Sarasota Observer recognizes Gulf Coast of Florida RPCVs



Returned Peace Corps volunteers continue service at home

by: Amanda Morales Staff Writer

Years after serving abroad, Peace Corps volunteers work on projects throughout Sarasota.

Jan Mazer, who served in Uganda from 1993 to 1995 for the Peace Corps, remembers how difficult it was to transition back to American society when she returned. “It changes you so much,” she said. “That’s the one thing we all share with the Peace Corps; we are not the person who went in. We come back an entirely different human being.” More than 20 years later, Mazer admits that when it rains, she has the urge to stick a bucket outside to catch water, a habit she formed while serving in Nejje, Uganda, as an education teacher trainer. The other habit she and fellow returned Peace Corps volunteers can’t shake is the call to help. In 2006, the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Gulf Coast of Florida formed as a way for volunteers to bond and share their stories.

“What makes our Peace Corps group so valuable is that these people, who are returned Peace Corps volunteers, have essentially had their brains rewired to see the human condition and we’re bringing it back to Sarasota,” -Phil Yoder, returned Peace Corps Volunteer

Returned Peace Corps volunteers Angela Mejicanos and Mollie Marron started the group in 2006. It began with 20 members in the first meeting and now has more than 180. One of the 10 expectations of a Peace Corps volunteer is to “represent responsibly the people, cultures, values and traditions of your host country and community to people in the United States both during and following your service.” It’s a promise the group wants to uphold by using its volunteering experience. “As a group, we’re trying to become stronger, and there are a lot of needs in Sarasota,” said Betty Bruquetas, who served in the Solomon Islands from 1993 to 1995.


Courtesy photo. Members of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Gulf Coast of Florida gathered school supplies at a recent group barbecue.

Before the start of school, the group hosted a barbecue to collect school supplies and were able to outfit 53 children with supplies at the North Sarasota Public Library.

Another need the group is recognizing businesses in town that focus on environmental sustainability. Its newest project is the inaugural Gulf Coast Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Awards Ceremony scheduled for March 25.
For the past few months, volunteers have been working to improve the reading garden at the North Sarasota Public Library.

“Their donations have helped to provide consistent programs in the reading garden, and library staff have been able to share the joy of gardening and nature with children,” said Mary Brown, North Sarasota Public Library manager.

Standing edible garden boxes were built by returned Peace Corps volunteer Phil Yoder.

Phil Yoder, 51, helped build the wooden boxes for an edible container garden in the reading garden. Yoder, who served in Ecuador from 1988 to 1990, remains active in the South American country, where he has a home and is inspired by the deforestation to practice sustainable carpentry.

“What makes our Peace Corps group so valuable is that these people, who are returned Peace Corps volunteers, have essentially had their brains rewired to see the human condition and we’re bringing it back to Sarasota,” Yoder said.


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  • When because of a family emergency I returned early from Ghana in late 1961 at age 24 soon joined the civil rights movement first as a member of diocesan Catholic Interracial Council in my hometown Dallas TX (where our family moved from Niagara Falls NY in 1948 when I was eleven). I will be 83 next month. I believed that if people I knew ask questions and I was there then I would speak up and gently speak my opinion.

    Following a monthly poets’ open mic near the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco, at the beginning of this month, the next day another poet friend attending for the first time at La Promenade on Balboa street wrote describing us as a group of elderly social justice warriors. I was surprised as first I never had thought of myself as “elderly” nor a “warrior” although I have always believed in social justice.

    • “This is why the Buddha did not teach about the Atman (the real Self within us). He knew people would use the real Self as a hideout for the ego.
      When Krishnamurti tries to explain this he doesn’t talk about ‘the witness’. He talks about awareness and people say to him:
      ‘But WHO is aware? WHAT is aware?’
      And [Krishnamurti] seems a little sticky in his answer here because the matter is that the people asking the question are bewitched by grammar. They are using a language in which it is part of the grammatical convention that the verb always have a noun-subject.
      Now how on earth do verbs get started by nouns? I ask you! How can a THING start a process?
      Surely, this is really the same problem Descartes was wrestling with when he tried to find out how spirit could influence matter. Or how mind could influence body.
      Because everybody knows that all proper ghosts walk straight through walls without disturbing the bricks. So how can the ghost in the machine DO anything to the body?”
      — Alan Watts

      Note: I am not sure how Alan Watts comes into my response here, but somehow this quote to me is apt.. Edward Mycue

  • Thank you for news of RPCVs of Gulf Coast Florida and their community activities. How does one contact them? I am an RPCV who just moved to Sarasota and would like to participate in the group

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