October 2014 Newsletter

Contents of October 2014 Newsletter – Volume 34, Issue 10

  • Letter from the editor
  • Announcements
  • Keeping in touch: Gabriella Maertens & Friends of Niger
  • Minutes for the August 16, 2014 Regional Meeting
  • CRPCA October to December events

Originally sent via Mailchimp.

Letter from the editor

This month in the CRPCA newsletter, we have a short reflection by Gabriella Maertens about maintaining a connection with her country of service. There are also announcements, the minutes of the Regional RPCV meeting, and, as usual, a calendar of upcoming events. The minutes for the September 14, 2014 CRPCA business meeting will be posted on the website. If you have anything you woul like to share, particularly about how you stay connected with your country of service (or third goal activities you do in Portland), please do 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 October 25, 2014.

— M.F. Corwin, Armenia 2008–2011 & Mongolia 2011–2013


¶ CRPCA member Robert Thornhill had the great idea that surviving spouses of folks in the armed forces should have access to educational benefits under the GI Bill; his idea is now Federal Law, after being co-sponsored by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley. You can read more about it at The Oregonian.

¶ The study team at Baylor College of Medecine currently needs up to 18,000 female RPCVs who served between 1961 and 1990 to fill out a secure online questionnaire. The survey takes about 30-40 minutes and can be taken online or over the phone. Question topics include lifestyle risk factors for diseases and a brief medical history. More information available at Peace Corps Connect.

Portland Fire & Rescue will be accepting applications online October 13-26th to take our firefighter entrance exam. Becoming a firefighter is a very competitive process and the job is physically and emotionally demanding. It is my hope that there will men and women from the Peace Corps who show up on test day. What does it take to become a firefighter? Compassion. Resourcefulness. Skills. Adaptability. Flexibility. And most important: a desire to help others. The very same things it takes to be a successful Peace Corps volunteer. If you’re looking for another opportunity to serve and you think you have the physical chops to meet the requirements, I encourage you to contact our recruiter to find out how our testing process works. Call 503-823-3811 or email firefighter@portlandoregon.gov.

¶ The Zimbabwe Artists Project's Fundraiser is on Saturday, October 11, 2014,5:30 pm to 10:00 pm, at 107 SE Washington Street, Suite 162, Portland, OR 97214; Tickets $30 in advance. Guests will enjoy Zimbabwean food, complimentary beer, wine and softer drinks, a fantastic silent auction, raffle, and ZAP marketplace (art and crafts). We will also premiere a short ZAP video featuring stories from ZAP-sponsored students. Special features include live Zimbabwean music by Njuzu Mbira and the danceable tunes of DJ DULLAH! Dancing highly encouraged! All proceeds and donations help expand our special projects program, and support our educational program for children who have been orphaned in the Weya area and support the health care assistance and partnering with Weya artists programs ZAP conducts with the artists, their families and community in Zimbabwe. For tickets call 503-232-7057 or go to our website at www.zimbabweartistsproject.org

Keeping in Touch: Friends of Niger

Gabriella Maertens, PCV in Zinder, Niger from 1964-66 as a PE and TEFL teacher reflects on her continuing connection with Niger.

Gabriella Maertens revisits her home in Niger
After my service in Niger ended in 1966, I returned to Saint-Georges de Beauce in Quebec to help train the Niger V TEFL teachers. I returned to Niamey, married and began teaching English at College Mariama. In 1972 we moved to Lomé, Togo where I taught English at the Lycée National. I was able to visit Niger in 1977. I returned to the States in 1978. I was a member of Friends of Niger, which unfortunately disbanded in the early 1990s. In 1997 US Ambassador Cecil Rhodes invited former Peace Corps volunteers to return to Niger to help celebrate the 35th anniversary of Peace Corps in Niger. I was able to join our group of ten for a wonderful visit to Niger. This group decided to reinvigorate the Friends of Niger and in 1998, I was elected to the board of FON (friendsofniger.org) and named Vice-President, the office I have held since. Currently I am in charge of project funding and receive and evaluate the proposals we receive. In the past we have funded well repair in the InGall region of Niger, the Young Girls’ Scholarship Program, NGOs working with peanut oil production to employ women, Children’s Chewable Vitamins, Expanding Lives, which mentors young women and brings them to the US for more leadership training and various self-help projects. We were unable to return to Niger, as planned, for the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps in Niger because Peace Corps had to pull out of Niger the year before. My Peace Corps Niger III group is celebrating the 50 years since we arrived in Niger after training in the States in 1964 at Estes Park Colorado in late September 2014. Our group hopes to fund a project in Niger, as the need is still great.

Regional Meeting Minutes

RPCV group leaders from around the Pacific Northwest gathered at the NW Regional Campout in Mt Rainier National Park on August 16, 2014 to discuss issues faced by our groups. Participating were the following individuals:

  • Sue Bracken, Inland Northwest Peace Corps Association
  • Diana Gardner, Idaho Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
  • Chuck McConnell, western geographic representative on the National Peace Corps Association board
  • Kristi Moses, Peace Corps administrative assistant in Seattle
  • Joana Ramos, SEAPAX
  • Chloe Ross, Idaho Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
  • Bill Stein, Columbia River Peace Corps Association
  • Paulette Thompson, SEAPAX and NPCA

Sue provided an update from INPCA. The Spokane-based group has all new officers, including younger and recently-returned volunteers. This year INPCA hosted NPCA’s Anne Baker for a “show-and-tell” event. INPCA scheduled a talk about Ukraine at a time when Ukraine was in the news every day, and they got strong attendance by folks from throughout the Inland Northwest. INPCA assists Peace Corps recruiters by tabling at community events; Spokane’s annual Peace Corps Send-Off Party gets bigger every year. INPCA has transitioned its web presence to Facebook. Sue mentioned that INPCA misses the “gentle and intelligent” leadership of James and Maria Beebe (who have moved to Portland and are today active in CRPCA’s Writers’ Workshop).

Joana provided an update from SEAPAX. The Seattle Area Peace Corps Association made structural changes in 2013, with new bylaws adopted in 2014. The current officers agreed to stay on through this calendar year; their fiscal year now corresponds to the calendar year. SEAPAX has made donations to three local organizations serving vulnerable populations; representatives from two of the organizations since spoke at a SEAPAX meeting and/or community service event. SEAPAX’s Networking Night was well-received, and the group is considering monthly Job Search Support Group gatherings. Another community service event was hosting lunch at the Seattle World School, a public school for newcomer refugee and immigrant youth. The Grants Committee and Speakers Bureau are now revamping; SEAPAX’s fundraising continues to center on calendar sales. The SEAPAX Book Club, pub nights, and periodic potlucks and Eat Out nights are ongoing, as are collaborations with the regional recruiting office, including for the spring annual Bon Voyage party.

Bill provided an updated from CRPCA. Brief mention was made of the Portland-based group’s ongoing activities: Book Club, Grand Floral Parade, Job Search Support Group, Local Campout, Salon Francophone, Service Activities, Writers’ Workshop, etc. Most of the CRPCA update pertained to the group’s new decision process for grants. Today a committee of five considers all applications received by the deadline, and they develop a recommendation by consensus that the members vote on at the following business meeting. One grant round has used this new process, and it was successful in that the committee’s recommendation was adopted without dissent. CRPCA will host the regional meeting in February-April 2015, and they are also hosts of the 2015 regional campout, tentatively slated for late July or early August 2015 at Beacon Rock State Park on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge.

Chloe provided an update from Idaho RPCVs. They hosted a Bon Voyage event in May at the Boise Botanical Garden which attracted 60 people. Their holiday party has outgrown residential areas, as it attracted 100 last year. They organize Cultural Dinners at restaurants every other month, and they plan to add a Beer Night on intervening months. Idaho RPCVs made 3-4 grants in the past year, including to the Boise Urban School and to Peace Corps Partnership projects. Group members do a lot of outreach to Boise State University. Idaho RPCVs are in need of a new Treasurer and Membership Coordinator, to replace longtime volunteers Pat and Trish.

Chuck provided an update from NPCA. He represents 18 geographic Peace Corps groups around the west, and he’s pledged to visit each of them at least once during his three years as our representative. Chuck agreed with Paulette that Portland should be glad Peace Corps Connect 2015 was awarded to San Francisco, because Peace Corps Connect 2014 in Nashville set the bar very high for future conference hosts. (Portland lost the bid to host Peace Corps Connect back in June, the first time NPCA received competing bids to host the event.)

Kristi provided an update from Peace Corps. She shared details on the biggest reform in Peace Corps’ history, which is centered on recruitment. Regional recruiters no longer interview Peace Corps recruits, nor are they involved in candidate placement, as all candidate processing has moved to D.C. Regional recruiters now focus 100% on outreach. The Peace Corps application, which last year took an average of eight hours, now takes one hour to complete. There is more transparency throughout the process. Countries have their own webpage on Peace Corps’ website and will market their programs to recruits. Recruits may choose to specify which country and which program they wish to volunteer for. There is no disqualifying health condition; immediately upon application, Peace Corps sends a personalized e-mail listing the countries in which they can medically support each recruit’s self-disclosed medical status. Committed domestic partners may now apply and serve together, a right married couples have had throughout Peace Corps’ history. These changes were made by Peace Corps’ director, Carrie Hessler-Radelet, out of a desire to remain competitive and relevant.

Joana commented that she had received requests from two new presidents of Country of Service groups, seeking help on nonprofit management basics. It is an ongoing concern that NPCA doesn’t seem to offer this kind of help to member groups. She assisted both individuals (who live in metro Seattle) with consultations and helped them get the needed information.

The group adjourned to a delicious dinner catered by our host group, SEAPAX.

Minutes compiled by Bill Stein, with edits suggested by Joana Ramos.

CRPCA October to December events

October 2014

Thursday, 10/09, 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm – Writers' Workshop – 3748 SE Salmon St., in Portland. Please bring a writing sample and perhaps a snack to share. See our Writers' Workshop page, http://crpca.org/?page_id=392, for more information. Hosted by Chuck and Lee Norris (503-236-0998).

Tuesday, 10/14, 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm – Book Club, 4841 SW Richardson Dr. in Portland. The book to read is Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti by Amy Wilentz (2013). See http://crpca.org/?page_id=205 for more information. Feel free to bring snacks to share.  Hosted by Teri Kaliher (503-246-7103).

Thursday, 10/16, 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm – Nouvel événement! Salon Francophone, 13302 NE Sacramento Drive (97230) in Portland. This is a special Salon Francophone to meet Yacine Gassama, the Nigerien mentor accompanying the students from French-speaking Africa sponsored by World Affairs Council of Oregon.  All Francophones in our CRPCA community are welcome, including family and friends. On se rassemble pour le dîner (potluck) à 18:30. Hosted by Gabriella Maertens, 503-254-5161.

Monday, 10/27, 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm – International Development Happy Hour, Lucky Labrador Tap Room, 1700 N Killingsworth St,  co-hosted by CRPCA, Jubilee Oregon, North West Fair Trade Coalition, Portland Area Global AIDS Coalition and RESULTS-Portland. An informal gathering to share information, resources and network and just plain chat over food and drink. Note the location and time change from our usual Soirées.

Wednesday, 10/29, 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 crpca.org for more information.