2014 Peace Corps Conference Recap

Last Update: 2/8/2014 6:15 PM

By Will Spargur

Conference Photos | Story Jam Videos

Over 250 people attended NorCal’s 2014 Peace Corps Conference to enjoy presentations from volunteers who served in over a dozen countries, panel discussions on the 2012 Evacuation Mali by former Peace Corps Chief of Africa Operations, Lynn Foden, Storytelling workshops, workshops on transitioning back to life in the States and so much more. The conference was the culmination of the efforts of 41 volunteers donating more than 200 hours of their time to make this awesome event possible.

The amazing generosity of time and talent by NorCal volunteers to engage local communities and assist returning volunteers with readjustment has made NorCal the standard bearer for Peace Corps groups around the country showing what is possible. Just three years ago NorCal was a struggling organization with barely 250 members and a $5,000 budget. Now we are over 600 strong and growing with a budget of over $25,000 and growing. What a great start to what I know will be a great year.

Recap from Returnee Transitions Workshop
By Tess Marstaller

The session for recently returned volunteers was a welcome opportunity for RPCVs in transition to bond over the practical, social and emotional aspects of re-integrating after such a transformative experience. Around 25 volunteers of all ages and stages, who had returned as recently as two weeks before, and up to a couple of years, engaged in a lively discussion around developing a satisfying post-PC identity that bridges the gap between newly gained values and the suddenly less familiar context of home. Participants shared tips such as trying meetup.com to find like-minded people and using ride-share apps to arrange carpooling, and were empathetic to issues of rattled confidence in looking for a job after being a valuable asset in your host community, feeling behind your peers, or disillusionment with American culture. The laughs and nods of understanding confirmed that these challenges hit home for all of us, and we left reminded of how valuable our service was, and with new validation that settling into RPCV life includes growing pains. In the end, a short-term discomfort for a long term gain, and do any of us want to fully re-adjust, anyway ; ) The group would love to see quarterly events for newly returned volunteers, as well as regular job-seeking events, and more social clusters throughout the Bay.

NorCal owes a huge thank you to the following:
Joshua Adeyemi, John Alexander, Alysia Ballinger, Mark Buchsieb, Nalini Elkins, Julia Fleuret, Lynn Foden, Jenn Gross, Lyle Hansen, Hope Hauptman, John Hoban, JoAnne Kazimi, Sarah Keyes, Corrine Kirkbride, Alexander Labinov, Katherine Lacy, Stephen Lanning, Jing Li, Bryan Lemos, Katherine MacDougall, Daniel Marlay, Tess Marstaller, Zachary Matheson, Jerome Nelson, Sara Nevius, Lie Njie, Maria Padilla Castro, Darcie Polzien, Frank Price, Patrica Rupel, Andrew Schafer, Will Spargur, Stephanie Starch, Martha Stein, Alan Toth, Kelly Trombley, Cynthia Wambsgans, Justina Wu, Andrew Wynn, John Young and, Arya Zarrinkelk. And thank you to all the volunteers I forgot to mention would jumped in to help as the need arose. NorCal also appreciates the time of Janet Allen and Sean Michetti of the local Peace Corps recruiting office for organizing session on interview skills, noncompetitive eligibility and for the Peace Corps Townhall where Janet unveiled some dramatic changes that Peace Corps will be adopting in the next couple years.

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