Skoll Foundation, $25.99 252 pages 2013 Reviewed by Leita Kaldi Davis (Senegal 1993-95) Molly Melching sat by the bedside of her dear old friend and mentor, Alaaji Mustaafa Njaay, who lay dying in his small hut in a Senegalese village.  He breathed with difficulty as he whispered to her., “You are trying to accomplish great things, but nothing is going to come easy for you.  …  Your work will be like electricity: it has a beginning, but no end. Continue to listen and learn from the people, and you will move forward together.”  After a long pause, he spoke again, calling her by her Senegalese name. “Sukkeyna Njaay, things will become even more difficult for you.  But always remember my words and never lose hope. Lu guddi gi yagg . . .

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