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

September 2014

Coming Events

  • September 7: Sunday afternoon, 3-5 pm, Eugene PCV, Kathleen Conery, recently evacuated from her PC assignment in Guinea due to the Ebola outbreak, will talk to us about her work as a PCV and her experience as an Ebola evacuee. Kathleen will speak at the Many Nations Longhouse on the U of O campus. See the article below for further details.

  • September 13: Saturday evening, 5:00 pm, WCPCA member, Gary Cornelius, will read from his new book, Dancing with Gogos, A Peace Corps Memoir, at a book release celebration, Tsunami Books, 2585 Willamette Street, Eugene. Enjoy live music and refreshments as you learn about Gary’s recent Peace Corps work in a Zulu community in South Africa. Read an excerpt from the book in an article below.

  • September 22: 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.

  • September 26: Friday afternoon, 1:30-3:30 pm, Maggie Mitteis will describe her recent Peace Corps service and evacuation from Ukraine at the Osher Life Long Learning Institute (OLLI), Baker Center, 957 High Street, Eugene. All are welcome.

  • September 27: Saturday evening, 8:30 - 10:30 pm, WCPCA volunteers will enjoy a dinner and then become the clean up crew for the Food for Lane County’s annual fundraiser, Empty Bowls Dinner and Auction, catered by King Estate Winery, FLC warehouse, 770 Bailey Hill Road, Eugene. Volunteers needed. See article below.

  • September 28: Sunday evening, 6:00 pm, WCPCA board will meet at Dorothy Soper’s home. All members are welcome. Dorothy’s address is in the Membership Directory or you may email to inquire.

  • October 15: Wednesday afternoon, 1:30 -3:30 pm, Juliet Bender and Charles Goldsmith will describe their Peace Corps service in Mexico, 2009-2012, at the Osher Life Long Learning Institute (OLLI), Baker Center, 957 High Street, Eugene. All are welcome.

  • October 15, 16, and 17: U of O Fall Street Faire on campus, 10am to 4pm each day. Volunteers needed to work with the campus PC representative, Laurette Garner, to staff the Peace Corps booth to share information about their PC experience and the PC in general. Laurette will send out a sign up grid closer to the dates of the event.

  • October 24: Friday evening, 6-9 pm, the WCPCA potluck will be at the home of Dave and Dorothy Soper. Our program will be presented by Priscilla Almelda Dantas, a music student at the U of O. Priscilla’s education in Brazil and the US has been supported by SHISKI, a non-profit organization founded by WCPCA member, Bob Crites. Priscilla will describe her years growing up in Brazil and her transition to the U of O, and conclude by playing selected piano pieces.

    The Sopers' address is in the Membership Directory and will be included in the October calendar on the website. Please bring a dish to share. Plates, cups, and utensils will be provided. Read more information about Priscilla's summer concert schedule in an article below.

  • October 27: 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.

  • November 11: Tuesday evening, 7-9 pm, the WCPCA bookgroup will meet to talk about Dancing with Gogos, A Peace Corps Memoir, by WCPCA member, Gary Cornelius. See details in an article below. All are welcome. Meeting place is yet to be determined.

  • 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

Celebrating Eugene

WCPCA took part in the Eugene Celebration parade on Saturday morning, August 23rd, with a colorful entry and an enthusiastic leader who is the son of WCPCA president, Julia Harvey. Our thanks to Tristan Fortsch for permission to use her photograph which she contributed to KMTR.

We also had a booth at the Festival of Eugene in Skinner Butte Park on Friday and Saturday, August 22nd and 23rd. Thank you to those who set up, took down, and staffed the booth: Nick Bosustow, Jennifer Knowles, Patty MacAfee, Maggie Mitteis, Andrew Seger, C.L. Tarantola, Wayne Thompson, Bob Watada, and Peggy Windle. You'll see Nick at work in the photo below.

We thank all who joined us and look forward to taking part in these events or variations thereof next year. These are two of the few opportunities that WCPCA has to reach out to the general community to share our experience as PCVs and information about current Peace Corps opportunities.

James Cloutier (Kenya, 1964-66) and Dorothy Soper (Ghana, 1963-65)

PCV Evacuated from Guinea to Speak

Please join us on Sunday, September 7th, 3-5 pm, to hear Eugene PCV, Kathleen Conery, speak about her PC assignment in Guinea including her recent evacuation due to the Ebola outbreak. Kathleen is home in Eugene for a brief respite and hopes to return to Guinea.

We'll gather at the Many Nations Longhouse on the U of O campus to welcome Kathleen and learn her fascinating story. We'll appreciate guests bringing a small dessert or fruit dish to share. Juice, cups, plates, and utensils will be provided.

The Longhouse is at the north end of Columbia Street, just off of E. 17th Avenue, behind the School of Law (1515 Agate Street) and immediately south of the Museum of Natural and Cultural History (1680 E. 15th Avenue). Parking is available on the nearby streets.

Kathleen was my student in a science class at SEHS. I’m looking forward to her sharing her Peace Corps experience with all of us.

Julia Harvey, President (Tonga, 1990-1993)

Peace Corps Presentations at the Osher Life Long Learning Institute (OLLI)

WCPCA members have been participating in OLLI's series on Peace Corps service.  OLLI is part of the Extended Studies Division of the University of Oregon.

In July and August Jennifer Knowles, Macedonia 2009-2011, and Denise Silfee, Thailand 2011-2013, gave presentations on their service.  The presentations were very well received and the question and answer period afterwards was robust. Both OLLI and the WCPCA greatly appreciate the time and effort put in on these presentations as we continue to inform the community of our work. Below you’ll see listing for the next two presentations.

On Friday, September 26th, 1: 30 pm, Maggie Mitteis will describe her recent Peace Corps experience in Ukraine which included the evacuation of all of the Peace Corps volunteers stationed in the county.

On Wednesday, October 15th, 1:30 pm, Juliet Bender and Charles Goldsmith will give a presentation on their service in Mexico 2009-2012.

The presentations take place at the Baker Downtown Center at 975 High St. on the corner of 10th Ave. You are welcome to attend.

Bart Briefstein (Venezuela, 1966-68)

Food for Lane County Fundraiser: WCPCA Volunteers Needed

WCPCA volunteers will enjoy a dinner and then become the clean up crew for the Food for Lane County's annual fundraiser, Empty Bowls Dinner and Auction, catered by King Estate Winery. The event will take place on Saturday, September 27, 8:30 - 10:30 pm, at the FLC's warehouse, 770 Bailey Hill Road, Eugene.

WCPCA has long provided a clean up crew at this fundraiser. We need 8 to 10 volunteers. If you have questions or can help please contact me directly or send an email to info@westcascadepca.org with “Empty Bowls” in the subject line. This will be an active evening for a worthy cause! I look forward to hearing from you.

James Cloutier (Kenya, 1964-66)

Appreciation for the Summer Picnics

We want to thank the hosts of the two summer picnics, Wayne and Rolly Thompson and Bob Watada and Rosa Sakanishi, for extending such a warm welcome to local RPCVs. The events brought together West Cascade RPCVs for socializing and delicious food.  

At Wayne and Rolly's home, Rolly spoke about her work with the local weavers and alpaca farmers in Peru. There was time to enjoy their beautiful alpaca and sheep farm (Fox Hollow Farm and Fiber) before and after our delicious meal of barbecued sausages and salads. See below.

Bob and Rosa treated us to barbecued hamburgers under their sheltered pergola next to their beautiful swimming pool.

Later, Bob showed us his strolling garden and Japanese bridge, which he is constructing. It will truly be a showpiece once it is completed!

We thank both couples for opening their homes and property to us for two delightful afternoons!!!  

Juliet Bender (Mexico, 2009-2012) Program Coordinator

WCPCA in the Country Fair

Over the course of my time here in Eugene I have attended the Oregon Country Fair a couple of times but this year supporting the WCPCA’s participation in the Fair and spending the weekend opened up a completely different experience of the Fair. 

As you may already know, Oregon Country Fair is a participatory spectacle. The passageway to the visual explodes with costumes and music of all flavors invites a truly wide berth of people, across the spectrum of ages and backgrounds — the zen monk standing next to the faery clad child to the horned creature. And in this milieu, the Peace Corps fits right in, fitting snuggly in the Community Village amongst other booths promoting community.

Many say that the Community Village is the heart of the Fair as it reaches back into the 45 years of the Fair's history and carries on the intent of the Fair's creation — to bring people together and share in community. WCPCA and Peace Corps is stitched into that web, becoming part of the tradition. We have been supporting the Fair and the Peace & Justice booth for four years alongside NAACP, CALC, Occupy and other local nonprofits sharing in the message of peace and justice possibilities and the methods for getting there.

Justin at the WCPCA (shared) booth in the Country Fair

While we spoke with people interested in Peace Corps or RPCVs interested in WCPCA, it seemed that our true contribution was fitting into the larger community. This year’s theme for Peace & Justice was gender fluidity and creating a safe space of inclusion. As the UO Peace Corps representative I remember taking questions from transgender students and wanting the regional and head offices in Peace Corps to have better answers. Speaking to a transgender teenager for over a half hour during the Fair I was reminded that we all want to be heard and seen as we are and that path to finding ourself can be a difficult one. If there is one thing that the Fair offers its just that — a venue for people to come as they are and be welcomed in.

If you ever get the chance to volunteer for a booth and get a camping pass for the weekend I do recommend it. Complete exhaustion will seep into all of the senses but it is worthwhile. If the day were not enough, with portions of 45,000 weekend attendees weaving through the figure 8 pathways, the Fair transforms at night. The thousands that staff the nearly 1,000 booths and the staff that are the foundational from water service to artists bask in music and events going through the night until dawn, parades of lights, costumes, sound and movement continue.  I admit that I slept well throughout and did not puncture the dawn but it was an unforgettable experience nonetheless.

I want to thank the WCPCA which continues to support this community outreach opportunity and our great volunteers during the weekend:  Jeem, Kathleen, Dorothy, Gary and our awesome Peace Corps rep Laurette. Special thanks to Andrew and Maggie, recent RPCVs from Ukraine, that bussed out to Fair to volunteer and were turned away at the gate for not having the right tickets -- I hope to see you both soon at a WCPCA event.

Justin Overdevest (Dominican Republic, 2002-2004, Peru, 2004-2006)

Welcome to RPCVs New to Lane County

Let us extend a warm welcome to RPCVs newly arriving in Lane County of whom nine have joined WCPCA this year. We look forward to seeing you at our activities.

Alyssa Bonini (South Africa, 2012-2014), David Jones (Honduras, 1985-1987), Maggie Mitteis (Urkaine, 2012-2014), Amanda Rodgers (Peru, 2011-2013), Harold Sargent (Macedonia, 2012-2014), Andrew Seger (South Africa, 2012-2014), Christine Smith (Senegal, 2012-2014), Cheng-Lun Tarantola (Kyrgystan and China, 2007-2011), and Lauren Wagner (Ecuador, 2012-2014)

Current PCV, Nic Granum (South Africa, 2014-2016), has also joined WCPCA.

WCPCA Bookgroup

The book group will meet on Tuesday, November 11th, 7-9pm, to discuss Dancing with Gogos, A Peace Corps Memoir, by WCPCA member, Gary Cornelius. This is Gary's recently published memoir of his Peace Corps service in South Africa.

Dancing with Gogos bears the Peace Corps Writers' imprimatur and you'll find a description of the book on the group's website. It will be interesting for us to discuss a book with the author! Gary contributed a reflection about the book in an article below.

Tsunami books, 2585 Willamette St. in Eugene, will host a book release celebration for Gary's book at 5:00 pm on Saturday, September 13, that will include live music and refreshments. The book is available from Gary, Tsunami Books, and on Amazon in both paper and electronic form.

Our meeting place is yet to be decided. It will soon be posted along with this announcement on the calendar of the WCPCA website.

WCPCA Business Update

At its June meeting the WCPCA board voted to propose several amendments to the WCPCA constitution and by laws to bring these documents up to date. The proposed changes were published in the July-August newsletter which has been distributed to the membership and is posted on "News" page of the website.

Members are encouraged to read the information before the October 24th potluck when they will vote on the board’s proposals. Members who have questions or would like to discuss any of the recommendations are encouraged to contact a board member at this time and/or attend the board’s meeting on September 28th. There will be very little time for discussion on October 24th.

The board will appreciate member support.

Short-term Host Families Needed for Newly Arriving U of O International Students

Short-term housing is needed from Sept. 13 to 17 to host University of Oregon international students arriving for fall term orientation. The students will then move to the dormitories or off-campus housing.

The homestay program is coordinated by the Friendship Foundation for International Students (FFIS), a local non-profit founded in 1949 to build trust and goodwill between the local community and UO international students, alumni, scholars, and their families.

An orientation session will be held for new host families. FFIS will have an information table by the luggage carousel at the Eugene Airport on Sept. 13 and 14 to answer questions from just arrived students and host families there to meet them. To learn more about the short-term homestay program, contact the FFIS office at 541- 346-1436 or by email.

The Friendship Foundation for International Students (FFIS) is a non-profit organization that helps to bridge cultures and promote world peace and understanding through international friendship, personal diplomacy, and exchange of ideas. FFIS is loosely affiliated with the University, sharing office space and an administrative staff position with UO International Affairs.

Robyn Carter, FFIS Liaison

WCPCA Writers

World View article: WCPCA member, Katie Holder (Zambia, 2011-2013), wrote a loving account of friendship with a member of her community in Zambia. The story, entitled "Grandmother Jilanda," was published in the winter, 2013, issue of the NPCA magazine World View and is available online. Click on this link and then on the relevant issue of World View to enjoy the story.

I highly recommend Katie's story which shows how love and respect can be communicated across cultures without words. Katie told me recently that Grandmother Jilanda has died since her story was published. Thank you, Katie, for capturing and sharing her spirit.

Peace Corps memoir: You’ve already read in this newsletter about Gary Cornelius’ newly published Peace Corps memoir. I asked Gary to share a reflection from his book and he generously agreed. You'll enjoying reading it.

Dorothy Soper, Newsletter coeditor (Ghana, 1963-65)

Peace Corps Service in South Africa

I've reflected a lot on my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer -- while serving in South Africa, while cooling my heels in Pretoria awaiting a decision by the medical people once I had been diagnosed with Parkinson's, upon my early return to Eugene once I had been "med-sepped."

As it says on page 275 of my book, "My Peace Corps service in South Africa, despite its abbreviated course, was one of the signature events of my life." It fulfilled a dream that dated to age 15, not long after President Kennedy started Peace Corps. There's an entire chapter toward the end of the book -- "Reflections" -- that is devoted to analyzing my accomplishments, but I think one story epitomizes my experience and demonstrates the Peace Corps philosophy that emphasizes developing relationships with people.

So many returned volunteers, when they talk about their experiences, emphasize that the relationships they developed with host country nationals -- colleagues, friends, neighbors, host families, other volunteers -- were more important than anything. Often they say they got more out of  the experience than the host country did. Maybe. Maybe not. The point is that developing positive relationships with people, on a one-to-one basis, is more important than anything. It transcends what either government thinks, the politics involved, and the opinions of those not involved who express them.

One of my most meaningful experiences came during training while living with a host family, rather than while at my assignment. Maria, 64, was my host mother. One day I gave her a pair of reading glasses I had bought for one dollar at the local dollar store in my home town. She put them on and to say she was flabbergasted only barely does justice to her reaction. She promptly went to a nearby shelf, removed what might have been a favorite book of prayers, opened to a memorized page, and began to read. And to cry. She had not been able to read that prayer for many years. I let her keep the glasses.

Though this was a relatively insignificant event in the grand scheme of things, and lasted only a few minutes, it remains one of the highlights of my service. It's one of only three or four stories in my book that, to this day, though I've read them a dozen times, still bring tears to my eyes. Yup, one-to-one experiences are what it's all about.  

I hope you enjoy Dancing with Gogos. Three dollars of every sale will go to West Cascade Peace Corps Association to help support our efforts to support projects by Oregon PC volunteers.

Gary Cornelius, (South Africa, 2012-2013)

Updates on Projects Supported by WCPCA

This year the WCPCA board has awarded a total of $2,135 to four humanitarian projects. Below you'll read updates on the work of two projects and photos that the project directors have recently sent. We appreciate their staying in touch.

Central Mexico Youth Fund

The generous support of the West Cascade Peace Corps Association allowed the Central Mexico Youth Fund to help the beneficiaries of El Puente de Esperanza offer a summer school program (curso de verano in Spanish) to the children of Concá, a town in the Sierra Gorda region of Querétaro State.  We provided funds to pay for transportation, classroom materials, and meals, and the local community offered housing and a facility at no cost.  There were science classes, chess instruction, educational games, cultural activities, and sports.  I've attached a few photos (taken by Peace Corps volunteer Tom Kearns) of the event and more are posted on our Facebook page. 

Here are some comments about the summer program from student teachers:

Ramona, one of the beneficiaries of El Puente, wrote, “I’ve always liked working with groups of younger children in the first or second grade, and for the first time I worked with preschool kids and with some who were going to enter preschool in the coming year. There were about 14 children, although there seemed to be about 30 of them! Working with these children for a week was the best of all summers that I’ve had because I could experience the essence of summer. I had a positive influence on the children and I would have liked to have spent more time with them.”

Preschool Students

Ryan, a young American volunteer from Oswego, NY, wrote that "working at the curso de verano was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I am so thankful for the opportunity and hope I am able to do it again sometime in the future." Ryan used paper airplanes to teach the kids in the program about the basics of aerodynamics!


Juliet and I will go to Querétaro later this year to visit the kids and staff of El Puente, as well as our two other partner organizations there.  Please contact me if you have any questions. 

Charles Goldsmith, Co-director WCPCA member, (Mexico, 2009-2012)

Notes from a Paraguayan community’s work to build organic gardens

The project of building a community garden will not only give a group of women in San Jose the fences and materials they need, but also provide important instruction in effectively maintaining a sustainable organic garden year-round. This grant combined with the Señoras’ hard work, dedication, and a bit of luck could greatly and diversely impact the lives of over 20 families and 150 people in the community.

Women involved in the organic garden project in San Jose, Paraguay

Garden fences keep the livestock out

Thank you for your time, and any spiritual, emotional, technical, or monetary assistance you may provide.

Erin Hatlestad, Oregon PCV San Jose, Paraguay

Concert Schedule for Priscilla Dantas

We're fortunate that Priscilla Dantas will be our guest at the October 24th potluck. In a sense she is a Peace Corps child because her elementary school through university education has been supported by the non-profit, SHISKI, founded by WCPCA member, Bob Crites.

This fall Priscilla will begin her senior year as a music major at the U of O and is busy this summer performing in the Eugene area. Priscilla's schedule includes a benefit concert that she will perform to help fund the education of a fellow Brazilian student entering the U of O this September. Bob has said that he is very touched by Priscilla's generosity.

The benefit will be on Sunday, September 14, 7 pm, at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 777 Coburg Road, Eugene. The program will include compositions by Bach, Mozart, and Brahms. The local Peace Corps community is cordially invited.

Priscilla will present a final concert in Eugene on Wednesday, September 17, 7 pm, at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 1300 Pearl Street, Eugene. All are welcome.

Dorothy Soper (Ghana, 1963-65) Newsletter co-editor