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  • 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

    ๐๐ซ๐š๐ง๐๐ž๐ข๐ฌ ๐”๐ง๐ข๐ฏ๐ž๐ซ๐ฌ๐ข๐ญ๐ฒ- MA Program

    ๐๐ซ๐š๐ง๐๐ž๐ข๐ฌ ๐”๐ง๐ข๐ฏ๐ž๐ซ๐ฌ๐ข๐ญ๐ฒ is hosting a virtual event about specific programs for RPCVs.
     

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

    ๐—ช๐—ฒ๐—ฑ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐˜€๐—ฑ๐—ฎ๐˜†, ๐—ฆ๐—ฒ๐—ฝ๐˜๐—ฒ๐—บ๐—ฏ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐Ÿฎ๐Ÿต, 5-6 PM, EDT, (๐Ÿฎ-๐Ÿฏ ๐—ฃ๐— , ๐—ฃ๐——๐—ง)


    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 ๐— ๐—ถ๐—ด๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ฅ๐—ฒ๐—ณ๐˜‚๐—ด๐—ฒ๐—ฒ ๐—ฆ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜ƒ๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ฒ๐˜€ (๐—จ๐—ฆ๐—–๐—–๐—•). They are ideally looking for a candidate for ๐Ÿญ-๐Ÿฏ ๐—บ๐—ผ๐—ป๐˜๐—ต๐˜€. Compensation is at $๐Ÿฎ๐Ÿฌ๐Ÿฌ/๐—ฑ๐—ฎ๐˜† + ๐—ฒ๐˜…๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜€๐—ฒ๐˜€ (๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—น๐˜‚๐—ฑ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ฎ๐—ฐ๐—ฐ๐—ผ๐—บ๐—บ๐—ผ๐—ฑ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป, ๐˜๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ๐—น ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ผ๐—ฑ).

    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, ๐—Ÿ๐˜‚๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ป ๐—–๐—ผ๐—บ๐—บ๐˜‚๐—ป๐—ถ๐˜๐˜† ๐—ฆ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜ƒ๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ฒ๐˜€ ๐—ก๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐˜๐—ต๐˜„๐—ฒ๐˜€๐˜ (๐—Ÿ๐—–๐—ฆ๐—ก๐—ช).

    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/

     

  • 05 Jul 2021 by Evangelina Sundgrenz

    Support of Local Refugees

    The Peace Corps Community for Refugees (PCC4R) invited SEAPAX to partner with the regional affiliate of the Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Service, Lutheran Community Services Northwest (LCSNW).

    There are many ways you can support refugees and immigrants through LCSNW’s program, such as sponsoring a family, teaching English, or driving people to appointments. See the full list of opportunities here.  

    If you are interested in volunteering with LCSNW, please contact Emma at 253-617-4385 or eloest@lcsnw.org and say that you are part of SEAPAX.

  • 02 Jun 2021 by Kathleen Sebastian

    If you attended our March Story Slam, you’ve already met June’s featured member, Phil Venditti, and you won’t be surprised to learn that in the decades since serving as an education volunteer (Korea, 1976-1978), Phil went on to earn a Ph.D. in educational administration, wrote/edited four books, hosted an international/intercultural TV show, and finally retired after 27 years in college administration. Phil’s Peace Corps story is also a wonderful love story! In this month’s spotlight read about how he met his wife, Yuna Min, a co-teacher, and the special mandate Peace Corps had for his K-40 volunteer cohort. If you missed the slam, or would like to listen to the stories again, the recording is available here; Phil’s segment begins at approximately 24 minutes. K. Sebastian


    When I prepared to enter the Peace Corps in 1976, I harbored some preconceptions. I thought that the agency would prove to be either a heartless bureaucracy, a tool of the CIA, or both. The volunteers I’d meet, by contrast, would presumably be high-minded and altruistic.

     What I lived through during two years of service differed from what I expected, however. The Peace Corps operations in Korea were predominantly honest, well-run, and innovative. Most of my fellow volunteers were as idealistic as I’d expected, but many were self-centered and dissolute.

     My group, K-40, was the smallest ever sent to Korea—just eleven volunteers. It was also the first and last whose members taught briefly in public schools and were then dispatched to work in provincial educational research institutes. 

     Anyone who’s been a Peace Corps volunteer knows that that role entails dealing with ambiguity—culturally, linguistically, psychologically, and in terms of work responsibilities. I experienced all those varieties of ambiguity in Korea. 

     The atmosphere in my institute was congenial, relaxed, and welcoming. No one ever explained to me what the place was actually doing, however. Perhaps someone there was performing educational research, but I never observed anything resembling educational research as conducted in the USA. 

     I was given no job description and wasn’t really supervised, so I was able to plan and execute many projects on my own. One was to write several dozen articles about American culture and language which then appeared in the main provincial newspaper and some national magazines. Another was to visit 30 schools throughout the province to promote a radical new English teaching methodology, find out how Korean English teachers spent their time, and answer questions about American society and life from students meeting a foreigner for the first time. A third was to solicit and compile essays by students in Korea, the Philippines, and Botswana entitled “Americans.” Along with these activities, I taught and tutored individuals and groups regularly in English lessons whose curriculum and materials I developed.

     Daily frustrations and questions common to volunteers everywhere affected my behavior, certainly. The vagaries of my specific work role likewise challenged my self-image and sense of purpose. In spite of these difficulties, or perhaps because of them, having experienced Peace Corps-Korea helped me later as an educational professional. In administrative positions, I was more patient and open-minded than I probably otherwise would have been. As a teacher, I acted in direct accordance with the precepts of the radical English teaching philosophy I’d embraced.

     My fondest memories from Korea are of my courtship with the woman who became and remains the love of my life. Somehow, through happenstance or destiny, our interactions while co-teaching for one short term in a middle school sparked mutual interest and affection. Cultural realities forced us to nurture our relationship furtively for many months after that. She supported me in all my projects, including the largest—the compilation of a book of essays about American life and language. Together, we submitted a final pile of manuscripts for that book to a publisher in Seoul a day or so before getting married.

     Some people think the Peace Corps experience is “what you make of it.” There’s some truth to that, I suppose, but it’s not a cut and dried matter. Although I take responsibility for how I acted in Korea, for better or worse, I’m immensely grateful for the positive, efficient, supportive environment that the Peace Corps provided to me and my fellow volunteers. And I’ll never forget the inspiring kindness and energy of the Koreans with whom I lived and worked.

     

    Photo Top: Phil and Yuna Min, in WA, 2021

    Photo Bottom: Phil and Yuna in Korea, 1978

     

      
    Phil and Yuna in Korea 1978

  • 01 May 2021 by Kathleen Sebastian

    The Peace Corps—Ghana connection runs deep and long. Ghana I was the third group of volunteers to train, and, on August 30, 1961, the first to arrive in country. Peace Corps Ghana likes to say “Peace Corps was born in America but learned to walk here in Ghana." Boasting Peace Corps’ longest run of uninterrupted service (59 years, up until last year’s Covid-19 evacuation), the second most populous nation in West Africa has hosted some 5,000 volunteers. Notable among them is SEAPAX Board member, Britany Ferrell, whose Peace Corps experience influenced career choices and ignited a passion to work with less resourced communities that continues to this day.

    Britany hails from Birmingham, Alabama, and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Science at the University of Alabama. As an undergrad studying abroad in Australia, Britany traveled to Thailand and spent time trekking in the northern highlands. Close-knit village life made such a strong impression on her that Britany was determined to find a meaningful way to recapture the experience–leading directly to her applying to Peace Corps.

    In 2010, Britany arrived in Eremon, in the Upper West Region of Ghana, a village so remote that a loaf of bread was 45 minutes away by bike. Initially assigned to teach biology, Britany lived in the boarding school compound and rapidly filled her evening hours organizing extra-curricular educational and cultural activities. She laughs remembering movie night in the gym, where, instead of a large screen projection, her laptop was the focal point for an audience of 400 spirited students. When a computer lab was donated to the school, Britany was made head of the IT department. She relished introducing the students to everything from turning on the machines and learning to type, to navigating the internet.

    Always keen to identify resources to address issues affecting her host country and region, when Britany learned that the Upper West was experiencing the highest rate of HIV infection in Ghana, she learned to successfully navigate the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and went on to train new volunteers in PEPFAR grant implementation.

    One of Britany’s cherished memories concerns an outstanding student who lost his leg as a result of a snake bite he sustained as a youngster. First, Britany respectfully confirmed his interest in using a prosthetic limb. Next, through dogged determination and a dose of good fortune, Britany discovered a US-based medical aid organization that was coming to Ghana precisely to fit patients with prosthetics. She facilitated a connection and helped organize a fund raiser to cover transport costs to meet the US team for the complex fitting. The eventual result was a young man who not only regained mobility and independence, but also redirected his professional aspirations and now works making prosthetic limbs for others in need. 

    Following Peace Corps, Britany earned a Master’s Degree in Public Health from the University of Cape Town. In addition to her years in Ghana and South Africa, she lived in Zambia and Tanzania and visited nine other countries working for Doctors Without Borders and MCW Global. Continually impressed by how a little encouragement, accurate information, or a well-timed resource could empower individuals, organizations, and communities to effect positive change, Britany was inspired to launch her own non-profit: Health Resource Partners (HRP) took form in 2018.

    HRP partners with trusted local stakeholders and established health NGOs providing mentorship and support. Despite all the hurdles of a global pandemic, in 2020 HRP sponsored the following important projects in Ghana.

    • Installation of seven touch-less handwashing stations ("Tippy Taps") in rural villages to promote safe hand hygiene and curb the spread of COVID-19
    • Installation of solar-powered lighting at a community clinic, giving pregnant women a safe place for evening deliveries
    • Remodeling a rural maternity clinic that, when completed, will serve over 800 underserved people in surrounding villages

    Read more about HRP’s mission and work here.

    While this story is remarkable, it bears the hallmarks of the universal RPCV experience. No matter when or where you served, Britany’s guiding principles are bound to resonate.

    • Remain open to the unexpected. Sometimes our most interesting or rewarding accomplishments derive from projects outside the scope of our original assignments.
    • “Sit under the mango tree.” Successful project implementation depends on listening to the local stakeholders and understanding their cultural context.
    •  Patience and resourcefulness for the win!

     

  • 29 Mar 2021 by Kathleen Sebastian

    In my interview with Jonathan Green, I quickly learned that no moss grows between his toes. He was born in New London, Connecticut. But his father served in the Coast Guard, moving his family to several states during Jonathan’s childhood: Hawaii, Alaska, California, and a couple southern states, just to name a few. This began Jonathan’s lifetime of living in and exploring different places.  

    Expecting to be drafted during the Vietnam War, he instead enlisted in the Army and trained as a medic in order to “alleviate the suffering” of the soldiers and civilians in Vietnam. To his dismay, he was kept stationed stateside for three years in an induction center to medically screen draftees. This depressed and infuriated him. His requests to transfer to Vietnam were denied.

    At the end of his enlistment, Jonathan applied for the Peace Corps and asked to be assigned in Southeast Asia where he worked as a Malaria Control Volunteer in Thailand from 1973 to 1975. Serving the people in the jungle was what he had hoped for.

     

    After Peace Corps, Jonathan reenlisted in the Army, and eventually became a physician assistant and later earned a Master of Public Health degree. He worked as a physician assistant for many more years in the military and later in the private sector. But with service overseas now deeply seated in his blood, he returned to PC as an HIV Outreach Volunteer in South Africa from 2015 to 2017. Jonathan worried that his age of 66 might be a deterrent to succeeding as a Peace Corps Volunteer. However, once he arrived in his host country, he found that in South Africa, as in many other countries, it is believed that with age comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes respect. He found teaching the young men about HIV prevention challenging, but he collaborated wisely with his South African counterpart and wove HIV education into a pool tournament in his village. What an ingenious way to teach and persuade these reluctant men.

    Wishing to return to his “first love,” malaria control, Jonathan volunteered to serve one more year in that capacity as a PC Response Volunteer in Kakata, Liberia from 2017 to 2018. 

    Jonathan recalls the bittersweet moments as a Peace Corps volunteer. The Thai language was particularly difficult to learn, but with perseverance he learned to communicate well as he traveled from village to village in his work. One of his proudest experiences was seeing a reduction in malaria morbidity and mortality. A few years after his service, workers were sufficiently healthy to complete the construction of two hydroelectric dams on the River Kwai that provided needed electricity for a vast area of the country.

    In every sentence of my interview, Jonathan’s words echoed commitment. He served 25 years in the U.S. Army and 5 with the Peace Corps. In 2019 he published his memoir, Fighting Malaria on the River Kwai. This is not your regular paperback, but rather a soft cover coffee table book loaded with photos and stories of his time in Thailand. Find his book and a description on Amazon and featured in Peace Corps Worldwide. He found Peace Corps to be a “life changing experience” that made him a better person. His memoir was not only for his family, but for PC recruits to help them understand the challenges and rewards of serving as a Volunteer.

    Jonathan’s association with our RPCV group began in 1983, when the area affiliate was known as RAVN, and more recently, he served on our pre-pandemic, Peace Corps Connect 2020 Conference Committee. He lives in Fife, WA with his wife, Gina and has 2 grown children and one granddaughter. Jonathan has proudly served our country and we are honored to have him as our member.


    Susan E. Greisen, RPCV Liberia, 1971-73 and Tonga, 73-74, is the author of In Search of the Pink Flamingos, a memoir. Her essays and poems are featured in seven anthologies. Learn more at susangreisen.com.

     

  • 28 Feb 2021 by Evangelina Sundgrenz

    Global Leadership Forum (GLF): Senior-Level Executive Leader Cohort

    GLF is now accepting applications for its Senior-Level Executive Leader Cohort (GFL XVI), which launches April 22 – 23.

    GLF strengthens globally-oriented social-purpose leaders.  

    Ø  This peer learning cohort program addresses global development management, leadership, and organizational development topics.

    Ø  Cohorts are co-lead by faculty with deep experience in applying real-time, responsive guidance and tools to help individual leaders tackle challenging problems.

    Ø  Cohorts are rich in learning and partnership to improve lives in communities worldwide.

    Ø  Relationships and support continues after the program through the GLF Alumni Community.  

    The GLF XVI cohort will meet for ten 3-hour sessions over a 6-7 month duration. 

    Tuition for GLF XVI is $2,500. We encourage you to apply regardless of financial ability. Payment plans and scholarships are available for those in need, especially those historically underrepresented in leadership and global development.

    A virtual info session will be hosted on Wednesday, March 3, from 4 – 5 p.m. Please RSVP to team@glfglobal.org for a Zoom link.

  • 08 Jan 2021 by Evangelina Sundgrenz

    The NPCA Virtual Career Fair is specifically for Federal Employers hoping to utilize the non-competitive hiring eligibility (NCE) status that Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) receive once they have completed their service in the Peace Corps. NCE is a great opportunity for federal agencies to hire RPCVs who meet the minimum qualifications of a given position.

    The NCE status granted to the nearly seven thousand RPCVs evacuated as a result of the global pandemic will be expiring this March. Hiring agencies have, at their discretion, the capability of extending NCE status (see Can NCE be extended beyond 12 months?) and the Peace Corps is actively investigating the possibility of an extension. However, the upcoming NPCA event will serve as a tremendous opportunity to put a focus on hiring RPCVs now while these other efforts are underway.

    The Virtual Career Fair will be held on Thursday, January 28 2021 from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM EST, and will take place via Zoom with breakout groups to accommodate participating employers.
     

    Each agency that is selected to participate will have approximately two hours. At the beginning of the event, each employer is required to briefly introduce their agency and the types of positions they are seeking to fill. They will be given the opportunity to advertise their virtual “booth” that will be scheduled during one of the various 90-minute timeslots for the remainder of the day. Interested candidates will then freely visit employers of interest for free-flowing small group interaction.

    Space is limited, so please register before January 15th via this registration form to save your spot. The National Peace Corps Association will release a list of registered employers by January 18th, including more information on the event format and logistics. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to careers@peacecorpsconnect.org

    Peace Corps will be hosting its own Virtual Career Fair in the upcoming months, and will be emailing once details have been finalized. Please let us know should you have any further questions.

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