Thursday, July 5, 2012

Peace Corps Connect 2012 Conference- Minneapolis, MN

Partners of the America's table at the Expo Hall
The National Peace Corps Association held its first national conference in Minneapolis, MN, June 29- July 1st.  More than 200 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV) from across the country attended.  On Friday, June 29th the National Peace Corps Association President, Kevin F.F. Quigley (RPCV, Thailand) welcomed all attendees during the opening ceremony luncheon.  Mr. Stacy Rhodes, Peace Corps Chief of Staff shared updates on ongoing efforts to improve volunteer trainings while also supporting the highest number of current volunteers in the field. Bruce McNamer (RPCV, Colombia) was the keynote speaker at the welcoming luncheon. Mr. McNamer is the President and CEO of TechnoServe, a non-profit economic development organization that helps entrepreneurial men and women in the developing world to build businesses that provide jobs, income and economic opportunity.

Also in attendance was Florence Reed, Founder and President of Sustainable Harvest International (SHI) and this year's recipient of the Sargent Shriver Distinguished Humanitarian Award.  Ms. Reed (RPCV, Panama) led the session on agriculture in which she described the five phase approach of SHI and it's goal of working on the agricultural, ecological and economic problems of Central America through its innovative, hands-on and long term model.  In her acceptance speech, she credited her Peace Corps service to have been pivotal in leading her to create SHI. Recently SHI has been working with Peace Corps in Panama to provide current Peace Corps Volunteers with in-country technical training. Partners of the America's Farmer to Farmer program has worked with SHI in Honduras on forest conservation, watershed management, and alternative farming methods.  We hope to continue to work with SHI and their projects in rural farming communities in other Central America countries like Belize, Nicaragua and Panama.

Partners of the Americas and the Farmer to Farmer program is in constant connection to the Peace Corps as many volunteers are Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. Additionally our Farmer to Farmer team Program Director, Peggy Carlson and Program Officer, Marcela Trask both served as Peace Corps Volunteers in Costa Rica. The President and CEO of Partners of the Americas, Steve Vetter is also an RPCV having served in Colombia 1967-1969.   We hope to stay connected with the RPCV community through event such as this.  The Partners of the America's Farmer to Farmer program can help RPCVs stay involved in international development and fulfill the three goals of Peace Corps; helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women; helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served; and also helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

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