Greetings from the West Cascade Peace Corps Association!
WHO KNEW? is a segment that invites RPCVs to submit ideas experiences and/or memories of their PC experience. Our question for this month is "What are some of your favorite Peace Corps memories?" Email your answers to email@example.com or call Keith Beyer at 541-515-6435.
Julie Smith Olson
The Grand Map returns for the 50th Celebration! When it was made at the 1990 National Peace Corps Convention held at the Eugene Hilton, it was advertised as the World's largest hand drawn and hand painted map of the world. It left Eugene for many years and returned about 10 years ago. It stayed with Beryl Brinkman until she died and has been in one of my barns since then. The 30 x 15 canvas map will be put up on the side of the old Center Court building in downtown Eugene, across from the Broadway Plaza, Tuesday morning.
Thanks should go to Hyland Construction, the general contractor for the downtown project, and to Pete Eggspuelher, the owner of the building. I will take the map to them tomorrow morning and they will install it using ropes to secure it to the side of the building. I have been working with them for several weeks and I think this can be a fun experience. The newspapers and photographers know about the event and I'm hoping for a Photo Op. The Grand Map is coming back to the place it began in 1990.
Wayne Thompson, Peru, '64-'66
Meisler was not a PCV but was on the PC staff until he joined the Los Angeles Times as a journalist. He has written other books as well as articles for the Smithsonian magazine. You too can learn all this by googling him.
WHYY, the NPR station in Philadelphia, had a very positive show about the Peace Corps on its Radio Times program recently. For the first hour, the host, Marty Moss-Coane, spoke to Stan Meisler, author of the new book, just published, "When The World Calls: The Inside Story of the Peace Corps and its First Fifty Years". The second hour had Moss-Coane interviewing three RPCVs: Julia Zagar, who served in Peru in the 1960s and now runs an art gallery in Philadelphia; Concetta Bencivenga, who served in Thailand in the early 1990s and is now directs the Please Touch Museum; and Sarah Edelman, who served in El Salvador from 2005 to 2007 and is now a Public Citizen Organizer. There were numerous phone callers during both hours, almost all RPCVs. All in all, it was a wonderful antidote to the ABC 20/20 onslaught. You can hear the shows on the WHYY website: Part 1 and Part 2.
Sent by Miriam Aiken, Philippines '65-'67
West Cascade Peace Corps Association (WCPCA) members presented to an audience at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at the Baker Center in Eugene on Friday, February 11. Some seventy members of OLLI and guests heard from Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, celebrating the Peace Corps' Fiftieth Anniversary.
WILL YOU STILL LOVE ME AT 64? featured Moderator Howard Schuman, Thailand, '68-'70; Tom English, Nepal, '67-'70; Nancy Meyer, Mexico, '07-'09; Laura Massengale, Senegal, '07-'09; and Justin Overdevest, Dominican Republic, '02-'04, plus Peru, '04-'06. Each person provided a brief background to their work as a Peace Corps Volunteer. These personal experiences fascinated a rapt audience, many of whom were also world travelers. Audience members returned after a break to carry on an hour long question and answer period and sent the presenters on their way with appreciative applause.
The presentation began with a six minute Peace Corps film, edited by Nick Sosustow and Dorothy Soper, that set the stage for the speakers, who represented a range of ages and countries of service. OLLI members sent their thank you's to the RPCV's as they prepared to leave the event. WCPCA leaders believe other presentations will be made to groups in the Eugene area this spring. The 50 year celebration also continues March 1, 12 Noon at Broadway Plaza and 7 pm at Cozmic Pizza. All are invited!
Published: Monday, Feb 28, 2011 05:00AM by the Register Guard
Each fall, during the Eugene Celebration parade, former Peace Corps volunteers proudly march through Eugene holding aloft the flags of the nations where they served.
All along the way, the crowds serenade them with clapping, enthusiastic whoops, and very rewarding cries of "thank you!"
It is a joyful experience for the returned volunteers, but it is also a bit embarrassing.
Embarrassing? OK, true, they did volunteer two years of their lives to help others overseas. And their salaries were pitiful.
But these former volunteers also know just how blessed they are to have lived two years far away from the American experience. They comprehend fully what it means to be a citizen in a developing country.
After all, as Peace Corps volunteers they did not just visit as tourists. They lived the experience. They learned the customs. And because they learned new languages, they know how other cultures view the world. They experienced the joy of village celebrations and the poverty that undermines the hopes of the young.
These experiences enriched their appreciation of why America is a wonderful place to live in many ways. But they also learned that others feel the same way about their own countries. Most importantly, these volunteers returned with the gift of knowing that people all over the world are really the same. Learning that is a life-changing experience.
As a former president of the Lane County-based West Cascades Peace Corps Association, I have asked many returned volunteers whether their service was the most valuable experience of a lifetime. For most, the answer is a resounding "yes," not just because many met their spouses overseas, or because the experience changed their careers or their political parties. It is mainly because they have reshaped and enhanced the way they view themselves, other countries and America.
The Peace Corps experience is now almost 50 years old. Given the fact that it was created very quickly, its survival is remarkable, and it certainly reflects the power of the volunteers' service.
The concept of Americans volunteering overseas was first expressed on Oct. 14, 1960, when a presidential candidate, John Kennedy, gave an impromptu speech to students at the University of Michigan. Kennedy called on them to volunteer in developing countries.
Then, in his inaugural address in 1961, President Kennedy challenged Americans to "ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country."
On March 1, 1961, Kennedy signed Executive Order 10924, which created the Peace Corps. A mere six months later, the first volunteers left for service in Ghana.
In 50 years since then, more than 200,000 Peace Corps volunteers have served in 139 nations. Interestingly, many are Oregonians. In fact, despite its relatively small size, the University of Oregon consistently has ranked very high both in the number of volunteers who have served and volunteers currently serving.
They, like volunteers from throughout America, have taught English, created engineering projects, worked in rice fields, served in business development, and delivered vital health services. They returned home knowing how people live in Latin America, Africa, Asia or the Pacific islands.
Of course, after such an enlightening and life-changing experience, they are more than happy to thank those who have thanked them. They will be doing so by inviting the public to join them next week and celebrate Peace Corps 50 in Eugene, organized by the West Cascade Peace Corps Association.
Two events will take place on Tuesday. The first will be a noon rally in downtown Eugene on the plaza at the southeast corner of Willamette Street and Broadway. This free event will feature music, dancing, Peace Corps stories and birthday cake.
The party will continue at 7 p.m. at Cozmic Pizza, 199 W. Eighth Ave. with Latin American music and dancing. There will be a small charge for the evening event.
Details of the celebrations are on the organization's website at www.westcascadepca.org/fiftieth/PC50.php.
Please join us!
George Jeffcott of Eugene, a retired teacher, served in the Peace Corps in India from 1966 to 1969. He continues his volunteer work with the Eugene Police Department in graffiti abatement, as a teachers retirement board member and as vice president of Lane County Master Gardeners.
A web page promoting CRPCA's local campout has been built at http://www.crpca.org/campout.html. We have tons of capacity this year, so we'd welcome folks from your regions that don't have other plans for the Fourth of July weekend. Please help us spread the word.
On our part, we'll welcome additional information about the Spokane regional meeting, the SEAPAX Spencer Spit campout, and the Idaho City regional campout. Please let us know when you have more to share.
Thanks, and happy birthday to Peace Corps!
Bill Stein (RPCV Niger 1990-1993)
April 3, 2011
March 17, 2011
The FOOD for Lane County Board of Directors is currently seeking individuals who might be interested in becoming involved with one of our committees as an entrée to our organization and possible eventual Board service. As a group deeply connected to the interweaving issues of immigration, poverty, and food insecurity, I am asking you for any recommendations of individuals you may know that we can get in touch with about possible service. If you or someone you know may be interested, please contact me, or let me know if you have any questions about what committee or Board participation might entail.
Published: Monday, Feb 28, 2011 05:00AM
The Peace Corps, one of America's most successful foreign aid programs and one with deep Oregon roots, is celebrating its 50th anniversary at a time when Congress is considering a major cut in the agency's budget.
House Republicans have proposed slicing $69.2 million from the Peace Corps' annual budget of $400 million. That's a reduction of more than 17 percent in a program that has placed more than 200,000 Americans as volunteers in 139 countries. Read the rest of the article
It was 2 a.m. when the future president finally turned up at the University of Michigan on Oct. 14, 1960. In the middle of a cross-country tour to shore up votes, Sen. John F. Kennedy was so tired he joked that he'd come to Ann Arbor to go to bed. But something about the youthful crowd—10,000 students strong—jolted him awake, inspiring him to drop his notes and speak off the cuff. "How many of you who are going to be doctors are willing to spend your days in Ghana?" he asked. "Technicians or engineers, how many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives traveling around the world?"
His speech captivated newlywed graduate students Alan and Judy Guskin. A few nights later at a diner, they scrawled a call to action on a napkin, urging students to heed Kennedy's words and start a volunteer movement. Read the rest of the article
I Would Never...
Zaire is a different place. Doing things differently is half the fun while discovering a new place. Sometimes it takes a bit of courage to do so. I did things there that you wouldn't catch me doing here.
Here, I would never hang out with the whores in bars. I would never buy a bra from men in an open-air market or even let them help me try it on over my clothes. I would never buy meat that sat out all day in the hot sun while being attacked by flies.
I would never hitch-hike on top of a commerce truck loaded half-way to the sky with charcoal, goats, fat ladies holding screaming babies ... I would never flag down a merchandise train and get a ride. I would never go deep into the forest alone with a strange man "to look at some fish ponds."
I would never work sixty to seventy hours a week and earn fifty dollars a month. 1 would never throw the remaining coffee grounds on my living room floor, or brush my teeth in the bedroom and spit the paste out the window, or take a bucket bath in the kitchen and cook my food at the same time while being totally naked.
I would never fall from a bridge in my pickup truck and live to tell about it. 1 would never drive my motorcycle under the loading docks at the port with cranes and large cartons passing overhead. I would never sell my medicine to strangers in order to get money, I would never trade old Newsweek magazines to kids in exchange for fruit. I would never send an eight-year-old boy to the corner liquor store to buy beer. I would never drive with a beer in my hand. 1 would never discuss the price of a bribe with a police officer.
I would never eat rat or actively search out termites for sale. I would never go to the bank and find that there is no money. I would never wear stripes and plaid together. I would never teach little kids to say, "We are little monsters."
I would never wait six hours for lunch to be served. I would never discuss with a store clerk whether or not I "danced" in bed while having sex. I would never buy just one cigarette, or a spoonful of tomato paste, or a clove of garlic, or ten match sticks, or half a cup of sugar, or half a banana, or half a piece of bread or water in a plastic bag at the market.
I would never buy a pair of sandals made from old tires. I would never go to the back of a restaurant and cook my own coffee. I would never tell people that I am a mermaid and have them believe me. I would never knowingly eat dog meat or rare and endangered species. I would never politely smile when people tell me how fat I've gotten. I would never drive a pick-up truck loaded with two hundred gallons of gasoline through a brush fire.
On second thought, if given the chance, I'd do all of these things again and many more.
Lynn Schreiber is on a sojourn to find out where she belongs in this world.
In 1994, the WCPCA put out "The Funniest Job You'll Ever Love", an anthology of Peace Corps humor. This book was a great fundraiser and was made up of the stories of members. Now, we'd like to do it again, and we'll need your stories for the next edition.
Snapshot of the Middle East in Turmoil
Given the situation in the Middle East, I thought it important to offer WCPCA members a brief review of events along with my assessment of what's at stake. I gleaned my information from the Western press, informed blogs, and selected Arabic language sites, which I look at every day. If anyone is interested in following developments outside the standard frame of the Western media, please contact me, and I'll forward the web addresses of good English language sites to you.
After a brief, general discussion, this piece will focus on the most strategically significant countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and Egypt. At the end I'll treat other countries in few sentences. As you will see from my summaries, the world oil supply is the elephant in the middle of the room. As a result, I expect the US will do whatever it can to minimize the impact of the "Arab Spring," maintaining the status quo and prioritizing security over democracy. However, US policymakers seem to be somewhat at a loss on how to deal with this situation, unprecedented for it breadth and extensive grassroots support. Arabs, having gotten a whiff of freedom, are likely to push hard for governments that are more accountable to their needs and aspirations. Hopefully this situation will evolve to the point where representative, legitimate Arab governments gain ascendancy and get welcomed as full partners into the international community as well as into the global economy.
The Middle East and the Arab world have tremendous strategic significance for the industrialized world, which perceives of the region primarily as a supplier of oil and other energy products. The Middle East also matters to the United States as a result of its interest in the security of Israel. Finally, the region's adherence to Islam, while a source of concern and consternation, is most often used to demonize the people of the region, justifying huge military budgets and interventions, massive aid to Israel, and enormous sales of military goods and services to oil producing regimes.
Common problems affecting the Arab world include a) a population explosion with lots of youth needing jobs, b) rising food prices, c) stagnant, corrupt dictatorships that put a premium on their own well being and security at the expense of the dignity of their own people. The repressive nature of these regimes increased noticeably with Bush's war on terror. In addition, American allies have been encouraged to be "moderate," which translated into toleration and cooperation with Israel despite people's widespread disgust at its treatment of Palestinians. As a result, American allied regimes tend to have less legitimacy with their people than that enjoyed by countries that are less friendly with the United States and Israel.
Though Saudi Arabia has not figured prominently in any protests, it is America's closest ally and one of the most repressive regimes in the region. As a result, it is hard to get an accurate gauge of popular sentiment. Perhaps after reading some tea leaves, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah decided to offer $36 billion to his people ($1800 per Saudi), mostly in the way of government programs to be accelerated. An early test of the King's ability to buy peace will take place on March 11, when a national "day of anger" is scheduled.