Archive - April 2021

1
Why the Peace Corps’ Mission Is Needed Now More Than Ever
2
Volunteers to America: The Reverse Peace Corps
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Nominate the Best RPCV Books of 2020 — awards will be announced in August 2021
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Talking with poet Katie Speicher (Senegal)
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Jody Olsen (Tunisia) to receive U of Md “President Award“
6
House Signatures: We’ve Got One Week—From the NPCA
7
RPCVs and Arizona State University Community Build Digital Libraries
8
Martin Ganzglass’s (Somalia) new short stories GOATS
9
A Writer Writes — “The Cotton Trenches of Uzbekistan”
10
Talking to Ted Wells (Ethiopia) author of POWER, CHAOS & CONSENSUS

Why the Peace Corps’ Mission Is Needed Now More Than Ever

    On its 60th anniversary, a moment of reckoning arrives for the nation’s globe-trotting volunteers By Miranda Moore (Uganda 2009–11) SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE MAY 2021   In March 2020, at the start of Covid-19 lockdowns, as flights were grounded and people around the world sheltered in place, 7,000-odd Peace Corps volunteers serving in 61 nations came home to an uncertain future. Many worried that the Peace Corps might even have to shut down permanently. That hasn’t happened, but the nation’s foremost global volunteer organization has no volunteers in the field for the first time since its founding 60 years ago. Practicing a uniquely American blend of idealism and realpolitik, the agency was conceived in October 1960, when Senator John F. Kennedy made a 2 a.m. campaign speech at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Kennedy, then running for president, challenged 10,000 students assembled outside the Student Union to use their . . .

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Volunteers to America: The Reverse Peace Corps

  by Neil Boyer (Ethiopia 1962-64) April 18, 2021 • After I returned from Ethiopia, where I had served in the Peace Corps from 1962 to 1964, I went to work at Peace Corps headquarters on Lafayette Square in Washington. Harris Wofford had recruited some former volunteers in Ethiopia and other places to work with him on his seemingly limitless ideas. I helped him and others flesh out the idea of creating a “reverse peace corps” that would bring teachers and social workers from other countries to work in the United States. It was exactly a reverse of the Peace Corps concept, with volunteers selected by sending countries and supervised and administered by receiving agencies in the United States. Argentina would choose and send volunteers, for example, and US officials in OEO, the Department of Education and private agencies would supervise them. The program was called Volunteers TO America (VTA). . . .

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Nominate the Best RPCV Books of 2020 — awards will be announced in August 2021

  To further fulfill its goals to encourage, recognize and promote Peace Corps writers, RPCV Writers & Readers, the newsletter that was the precursor of PeaceCorpsWriters.org and PeaceCorpsWorldwide.org, presented its first annual awards for outstanding writing in 1990. Over 170 awards have been given since that time. The awards are: The Moritz Thomsen Peace Corps Experience Award The Paul Cowan Non-Fiction Award The Maria Thomas Fiction Award The Award for Best Peace Corps Memoir The Award for Best Book of Poetry The Award for Best Short Story Collection The Award for Best Travel Book The Rowland Scherman Award for Best Photography Book The Marian Haley Beil Award for the Best Book Review The Award for Best Children’s Book about a Peace Corps Country Other Awards Send your nomination(s) to John Coyne at jcoyneone@gmail.com (You may nominate your own book. Make sure you are nominating a book that was published in . . .

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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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