Greetings from Becky Raymond in Blantyre, Malawi

The following is an excerpt from a recent email from longtime RPCVs of NENY member, Becky Raymond. Becky is currently serving in Blantyre, Malawi on a Peace Corps Response assignment.

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All is well. We arrived 2 weeks ago, 8 Peace Corps Response volunteers; 4 “older” and 4 “younger”, all women. The group includes 2 PhDs, 1 MD, 1 former Associate Peace Corps Director (me) and four out of 8 are former PC volunteers.

We had a 10 day orientation/training at a hotel/conference center in the capital Lilongwe, focusing on Peace Corps admin policies, Malawian government structure, district level structure and resources (or not), cross-cultural orientation, and Chichewa language (I am having a harder time learning a new language this time around.)

We met with USAID and Embassy officials, got fitted for bikes, went to the market on a crammed mini-bus and bargained as best we could, all in the first week.

Then our Malawian counterparts (District Directors of Planning and Development) arrived for two days of collaborative orientation. It focused on understanding American and Malawian work styles, helping recognize cultural differences that might create barriers, reviewing District Implementation Plans and beginning to develop a work plan for the next 12 months. The work plans will be further developed over the next weeks as we do an organizational assessment, attend many meetings, and learn the assets and challenges of the district council to which each of us is assigned. HIV and AIDS prevention is under the National AIDS Commission and implemented through local district or municipal councils. (It’s always HIV and AIDS here, not HIV/AIDS)

We left Lilongwe on Wednesday the 19 with our counterparts and were driven to our assigned sites. I have been assigned to Blantyre, the second largest city. It’s the commercial capital of the country, so think of me as living in the New York City of Malawi!  I live in a house vacated by the previous PC Response volunteer. It has 2 bedrooms and a large yard with fruit trees and, get this – a garden!!! At the moment my furniture consists of a bed, a table and 5 chairs. Peace Corps provided us with a medical kit, water filter, bike, helmet and mosquito net. We also were given a “settling in allowance”, the equivalent of $290 to purchase supplies and get through the month. Budgeting is challenging, there are many initial expenses. Our monthly “salary – living allowance” is $212. We are expected to live at the level of our counterparts.

I have purchased a mini stove/oven (like a large toaster oven with two burners on top) and a small dorm-size refrigerator, plus many kitchen and cleaning items. For food there are two large but expensive grocery stores; Shop Rite and Game (South African). There are smaller Malawian groceries throughout the city, one not far from my house. In addition, I purchase many staples at the local market. The variety of vegetables and fruit is just wonderful. The market also sells used clothing (you know those bags of clothes we all donate to Goodwill, etc.) plus hardware, cloth for whatever article of clothing you may want to have made by a local tailor, and beautiful local crafted baskets, wooden furniture, etc. The wood products are an issue because Malawi’s forests have been largely depleted due to cutting for firewood – over population. I am trying to get used to the vagaries of water and power outages, washing my clothes by hand, city noises, walking or biking everywhere (good for my health), not getting run over because they drive on the left side like the British, and how to look “professional” while sweating. The only air conditioning I’ve experienced was at a bank.

I am enjoying being in Malawi. The people are friendly and welcoming. They appreciate that we make an effort to speak Chichewa, however badly we mispronounce. My first day of work is tomorrow, so expect much more detail about what I’m doing the next time I write.

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Legislative Victory for Peace Corps Commemorative!

Congress 1

Reposted from: http://www.peacecorpsconnect.org/2014/01/legislative-victory-for-peace-corps-commemorative/ 2014 is off to an excellent start for the Peace Corps community. Monday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives gave final approval to Peace Corps Commemorative legislation. The measure was approved by a vote of 387 to … Continue reading

Confirmation Hearing, Webcast for Nominee to Lead the Peace Corps

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing next Wednesday, November 6th, for President Carrie Hessler-Radelet Obama’s nomination of Carrie Hessler-Radelet (Samoa 1981-83) to serve as the next director of the Peace Corps.

The hearing will be held at 10:30 AM in Room 419 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.  Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) will preside over the hearing.

The hearing is also scheduled to be available by webcast.  Follow this link for more details.

Hessler-Radelet has been serving as Acting Director of the agency since September 2012.  This past July, she was nominated to become Peace Corps’ 19th Director.

The National Peace Corps Association will provide full details of the confirmation hearing as part your November advocacy update, due out late next next.

JFK Library Announces Memorial Project, Requests Peace Corps Input

JFK 50th anniversary project:
November 22, 2013, will mark the 50th anniversary of the passing of John F. Kennedy. We intend to turn the focus away from his passing and back to his life, and the ways his legacy lives on today.
Together, with the participation of the JFK Library and Museum, we are teamed to produce: “An Idea Lives On”; a digital extension of the library and museum that will collect stories from all over the world about how JFK’s values, policies and ideals continue to thrive today.
These stories will take many forms. Video, audio, text, photos, tweets.  We are inviting former Peace Corps volunteers to share their stories. Their stories about how their lives and work have been influenced by this iconic figure that was taken too soon. Their stories about how JFK lives on today.

Their stories will be one of many, creating a collection of testimonials demonstrating how JFK and his inspirational ideas still live on in our everyday lives.  We are hoping to facilitate our project by getting in touch with former Peace Corps volunteers.

If you are interested in participating, please contact Karen Dola at karendola@gmail.com as soon as possible. She is in charge of the project for the JFK Library and Museum.

 

NPCA thanks RPCVs of NENY for Donation to Mentoring Program

Glenn Blumhorst, current president of the National Peace Corps Association, offered his thanks to RPCVs of NENY for our donation to the matching grant mentoring program. The grant program, facilitated by RPCVs of Madison, WI, will allow NPCA to upgrade it technology and conduct some strategic planning for the organization.

Click here to read Glenn’s letter: RPCV Northeast New York

RPCV Starts Language Learning Library Project

Ray Blakney (Mexico 2006-08) has begun a 3rd goal project with the PC regional offices and the PC 3rd goal office in DC to try to create an online archive to keep the language training material made all over the world from getting lost.  Ray has created a sub-section on his website with all the information gathered to date. He has currently close to 100 languages with ebooks, audios and even some videos.

The next step for this project is to get the world out about this resource so that it can not only be used by PCV’s or those accepted into the Peace Corps, but also so that when people run across material that is not on the site. There should be something there for almost everybody.  It is all 100% free to use and share.

Any assistance in getting the word out would be appreciated, whether it be by mentioning it on your website, in a newsletter or just word of mouth in your group.   Here is the page:

http://www.livelingua.com/peace-corps-language-courses.php

Thanks for any help you can provide in making this 3rd goal project a success.   And if anybody in your group has some old material they can scan or already have in digital form, and want to add to the archive, you can email it to Ray directly at raymond.c.blakney@gmail.com.