Greetings from the Warm Heart of Africa 3 from Becky Raymond

Another letter from Becky Raymond who is serving a PC Response assignment in Blantyre, Malawi:

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Schoolgirls on an HIV awareness march

Let me start off by answering the question that many of you may be thinking – is there Ebola in Malawi? At this point no. There have been no cases of Ebola here.

Malawi is in southeastern Africa, south of Tanzania and west of Mozambique. Malawi is a long way from the West African countries experiencing the epidemic. The U.S. is closer geographically, than Malawi. That is not to say that it could not come here. As we know, travel across borders can be very easy. Malawi is not at all prepared or equipped to deal with Ebola. There is a branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) here, and they are actively monitoring the situation. At a time like this it is natural to think of one’s own risk. However, my fellow health volunteers and I are thinking a great deal about the situation in West Africa and how to help. So, if you are inclined to make a donation to the many organizations and agencies that are involved in helping fight the epidemic, please go tohttp://www.cidi.org/ebola-ngos/#.VA-ukbxdVig

Meanwhile the HIV epidemic is still impacting millions in southern Africa. That has been the focus of my work here. As I

An IT Centre

An IT Centre

mentioned in my previous letters (yes, several months ago), I am working on a project to map and survey all the HIV/AIDS non-governmental and community-based organizations in the Blantyre District where I work.  My Malawian colleagues and I applied for and were awarded a small grant from the U.S. PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) to cover the project costs. We have finished the surveying and GPS coordinate gathering portion of the project. Last week, a fellow Peace Corps Response volunteer and I held a training for staff in QGIS, a free mapping software program, that will enable us to make and print maps of the locations of these organizations in the District. The purpose of the project is to improve collaboration, response and coordination among the organizations and with the District. It is also to strengthen strategic planning based on the District’s development goals.

Conducting one of the surveys of HIV-related NGOs

Conducting one of the surveys of HIV-related NGOs

I am now in my 8th month, two-thirds of the way through the year. I have been here long enough that it feels familiar, and somewhat comfortable, sometimes not. I am still adjusting to the reverse of seasons. We had winter in July and August, with cold, misty rain and wind. It got down into the 40s at night and really did feel like winter, since there is no heat in the buildings. It is very hard on the majority of Malawians who only have small fires as a heat source.

It is now the hot season and temperatures are in the 90s. The rains won’t come again until late November or early December. Even though I live in Blantyre, the second largest city, there are few places with air conditioning. My office is not one of them. I am learning to work in 95 degree heat, and have brought a fan to my office, but sometimes all it does is blow hot air around.

Malawi held a presidential election in May. It was rough going, with some violence on election day, and several incidents of ballot boxes missing or damaged. The election was contested but official results were finally released three weeks after election day. The new President, Arthur Peter Mutharika, a professor and lawyer, lived for many years in the United States. It is too early to tell what his presidency will bring to the country. Foreign government donors have largely withheld the 40% of the budget that they contribute annually, due to “Cashgate”. Cashgate occurred two years ago, when high level government officials stole millions of dollars from the national budget (mostly foreign donated funds). Malawi is now struggling to operate under a severe austerity budget.

At the end of May, I moved into a small guesthouse in the central part of the city. It is walking distance to my office (about

Becky's house

Becky’s house

a mile and a half), is furnished and very comfortable. I even have a washing machine and microwave! Quite spoiled by PC standards. My landlord is Irish and his wife is English, so we have fun communicating in our respective accents and comparing and contrasting our cultures and countries. They have lived in Malawi for 18 years and raised their four sons here.

My thoughts turn more and more now to returning home in February. It is right around the corner. It will be wonderful to see you all again.

Love,

Becky

RPCVs of NENY Welcome Glenn Blumhorst, NPCA President

On October 18, Sara Poggi met with NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst (pictured here) who was visiting from Washington DC.Glenn-Blumhorst-NPCA-President-600pxl-e1360882599394

Sara provided a detailed update about the status and activities of RPCVs of NENY. Glenn discussed news from the national level and stressed stressed that NPCA is refocusing on serving affiliate groups like RPCVs of NENY.

If you have any ways that NPCA can help our group, please contact us.

We appreciate Glenn taking the time to meet with our group and get input from our President.

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