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Troop 5815 Costa Rica presentation.
By: Anna Myers (RPCV, 2005 - 2007)


As we all know our Peace Corps experience isn’t just about living and working in a foreign language in a small community on the other side of the world or about sharing our culture in an effort to foster better understanding between our host country and the United States.  It’s also about sharing our experience with others long after we’ve returned and settled back into the lives that we left behind.

Peace Corps Week focuses, in part, on the effort to strengthen the 3rd goal of Peace Corps.  A goal that is frequently reached through shared stories and anecdotes of our Peace Corps experience with friends and family, but admittedly receives less formal attention than some of us would like to admit.  In fact, I’ve been home since October of 2007 and this past month was the first time that I formally shared my experience with a group of total strangers.  I wish I hadn’t waited so long.

Megan Bowles, the troop leader of Troop 5815, a Girl Scout Troop based in Rockville, MD, reached out to Friends of Costa Rica looking for an RPCV that would be willing to share not only their Peace Corps experience but also their knowledge of Costa Rica.  Since I live in the area and had some free time, I was more than happy to volunteer.  


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Members of troop 5815 participating in Thinking Day.
After some schedule coordination, I ended up as a guest speaker at a meeting held at the house of one of the troop members.  I was met by a group of six fourth grade girls eager to learn all they could about Costa Rica so that they could share information about the country with their fellow Girls Scouts at Thinking Day for their service unit.  Thinking Day was first established in 1926 on February 22nd to create a special day for Girl Scouts and Girl Guides from around the world to "think" of each other and give thanks and appreciation to their ‘sister’ Girl Scouts.  For this special event, each troop creates a display that represents their country of choice.  Samples of local food or crafts are often a part of the display.  The participating troop members then take turns manning their display station and visiting the other displays to learn about the country and get their “passport” stamped.

As an RPCV that served in Costa Rica, I was able to fulfill a double role for the girls as their guest speaker.  Not only were they able to learn and ask questions about Costa Rica as a country, but they also earned the Thinking Day badge by meeting the requirement of learning about fostering change in the world through service.  After some yummy snacks and pizza, we spent one lively hour learning about Peace Corps and Costa Rica.  One of the troop members had visited Costa Rica recently, so it was great to hear her offering up her own facts as we worked our way through explaining Peace Corps, general information about Costa Rica, wildlife, the environment, tourism and even Girl Scouts in Costa Rica.

My interaction with Troop 5815 didn’t end there as I requested the opportunity to attend Thinking Day to assist the girls if needed and to see their final display and presentation.  This past Saturday my experience with the girls came to a grand finale at Thinking Day, where not only did they represent Costa Rica expertly and beautifully, but also recited the Girl Scout Promise in Spanish in front of a group of over 150 of their fellow Girl Scouts and parents.  Sharing Costa Rica and my Peace Corps experience with the girls of Troop 5815 was uplifting with a touch of nostalgia that served to remind me that while we finish our service and move on in our lives, we always carry Peace Corps in our hearts and minds. 

As Peace Corps Week events kick off around the country and world, I encourage you to not only share your experience with people you know but also with those that you do not, especially children.  Children have hearts and minds that are open to knowledge and new experience and it’s up to us to inspire future Peace Corps volunteers.
 

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Gracias Anna Myers from Troop 5815 for teaching us about the Peace Corps and Costa Rica.
 
 
By: Stephen Lanning (Rural Community Development Volunteer, ICT Chairperson) 

Over the past couple of years, the Costa Rican telecommunications industry was decentralized to allow for further competition, which in turn has resulted in further investment and innovation, and more connectivity for the average costarricense.  Indeed, cell phones, whether prepaid or monthly all-inclusive plans, are the ubiquitous method of communication and are becoming more common for entertainment and information, which has been furthered by the first arrival of the iPhone in the market in 2012.  However, despite this increase in technological innovation from the top-down, there is still a lack of access and knowledge of general computer skills, especially in rural areas of Costa Rica which becomes an impediment for average citizens to leverage the power of technology to perform tasks, for which are necessary to not only obtain and perform many jobs, but also to navigate the ever-changing technologically social world.  This gap of access and knowledge between rural and urban communities and poorer and richer nations is known as the “digital divide”.  Per Wikipedia digital divide is defined as “an economic inequality between groups, broadly construed, in terms of access to, use of, or knowledge of information and communication technologies.” 

 To address issues of digital divide in Costa Rica several years ago, Peace Corps volunteers (PCV) on the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Committee  created a website http://www.navecomputacional.com to teach basic technology skills targeted, but not limited, to Costa Rican youth ages 7-13 (trainees have ranged as high as 60 years old!).  The creative idea of the site is that it draws students interest by introducing the learning through space travel and that each module included is an “expedición” which will help them eventually complete their mission.  The website includes tools for both students and educators and has facilitated training of 302 participants covering 18 communities and 12 organizations (144 females and 158 males).  The objective of the website is to give tools to PCVs which allows them to teach basic computer skills which do not require anything more than a computer and an internet connection (optional as the site can be downloaded to an USB drive and transported to site) with no special software required.

 The donation of funds by the Friends of Costa Rica will allow current and future PCVs to expand the curriculum offered by the site, creating new missions and expeditions for students as technology continues to evolve.  Additionally, PCVs hope to share this resource with counterparts, schools, organizations and individuals so they can also teach classes on their own, making both the teaching and learning sustainable in communities after volunteers end their service.  Peace Corps Costa Rica also hopes to share this learning tool with other Spanish speaking Peace Corps countries, allowing them to take advantage of the tool and collaborate in its development, broadening the reach beyond Costa Rica to throughout all Latin America.

 The ICT Committee would like to give a hearty thanks to  all of the Friends of Costa Rica for helping support this important project and for enabling PCVs and counterparts to help bridge the digital divide.



 
 
By: Chad Chadbourn

Friends of Costa Rica is happy to announce that we have joined the National Peace Corps Association and many other RPCV groups in signing a letter to President Obama, requesting highest possible funding, and consideration of Peace Corps service in his selection of a new Peace Corps Director. In total 115 RPCV groups signed the letter to the President.  



The formal letter is below and can also be seen here

Dear Mr. President,

As representatives of Friends of Costa Rica member groups of the Peace Corps community, we congratulate you on your re-election and offer our best wishes to you and Vice President Biden in leading our nation forward.

As you begin your second term, we respectfully request the following:


  • Provide the highest level of funding possible for the Peace Corps in your Fiscal Year 2014 budget request. 
  • Nominate a new Peace Corps Director who will continue to build upon recent progress within the agency. 

We firmly believe our nation leads best when we pursue a foreign policy that prioritizes a peaceful resolution of potential conflicts built on a foundation of collaboration, friendship and understanding.  These ideals are central to the spirit and mission of Peace Corps service.

On Peace Corps Funding:  We proudly and passionately urge you to provide the highest level of funding possible for the Peace Corps in your Fiscal Year 2014 budget. While our nation faces significant fiscal challenges, we believe recent progress within the Peace Corps must be sustained and advanced.
     
  • As you know, under your leadership, Peace Corps volunteers and trainees in the field climbed to 9,000, while minority placement reached 20% for the first time. 
  • As you also know, a Peace Corps Volunteer overseas is an American citizen with a cost effective job, obtaining tremendous skills that benefit our nation.  We need look no further than the impact Peace Corps played in the life of Ambassador Chris Stevens to understand the long term benefits Peace Corps service provides to our nation. 
  • The supply of Peace Corps applicants and the many unmet requests for more volunteers remains high, further demonstrating the value of and desire for the Peace Corps.  Moving our nation forward must include a robust Peace Corps program. 


At a time of enormous change in the world, it is ever more crucial that peoples across the globe understand our nation. There is no better or more enduring way to communicate American values and ideals than through the engagement of our citizens in common endeavors to combat poverty, promote understanding and contribute to development than the Peace Corps. Responding to the unmet requests of many countries for new or expanded numbers of Peace Corps Volunteers may be the best foreign policy investment this country can make.

On Nominating the Next Peace Corps Director: We applaud the accomplishments of departed Director Aaron Williams and his team.  As you consider your next nomination to lead the Peace Corps, we ask the following:

  • Give your strongest consideration (as you did with Director Williams) to nominate a Director who served as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  A Director who has served is much better positioned to fully understand the wide array of challenges and opportunities that our Peace Corps volunteers will face in the field. 
  • Nominate a Director who is committed to continued advancement of key objectives of Peace Corps’ June 2010 strategic plan, including an annual review and prioritization of Peace Corps countries of service, advancing minority recruitment and committing to best in class training and program development.
  • Nominate a Director who is committed to fulfilling the promise to strengthen services and support to current and returned volunteers who are subjected to violence (including and especially sexual assault), injury and illness incurred during and/or resulting from Peace Corps service. 

Mr. President, we thank you for considering these matters which are vitally important to the Peace Corps community.
 

Friends of Costa Rica
Chad Chadbourn

Co-President
Washington, DC  



 
 
DEAR MEMBER OF THE PEACE CORPS COSTA RICA FAMILY:

Peace Corps Costa Rica will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary in Costa Rica on January 23, 2013, and later that year the Rural Community Development program will be closing, after a successful 10 years of volunteer work in rural Costa Rica. 

The staff of PCCR is asking all RPCVs to join us in helping to document PC’s presence and achievements in the country for this momentous occasion. The office hopes to create a general document about the PC experience “50 Stories in 50 Years”, to capture the essence of the PC experience over time. 

At the same time, the RCD program would like to ask all of you who were part of RCD, to help us put together a “legacy document” of PC rural work, an effort we would like to call: “Una Década de Impacto en Desarrollo Rural- El Programa DRC en Costa Rica (2003- 2013)”. 

For this purpose, we are asking all RPCVs to answer a brief questionnaire and to send any other documentation which you feel might contribute to the effort. Join us in this effort and participate in the 50th Anniversary celebration! 

To fill out the questionnaire please visit the online form here. 

With best wishes, 

Amanda Rabinowitz 
Director of Programming and Training Peace Corps Costa Rica 

Moises Leon Program Manager
Rural Community Development -Organizing Committee, PCCR 50th Anniversary 

 Please send all questions or comments to: Mleon2@cr.peacecorps.gov. In addition, if your answers exceed the limit of this form we invite you to send additional responses via email to Moises at Mleon2@cr.peacecorps.gov 

 
 
By: Chad Chadbourn 

On September 15, 2012 Friends of Costa Rica had the honor of joining the Asociación Costa Rica in celebrating the Costa Rican Independence Day at the Costa Rica Embassy in Washington, DC. This annual event attracts hundreds of ticos in the Washington, DC area for comida tipica y baile tipica. This year’s event sponsored by Asociación Costa Rica had the great support  of RPCVs from Costa Rica especially Alicia Barrera (Tico 17, CYF) who worked to coordinate volunteers, event sponsors, food vendors, event logistics, and much more. 

Over 20 RPCVs from Costa Rica where in attendance this year.  Many of the members of the Friends of Costa Rica had the opportunity to meet with the ambassador Ms. Muni Figueres who thanked each of the RPCVs for their service to Costa Rica during the celebration.  Friends of Costa Rica would like to thank the Asociación Costa Rica of Washington, DC and Costa Rica Embassy for their generous hospitality to all members of Friends of Costa Rica.  We especially would like to thank Orlando Carvajal, President of Asociación Costa Rica. For more information on the Asociación Costa Rica please visit their website here.  


Members of Friends of Costa Rica pictured with  ambassador Ms. Muni Figueres


For additional pictures please visit http://www.asociacioncostarica.org/
 
 
By: Chad Chadbourn & Dina Navar
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Recently approximately 20 RPCVs gathered at RPCV Steve Van Beek’s farm in San Carlos in late May.  RPCVs and current Peace Corps Volunteers, along with Peace Corps staff, family, friends, neighbors, and future Peace Corps Volunteers enjoyed hiking, bird watching, swimming in the river and creek, and a tour of the farm.   A highlight of the gathering was tractor ride around the farm.  The countries of service represented were Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, Senegal, Poland, Tonga, and the Philippines. 


 
 
By: Porter Searcy

A couple of years ago, Chase Adam (RPCV Costa Rica 2009 - 2011) was sitting on a bus in Talamanca when a woman stepped on board with a red folder and a small bag, and
asked everyone for a donation to fund her son’s medical treatment.  Surprisingly, her bag was quickly bursting with money.  At that moment, Chase had an epiphany: “If he could somehow connect this woman with his friends and family back home, she would have her son’s medical treatment funded within the day.”

Watsi is the world’s first peer-to-peer, online fundraising platform for low cost, high impact healthcare treatments in the developing world. What began as an idea has now blossomed into a team of 10 people (five of us being Costa Rica RPCVs), dedicated to making this a reality. I first met Chase and the other Watsi RPCVs when serving as the Program Coordinator in my third year of service. I knew from observing them pre-service training that these individuals have both big ideas and the passion needed to bring those ideas to fruition. When learning about Watsi back in September of last year, I immediately wanted to get involved and was a member of the team within a week.


Since last September, we have formed a comprehensive business plan, developed a social media marketing strategy, and established a strong relationship with Watsi’s first medical partner, Nyaya Health, in rural Nepal. Most recently, we were a finalist at the Global Social Venture Competition at UC Berkeley, placing in the top 16 out of 600 entrants worldwide. The other teams were incredible and are implementing some game-changing ideas, but Watsi won the People’s Choice award. This showed us that even before launching the website, people love the idea and are truly excited to help the one billion people around the world who are unable to afford healthcare.

Currently, we are on the brink of attaining our 501c3, or non-profit legal status, as well as launching the Pilot version of the website. Over the next few months, we will be working out the bugs in both the pilot platform and the business model while simultaneously preparing a fully scalable version of the website that will allow donors to quickly fund a very large number of medical treatments around the world.

Watsi Costa Rica RPCVs celebrating after receiving the  People's Choice award at the prestigious Global Social Venture Competition.  RPCVs pictured top left Mark Murrin (2009 – 2011), top middle Chase Adam (2009 – 2011), bottom left Katie DeWitt (2009 – 2011), and bottom middle Porter Searcy (2006 – 2009).  Not pictured is Howard Glenn (2009 – 2011). 

So how can you get involved? Go to watsi.org to sign up on our launch page, check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and our Blog, and in a few months, become a part of something great when the fully functional version of the website is live!

Watsi Pitch Video for the 2012 Global Social Venture Competition. Are you in? Visit http://watsi.org/
Porter Searcy served in Costa Rica from 2006 – 2009 and is currently Director of Projects for Watsi.  He holds an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and is a certified Project Management Professional. 
 
 
By: Joe Lauchlan

As a Community and Economic Development volunteer in Bataan, Limón, Costa Rica, my work has largely consisted of one-on-one training and small-group consulting.  Mainly, I have worked with a group of women who run an Empresa de Crédito Comunal, which is a micro-lending institution set up by FINCA Costa Rica. (
For more information, visit fincacostarica.org, in Spanish)  My attempts at organizing community action, therefore, have been few and left wanting.  I was very happy when Orlando Carvajal, member of Asociación Costa Rica and the Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C. and his group of students from the George Washington University chapter of the Circle K International community service club contacted me about their plan to spend their spring vacation sharing and serving with the people of Bataan.
PCV Joe Lauchlan pictured here (Detroit T-Shirt) with part of the student group and women from the Empresa de Crédito.

Much like a Peace Corps Volunteer would hope to do, Orlando, a native of Bataan, had contacted community members and discussed their priorities for collaborative projects.  They made arrangements for groups of local Bataneños to work with the GW students and carry out several service-learning activities, including cleaning and renovating a neighborhood park, painting murals at a local elementary school and organizing reading activities at schools in urban Puerto Limón and in the Cabecar indigenous community of Bajo Chirripo.  Much in line with Peace Corps’ philosophy, Orlando had inspired the different communities to invest their own time and resources into the activities; their participation increases the likelihood that an impact will continue to be felt for years to come.  The students even took time to visit the women’s Empresa, listening to their presentation and asking very pertinent questions to understand FINCA CR’s unique model of micro-lending and the bank’s impact in the lives of these women.  Upon return to Washington, DC the group of students were invited to give a presentation on their experience in Costa Rica at the Costa Rican Embassy.   Personally, I am very grateful to Orlando and to his students for allowing me to participate in their activities and share my experiences with them.  The students were so receptive to the entire experience, I’m confident that this unique third goal activity will result in some future PCVs.

Friends of Costa Rica has recently partnered with Asociación Costa Rica to facilitate third goal activities including helping to plan the annual Independence Day celebration at the Costa Rican Embassy in Washington, DC. 
PCV Joe Lauchlan leads George Washington University students in community service projects.
 
 
By:  Dina Navar

On March 17th, 2012, approximately 25 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who have served around the world sported their finest green apparel to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at the Vista del Valle Plantation Inn located in Naranjo.  RPCVs and current Peace Corps Volunteers, along with Peace Corps staff, family, friends, neighbors, and future Peace Corps Volunteers enjoyed the day swimming, hiking to a waterfall, horseback riding, and enjoying the beautiful Costa Rican summer. For entertainment, RPCVs shared limericks written about their Peace Corps experience. 

A highlight of the gathering was the surprise bagpipes performance by RPCV, Kevin Ludeke.  The countries of service represented were Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, Senegal, Poland, Tonga, and the Philippines.  The growing number of RPCVs living in Costa Rica proves the Pura Vida land is not only a great place to be a PCV, but a great place to be a RPCV. 

 
 
Looking forward to the next 50 years

RPCV/W and FoCR cordially invites you to attend a Peace Corps Town Hall Meeting


What:
a forum with returned volunteers and Peace Corps leadership to listen and discuss current agency initiatives

Where:
Peace Corps Headquarters, Shriver Hall; 1111 20th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20526

When:
March 14, 2012 from 6PM – 7PM (please arrive 10-15 minutes early to clear security and check in at registration)

How:
you must register to attend, (open to members and non-members)

Program:


1.      Welcome and introduction from RPCV/W leadership

2.    Remarks from the RPCV/W President Chris Austin

3.      Remarks from the NPCA President-Kevin Quigley

4.      Remarks from Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams

5.      Q & A, audience members will have the opportunity to ask questions, questions submitted online will also be addressed

After the Town Hall Meeting, please Join RPCV/W to continue the discussion at Recessions 1823 L St (1.5 blocks from HQ)