A monthly newsletter of The West Cascade Peace Corps Association in Oregon's Southern Willamette Valley
The February potluck will be at the home of WCPCA members, John Hannah and Mary Brooner, on Friday, February 8th, 6-9 pm. Please visit the calendar page of the WCPCA website to find directions.
WCPCA member, Kate Coy (Togo 2007-08), will describe the highlights of her recent PC service as a CHAP (Community Health and Aids Prevention) volunteer. This experience led to Kate's currently working on a U of O master's thesis in conflict and dispute resolution. Kate's recently been elected to the Cottage Grove city council and is also a small business owner in Cottage Grove.
Please join us to welcome Kate and several other new WCPCA members. Bring a dish to share. Plates, cups, and utensils will be provided. There is ample on street parking.
The final, close out, super bargain, sale price of the beautiful 2013 calendars is $5 each and the February potluck will be your best chance to take advantage of this extraordinary price. The calendar sale is the board's major fundraising activity to support humanitarian projects and your purchase will help us maintain this tradition.
In 2012 the board awarded a total of $2,635 to four Peace Corps Partnership projects organized by PCVs from Oregon. The board would like to continue this support in 2013 but needs your support first.
Please consider giving these beautiful calendars to internationally minded family members, friends, teachers, students, employees and anyone you know who is interested in the world. The calendar with its stunning photos of Peace Corps host countries would be a welcome gift.
You may also purchase calendars directly in Eugene. To inquire, contact us and write "calendar" in the subject line. Calendars are also available for purchase on the shopping page of the WCPCA website.
The WCPCA board would like to appoint an additional two members to its number for this year to be able to carry out fully the organization's traditional outreach activities. With 137 members as of the first of the year and its sound financial position, WCPCA is in a strong position to fulfill its mission to "promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans." But we need more members to join us to help organize our work. New ideas are welcome!
The board plans to meet quarterly this year - that's four meetings in all - with this number supplemented by committee meetings as necessary. The first meeting was on 1/14/13 and the second meeting is scheduled for 4/15/13. There will be an orientation for new members.
To learn about our dynamic, task-oriented team, please contact board president, Miriam Aiken and writing "board service" in the subject line.
Thanks in advance to those who will consider this. The work is rewarding and rich with intrinsic returns. Your presence can make a difference!
Our gratitude goes to Felicia Kenney for creating the 2013 WCPCA membership directory, which was emailed to all members on January 15 as a PDF file. Please download and save the directory for future reference. Members may print a paper copy for themselves if they wish.
The directory is a valuable networking tool listing the names, years, and countries of PC service, contact information, and some bio information for approximately 135 WCPCA members. The final pages list members by country of service. Please download and save it for future reference. Recall that only WCPCA members are listed, and only they receive the directory. The information is not shared beyond the organization.
If you need the directory resent to you, please contact us and write "directory" in the subject line. If you aren't a WCPCA member and would like to have a directory, please join the organization. Visit the membership page of the website to join and you'll receive a copy of the directory.
As of the first of the year WCPCA had 137 members in four membership categories as follows: individuals: 60; families: 41; first year free: 25; PCVs or PC trainees: 7; students: 4. Members in the first two categories paid dues of $15 for an individual and $22 for a family; those in the other categories do not pay dues. Thus 101 members paid dues in 2012.
You may use the membership page of the website to join or renew your membership and to update contact information or bios. Alternatives are to send dues' payments and information updates on paper to the organization at PO Box 5462, Eugene 97405, or to join or renew through the National Peace Corps Association's website.
Miriam Aiken handles the membership and sends an email to members to remind them to renew when their membership expiration date is near. A prompt response is always helpful.
The WCPCA board plans to meet once per quarter this year. Its first meeting was on 1/14/13 and its second meeting is scheduled for 4/15/13. This summary of the minutes of the first meeting will let members know of the board's current work and plans for the next few months.
Attending the meeting were Miriam Aiken, Juliet Bender, James Cloutier, Charles Goldsmith, Dale Morse, and Dorothy Soper.
WCPCA member, Julia Harvey (Tonga 1990-93), a science teacher at South Eugene High School, organized three panels of local RPCVs to take part in the Day of Respect to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at SEHS on January 15th. The Day of Respect is held every other year to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Instead of attending regular classes, students attend an assembly, workshops, and a rally with a guest speaker to broaden their awareness, understanding, and appreciation of diversity. Below Julia tells us about this activity.
Hannah Klausman (Mongolia '06-'08) arrived with a container of sheep ankle bones on a very cool crisp morning that reminded her of an August day in Mongolia. Jennifer Knowles (Macedonia '09-'11) shared the process of preparing pepper soup that left everyone wanting to try some. Maggie Keenan (Philippines '87-'90) showed pictures of her service and of her recent trip to her site with her daughter. Gwen Bailey (Tanzania '66-'68) spoke of not being able to teach biology despite her training because she was a woman. Megan O'Connor (Ukraine '10-'12) dressed in the regional costume of Chernivitsi. Corie Hinton (Madagascar '08-'10) vividly described being led away through the bush into the dark to the house of her host family. Students were treated to a unique presentation when they heard of Peace Corps in Peru from Wayne Thompson (Peru '64-'66) and Elke Richers (Peru '10-'12) who served nearly 50 years apart. Secondary projects, host families, evacuations, local diet, struggles and accomplishments were among the stories shared with South Eugene High School students on the Day of Respect (1/15/13).
I choose to host returned Peace Corps volunteers because I believe that the Day of Respect ties in with the third goal of the Peace Corps; "Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans." The presentations were well received by students. Students appreciated the detailed personal stories of obstacles and successes that spanned five decades. Students were amazed at the differences in how students were educated around the world. Students were overheard in the hallways talking about the Peace Corps.
The next day in class, students asked me follow up questions about the Peace Corps. More than one student is serious about becoming a volunteer after college.
After listening to the presenters it is clear that no matter where and when we served, we share many common experiences. We leave our host country with more than we ever thought possible. We are proud of our service. And we all seem to have interesting dietary stories from yurt roof cheese to guinea pig heads to roasted horse in a plastic bag (that one is mine from a Tongan funeral feast). Wouldn't we all do it again?
Julia Harvey (Tonga, 1990-93), Secondary Science Education, SEHS
The Idaho Returned Peace Corps Volunteers group will host this annual spring meeting of representatives of the northwest RPCV groups in Boise, March 1-3. Three days of both a business and social program are planned. The primary business meeting will take place on Saturday, March 2nd.
Everyone is welcome to attend. WCPCA would like to have an official representative of the organization at the meeting and has set aside funds to help subsidize a trip. Members of the Boise RPCV group will offer lodging in their homes to those who attend. To learn more about the meeting and program, please visit the Idaho organization's website.
Note that you may register to attend the meeting online and that registration is due by February 19th. If you are interested in representing WCPCA at the meeting please contact us and write "regional meeting" in the subject line.
Many thanks to: Deb Jones, Jeem Peterson, Virginia Donahue, Juliet Bender, Charlie Goldsmith, Miriam Aiken, and Cathy Beyer. Food for Lane County has approximately 30-40 volunteers each day, Monday-Friday. The staff is appreciative to WCPCA for the help we provide each month.
Please note that FFLC has set aside a place for WCPCA volunteers to do this work on the fourth Monday evening, 6-9 pm, of February, March, April, September, October, and November. Our next evening of volunteering will be February 25th, 6-9 pm, at the FFLC warehouse, 770 Bailey Hill Road, Eugene. Please email me with questions or to confirm your taking part. Write "FFLC" in the subject line.
Join us to support Food for Lane County!
Patty MacAfee, Cameroon (1989-91)
The book group's next book will be River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze, by Peter Hessler, PCV, China, 1996-98. We'll gather on Monday, March 4th, 7pm, at Josette Green's home to talk about the book and how the story relates to our own Peace Corps experiences. All are welcome.
WCPCA member, Vicki Elmer (Nepal 1965-67), director of the U of O's Oregon Leadership in Sustainability program, encourages RPCVs to learn about this program and consider applying. Some instructors are RPCVs but so far there are no RPCVs among the students and Vicki invites their applications. Read below for details. Applications are now being accepted for next fall and that will continue on a rolling through the summer.
OLIS is a new, one year, cohort-based graduate certificate program that provides hands-on skills and experiences needed to work in a professional environment concerned about sustainability and cities--whether with a public agency, a non-profit, or a private firm working in the public and nonprofit sections. Our students come from diverse backgrounds--from the arts and sciences, engineering, as well as those who have concentrated on the environment, planning, and design. More information can be found on olis.uoregon.edu or by contacting Vicki directly.
Once again volunteers from WCPCA are invited to enjoy culinary treats at this renowned annual fundraiser organized by Food for Lane County in return for joining the clean up crew. This year the event will take place on Tuesday, April 9th, at the Hult Center. After enjoying the offerings of dozens of local restaurants and wineries, volunteers will stay to help with the clean up, which takes about 90 minutes and involves folding and storing tables and chairs, rolling up small rugs, and similar activities.
For further information about the event, please click here.
This is an activity for energetic gourmands who can arrive shortly after 8 pm and stay until about 10:30 pm. If you are interested in joining the crew, please contact us and write "chefs" in the subject line. This volunteer activity has been a staple of WCPCA's community work for over a dozen years. Let's keep it going!!
WCPCA member, John Hofer, (Morocco, 1968-70), submitted the unsolicited article below. The contents, statements, references, and opinions are his alone. All comments should be directed to John at his email address, which is published in the membership directory.
When I returned from my trip to Syria two years ago, the Arab world was enjoying a prolonged period of peace, interrupted only by regular Israeli attacks on its neighbors and by sectarian strife in Iraq. Today it is hard to find a stable Arab country, the exceptions being resource-rich monarchies.
Unrest began when an itinerant street vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi immolated himself in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. Bouazizi, a university graduate, was trying to eke out a meager existence selling vegetables. Police harassed him regularly. On December 16, 2010, he borrowed $200 and used it for stock. On December 17 police confiscated it. In anger and desperation, Bouazizi set himself on fire. That date is now commemorated across much of the Arab world.
Little did Bouazizi know that he would spark what is known in the West as the Arab Spring, a name coined by Marc Lynch in Foreign Policy magazine. Many Arabs refer to it simply as "the revolution."
The difference in designation is illustrative of a huge difference in perception. The West likes to imagine a movement for freedom and democracy, something consistent with what US officials like to state as their foreign policy goals. Such a framing is certainly much less threatening than that of a proletariat rising up against corrupt, plundering plutocrats, a view held by many Arabs. Since the initial, heady events of two years ago the moniker "Arab Spring" has evolved to the point where it can cover almost any event involving the removal of an Arab dictator. In Libya it refers to a NATO-led regime change; in Bahrain, to sectarian tensions; in Yemen, to tribal conflict, and in Egypt and Tunisia, to a popular uprising.
In Syria, what apparently started as popular uprising against a repressive dictator has become a lethal mix of sectarian tensions aided and abetted by outsiders trying to foster regime change.
Writing about Syria is difficult. News stories are plentiful, but reliable information is scarce. What is actually happening may not be known until histories are written, if then.
Even so, several things are clear. First, much of the country is in ruins. Syria is headed for "Somalisation" without successful negotiations, according to Lakhdar Brahimi, the international envoy to Syria. Rebels even burned the great Aleppo souk, a UNESCO heritage site and major commercial center.
Second, the battle has become an existential one for Christians and other minorities supporting the Assad regime. They believe they have no choice but to fight to the end or risk becoming refugees if they are lucky, annihilated if not. Third, the West has done little to stop the bloodshed. Proposed UN Security Council resolutions, contrary to common wisdom, did not call for a cease fire. Instead, they called only for the Assad regime to lay down its arms (surrender) against what many Syrians saw as a domestic insurrection. Resolutions calling for a cease fire by both sides were rejected by the West. Now Western-allied Qatar and Saudi Arabia help arm and pay the rebels. The West trains them and provides other kinds of support, probably including covert special forces.
Fourth, it is clear that the legitimacy of the Syrian government is not for Syrians to decide. The Syrian Opposition Coalition, recognized by the West as the interim government, consists mostly of expatriates (remember Ahmad Chalabi?). It has been repudiated by rebels doing the fighting. The United States declared one of their organizations, Jabhat al-Nusra, a terrorist organization. In response, Syrians in rebel controlled areas reportedly took to the streets, chanting "we're all Jubhat al-Nusra." Now it is reported that US has sent special forces to Jordan to train forces to eliminate rebel leaders and pave the way for US-allied expatriates. The carnage in Syria is a terrible price to pay for regime change. Still, the death toll is nowhere near as high as in Iraq, where the toll will never be known for certain, since the United States never bothered to tally it. Egypt, a country at the epicenter of the "Arab Sping," is offering up a fascinating saga as it stumbles into the unknown. In the latest episode, Egyptians ratified a new constitution. Written within the context of the Koran and "Sharia Law," it prompted Western talking heads to proclaim the arrival of the Arab Winter.
The term "Sharia Law" deserves some explanation. For many Arabs, it simply implies the rule of law, as opposed to rule by dictatorial fiat, as has been the norm. In fact, much of Islam's early appeal stemmed from its ability to offer social and moral norms to peoples where basic rules of civilized social interaction had been forgotten or perverted.
By itself, "Sharia" means "the way" in a concrete sense, "legitimacy" in a conceptual sense. And it is legitimacy that Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood seeks, both religious and popular. The writers of the new constitution took pains to give it religious legitimacy. Its 64% voter approval conferred it popular legitimacy.
Though the Western media chose to publicize opposition rumblings in Tahrir Square and condemned President Mursi's assumption of "pharaonic powers," the opposition could motivate only 10% of the electorate to show up and vote against the new constitution. As a result, elections may be the wave of the future as Mursi tries to overwhelm Mubarak's deeply entrenched power centers by the legitimacy conferred by winning one popular vote after another.
Now it will be interesting to watch Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood maneuver between popular expectations and the existing, well-entrenched order, which is not all that threatened. The military, which controls much of the economy, has had its autonomy enshrined in the new constitution. Bankers, in the form of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), are poised to "help" Egypt out of its economic distress and assure Western influence. Even the Muslim Brotherhood may not be all that keen on rocking the economic boat, as many of its leaders are businessmen who profited from the Mubarak system.
Still, the specter of Mohammed Bouazizi lurks in the background. How long can a politically awakened public tolerate a regime that fails to ameliorate its deteriorating economic condition? Early tests will come in the coming months as IMF loan conditions begin to hurt the poor and the middle classes.
In Tunisia, which has fallen off the media's radar, IMF loan conditions are already beginning to bite. Unemployment is at record highs. Many Tunisians are disappointed that economic conditions have not improved. In Siliana, an impoverished town, over 200 people were recently wounded in week-long clashes between Tunisian security forces and thousands of protesters. Already, the country's Islamist President, Moncef Marzouki, is so unpopular that rocks were thrown at him when he tried to attend a commemoration of Bouazizi's death.
Peace and stability do not seem to be on the horizon.
Interestingly enough, it was in the oil-rich Emirate of Kuwait where a real Arab Spring, striving for freedom and democracy, seemed to be underway. The stage was set last February, when the opposition won parliamentary elections. Its platform included government accountability and an end to corruption. In response, the new parliament was invalidated, The Emir then issued an emergency decree changing the electoral rules. That decision was protested by tens of thousands, huge numbers for a country the size of of tiny Kuwait. New elections were held in December. A new parliament was elected after only 40% of the voters turned out, the result of a boycott by the opposition, which was seeking to delegitimize the results.
And so, Kuwait's democratization process-almost totally ignored by the US government and the Western media-has been rendered stillborn, setting the stage for unrest to come.
Jordan seems primed as the next host for a popular uprising. At a recent debate held in the capital Amman, 54% of the audience supported the proposition that Jordan is on the brink of serious political turmoil and unrest. Awash in Palestinian, Iraqi and Syrian refugees, economic growth has been weak. Large protests took place recently after IMF loan conditions forced sharp rises in food and energy prices. More are to come. In addition, King Abdullah's popularity has eroded even in tribal areas that provided his traditional base of support.
Local jokers report that King Abdullah has been dealing with the situation by changing governments almost as quickly as he changes his clothes.
In conclusion, it promises to be an interesting year to come. And that's without even mentioning an impending royal succession and sectarian strife in Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter; or a potential war against Iran, the country with the world's second largest energy reserves; or sectarian strife and deadly palace intrigues in Iraq, the country with the world's third largest oil reserves ...
John Hofer, (Morocco, 1968-70)