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

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.

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.

Peace Corps Career Fairs this September

PC Display @ Clifton Park Library

Ryan Lesley, the outgoing regional recruiter, has shared some upcoming PC recruiting events in our area. Ithaca College: September 10th, 5 – 7 PM SUNY New Paltz: September 11th, 11 – 3 PM SUNY Cobleskill: September 18th, 11 – 3 … Continue reading

Where are you calling from?

Below is a graphical look at where our recent web traffic has come from. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of visitors are from with in the US. But there are some surprising countries on this list, some that have never had Peace Corps too!

These statistics are from the launch of our new site in April 2012 to present.

Click to enlarge the image.

2013 Peace Corps International Calendar Now Available

We have ordered 2013 Peace Corps International Calendars from RPCVs of Madison Wisconsin. Jeanette will be receiving them shortly. Supplies are limited to get your order in soon as you can. The cost is $10 per calendar (but we’ll gladly accept more, wink!).

Each month in the calendar displays vivid, color photographs of a featured country. Holidays and important dates from around the world are listed. Calendars make great gifts and profits go to support RPCVs of NENY.

Use our Contact Us form to place your order. Buy several and use them as gifts. You can bring payment (cash or check) to one of our meetings or events. Jeanette will be the main contact for orders.

To learn more about the International Calendar, click here.