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

March 2014

Coming Events

  • April 4: Friday evening, 6-9 pm, the WCPCA potluck will be at the home of Juliet Bender and Charles Goldsmith. Laurette Garner, the U of O Peace Corps representative, will tell us about her Peace Corps experiences in Madagascar, 2004-2006, and her recruiting activities on the U of O campus.

    Juliet and Charles' address is in the Membership Directory or you can look at the calendar page of the website for driving directions. See the article below for more details.

  • April 8: Tuesday evening, 8:30 -10:00 pm, a WCPCA team will enjoy the offerings of Chefs' Night Out sponsored by Food for Lane County and then stay on to join the clean up crew for this popular fundraiser which offers tastings from Lane County's highly vaunted restaurants, wineries, and brew pubs. Volunteers are needed. See the article below for details.

  • April 12: Saturday morning through lunch, WCPCA will host the annual meeting of representatives of the northwest RPCV organizations from in Portland, Seattle, Spokane, and Boise. We'll need WCPCA members to help stage the event; all members are invited to attend. See the article below for further details. The venue will be the Hilyard Community Center, 2580 Hilyard Street, Eugene.

  • April 27: Sunday evening board meeting, 7-9 pm, at the home of Dorothy Soper. All members are welcome to attend. Dorothy's address is in the Membership Directory.

  • April 28: Monday evening, 6-9 pm, join the WCPCA crew at the Food for Lane County warehouse, 770 Bailey Hill Road, Eugene, to package food donations into family size containers.

  • May 20: Tuesday evening, 7-9 pm, the book group will discuss Mango Elephants in the Sun: How Life in an African Village Let Me Be in My Skin by Susana Herrera. We'll meet at Josette Green's home. See the article below for details. All are welcome.

  • To inquire about any of these activities please send an email to info@westcascadepca.org or visit the calendar page of the WCPCA website.

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 www.westcascadepca.org on the "News" page. 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.

Reconnections keeps the Lane County RPCV community apprised of WCPCA's coming events, ongoing activities, business affairs, and community activities judged to be of general interest to the local Peace Corps community.

Submissions to Reconnections are welcome and may be emailed to info@westcascadepca.org. The WCPCA board of directors reserves the right to select items for publication.

Editors: Deb Jones and Dorothy Soper
Newsletter Design: Felicia Kenney

Regional Meeting of Northwest RPCV Groups

It's starting to feel like spring! This means that we are getting closer to the Regional Meeting here in Eugene of representatives of the five northwest RPCV groups. West Cascade will host the meeting on Saturday morning, April 12th, at the Hilyard Community Center, 2580 Hilyard Street, Eugene. Our agenda will focus on small group discussions of topics of mutual interest to the organizations. Howard Schuman will be the facilitator.

We'll need WCPCA members to help stage the meeting. Everyone is invited to attend. We have decided to have a catered lunch organized by our Elke Richers. We ask those who want to stay for lunch to RSVP so that we can plan ahead. Following our Peace Corps traditions, we'll offer lodging to those from out of town who want to stay over night.

Please let me know if you have ideas for our discussion topics, can help us organize the meeting, would like to join us for lunch, or can host one or more of our guests by emailing info@westcascadepca.org and writing Regional Meeting in the subject line.


Julia Harvey, President
(Tonga, 1990-1993)

Peace Corps Week at the U of O

To celebrate Peace Corps Week, February 23 to March 1, on the University of Oregon campus, Pravin (Portland Recruiter) and I (Laurette, U of O campus Peace Corps Representative) facilitated a panel discussion with three Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.

Panelists: Ben Pellegrom, Jenn Knowles, Denise Silfee

Panelists were: Ben Pellegrom who served in the Ukraine (2003-2006), Jennifer Knowles who served in Macedonia (2010-2012), and Denise Silfee who served in Thailand (2011-2013). We also had the pleasure of having a current volunteer participate through a Skype interview. Tricia Buzzard was a PCV in Honduras (2011-2012) and is currently serving in Fiji (2012-2014).

Tricia Buzzard joining the panel via Skype.

We also had six RPCVs present at this event, who were most helpful in adding to the conversation generated by our panelists' fascinating answers.

  I asked each panelist the same questions and each gave amazing, inspiring and individual responses.  We went through at least seven question and answer rounds and after the event we opened the floor up for more questions. After each round, students were able to ask questions and many of them did. I was impressed with the questions and the thoughtfulness behind each one and equally impressed by the impromptu responses given by our panelists.

Some examples of the harder questions asked by members of the audience were (paraphrasing of course): How does a volunteer justify going abroad to serve under-served communities when there is so much poverty and there are so many problems here in the United States? And: Is it better to go to graduate school before or after Peace Corps service? And then: How do you address issues like dirty needles in hospitals, as a volunteer, and not get angry when you can't fix obvious problems within individual countries?  

We had approximately 38 students attend this event, which was a wonderful turn out!!  

And in closing, I would like to say how inspiring and touching it is to see so many RPCVs together in one room, who still carry their stories and passion with them as if they served as a volunteer just yesterday. The way Peace Corps continues to touch our lives in everyday experiences and actions consistently leaves me speechless and proud. I am so thankful to be a RPCV!


  Laurette Garner, U of O Peace Corps Representative
(Madagascar 2004-2006)
220 Hendricks Hall, University of Oregon
Ph: 541.346.6026; pcorps@uoregon.edu; www.peacecorps.gov

April Potluck

The next WCPCA potluck will be held on Friday evening, April 4th, 6-9 pm, at the home of Juliet Bender and Charles Goldsmith. Laurette Garner, the UO Peace Corps Representative, will speak about her PC experiences in Madagascar (2004-2006) and about upcoming PC campus activities. Please bring a dish to share for an evening of friendship and fun.

Juliet and Charles" address is in the Membership Directory and will be included with the potluck listing on the calendar section of the website.

Juliet Bender, Program Cochair
(Mexico, 2009-2012)

Volunteers Needed for North Eugene High School's Pan-Africa Conference and Celebration, March 11th

North Eugene High School is organizing a Pan-Africa Conference and Celebration as the culminating event of a trimester long integrated Social Studies and Language Arts unit about the African continent.  The half-day event will bring together all of NEHS's ninth grade students to share their individual research projects with students from multiple cohorts. The event will feature guest speakers and a collaborative problem-solving project requiring students to consider current events in African countries alongside the UN Millennium Development Goals. 

We are seeking community members with prior expertise or experience in African countries to serve as judges for these student projects.  The event will be held on Tuesday, March 11th from 8 am to noon and will be a great chance to interact with and support North Eugene's 9th grade class! 

If anyone is available and interested in being a part of this event, please contact me. Thank you! 

Denise Silfee
(Thailand 2011-2013)

Volunteers Needed for Chefs' Night Out

Food for Lane County will present its annual fundraiser, Chefs' Night Out, on Tuesday evening, April 8th. A WCPCA team will enjoy the offerings of Chefs' Night Out and then stay on to join the clean up crew for this popular fundraiser which offers tastings from Lane County's highly vaunted restaurants, wineries, and brew pubs. The event will take place at the Hult Center in Eugene.

James Cloutier is organizing WCPCA's clean up team which will begin the evening at about 8:30 pm and conclude at 10:30 pm or so. To volunteer, please contact James directly or send an email to info@westcascadepca.org with Chefs' Night Out in the subject line.

WCPCA board

Peace Corps Partnership Project in Mozambique Funded

At its February meeting the WCPCA board voted to contribute $635 to Classroom Curiosidades, a Peace Corps Partnership project in Mozambique. The grant completed the funding that the project required to build a classroom to house an after-school program and initiate its educational activities.

The project is being organized by PCV Victor Palma Campos who is from Eugene and a recent graduate of Sheldon High School and the U of O. Victor has already expressed his appreciation and that of his community for the funding. Next month we'll share photos of Victor and those working with him on this project.

We look forward to welcoming Victor home from Mozambique next year and hope that he'll join us to talk about his Peace Corps service and this project in particular.

A full description of Classroom Curiosidades is on the Projectpage of the website.

WCPCA board

Update on WCPCA Business

The newly elected 2014 board of directors held its first meeting on February 23rd. We had wide ranging discussions touching upon the renewal of the organization's affiliation with the National Peace Corps Association, the regional meeting of the northwest RPCV groups, continuing to refine the membership database, and organizing WCPCA's volunteer work with Food for Lane County on the evening of Chefs' Night Out. As noted above the board funded a PC Partnership project organized by a PCV from Eugene.

2014 budget: The board adopted a budget for 2014 which will be posted on the Business page of the website along with the minutes of board meetings. Our financial position is healthy with approximately $6,356 in our accounts at OCCU and $30,000 in the Beryl Brinkman Memorial Fund, our endowed fund that's managed by the Oregon Community Foundation. We receive distributions of approximately $1,200 per year from the fund. Distributions may be used only to fund humanitarian projects.

The board voted to place the approximately $600 in profit from 2013 tee shirt and calendar sales in the restricted fund to award to humanitarian projects. In 2014 such profits will also be dedicated to funding humanitarian projects.

The organization's primary source of revenue is membership dues which we project to be approximately $1,400 in 2014 and which will cover most of our operating expenses. The board anticipates awarding $2,000 in grants to humanitarian projects in 2014. These funds will come primarily from distributions of the endowed account and fundraising profits.

Calendar sales: Our thanks go to Gary Cornelius who has assumed the responsibility of organizing our calendar sales this year. We expect to start selling 2015 international calendars at our booth in the Eugene Celebration in August. Profits from these sales will be dedicated to funding humanitarian projects.

In 2013 we ordered 100 calendars and sold out by mid-December. The board decided to order 125 calendars to sell in 2014, anticipating a slightly larger sales volume.

The board is still looking for a treasurer for 2014: This is an important job that has been effectively streamlined by recent treasurers. Our accounts are maintained on spreadsheets and banking is done online. Deposits to the WCPCA accounts at OCCU are usually made by people other than the treasurer.

For someone familiar with a computer and spreadsheets, this job can be performed at home in approximately two hours per month. A candidate will need access to a computer, either a PC or a Mac will work, and mid-level computer skills.

If you are interested in learning more about this position, please contact Wayne Thompson at info@westcascadepca.org and write Treasurer in the subject line. Wayne is the nominating committee for board positions this year. We'll appreciate our membership's support in this search. Many thanks in advance.

Our thanks go also to Dale Morse who has retired as treasurer but continues as the acting treasurer until the board appoints his successor.

Bookgroup to read Mango Elephants in the Sun: How Life in an African Village Let Me Be in My Skin

At its next meeting the book group will discuss Mango Elephants in the Sun: How Life in an African Village Let Me Be in My Skin by Susana Herrera. The author was a PCV in Cameroon, 1992-94, and writes about her experience as a teacher and an American of color in her Peace Corps setting.

Publishers Weekly says of this 2000 publication by Herrera, "A fine storyteller, she paces her account so that her past in California slowly emerges (it turns out she has left an abusive marriage) between such adventures as eating termites and finding ingenious ways to circumvent the schools tradition of corporal punishment.

"Though the occasional bits of magical realism and mediocre poetry feel forced, the prose is lively overall. The combination of Herrera's spunk, her romantic interest in a local doctor and her clever response to the political tensions involved in a teachers' strike make for an absorbing read. Clearly Herrera knows how to balance the bad with the good. It's no wonder that by the time her stay ended, many of her new friends in Guidiguis saw her departure as a tragedy."

The book group will meet on Tuesday evening, May 20th, 7-9 pm, at the home of Josette Green. All are welcome. Josette's address is in the Membership Directory.

RPCV Artist Featured in the Eugene Magazine

The Spring, 2014, issue of the Eugene Magazine includes an article describing the work of WCPCA member, James Cloutier, who has had a long career as a commercial artist in Lane County. James is a founding member of WCPCA. He's well known to the Peace Corps community as the designer of the WCPCA tee shirts and as creator of the graphics for the website and the venerable taxi that was long a focal point of our entries in the Eugene Celebration parade. Enjoy the article for a broader view of James' work.

News from Macedonia

WCPCA members Rob and Sandi Merrigan are in their second year of Peace Corps service in Macedonia. This is their second Peace Corps assignment, having perviously served in Liberia, 1969-71. A recent email from Rob gives us an interesting view of their work. Rob writes:

We enjoy reading the newsletter and seeing about all the WCPCA activities and the new RPCVs.  We will definitely be involved again when we get home, which should be just before Christmas. 

Please tell James Cloutier that we frequently wear the shirt he designed and that WCPCA gave us  ("We Must Be the Change We Want to See in the World").  It always evokes positive comments from fellow PVCs, PC staff, and Macedonian English speakers.

They just evacuated all 200+ PCVs from the Ukraine.  No problems in Macedonia happily. 

Greetings to everyone.

All the best, Rob and Sandi

P.S.:  Here'a picture of Santa singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" to the  kindergarten children in Crnik, a village near us.  They are lovely kids.  I got to play Santa five times and had a blast.

Rob as Santa

Peace Corps Ukraine Volunteers Evacuated Safely

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 24, 2014 - The Peace Corps today announced that all Peace Corps Ukraine volunteers are safe and accounted for, and have been successfully evacuated out of the country.  The agency will continue to assess the safety and security climate in Ukraine.  And while the Peace Corps hopes volunteers can return, the safety and security of its volunteers are the agency's top priority. 

Over 200 Peace Corps Ukraine volunteers were working in the areas of education and youth and community development.  Volunteers will participate in a transition conference this week.  Since the program was established in 1992, over 2,740 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Ukraine.

Visit the Peace Corps website for further information.

National Peace Corps Association's Annual Gathering,
June 20-21, in Nashville

Everyone in the Peace Corps community is invited to take part in NPCA's annual gathering which has an active program as detailed below. Further information and the registration form are available the NPCA website. There are fee discounts for early registration.

If anyone from WCPCA plans to attend, please let a board member know. The board would like to have a representative of WCPCA take part in the Group Leaders' Forum.


Friday June 20, 2014:  Vanderbilt University 2201 West End Avenue Nashville, TN 37235,

Saturday June 21, 2014:  Country Music Hall of Fame 22 Fifth Avenue South Nashville, TN 37203


Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday will focus on small group sessions. A sampling of the Friday events are the Group Leaders Forum, Graduate Research Conference, Politics and the Peace Corps, Women in the Peace Corps, Peace Corps Prep, Board Emeritus, Advocacy, Storytelling as well as technology tutorials and space to meet up with member groups, old friends or NPCA staff and Board.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Saturday will be an exciting program with TEDx-style talks from community members, award presentations, guest speakers, videos and entertainment. This program will take place in the brand new theater at the historic Country Music Hall of Fame in downtown Nashville. We will also be offering an opportunity for members of the community to nominate speakers for the TEDx-style talks.

Saturday evening will also feature the "Annual TNRPCV Shindig." This event showcases live music from several bands and benefits international grassroots projects being conducted by Tennessee Peace Corps Volunteers. This event is being hosted by the Tennessee Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.

WCPCA Renews Its Affiliation
with the National Peace Corps Association

As noted in the update on WCPCA business, the organization has just renewed its affiliation with the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA). WCPCA has maintained this affiliation since the late 1980s and organized the NPCA annual conference in Eugene in 1990. For both our new and longtime members it's good if we refresh our collective knowledge of the reasons for the affiliation.

Below is information from the renewal packet explaining the benefits that WCPCA derives from this affiliation and the obligations that we accept. An organization's affiliation fee is based upon its size. WCPCA is classified as a "medium size" organization and pays $80 per year. Approximately 140 organizations are affiliated with NPCA. These are RPCV and Friends of .... groups. WCPCA members may join our organization directly or through NPCA. In the latter case, NPCA rebates the $15 annual membership fee to WCPCA.

From NPCA: "This annual renewal process helps NPCA confirm that the Groups continue to exist, that they are active and that they are fiscally responsible. ...

"Why? NPCA promotes and markets the Groups via multiple social media channels, e-newsletters, websites and the quarterly WorldView magazine; actively seeks out Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) and former staff and makes their contact information available to Groups; collects and processes Group membership dues; and deposits funds directly in Group accounts monthly. In return, the Groups must agree to promote and market the NPCA and NPCA membership; share information about their Group and their members with NPCA and pass along any NPCA dues collected from their members monthly. NPCA encourages all Groups to be transparent in their governance and to post all documents relevant to their governance to their websites or otherwise make such documents publicly available. If any of the documents required to be attached to this Renewal are publicly available, you may provide the location of the document in lieu of its attachment."

NPCA advocates support for the Peace Corps with the president and members of congress and keeps its members informed about the response and any legislation that will impact the Peace Corps. NPCA may be best known for the publication of World View which all PCVs as well as NPCA members receive quarterly.

More information is available about NPCA's activities on its website, www.peacecorpsconnect.org. NPCA members receive a monthly e-newsletter with information about its work and many programs to engage PCVs and RPCVs.