Editor’s Note — January 2016

The times they are a changin’

by Janet Lee (Emdeber 1974-76)

Well, I am not really from the ’60s, but many of the RPCVs of Ethiopia and Eritrea are. I am, however, close enough to appreciate the work of those who came before me and have the willingness to “pass the torch to a new generation.” In working with RPCVs and in my recent travels to Ethiopia where I met and worked with current Volunteers, I feel a shared connection to Ethiopia, best described by the late author, Maria Thomas, “If you’ve ever lived in Ethiopia, you never really put it behind you. You follow the news, any you can get, avidly. You look for people who have just been there. You find Ethiopians on the outside, or they find you. You collect stories. You wait for any chance to go back.”

Call for new board members
In the last issue of The Herald, we came to learn of the resignation/retirement of our President Marian Haley Beil (Debre Berhan 1962–64) and founder of E&E RPCVs.  In addition to her role as President, she was the treasurer, database manager, website and blog designer, and editor and publisher of both the print and online version of The Herald.  Oh, and one must not forget the manager of our Facebook page. Not surprising since she was one of the first intrepid Volunteers to Ethiopia.  Barry Hillenbrand (Debre Marcos 1963-65) paid tribute to her in our September issue.

We knew it would be tough to fill her shoes, but we are making progress in the transition.  Vice President, Leo Cecchini (leo@cecchini.org) is presiding over the operations as a new board is formed, at which time a new President will be elected.  Fortunately, Marian is still actively participating behind the scenes. Current board members include:  Janet Lee, Barry Hillenbrand, Leo Cecchini, John Coyne, and Karen Glover.

Hold the presses! Just a week ago Barry Hillenbrand announced his retirement from the board as well. We were fortunate to not only have Barry as a wise member of the Board, but also a wonderful editor to lend his professional expertise to The Herald.  We will pay tribute to Barry in the next issue of The Herald.

Our first call for new board members has met with success:  Amanda Sutker (Adaba, West Arsi, 2012–14) is the first to answer that call.  Currently residing and working in the DC area, she has stepped up to not only join the board but coordinate local arrangements and programming for the Ethiopia activities at National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) conference Peace Corps Connect in DC September 22-25.  She and Barry Hillenbrand have begun planning a DC area get together on February 4, complete with an Ethiopian comedienne.  More info will be forthcoming.

The second to answer is Kristen (Straw) Barredo (Finote Selam, 2007-09).  Kristen was in the first Peace Corps group to re-enter Ethiopia and worked in HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control.  She also currently resides in the DC area and will assist with local arrangements and programming in DC.  Welcome to the board!

What are we looking for?  Passion, commitment, and enthusiasm. All those traits that took us to Ethiopia in the first place. Do you have organizational skills? We need someone to maintain a database of names and emails. Are you good with numbers? We could use someone who can manage our financial resources. Do you have a bent for design? Hey, we have a great web presence, but who doesn’t need a fresh, new look? Do you network?  Everyone on the board needs to be reaching out to Volunteers in the field, recently returned Volunteers, and those not yet connected to social media. Yes, there is much work to be done, but being on the board or volunteering in some capacity to the group is rewarding and a lot of fun.

Interested? Contact Leo Cecchini (leo@cecchini.org)

Where does all the money go?
Did you know that E&ERPCVs is not a membership organization and cannot charge dues? (A violation of our bylaws and non-profit status). Although not expensive to run, there are some expenses that do occur, including minimal web fees, bank fees, rebates to NPCA, and fees associated with maintaining our non-profit status. Where does our income come from?  Up until the changes discussed below, most income came from a portion of the individual dues paid to NPCA, about $1400 in 2015.  That cash flow will decrease substantially as the NPCA dues structure changes.  But how about all of the reunions, especially the annual get together at Peace Corps Connect?  Surely E&E RPCVs make a bundle on these activities?  Nope! Nothing! Zip!  Nada! Minum yellum!  Yes, there are some fees related to these events (such as room rentals), but all expenses are covered by the attendees and not passed on to the general membership.

Who benefits?
Of course, that’s easy.  We all do.  We network.  We communicate. We share our photos. We share our hopes, projects, ideas.  We remember those who have gone before us.  None of this would happen without a community and we are a community, one that is expanding as each new group of Ethi PCVs enters and COS at the end of their service.

Unique to the E&E RPCVs is the RPCV Legacy Program, E&E RPCV projects that are sanctioned by the board, posted on the website, and eligible for a tax deduction by the donor.  100% of all donations go to the project. E&E RPCV collects the donations, tracks the funds, sends donation receipts, disperses the money, and files all appropriate IRS forms.  No wonder Marian decided to retire!  If there is a little bit of money left over at the end of the year, the board may donate money to the various projects to sweeten the pot.  How cool is that?   This year we received $25,471.38 in Legacy Project donations and dispersed $25,528.43 (numbers aren’t an exact match because funds may cross years or specific projects are not yet fully funded).

This year, the board approved  a contribution to an Ethiopian Peace Corps Partnership Program grant.  We are dedicated to supporting the Volunteers in country.  Please take note of the gracious response of gratitude from PCV Matt Westerberg, Yochila, Tigray.  His Partnership Program Grant will support the building of two bathrooms in Yochila schools and the building of 20 desks for a classroom.

Where do you send donations to further the cause?
OK, you would have sent a check in 2015 but you missed the tax deadline.  Don’t worry.  There is still time for 2016.   Click on the link to learn about all of your giving options:  https://eandeherald.com/ee-rpcvs/support-the-herald-ee-rpcvs/

Changes at NPCA
There are big changes afoot at the NPCA, one of the most significant being the dismissal of dues.  In this issue, The Herald interviews Glenn Blumhorst, President of NPCA, who outlines these changes and hopes for the future. Thanks in large part to the mobilization of individual RPCVs and groups such as the E&E RPCVs, Congress has passed the largest budget for Peace Corps in history.  Let’s all stand up and give ourselves a hand.

In this issue
In addition to the interview with Glenn, there are articles by three current Volunteers in the field.  Hannah Pensack-Rinehart (Mezezo, Amhara, 2015- ) describes a simple but effective solution to the hand-washing problem inTippy Tap to the Rescue.” Swathi Ayyagari (Quiha, Tigray 2015- ) successfully raised funds with a Peace Corps Partnership Grant to continue the Kid for Kids project that Benjamin Morse (Hawzien 2011–13) described in his article in an earlier issue of The Herald. Kids for Kids creates music videos that include topics such as  hand washing, exercise, nutrition, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, fetal alcohol syndrome, gender equality, disabilities, school pride, cheating on exams.

This issue of The Herald also highlights a few projects by RPCVs.  Mary Gaul (Kombolcha, Welo, 2012-2014) with her husband Ryan share their experiences with GrassRootSoccer both in Ethiopia and in the U.S.  While in Ethiopia they trained nearly 500 kids in GRS techniques. Here in the U.S. they continue to run races and raise funds for this program. Have you ever had a great idea for a book and wanted to publish it on your own?  Andrew Tadross (Endodo, Tigray & Mekelle, Tigray 2011-13) shares how he went from an idea to a finished product in “From PCV to Author/Publisher.” Finally, a quick update on a project from the field. Dwight Sullivan (Yergalem, Dodola 70–72) is currently in Ethiopia unloading six shipping containers of building materials for the Axumite Heritage Foundation library.  He has sent photos of their amazing progress

 We conclude as always with book reviews for your reading pleasure.

Janet at ??

Janet in the Peace Corps Room of the Kennedy Library in Boston

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