Last Update: 12/15/2013 10:38 PM
Over the years I’ve met hundreds of returned volunteers from Tom Livingston, the very first Peace Corps volunteer to volunteers who just got back, still sporting their African tans. I hear incredible stories like the volunteer who was asked to dance by Idi Amin the ruthless President of Uganda during the 70s. She managed to escape by crawling out a bathroom window and running into the night. Although most stories are not nearly as dramatic they are interesting and provide invaluable lessons about the world around us.
Christina Chen (Ethiopia 11-13) and Will Spargur, NorCal President
at Dec 14 Children's Craft Fair
In an age of access to vast amounts information it’s easy to think, “Why do we need Peace Corps Volunteers to educate us about the world?” I can pull out my cell phone and instantly get information on any country in the world. I can read newspaper articles, listen to radio stations or even use it as a translator. Mountains of facts all at my fingertips, what more can a Peace Corps Volunteer provide? To this I say, Peace Corps Volunteers are needed now more than ever. So many conflicts have been started not because people disagreed on the facts but what those facts meant. As people are exposed to more and more information misunderstandings will only increase in the absence of cultural awareness.
It has been a banner year for NorCal. We started off strong with our Festival of Cultures at the beginning of 2013 and the momentum built throughout the year. We hosted story telling workshops and story jams in Oakland, San Francisco and Palo Alto, helping returned volunteers turn their experiences into engaging stories then giving them the opportunity to perform before mixed audiences of volunteers and non-volunteers. Our speakers program has exploded matching more volunteers in one month than we matched all last year, serving communities as far away as Fresno and Redding. And each month our newsletter has featured local returned volunteer stories on various themes from country evacuations to finding love in country.
We are only just getting started.
Over the next year you’ll begin to see more workshops on storytelling and giving presentations. There will be more story jams, country dinner presentations and panel discussions about current events in countries where volunteers serve. We are expanding our outreach to schools and community groups and will double, maybe even triple the number of requests for speakers that we receive. We’ll host our first film festival and much more.
There are over 10,000 returned Peace Corps Volunteers in the Bay Area. Collectively they have lived in over 100 countries around the world. What other organization has that depth and breadth of experiences? I see the Northern California Peace Corps Association becoming one of the preeminent public forums where international issues are discussed on par with the Commonwealth Club and World Affairs Council. But instead of hosting diplomats and heads of state we’ll hear from returned volunteers who’ve spent 2 or more years living in local communities, learning not only the language and customs but making friends and sharing their lives. It’s a unique perspective only returned Peace Corps volunteers can provide.