September 2014 Newsletter

  • Letter from the editor
  • Announcements
  • Keeping in touch: Election monitoring in Ukraine
  • Keeping in touch: Hogar Alegria
  • Volunteer in Costa Rica
  • Solar Power installed at Sembehun Primary School
  • CRPCA September to November events

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President's Message

Greetings, CRPCAers!

All this hot summer I have been reminded of my pre-service training in Peace Corps, where I spent my time being outside, getting to know the country I was in and the people I was with, and sweating in the sun every day. Now that summer is coming to a close and the weather may finally be turning cooler, my thoughts turn to the year ahead. Students are going back to school, and the rest of us are getting ready to settle in to the meat of the year, our longest vacations done with, and the harder, longer slogs of work ahead.

What projects do you have planned for the rest of the year? Are you looking for something to get involved in? Drop us a line!

— Patrick Findler, Armenia 2008–2011 & Mongolia 2011–2013

Letter from the editor

Another quiet newsletter this month, with a few announcements and some reminiscencesabout maintaining that connection with one's country of service. For the October newsletter, we're still looking at the different ways RPCVs maintain a life-long engagement with their country of service. If this sounds like you, please get in touch; I'll also be sending out reminders in the weekly update. If you have any announcements or information that you'd like shared in the newsletter, be sure to get that to me before September 25, 2014.

— Meaghan Corwin, Armenia 2008–2011 & Mongolia 2011–2013


¶ A reminder of our service event at the OPB TV pledge drive phone bank Tuesday night from 7:00 to 9:45 PM. The location is the OPB studios at 7140 SW Macadam Avenue, Portland, OR 97219 (map). We have had a good turnout for this event but need three more volunteers.
While we join this televised fundraising, please wear your favorite CRPCA T-Shirt and help promote our organization! Training and snacks provided by OPB. Please RSVP for this event directly to Mitch Auerbach at mauerbachfso AT or 503.505.2160

¶ Former CRPCA member Carl Freeze (Jamaica 1964–1969), passed away this August. See the Oregonian's obituary for more details.

Keeping in Touch: Election Monitoring in Ukraine

Former CRPCA president Chuck McConnell (Ukraine 2008–2011) returns to Ukraine for the elections this past spring. This is an excerpt of his account of his experiences.

In late February, after discovering that even squads of mercenary snipers couldn’t suppress the middle-class rebellion provoked by his corrupt government, Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych decamped to Russia. Though the rebellion was diffuse, with no single unifying leader, an interim government formed quickly and a snap presidential election was set for May 25.

I knew people who’d served as “international election monitors” and decided immediately that I wanted to do that – in Ukraine, on May 25. I e-mailed everyone who might be helpful and started watching online groups related to Ukraine. OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), the “big dog” of election monitoring, uses only experienced observers. That wasn’t me. A diaspora group, Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), seemed the most likely possibility, as they wanted applicants with some “connection to Ukraine,” but did not require previous monitoring experience. Only later did I learn that UCCA has real election monitoring “cred” in Ukraine. It’s been there for every election since Ukrainian independence in 1991.

UCCA monitors are all volunteers. The organization provides overall coordination and helps with details (negotiating hotel rates, arranging drivers, etc.), but individual monitors pay all of their own expenses. I applied, indicating a special interest in Nikolaev. UCCA responded quickly. I was OK with them, but that was only the first hurdle. They had to clear their list with Ukraine’s Central Election Commission. That took a couple of weeks. When that approval came, I bought airline tickets. The overall plan: The full UCCA party, and a party from a sister organization (World Ukrainian Congress….international, but mostly Canadian) meet in the capital city Kyiv for a day of training, break into working groups, travel to the regions for the election, and then return to Kyiv for a debrief. I arrived in Kyiv Wednesday, May 21…

For more of Chuck's experience as an election monitor, read the rest on the CRPCA website.

Keeping in Touch: Hogar Alegria

CRPCA Member Steve Amdahl (Dominican Republic 1969–1971) reflects on how his lifelong connection with his ccountry of service.

Back when I was a Volunteer (DR-26, 1969-71), I was working in the Dominican Republic with Savings and Credit Co-ops outside of Santo Domingo near Manoguayabo. On my daily drive through Manoguayabo I encountered some Anglo-appearing men who drove up a little side road in town. My curiosity was piqued, so I decided one day to follow them. As it turned out, they were priests going to a small retreat center run by a Belgian missionary order, C.I.C.M., whose men were mostly assigned to the southwest part of the country. They were here for their own much-needed R & R. I introduced myself and was warmly welcomed by them. One in particular, Padre James Meureé, aka 'Santiago', was most congenial, and invited me to visit his site in Neiba if I was ever in the vicinity.

Having been raised Catholic, I had never really had any interaction with priests that demonstrated their true dedication to helping their fellow man as did Santiago and his brothers. Thus began a friendship and association that continues today through his legacy as the founder of Hogar Alegria, a home for the aged and destitute of the area. More information about Hogar Alegria is available at their website,

My service ended, though, and I returned to the States. I had not been in contact with Hogar for a number of years, so while attending the 50th anniversary celebration of the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic in 2012, I ventured out to Neiba to see if Hogar was still even in existence. What I found was that the original structure was still housing a few dozen residents, but in a serious state of disrepair. It was then that I decided to start “Hogar Alegria-PDX,” a 501(c)(3) non-profit in the memory of Padre Santiago and for the benefit of those elders truly in need. Its purpose is to help fund the myriad of needs of Hogar from structural repair to basic care and shelter for its residents. As in many charitable non-profit projects, the needs are always greater than the means. But we are continually open and grateful for the generous contributions that we receive. One of the positive aspects of this projects is that over 95% of funds raised go directly to Hogar Alegria. Of course back in my Volunteer days, I had never imagined that Padre Santiago, Hogar Alegria and I would still have an affiliation after so many years; but so it is and so it continues on.

You Can Still Volunteer in Costa Rica

Interested in volunteering in Costa Rica in January 2015? Oregon Partners of the Americas and Peace Corps Costa Rica are seeking TEFL volunteers to work in rural areas with students graduating from elementary school to introduce them to basic English through "JumpStart" camps. JumpStart occurs in the month of January. We need volunteers with at least some basic Spanish and some teaching experience. TEFL experience would be helpful. Contact Char McKay (RPCV – Micronesia): or 503-333-6445 for more information.

Solar Power installed at Sembehun Primary School

Earlier this year, Schools for Salone was awarded a grant from the Columbia River Peace Corps Association to help fund the installation of a solar power system in one of their schools. They have the following report:

Solar Panels being installed in Sierra LeoneNow, at Sembehun School, our first solar panel system is complete, and it is a great success! As Joseph Lamin, Executive Director of Programme for Children in Sierra Leone, states: "This is one of the most attractive projects we have ever done; people are coming from different places to see and how it could be done in their schools and villages." The now available evening light will make this community's evening classes easier and make it possible for the school to become more self sustaining through income generation by charging cell phones. As we said at the beginning of this project…Let the light shine!

CRPCA September to November events

September 2014

Tuesday, 09/02, 7:00 pm to 9:45 pm – Service Activity: Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) Phone Bank,
7140 SW Macadam Avenue, in Portland. Join fellow CRPCA members, and be on OPB TV at the same time, by participating in its Fall Funding drive on Thursday, Sept 2nd from 7:00-9:45 pm. Space is limited to eight participants, so early sign ups are essential.  While we join this televised fundraising, please wear your favorite CRPCA T-Shirt and help promote our organization!  Training and snacks provided by OPB.  For more info please contact Mitch Auerbach at  mauerbachfso AT or  503.505.2160.

Sunday, 09/07, 11:00 am to 1:00 pm – Finance Committee Meeting, 627 NE 18th Ave, Apt. #4 in Portland. This is an opportunity to review our finances from the prior year and finalize a budget to be approved at the Annual Membership Meeting.Please bring a snack or lunch-type food if you want to eat. We can do it potluck-style but, remember, because of the time crunch, we will start promptly at 11:00 am. All interested CRPCA members are welcome to attend.  RSVP : .

Sunday, 09/07, 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm – Portland Timbers Soccer Game Outing, Providence Park, 1844 Southwest Morrison Street in Portland. We’ve purchased a block of tickets for the Timbers' game against the San Jose Earthquakes. Priced at $36, the tickets are now available for purchase at

Tuesday, 09/09, 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm – Book Club, 4101 SW Hillsdale Ave. in Portland. The book to read is Caravans: A Novel of Afghanistan by James A Michener (1963). See for more information. Feel free to bring snacks to share. Hosted by Jackie Spurlock (503-827-4126).

Thursday, 09/11, 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm – Writers' Workshop 2373 NW Pettygrove St. in Portland. Please bring a writing sample and perhaps a snack to share. See our Writers' Workshop page,, for more information. Hosted by Maria and James Beebe.

Sunday, 09/14, 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm – Potluck and Annual Meeting, 1002 SE 50th Avenue in Portland. All are welcome to CRPCA's annual planning meeting! Please bring a dish to share to the 5pm potluck dinner. After dinner, starting at 6pm, we will discuss and decide our budget and priorities for FY2015. Hosted by Phyllis Shelton and Tom DeMeo 503-704-6298.

Wednesday, 09/24, 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm – Job Search Support Group, Lloyd Center in Portland.  Informal gathering of CRPCA members and friends who are seeking new work. Location at Lloyd Center in Portland. Meet 7pm at the Food Court (3rd floor) exiting the elevator to the left side of the food court, looking for CRPCA sign plate overlooking the ice rink edge, or call Gordon Young at 206-351-6465 for our location if you arrive later. Contact Gordon at networking AT for more information.

Monday, 09/29, 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm – Soirée – Lucky Labrador Brew Pub, 915 SE Hawthorne Blvd in Portland. This is a great way to link up with other RPCVs, hear interesting stories from around the world, and grab a drink and a bite to eat among good company. You can usually find us in the front room.