A monthly newsletter of The West Cascade Peace Corps Association in Oregon's Southern Willamette Valley

August 2012

Coming Events

  • Aug 2: WCPCA discussion group, 6:30pm at New Day Bakery at 449 Blair
  • Aug 2-5: Northwest RPCV group regional campout, Sunset Bay
  • Aug 18: Poolside potluck with a program
  • Aug 23: WCPCA discussion group, 6:30pm at New Day Bakery at 449 Blair
  • Aug 25-26: WCPCA in the Eugene Celebration
  • Sept 10: WCPCA board meeting, 7-9 pm
  • Oct 12: Fall potluck

In this Issue

From The Board

From Members and the Wider World

Volunteer Opportities

ReConnections is the monthly newsletter of the West Cascade Peace Corps Association (WCPCA) and can be found online at http://www.westcascadepca.org under the "News" heading. If you have a question about the WCPCA, would no longer like to receive the newsletter or are interested in becoming more involved with the WCPCA, please contact info@westcascadepca.org.

Contributions to ReConnections are always welcome, although the editor and the WCPCA board reserve the right to choose what will be published. Generally, if it relates to the Peace Corps or to the WCPCA's goals (see the bylaws and constitution for more information), we would be happy to publish it. Please send contributions to newsletter@westcascadepca.org.

Editors: Keith Beyer, Deb Jones, Dorothy Soper
Newsletter Design: Felicia Kenney

Northwest RPCV Groups' Campout

This year WCPCA is hosting the annual campout of northwest RPCV groups. WCPCA member, Sam Greer, has organized the campout which will be at Sunset Bay, August 2-5. Camping spaces are now sold out with about 50 people planning to take part. Thus registration is closed. But it is still possible for those interested to join the daily activities if you find your own space to camp or stay. Sam can help you find a parking space for the days. Be prepared to pay for parking. You'll find information about the camp site and activities that are available each day on the WCPCA website.

Happy camping!

Poolside picnic/potluck with program, Saturday, August 18th, 3-6 pm

Bob Watada and Rosa Sakanishi have invited us to enjoy a poolside potluck and barbecue in the yard of their lovely home at 85622 Jasper Park Road in Pleasant Hill on Saturday afternoon, August 18, 3-6 pm. Come prepared for swimming or sunning. There is a covered shelter at the poolside if you prefer the shade. Your bringing a folding chair would be helpful. Bob will grill hamburgers and garden burgers. We'll share a potluck of appetizers, salads, and desserts. Please bring a dish to share. Cups, plates, and utensils will be provided.

We'll have a delightful program learning from two recently returned volunteers about their programs. Kerry Davis, Vanautu, 2009-2011, will tell us of her work and why she is continuing with the Peace Corps, setting off for Columbia in September. Jennifer Knowles, Macedonia, 2009-2011, will describe her program and how she learned to say, Chill out!, in Macedonian and then follow the advice.

You'll find driving directions to Bob and Rosa's home in the calendar section of the website.

Eugene Celebration

WCPCA is preparing to take part in the Eugene Celebration, August 25-26. We'll be in the Saturday morning parade, August 25th, and have a booth in the Community Causeway on both days.

Parade: We'll gather in front of South Eugene High School about 9:30 am on Saturday morning, 8/25, to organize for the parade. We don't yet know what our position in the parade will be and thus exactly where we will gather. That information should be in the mid-August email.

In the parade we'll be carrying flags, Peace Corps posters on bamboo poles, and a banner identifying our group by name. We'll also be propelling our venerable taxi as the pace setter. This is a family friendly activity and the board invites all local RPCVs, family members, and friends to join us. We've always enjoyed an enthusiastic community reception so it's important for us to have a strong showing. Please join us!

WCPCA will supply all of the items to carry but you are welcome to bring your own flag of your country of service if you wish. We ask that adults wear either an item of traditional dress from their (or their friend's) country of service or a WCPCA tee shirt. We're selling our newest tee shirt on the website or directly if you can pick up a shirt in Eugene. See this link to see a photo of the shirt or purchase one online. To buy a shirt directly, let us know of your interest by sending an email to info@westcascadepca.org and writing "Shirt" in the subject line.

Booth: We're now staffing the booth which will be open on Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 5pm. Here we'll answer questions about Peace Corps service and the activities of WCPCA, distribute Peace Corps literature, and sell WCPCA tee shirts and international calendars. On the job training is available. Profits from sales are invested in humanitarian projects throughout the world. We have some booth staffing time open on Saturday and all times are open on Sundays. Please join us in this lively activity. If you can help with staffing the booth, please send an email to info@westcascadepca.org and write "Booth staffing" in the subject line.

Geography game: To engage passersby at our booth, WCPCA member, Evangelina Sundgrenz, is developing a geography game with questions about past or present Peace Corps host countries. Please help us by submitting questions. Think of important mountains, rivers, lakes in a Peace Corps country or important eventsthat are generally known. Examples are below:
  • In which former Peace Corps host country is the city of Timbuktu? (Mali)
  • Can you name two of the four former Peace Corps host countries through which the Niger River in West Africa flows? (Guinea (Conakry), Mali, Niger, Nigeria)
  • Two countries share Mt. Everest. One is a current Peace Corps country and the other is a former Peace Corps country. Can you name one of these countries? (Nepal and China)

Please email your questions info@westcascadepca.org and write "Game" in the subject line. We need to have at least 100 questions. Many thanks for your help!! Please plan to stop by the booth and play the game.

Oregon Country Fair Booth

The board thanks WCPCA member Andrew Dempsey-Karp (Dominican Republic, 2003-2005) for organizing our participation in the Community Village's Peace and Justice booth of the Oregon Country Fair, July 13-15. The village was a busy and lively site for the Peace Corps to make its presence felt. Below is Andrew's report about this activity.

From Andrew: July marked the WCPA's second year at the Oregon Country Fair's Peace and Justice booth in Community Village. The purpose of the Peace Corps presence was to (a) promote the WCPCA by connecting with additional RCPV's and, (b) provide information about the Peace Corps to prospective applicants.

RCPV's Nancy and Walt Meyer (Mexico, 2006-08), Eva Miller (Dominican Republic, 2008-10 & Peace Corps Response: El Salvador 2011-12), Jeem Peterson (Solomon Islands, 1995-97), Kourtney Rusow (Senegal, 2010-2012), and Genealle Visagorskis (Lithuania, 1997-99) volunteered at the booth and were a tremendous help in speaking with the public.

Nick Fleury (Cameroon 2000-02 & Tanzania 2002-04) was also a part of the Peace and Justice booth, volunteering for Food for Lane County. In total, 15 RCPV's visited the booth and we connected with 12 potential PC applicants.

October Potluck

Mark your calendars! Our October potluck will be at 6 pm on Friday, October 12, at the home of Nancy and Walt Meyer. Our program and directions to Nancy and Walt's house will be announced in an upcoming newsletter and will be included on the website's calendar. Many thanks to Nancy and Walt for being our hosts!

Peace Corps Partnership Projects' Update

In June the board donated funds to the Peace Corps partnership project, Community Cereal Bank, in Kenya which was being organized by a PCV from Oregon. We were sorry to learn recently that the project has been cancelled. The board will continue to review PCP projects being organized by Oregon PCVs to identify one or more others to support.

We've received a recent update from Tyler Russ, an Oregon PCV in Rwanda and organizer of the PCP project, Guitar Workshop, which the board funded fully earlier this year. Please read his email in the next section of this newsletter.

Please remember, too, that any of you may make an individual contribution to a PCP project through the Peace Corps website. These contributions are tax deductible for individuals. Click here to donate online.

JFK Tee Shirt on Sale

WCPCA's new JFK tee shirts are on sale now! At the April potluck WCPCA unveiled the new tee shirt designed by James Cloutier. On the front is the West Cascade dove and a quotation from President John Kennedy's inaugural address (1961), "My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you but what together we can do for the freedom of man." The back shows a graphic of JFK against the background of a world map, the Peace Corps name, and the following quotation (1963), "A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on." The board feels that these quotations are as relevant now as they were in the early 1960s!

The shirts are a beautiful spring blue color, 100% cotton, with the design printed in four colors. They will be available to purchase at WCPCA gatherings and at the Eugene Celebration booth as well as through the website. You can purchase one locally at any time by letting us know of your interest via email at info@westcascadepca.org and writing "tee shirt" in the subject line.

Tee shirt sales will be a major fundraiser for WCPCA this year. The board will dedicate the total profit from the sales to funding humanitarian projects such as those that we have recently funded in Vanuatu and Rwanda. The price of an individual shirt is $20 plus $3 per shirt for mailing if necessary. A wholesale price for a dozen or more shirts will be $16 per shirt plus $16 per box for mailing a box that will hold up to 15 shirts. We hope to enlist the interest of other RPCV groups as well as businesses in selling the shirts. If you can help with this, please let us know.

We hope that many of you will be wearing these tee shirts in the Eugene Celebration parade. They will help make a resounding Peace Corps statement.

Dorothy Soper and James Cloutier

WCPCA Monthly Email Newsletter: help needed

Producing our monthly email newsletter is a vital component of our communications as well as a rewarding task. There are many contributors but we still need help with compiling and editing the newsletter each month. We'd like one or two additional members, starting this fall, who are willing to do this work on a revolving basis, probably every three months. We're grateful to Deb Jones who puts the newsletter into HTML and to Felicia Kenney who sends it to our mailing list.

Please let us know if you are willing to contribute to creating the newsletter and thus keeping us all in touch. On the job training is available, of course, but basic computer skills are necessary.

Let us know of you interest by calling us directly or emailing info@westcascadepca.org with "Newsletter" in the subject line. Many thanks in advance,

Keith Beyer and Dorothy Soper

Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers

I wrote an article several months ago about Abandoned by Peace Corps, a group trying to get assistance for RPCVs from the Peace Corps in dealing with health issues caused by our service. I thought that it was probably time for an update (since we are so often asked to help by so many different groups and then never told the results).

It has been a very active few months. Due to the encouragement of the National Peace Corps Association and the Peace Corps, the name of the group was changed to Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers. The name is much longer, but it still reflects our goal. As in the past, efforts had been made to contact the Peace Corps about our situation with no success, then the NPCA put us in touch with the Deputy Director of the Peace Corps and things started to happen. While it is frustrating that it took the intervention of the NPCA for us to finally be able to speak to someone at the Peace Corps, the results have been fairly impressive.

One of the most exciting changes is that a consultant has been hired to help RPCVs with ongoing problems deal with the bureaucracy within the Department of Labor's Office of Workers' Compensation, which handles our disability claims. Volunteers who have been fighting for treatment for years have finally gotten help. This is a huge step forward! However, we need to make this change a permanent one, so that volunteers in the future don't have the problems we have had.

The first step to making that change permanent is to get more concrete information on how many volunteers return injured or sick, how well they do navigating the system and if they ultimately get the care they need. To do this, we are putting together a survey. This survey will cover both the conditions volunteers face in country and when they get home. It will cover both interaction with the Peace Corps and the Department of Labor, as it relates to our disability.

This survey is important because without any idea of how many people are injured, we will really can't propose a useful strategy for fixing the problems. If 75 volunteers are in need of help, that is quite different from 75,000. While we expect that the answer is someplace in the middle, a guess is less likely to get us help than actual numbers. This was one of the topics that was discussed a couple weeks ago when interested members from Health Justice spoke in a conference call with Jonathan Pearson, the advocacy director for the National Peace Corps Association. We talked with him about the struggles PCVs face both in country and upon their return, as well as about ways that the NPCA can work with us to help bring about positive change. He had some suggestions about the survey and ways to distribute it that should really help us get in contact with more volunteers. The survey will be for both volunteers who returned sick and for those who suffered no health problems because of their service, although those in the second category will have only four questions to answer.

The second idea that we discussed during the conference call is having a Sick or Injured PCV Awareness day. There are a zillion of these days on the calendar. However, if NPCA affiliate groups (the local RPCV groups) know about this day and are given some information about how difficult it is for sick or injured RPCVs, this could be a very good opportunity for the groups and the isolated RPCVs to connect. Since many of us are angry with the Peace Corps and have perhaps been belittled or made to feel ashamed by the Peace Corps post-service medical unit, doctors or the Department of Labor upon our return, we often avoid other RPCVs.

When in country, RPCVs help each other. This doesn't have to change when we return home. In addition to having a connection with someone else who understands what it meant to be a PCV, we are hoping that we may be able to find some RPCVs who would be willing to help sick or injured RPCVs with transportation, with the mountains of paperwork with which we need to deal, or perhaps by helping those who are overwhelmed get organized enough to cope. Many of the things that healthy people take for granted are beyond the capabilities of very sick RPCVs.

Lastly, we talked about having a delegation from our group go to DC to talk to congress people. This would happen after the elections and probably after Christmas. By then, the survey will be complete, and we as a group will have had a chance to brainstorm the next steps we should take. The irony is that those of us who have the most time to do this are also those of us who are the most sick. I will be among those who go, and I know that this will be incredibly difficult for me. I've chosen, however, to think of this as my Peace Corps service. With a little luck and a lot of work on the part of many volunteers, we will be able to create a lasting change.

The NPCA and the Peace Corps have gone out of their way to help us, and we are incredibly thankful. While it might seem like the progress is slow, we are definitely making headway, something that no previous efforts on this front have ever been able to say. If you would like to help out with any of the above or have ideas to contribute, please contact healthjusticepeacecorpsvols@gmail.com or comment on Facebook.

Thanks for your help and support. It is very much appreciated.

Felicia Kenney
Benin 2003-2004
WCPCA member and Communications Coordinator

Update on PCP project, Guitar Workshop, Rwanda

There's actually another PCV who hopes to do a similar project. I think she is in ED-3 here. She has a guitar with her at site and people are asking her to teach them. I'm making the guitar book I've got available to her and I want to introduce her to the guitar maker there in Kigali.

As for the guitar maker, I want to provide him with some information on how to reinforce a guitar structurally, so that it is can be tuned correctly. I'm a bit disappointed by the whole situation, but when life gives you lemons . . . . If there were a craftsman here making affordable guitars that could be tuned correctly, that could greatly influence the entire music scene here. It's worth a shot. I've found some material online and I've scheduled to meet with him next week (July 13/14/15) to share that with him. He's promised to get a flash disk, so we can transfer videos and information to him. I'll let you know next week how that goes.

I also wanted to give you another short update on my project. As you know, I had the books printed on June 9/10. On the weekend of June 23 I went to Kigali and got the books back to site on Tuesday (26 June). I used my suitcase and packed the books as tightly as I could, plus I used an empty guitar case to bring others. All the books are at site.

Just this weekend I went to Kigali to take a guitar for repairs to the craftsman, Mariuss, and am transporting five guitars to site. I had a bit of a hang-up yesterday with internet (server was not available at the Bourbon Coffee (cafe) in Kigali) and with money when as I was heading back to site ("your financial institution is unavailable") and trying to use the ATM. I know that ATM's didn't even exist a few decades ago and I'm sure they're a recent addition for use in Peace Corps countries. But even these luxuries have their difficulties. At any rate, I have five guitars here (Byumba, nearest 'large city' to my site) and will get these to site by tonight.

So, all in all, I've got the books at site and half the guitars will be at site by tonight.

Also, the other day (7th July, Friday) I spent a few hours with my guitar and some students at my school, G.S. APAPEDUC. I took my guitar to the Senior 2 classroom and many students came in to hear me play a few songs. After about 15 or 20 minutes of playing I let the students play the guitar. I identified at least four students who have previous guitar knowledge. Even the other students were surprised, so these were truly hidden skills. For me, this is good.

Witnessing (the students) enthusiasm, ability to learn quickly and prior skills, I can see that the potential for this project succeeding in the following years is very realistic. Basically, the biggest factor is the quality of the guitars that I'm bringing to site. If they can hold up over the next few years, then the project should succeed. I have hope.

Thanks for your attention! We'll be definitely be taking some pictures some time around August 4-10 and then again in the next term (which starts 3 September).

I'm excited and will update you on what I can.

Kwitonda Tyler (ED 2), Rwanda
Email, July 9, 2012
Oregon PCV and organizer of PCP project, Guitar Workshop, that was fully funded by WCPCA in April

Letter to all Honduras RPCVs

A group of us RPCV's is creating ONE master contact list for all Honduras RPCV's from 1962 to present. Steve Phelan will periodically email the list so you can locate your friends and let us know who's missing. Also, you will be emailed an invitation to a mega-reunion to be held late next year in Colorado. We've gone from 300 names to 800 names on the list!

Fred Corvi
Choluteca, 1978-1980

Invitation from McKenzie River Gathering (MRG)

RPCVs are invited to the McKenzie River Gathering (MRG) annual picnic: Peace & Pie in the Park.

Like the Peace Corps Partnership Program, MRG gives grants to grassroots organizations promoting social justice...only in Oregon, not abroad. Come join me at the picnic, learn about MRG's work, and enjoy some great food, music and conversation. I'll look forward to seeing you at the event to be held at Alton Baker Park on Sunday, August 12 from 1-4 PM.

John Hofer