Our guest blogger today is Tino Calabia, HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
A Congressional Budget Hearing was only hours away. Yet HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan joined HUD’s 38 Returned Peace Corp Volunteers (RPCV) and 20 other RPCV’s to offer thanks and praise as they celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the creation of the Peace Corps in a program emceed by Sarah Stewart who served three Peace Corps Volunteer assignments in Central America between 2004-2010.
“By living among the people they serve – speaking their language, working side-by-side – so many Peace Corps Volunteers learn what it means to live a lifetime of hardship, but all of them return home prepared for a lifetime of leadership and at HUD we couldn’t be prouder of the roughly three-dozen leaders the Peace Corps has helped give us” said Secretary Donovan.
The Secretary named several: Tino Calabia, part of the “advance guard” in Peru in the early ’60s, and Erica Lipshultz, Sunaree Marshall, and Lauren McNamara, who had served no earlier than 2005 in Mozambique, Mongolia, and Armenia respectively. RPCVs from the Department of Education, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Federal Housing Finance Agency, General Services Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Department of Agriculture, along with non-Fed RPCVs heard C.D. Glin, the Peace Corps Director for Intergovernmental Affairs and Partnerships, who carried Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams’ letter of appreciation, and National Peace Corps Association President Kevin Quigley who said many of the 200,000 RPCVs around the world have organized 741 similar March 1st celebrations.
The first Volunteers, including Evelyn Mittman Wrin, began training for the Philippines in 1961. During her service, Evelyn taught and raised funds to help her poorest students finish high school. Afterwards, she worked in the Office of Economic Opportunity in Sargent Shriver’s War on Poverty.
Christina Machion Quilaqueo landed in Chile in 1996. As the bus approached Christina’s new town, she wept, wondering, like many new Volunteers, how she would ever survive. The bus driver asked if she really wanted to be left off in the town? Things changed. She gradually gained support from the town’s first woman Mayor and soon will celebrate her 10th wedding anniversary to the town’s then rural development director. And the Mayor? The mayor’s daughter married her brother-in-law. Still a personal ambassador from the U.S., Christina returns yearly to the town she served as a volunteer.
Washington Post urban design columnist Roger Lewis, the keynote speaker, brought three RPCVs guests. Stanley Hallet, an MIT classmate, had planned to study Italian church architecture. Roger convinced Stanley to join him in becoming a volunteer. In 1964, they landed in a Tunisia virtually bereft of Tunisian architects. Unlike freshly-minted U.S. architects typically apprenticing as draftsmen for years, they immediately received commissions. Roger designed 30 structures – from boy scout camps to hotels, even to mosques – and saw many built before he returned home, where he helped found the University of Maryland’s School of Architecture.
Roger believes the development and traditions of today’s Tunisia should help it advance from its recent revolution towards democracy more readily than will most other Islamist countries now in turmoil. He concluded by announcing a proposed Peace Corps memorial whose legislative bill was entered into the House of Representatives only hours before. Afterwards, the RPCVs sang Happy Birthday around a 50th Anniversary cake bedecked with the flags of the 139 countries served by the Peace Corps.