By Mark D. Walker, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Guatemala (1971-1973)
I felt right at home when my wife Ligia and I arrived at the impressive University of Denver campus to participate in the Partnering for Peace workshop, hosted by District 5450 as a precursor to Peace Corps’ annual alumni conference. The forces that shaped my life would be at this conclave, whose theme was Partnering for Peace: Taking Collaborations to New Heights. Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs), alumni of the Peace Corps international service program, and Rotarians are my kind of people.
Over 85 Rotarian Returned Peace Corps Volunteers gathered at our workshop to discuss how to better support the communities we serve through local and international service projects. Several project leaders presented on their joint initiatives made possible through collaborations between clubs and nearby Peace Corps Volunteers: establishing a computer lab in Honduras and Senegal, transporting medical equipment to Kenya, equipping a community with access to clean water in Burkina Faso, and a joint effort to identify school needs and help fill gaps with literacy resources in Costa Rica.
Attendees broke up into small groups for the final session to discuss strategies for:
- Rotary clubs and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to find one another and work together to enhance community and international service projects.
- Identifying and promoting projects to help others learn from successful partnerships.
- Sharing inspirational stories of joint projects to encourage members of both organizations to explore local collaboration opportunities.
- Identifying the many different ways clubs and current and returned Peace Corps volunteers work together.
To conclude the workshop, District 5450’s Governor Abbas Rajabi shared his story of being taught by a Peace Corps volunteer in his home country of Iran, which inspired him to continue servicing others.
The District 5450 Peace Corps Alliance Committee, focused on connecting local Rotarian RPCVs, formed Partnering for Peace in May 2017 to engage Rotarian RPCVs all around the globe. Partnering for Peace is a group of Rotarians and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers working to build partnerships to create sustainable projects locally and around the world in order to promote peace.
The workshop was our first big step in connecting Rotarian RPCVs and inspiring action. We’ll continue facilitating introductions and promoting resources to help clubs and Peace Corps volunteers and alumni work together more closely in the communities most in need of our support. We are also eager to guide clubs and RPCVs on how to plan and implement joint service activities either locally or internationally.
It’s exciting to see the Rotary-Peace Corps partnership continue to grow with the involvement of more RPCVs and we concluded the workshop energized and excited to continue working together with members of both organizations. I describe my own journey with Rotary and the Peace Corps in my new book, Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond, but the formation of Partnering for Peace will take that trek for me and many other Rotarians and RPCVs to an entirely new level.