Peace Corps Treasure Boxes

by Peace Corps Connect/NPCA

By Jonathan Pearson on Monday, June 25th, 2012

(l to r) Speakers at the Nashville Expo included Tennessee RPCV President Dave Keiser (Morocco 98-00), NPCA Vice President Anne Baker (Fiji 84-87), Peace Corps Deputy Director Carrie Hessler -Radelet (Samoa 81-83) and keynote speaker Becca Stevens

Speaking at Saturday’s Third Goal Expo in Nashville, Tennessee took on extra meaning for Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest, regionally and nationally recognized community builder and founder of Thistle Farms, a social enterprise that stands with women recovering from violence, prostitution, addiction and life on the streets.

Becca has built a strong relationship with members of the Tennessee Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs).  But the foundation of her 25 year Peace Corps relationship came through her husband’s uncle, Norm Hummon, who played an early role in Peace Corps’ program development in Africa.

Sadly, Norm Hummon passed away last week at the age of 94.  Her keynote at the Expo gave Becca the chance to honor and reflect upon Norm’s contributions.  According to Becca, “he never doubted the depth and meaning of his life.”

One of the ways Norm passed on that meaning to his family was through his “treasure box”.  Becca recalled occasions when she and her children would visit, and Uncle Norm would pull out his box filled with small stones, foreign currency or other artifacts from his Peace Corps days.  Behind every item in his treasure box, Becca said there was an amazing story.

For the more than 100 attendees at the Expo, a similar experience could be found in the multipurpose room at the Nashville Public Library, which was converted into a display area featuring the treasures of 15 RPCVs from across the globe.  From Thailand to Togo.  From Costa Rica to Kiribati.  The world was brought to Nashville with an array of clothing, handicrafts, photographs and maps, prompting delightful conversations of countries, culture and cross-continental camaraderie.

Treasuring the Peace Corps experience is not only the domain of RPCVs and former staff.  That was evident during a panel discussion entitled “Peace Corps Through the Eyes of Family and Friends.”  A half-dozen fellow Tennesseeans who visited RPCVs while in service were featured.  They shared advice for families planning visits to see current or future volunteers, and there was no shortage of amusing stories about their travel adventures!

But beyond those tales, there was also something deeper.  ”I so admired and was so amazed by the spirit of Peace Corps Volunteers,” said Megan Florentine, friend of Cameroon volunteer Debbi Schuld.

Missy Voigt, whose daughter Lindsay is just now completing her service in China, was “awed by how receptive and responsive (Lindsay’s) community was to what she was doing.”

And for Gregg Sullivan, whose son Andy is serving in the Dominican Republic, his visit “made me even prouder of my son, and prouder of my country.  (Peace Corps) is a wonderful example of the higher good…it’s heartwarming.”

For all who served, continued to serve and will soon join the ranks of the Peace Corps, Becca Stevens reminded the audience of their importance by reflecting on her own commitment to reaching out to those in need, wherever they may live. ” My work is just a drop in the bucket.  But the world is starving for those drops.  The world is in need of us to keep hoping and loving.”

Follow this link to view more photos from the Nashville Expo (courtesy of Angie Harris and Emily Woodling of the Tennessee RPCVs)

Nashville was the first of four Third Goal Expos being organized this year by the National Peace Corps Association, the Peace Corps and local RPCV groups.  A similar Expo will be held Sunday in Minneapolis (part of NPCA’s 2012 Annual Gathering).  Later in the year, Third Goal Expos are planned in Providence and Los Angeles.

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