Skip to Main Content

Blog

  • 24 Jun 2022 by Evangelina Sundgrenz

    This summer and fall, Museum of the Peace Corps Experience will host a West Coast exhibit celebrating 60 years as seen through Peace Corps posters. The posters may be viewed from July 10 to October 16, 2022, at ArtReach Gallery on the Park Blocks in Portland, Oregon. 

    We would like to invite you to the Exhibit Preview on Saturday, July 9, 5 – 8 pm PT. To receive details about the event, sign up for Museum membership (it’s free). The Museum will co-host the exhibit and related events with ArtReach Gallery and Portland Peace Corps Association. 

    Every dollar makes a difference. Show your support for the exhibit by making a small donation of $25, $50, or $100 by clicking the "Donate" button on the Museum website.

    The Museum of the Peace Corps Experience was founded by Portland Peace Corps Association in 2000. Through its first decade, we hosted exhibits in the Portland area, including a major 50th-anniversary exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society in 2011. In 2016, we expanded to a national initiative and we are proud to celebrate another Peace Corps anniversary — the 60th — in Portland.

    Peace Corps posters have become icons of global citizenship and adventuresome Volunteers. 

    Please join Patricia Wand (Colombia 1963–65) and Nicola Dino (Ecuador 1994–97) and Co-chairs, Museum of the Peace Corps Experience to meet Peace Corps friends at ArtReach Gallery in Portland between July 10 and October 16, 2022.

     

  • 13 May 2022 by Evangelina Sundgrenz

    **Registration closed. We have reached capacity for this event**

     

    Thursday, June 9, 2022

    5:00 pm – 8:00 pm PT

    Tiki Lounge at Eastlake Bar & Grill

    2947 Eastlake Avenue East

    Seattle, WA 98102

     

    Come Together... to hear inspiring stories from fellow RPCVs!

    Come Together... to celebrate Peace Corps' return to service overseas!

    Come Together... to relish meeting in person after a very long time!

    Come Together... to express solidarity with our friends and communities in Ukraine!

     

    Everyone is welcome, bring a friend!

    Tickets: $15.00 per person, includes light buffet

     

    Your donation of an additional $5.00-$10.00 will help cover actual event costs

    and support future programming.

     

  • 05 Feb 2022 by Evangelina Sundgrenz

    Join our Events Team!

    One of the biggest surprises of the pandemic may be how quickly we adapted to remote work and meetings. Going into year three of restricted gatherings, we want your help to create and deliver a variety of live and virtual events for our RPCV community.
    Email info@seapax.org

  • 04 Feb 2022 by Evangelina Sundgrenz

    In this session, SEAPAX board members Kenney Tran and Jerome Siangco, veteran Peace Corp volunteers in Colombia and China, respectively, will share their stories on why they became Peace Corps volunteers and offer some of their lessons learned during their service. The two will also provide their perspectives on volunteering for the Peace Corps during the global pandemic.
     

    • Wednesday, February 16, 2022
      6:30 PM
      Zoom link will be sent out once your registration is received

     

    ABOUT OUR SPEAKERS

     

    KENNEY TRAN is a current candidate in the Master of Public Administration program at the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington. He spent two years as a community economic development volunteer in the Peace Corps in Colombia. His areas of focus within Colombia were gender and racial equity, financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and small business development. Tran has also spent time working in the fields of higher education at Merrimack College, his alma mater, as well as public health and non-profit work through an anti-racist lens at Better Health Together and #IAMNotAVirus. Tran remains involved with Peace Corps endeavors on both national and local levels via the National RPCV Racial Justice Initiative as well as The Colombia Project. 

     

    JEROME SIANGCO is a project associate for Next Generation programs and outreach at the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR). Siangco served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Guizhou Province of China where he worked on education development and cultural exchanges. Siangco’s primary role was working with faculty and students at Liupanshui Normal University, here he was selected as a Peace Corps security warden, peer support advisor, and in-service trainer. He currently serves on the board of the Seattle Area Peace Corps Association where he directs the nonprofit's advocacy efforts, working with Washington state legislators to support Peace Corps legislation. Jerome has a master’s in International Policy and Development, graduating with Distinction from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Asian Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies from the College of the Holy Cross.

     

    The session will be moderated by Mariam Anderson, who has served for many years as a board member for the World Affairs Council of Tacoma.

     

    PLEASE NOTE: Your Zoom link for this event is contained in your confirmation email.

     

     

     

    For more information and to register, visit: https://www.wactacoma.com/event-4674085

     

  • 28 Jan 2022 by Evangelina Sundgrenz

    2022 SEAPAX BOOK CLUB

    Meeting time:  3PM - 5PM 
    Dates:   February 13  (April 10, June 12, August 14, and October 9).

    Questions or to join, contact: SEAPAXbooks1@gmail.com

    Sunday, February 13, 3-5 PM

    Virtual - email SEAPAXbooks1@gmail.com to be added to the Book Club invitations.

    The Shadow of the Sun

    by Ryszard Kapuściński, Klara Glowczewska (Translator) (non-fiction)

     

     In 1957, Ryszard Kapuscinski arrived in Africa to witness the beginning of the end of colonial rule as the first African correspondent of Poland's state newspaper. From the early days of independence in Ghana to the ongoing ethnic genocide in Rwanda, Kapuscinski has crisscrossed vast distances pursuing the swift, and often violent, events that followed liberation. Kapuscinski hitchhikes with caravans, wanders the Sahara with nomads, and lives in the poverty-stricken slums of Nigeria. He wrestles a king cobra to the death and suffers through a bout of malaria. What emerges is an extraordinary depiction of Africa--not as a group of nations or geographic locations--but as a vibrant and frequently joyous montage of peoples, cultures, and encounters. Kapuscinski's trenchant observations, wry analysis and overwhelming humanity paint a remarkable portrait of the continent and its people. His unorthodox approach and profound respect for the people he meets challenge conventional understandings of the modern problems faced by Africa today. 

  • 21 Dec 2021 by Kathleen Sebastian

    Between 1968 and 2020, nearly 4,000 Peace Corps Volunteers, including some of our own SEAPAX members, served in Nepal. I am not one of them, but for decades, I wanted to visit this country and go trekking in the Khumbu region. A trip planned for 2020 was “pandemic postponed,” but when travel restrictions eased, and after a Moderna hat-trick, I finally made it, just before Omicron hit. Our volunteers are not assigned to high altitude villages, but in the verdant lower climes, where we passed kitchen gardens and enjoyed vegetables grown in family greenhouses, I couldn’t help but think of the Peace Corps Nepal agriculture projects aimed at soil conservation, crop diversification, and food and nutrition security. The warm welcome we received at every lodge and tea house echoed volunteer stories of their host families. The beauty of the Gokyo Valley was surpassed only by the opportunity to walk side by side with our small Sherpa trekking team, learning about their families, their upbringing, and their hopes and dreams. Yes, every day on trek brought me back to the most meaningful aspects of my Peace Corps experience.

    One year ago, I shared with you that I was part of an RPCV cohort working as contact tracers for Public Health – Seattle & King County under NPCA’s Emergency Response Network. We have since welcomed additional team members and transitioned to assisting the public access COVID-19 vaccines, testing services, and other community resources. It’s a rare work environment that provides the strong team connection we enjoy, and we all agree it is thanks to our common Peace Corps service and values.

    Also last year, I invited everyone to submit suggestions for 2021 programs. We were delighted at the response to our campout, annual picnic, and the recently returned happy hour. While we never expected to again be facing the prospect of limiting in-person events, health and safety remain our top priorities, so we will continue to monitor developments and follow state, local, and CDC guidelines. Under the leadership of outgoing SEAPAX President Brad Cleveland, your Board has spent a great deal of time brainstorming ideas to allow all members to have a voice and the opportunity to create new SEAPAX programs. We have restructured our committees to make it easier to be involved—you do not need to be a Board member to initiate a project or make a meaningful contribution. There is something for everyone—including the more than 75 new members who joined in the past year.

    • Do you enjoy event planning or have great organizing skills? We have several immediate opportunities for you.
    • Do you have an idea for a live or virtual program or event (but don’t have time or know where to start)? Let us know!
    • Would you like to join our local efforts to support refugees from Afghanistan? Our service committee has a place for you.
    • Do you have ideas to help SEAPAX achieve greater Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion? We have a committee for that, too.   
    • Do you like national and local politics? Join our advocacy efforts to help ensure the long-term funding and Congressional support for Peace Corps.
    • Are you interested in flexing your writing muscles? Send us your blog draft or get in touch to write a member spotlight.
    • Do you have professional skills or connections to help a newcomer? Are you a newcomer seeking assistance? We have a great track record matching mentors and mentees.
    • Are you short of time but want to show your support for SEAPAX?  Though we continue to follow the “dues-free” model, we have modest, but real expenses to maintain our email and web services. If you are able, please make a year-end donation.

    If everyone receiving this email contributed just $3.00 a year, we would easily cover those basic expenses. Remember, SEAPAX is now a registered 501(c)(3), which means your donations may be fully tax deductible. Thank you to all who have already donated!

    Wishing you and your family good health and great personal fulfillment for the holidays and the year ahead.

    Kathleen Sebastian

     

  • 15 Oct 2021 by Evangelina Sundgrenz

    The National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) is currently fielding a team of RPCVs as COVID-19 Information Resource Coordinators (call staff) with the King County Public Health Department.

    The existing team has been working in the pilot Emergency Response Network program since October 2020. Following the success of our contact tracing efforts from 2020 and early this year, as Public Information Resource Coordinators; NPCA is excited to expand the team.

    Positions are paid, full-time, and home-based.
    A minimum of 23 to 40 hours per week and a 6 to 12-month commitment is required. Positions include benefits depending on the number of hours worked. All candidates must be residents of Washington State, but King County residency is not required.

    Training and equipment will be provided. Employment will be contingent upon completing a final interview and assessment.

    Applications due: October 30, 2021

    How to apply:

    Send a cover letter and resume addressed to Dan Baker: reentry@rpcv.org

    Cover letter and resume must confirm that applicants are located in Washington State and your country and years of Peace Corps service. 

  • 06 Oct 2021 by Evangelina Sundgrenz

     

    Peace Corps Moving Forward

    RPCV/W, BARPCV, and PeaceCorpsHR will be hosting a series of four town hall meetings for survivors to come together as a community, discuss sex- and gender-based violence (SGBV)* during service, and make recommendations for the Peace Corps moving forward.

     

     Register here to receive a Zoom link!

     

    *SGBV includes any harm (physical, sexual, psychological, economic) committed because of the survivor's sex or gender, and the events are open to anyone who identifies as a survivor or an ally. SGBV could be catcalling, harassment, stalking, homophobic slurs, gaslighting, abusive relationships, or assault - the organizers hope all who are interested will feel welcome to attend.

     

    For more information visit: 
    RPCVs of Washington D.C.

  • 02 Oct 2021 by Evangelina Sundgrenz

     

    Open Non-Elected Board Positions

    Would you like to get more involved with SEAPAX and with our local RPCV community?  There is no better way to do this than to serve on our Board. 

     

    We are looking for dependable individuals who can commit at least one year to serve in the following roles:

    • Regular Events Chair: Leads the Regular Events Committee, which is responsible for the planning and execution of regularly occurring events (i.e. happy hours, eats-out, book club, etc.).
    • Membership Chair: Updates, manages, and communicates membership policy as needed; monitors SEAPAX email; manages and operates the monthly Member Spotlight Program; leads the Membership Committee and works to improve membership engagement.
    If you are interested or would like to learn more about any of these positions, please contact us at info@seapax.org.

  • 02 Oct 2021 by Evangelina Sundgrenz

    We would like to thank all those who participated and voted in our Board elections.  
    Voting is officially over, and by acclamation, we would like to congratulate the following Board-members elect whose terms begin January 1, 2022:

     

    President: Kathleen Sebastian

    Secretary: Erin Collins

    Treasurer: Lee Daneker

    Director-At-Large-Service: John Berry

    Director-At-Large-Events: Carolee Walters

     

    We thank you for taking on your new and continued roles on the Board and we look forward to your future leadership!

  • 26 Sep 2021 by Evangelina Sundgrenz

    𝐁𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐢𝐬 𝐔𝐧𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐢𝐭𝐲- MA Program

    𝐁𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐢𝐬 𝐔𝐧𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐢𝐭𝐲 is hosting a virtual event about specific programs for RPCVs.
     

    MA in Sustainable International Development and MA in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence Programs

    𝗪𝗲𝗱𝗻𝗲𝘀𝗱𝗮𝘆, 𝗦𝗲𝗽𝘁𝗲𝗺𝗯𝗲𝗿 𝟮𝟵, 5-6 PM, EDT, (𝟮-𝟯 𝗣𝗠, 𝗣𝗗𝗧)


    Details and link to register for event: https://apply.heller.brandeis.edu/regi.../RPCV_SID_COEX_2021

    The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University is holding an information session for RPCVs, hosted by Heller RPCVs.

    Heller offers five 100% scholarships to RPCVs and guarantees all RPCVs admitted to Heller a minimum scholarship of 60%.

     

     

     

  • 26 Sep 2021 by Evangelina Sundgrenz

    This is a contract role under 𝗠𝗶𝗴𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗥𝗲𝗳𝘂𝗴𝗲𝗲 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲𝘀 (𝗨𝗦𝗖𝗖𝗕). They are ideally looking for a candidate for 𝟭-𝟯 𝗺𝗼𝗻𝘁𝗵𝘀. Compensation is at $𝟮𝟬𝟬/𝗱𝗮𝘆 + 𝗲𝘅𝗽𝗲𝗻𝘀𝗲𝘀 (𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗹𝘂𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮𝗰𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗺𝗼𝗱𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻, 𝘁𝗿𝗮𝘃𝗲𝗹 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗳𝗼𝗼𝗱).

    Ideally available to start immediately. More info can be found here:  https://lnkd.in/d8DBWawg

    Apply today. Send your application to: hyanay@gmail.com

  • 13 Sep 2021 by Evangelina Sundgrenz

    The National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) is currently fielding a team of RPCVs as COVID-19 information resource coordinators (call staff) with the King County Public Health Department. Following our contact tracing efforts last year and early this year, NPCA has provided this service to King County since April of this year, and is now looking to expand the team.

    Positions are paid, full-time, and home-based. A minimum of 23 to 40 hours per week and a 6 to 12-month commitment are required. Positions include benefits depending on the number of hours worked. All candidates must be residents of Washington State, but King County residency is not required. Successful applicants must successfully pass a three-day training, assessment, and technical orientation program in order to begin work. Training and equipment will be provided. Employment will be contingent upon completing a final interview and assessment.

     

    How to apply:

    Send a cover letter and resume addressed to Dan Baker: reentry@rpcv.org

    Cover letter and resume must confirm that applicants are located in Washington State and your country and years of Peace Corps service. 

     

  • 07 Sep 2021 by Evangelina Sundgrenz

     

    As Seattle resettles more and more Afghan refugees, we are hoping that the SEAPAX community is ready to step up and contribute in a number of ways. The Peace Corps Community for Refugees (PCC4R) has invited SEAPAX to partner with the regional affiliate of the Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Service, 𝗟𝘂𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗮𝗻 𝗖𝗼𝗺𝗺𝘂𝗻𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲𝘀 𝗡𝗼𝗿𝘁𝗵𝘄𝗲𝘀𝘁 (𝗟𝗖𝗦𝗡𝗪).

    The latest donation request for Refugee Starter Kits and Needed Items (see full image of list below) include toiletries, cleaning supplies, kitchen items, and diapers for "starter kits". Contact Edie Cooke and Mouammar Abouagila for more information.

    They are also seeking people who have weekday availability to transport clients to appointments and pick up and deliver donations and people who can temporarily host refugees in their homes. Please visit the LCSNW website or contact Sheridan Moore, (503)-893-8853) and siv@lcsnw.org for their current needs, opportunities, contacts, and forms.

    https://lcsnw.org/program/refugee-resettlement-program-2

  • 01 Sep 2021 by Kathleen Sebastian

    In this month’s spotlight, we continue our conversation with two more SEAPAX members who joined NPCA’s Emergency Response Network after their service was interrupted by the Peace Corps evacuation of March 2020. Paige Beiler and Jerome Siangco were working in Morocco and China, respectively, and you can read their stories below.

    Paige Beiler

      Morocco

    September 2018-March 2020, Youth Development Volunteer

      Hometown

    Jacksonville, FL

      Current jobs

    NPCA Emergency Response Network, Public Information Resource Coordinator with Public Health-Seattle & King County 

    Administrative Assistant and House Manager at Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church-Port Orchard

     

    Jerome Siangco

      China

    June 2019-Mar 2020, TEFL

      Hometown

    Renton

      Current jobs

    NPCA Emergency Response Network, Public Information Resource Coordinator with Public Health-Seattle & King County

    MA Candidate, Economic Development, Risk Management, and Financial Compliance in Asia

     

    Q: How were you informed of the evacuation? How much notice did you receive?

    Paige: We received information bits at a time. On the morning of Friday, March 13, I was at my youth center, heading home for lunch and planning to come back in the afternoon. The center director told me not to come back in the afternoon—all the youth centers in our region were closing for the weekend as a COVID-19 precaution. At that time, I think there were only a few reported cases in country, maybe less than 20. Saturday, we were waiting for an email to let us know if we should plan for a lock down or if we should be packing. That evening we got an email confirming that we would be going to the capital, and the next day, the evacuation was confirmed, with logistics being fleshed out. On Monday morning we met at regional consolidation points to be taken to the capital by private buses. We were supposed to be evacuated that weekend, but the airports started to cancel flights and close down. We all made it to the capital Monday evening and were on a chartered flight back to America Wednesday, March 18.

    Jerome: On January 28, 2020, three days after the Lunar New Year/Chinese Spring Festival, we were informed by email that the Peace Corps China Emergency Action Plan had been activated. I was a Peace Corps Safety and Security Warden for my province, and part of my role was to call or message a group of about 20 volunteers to confirm that they had read the email and understood its contents: we were being evacuated to Bangkok at any moment. I did not know the day or time of my flight until late Wednesday evening; we would leave China the next day. Still, the assumption was that Bangkok was temporary, two more weeks of in-service training to prepare for the spring semester, not that we would be evacuating. But just two days after arriving in Bangkok, we were informed we would all be closing out our service. On the last day, the COS ceremony incorporated a mixture of both PC China and PC Thailand traditions, honoring the PC experience of both countries.

    Q: Did you come straight back to the States? Did you have difficulty finding a place to live?

    Jerome: On February 6, we handed in all medical and legal paperwork needed to declare a COS, thus becoming RPCVs and private citizens. On February 7, we flew back home to the States.

    Paige: My family was planning to visit me in Morocco when it all started. I was supposed to see them that very weekend. I did end up seeing my family that week, but in America, not Morocco. I moved back home with my parents for about six months while I was processing everything that had happened.

    Q: Could NPCA or SEAPAX have done something better/differently to assist your reentry?

    Jerome: Both NPCA and SEAPAX were great. Due to the timing of Peace Corps China ending, many of our group were able to gather in D.C. for NPCA's annual Action Day on the Hill. It was great to see friends who had all gone through evacuation together. I’m also thankful to the many graduate institutions around the globe that waived deadlines and specific application requirements for evacuated volunteers. This made the transition a little less rough as I, and other evacuated volunteers, had anticipating applying to grad school after the full completion of service.

    Q: What were the biggest challenges you faced after arriving home?

    Paige: I was sad. And angry. And confused. I never knew what would send me into tears. I had a five-year plan that ended with Peace Corps and expected to spend the summer of 2020 deciding what was next. I had no clue what direction I wanted to go in, and I felt pretty lost. I knew coming back would be hard, and honestly, there was a part of me that was thankful things were initially in lock down. I didn't want to go anywhere, see many people, or do much of anything. Driving was weird and a bit scary. It was hard to put into words the confusion of a world so familiar yet incredibly distant.

    Jerome: The hardest challenges were culture shock and friends and family being unable to relate to what it was like being suddenly evacuated. After arriving back in the States, I traveled a little bit seeing friends and family. It was great seeing them but hard to connect on what I had experienced over the past eight months of my Peace Corps service. I know in the long run I have grown from all these experiences, and I will be stronger because of them. However, the experiences are all still very salient and every day when I confront memories, I am reassured that if I was able to come out whole on the other end, and I am prepared for the next challenge life throws my way.

    Q: Do you know what became of the projects you had to leave behind? Have you been able to stay in touch with counterparts or students?

    Jerome: I taught English at a university, and the classes I was supposed to teach in the spring were shifted to other faculty in the English department. I still maintain contact with my Peace Corps community through social media platforms. Staying in touch with my students through social media has been gratifying to see their growth in learning English and how they are progressing through their studies. I do hope to return to China on my own, either for doctoral research, professional work, or personal travel when borders reopen.

    Paige: I worked with a counterpart to establish a library in the youth center. All the youth centers are still closed in Morocco and have actually been used for vaccine rollout. So while the library has been closed and untouched, I'm thankful to know people in my site have access to the vaccine. My counterpart is still in town, and hopefully once youth centers start opening up again, she will be able to reopen the library.

    I recently returned to Morocco and got to go back to my site! I truly can't put into words how meaningful my time back in country was. Summer in Morocco is HOT, so much of my time was spent hiding from the heat, drinking tea in peoples’ homes, and eating. Traveling from the airport to my site, I expected to feel overwhelmed with emotions. But it felt so normal, like I had been on a trip or at a training, and I was just coming back home. And that felt even more moving. I left feeling a lot of peace–closure with the events of the evacuation, but an open door that I can always return to. It wasn't just a job or an assigned placement. It really became a place that was home, with friends and families that I hope to always stay connected to. I don't know what I expected when I joined Peace Corps. I know it wasn't this, but I know this is much deeper than I could have planned.

  • 01 Aug 2021 by Kathleen Sebastian

    One could be forgiven for having “unprecedented” fatigue. We are weary to the bone from the unrelenting record-smashing, at times calamitous, events spanning global health, racial justice, climate change, politics, and, yes, even the Olympics. So numerous were the “seismic events” in 2020 that the OED couldn’t settle on a single Word of the Year, instead recognizing a slate of "Words of an Unprecedented Year."  But on March 15, 2020, when then-Director Jody Olsen confirmed that “every Peace Corps volunteer on the planet” would be brought home, it was, indeed, a global evacuation unprecedented in the history of the agency.

    Two hundred forty-eight of the returning volunteers listed Washington as their home of record, and you probably know some of them. Our next two spotlights introduce four such SEAPAX members whom I’ve been fortunate to meet through NPCA’s Emergency Response Network and our work as Covid-19 contact tracers and public information resource coordinators for Public Health-Seattle & King County. This month we're talking with Hillary Holman and Kelsie Wring.

    Hillary Holman

      Albania

    Jan-Mar 2020, Community and Organizational Development Volunteer

      Moldova

    2017-2019, Community and Organizational Development Volunteer

      Hometown

    Seattle

      Current job

    NPCA Emergency Response Network, Public Information Resource Coordinator with Public Health-Seattle & King County 

     

    Kelsie Wring

      Uganda

    2019-Mar 2020, Knowledge Management & Communications Volunteer with CARE International

     

    2017-2019, Agribusiness Advisor

      Hometown

    Kitsap

      Current jobs

    Public Health-Seattle & King County COVID Vaccines Planning Team

    NPCA Emergency Response Network, Public Information Resource Coordinator with Public Health-Seattle & King County

     

    Q:  How were you informed of the evacuation? How much notice did you receive?

    Kelsie:  On Sunday, March 15, 2020, I traveled to Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, for a doctor’s appointment and stayed at one of the PC approved hostels with another 4 or 5 volunteers. At about 6 AM on Monday morning, we all received an email from PC Director Jody Olsen stating we were being evacuated. I was told to go ahead to my doctor’s appointment and then traveled to the bus station to head home for the last time. I got back to my post at 7 PM and had to be packed up and in the PC car at 1 AM the next morning. I was lucky that my coworkers and friends helped me pack! On Thursday, March 19, I flew home.

    Hillary:  Late at night on Thursday, March 12, 2020, Albania PCVs received an email announcing we would be evacuated. Given the country’s proximity to Italy, we had been put on Alert in February and given paper bags with 2 face masks each. Not long after that, we were each given another paper bag with 2 face masks. I thought this was being overly cautious. I am from Seattle and was keeping up with the situation there, which seemed to be getting rapidly worse, but it honestly never occurred to me that we would be evacuated. I was still in Pre-Service Training (PST) at the time, about 7 weeks in. We were notified to spend the day packing all our belongings and be ready when busses came to our training sites to pick us up the following afternoon. I packed up most of my stuff and then met up with several of my site mates on the beach (our town was on the coast). We figured we should enjoy the last of our time there.

    Q:  What were you permitted to bring?

    Kelsie:  I had two checked bags, a carry on, and a personal bag. We almost had to leave items behind because 4 individuals and their luggage had to fit into one Landcruiser.  

    Hillary:  We were allowed to bring one carry-on, one checked bag, and the equipment we needed to return to PC (water filters, fire extinguishers, manuals, etc.), but there wasn't space for second suitcases. The other suitcase I left with my host family for PC to pick up and ship to me later. I think I received it in July.

    Q:  Did you come straight back to the States? Did you have difficulty finding a place to live?

    Kelsie:  To get back to the U.S., we all had to fly through Ethiopia, one of the last countries to close its borders. On the morning of Saturday, March 21, Uganda closed its airport. There were still volunteers there Friday night! PC had to get the last half of the volunteers out of the country by chartering a plane which was picking up stragglers from other evacuating posts. I moved home with my parents.

    Hillary:  When I returned home, I came to a state that was one of the first epicenters of Covid-19 in the U.S. Everything was locked down, and it was so strange to suddenly not be in PC, not have to take my Language Proficiency Interview (LPI), and just be sitting on the couch. It was also strange to be back “home,” yet not be able to see any of my friends or go to any of my favorite places. I was fortunate to be able to stay with my dad, so finding housing wasn’t a problem.

    Q:  What were the biggest challenges you faced after arriving home?

    Kelsie:  I have a very supportive family that was more than excited to have me home, but I struggled to get a job and was unemployed for 5 months—unemployment benefits never worked out. My current jobs are both temporary positions, so I am not sure what will happen after the pandemic ends.

    Hillary:  Definitely, the job search was a struggle! I spent 6 months actively job searching before finally getting hired for a temporary position. I feel fortunate to be an RPCV because I had a great support network. I can’t count how many NPCA job webinars I attended, and ultimately the job I got was as a contact tracer for Public Health-Seattle & King County, through NPCA’s Emergency Response Network.

    Q:  What about reassimilation or culture shock?

    Kelsie:  Coming back to the U.S. felt so strange! I still feel like the U.S. is (lacking the vibrancy of life in Uganda), and that was only made worse by the pandemic. People asked insensitive questions, but PC builds your ability to ignore inappropriate questions.

    Hillary:  My situation was a bit different than most, as I had lived abroad previously and had also recently spent a few months back in the U.S. after completing service in Peace Corps Moldova—I didn’t experience any culture shock.

    Q:  Do you know what became of the projects you had to leave behind?

    Kelsie:  My coworkers were able to continue working on the projects; I stay in touch with coworkers and friends through WhatsApp and Facebook.

    Hillary:  I was in PST, so I didn’t have any projects that were abandoned. We had just completed our language training and were preparing to take our LPI. But we never got to! PC Albania ended up using the scores from our mid-PST practice LPI in order to swear us in the night before we boarded flights out of the country. We had consolidated at a hotel right next to the airport. Our cohort swore in, and the others that were in country each had their own COS ceremonies. I am thankful that we did get to swear in and officially become PCVs in Albania before we had to leave, but I’m sorry I missed out on the opportunity to serve in Albania.

    Q: What lies ahead for you two?

    Kelsie and Hillary both plan to continue working in some aspect of international development. An Eastern Europe focus remains a particular passion for Hillary, while Kelsie is keen to explore opportunities in the humanitarian arena. Wherever their careers take them next, we’re certain Kelsie and Hillary will continue to thrive and draw on an array of skills and connections built through the Peace Corps experience. As Kelsie put it, “Everything in PC, including evacuation, taught me about resiliency,” something we can all agree on!

  • 20 Jul 2021 by Evangelina Sundgrenz

    Summer Picnic

    Join RPCVs, family and friends for our Annual SEAPAX Potluck Picnic on Aug. 21st! We will be gathering at Magnuson Park, 6505 NE 65th St, Seattle, WA 98115, Shelter #2 from 3 p.m. - 6 p.m. (please note, prior announcements provided an earlier start time of 1 p.m.).

    Please bring food to share (side dishes encouraged) and SEAPAX will provide the main course: hamburgers, veggie burgers and hot dogs with buns and condiments.  SEAPAX will also provide a limited supply of water and refreshments.  

    Following Seattle Park and CDC recommendations, we ask that all unvaccinated persons wear a mask when in groups and where social distancing (> 6 feet) is not possible.  Vaccinated individuals who feel safer and more comfortable wearing a mask in outdoor groups are more than welcome to do so.

    Please RSVP for this event through our website.  

  • 20 Jul 2021 by Evangelina Sundgrenz

    Open Non-Elected Board Positions

     

    Would you like to get more involved with SEAPAX and with our local RPCV community?  There is no better way to do this than to serve on our Board.  The following are non-elected board positions that we would like to fill immediately:

    Regular Events Chair –

    • Leads an events committee, which is responsible for the planning and execution of regularly occurring events (i.e. happy hours, eats-out, book club, etc.)
    • Looking for a dependable individual who enjoys planning and participating in social events
    • 1-year commitment (minimum)

    If you are interested or would like to learn more about any of these positions, contact us at info@seapax.org.

  • 20 Jul 2021 by Evangelina Sundgrenz

    SEAPAX Annual Board Elections

    Our annual Board elections are right around the corner, and we are currently looking for candidates who would like to take on leadership roles.  ALL SEAPAX members are eligible to run.

    Voting will begin on September 6th and run through the end of the month for the following 2022 Board positions:
    • President
    • Vice President
    • Secretary
    • Treasurer
    • Director-At-Large-Service (up to three)
    • Director-At-Large-Events (up to three)

    Of note, these positions are all one-year terms, starting January 1st, 2022 and ending December 31st, 2022.  A more detailed description of these positions can be found on our website

    If you are interested in any of these elected positions or would like to nominate someone, please submit the following information to info@seapax.org by no later than August 31st: nominee’s name, country and years of Peace Corps service, position of interest, and brief biography of nominee (examples of biographies can be found here).

     

    If you’d like to learn more about any of these positions, please email us at: info@seapax.org

  • 13 Jul 2021 by Evangelina Sundgrenz

    The University of Washington is hiring a Strategic Campus Recruiter for Peace Corps.

    Application Requirements:

    • must be currently enrolled at UW-Seattle
    •  must be an RPCV.

     

    For more information and to apply: https://www.peacecorps.gov/returned-volunteers/careers/career-link/peace-corps-strategic-campus-recruiter/

     

  • See more blog...