– Mike Learned, Group Leader, RPCV, Malawi
This is the report of our activities and achievements during 2009 that has been submitted to the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) as part of our reaffiliation with that organization for 2010.
Mentoring Program: For almost 15 years LGBT RPCVs has managed an electronically based Mentoring Program. LGBT applicants, nominees and people just interested in Peace Corps connect with our mentors program through our web site (www.lgbrpcv.org) Mentor Program page. They learn about our program from Peace Corps recruiters, placement officers, country staff, other volunteers and internet searches. We mentor dozens of people a year.
Beginning in 2008 we mechanized our Mentor Program by being more directive with those seeking information. We provide specific directions on readings from our web site and instructions on how to direct questions and concerns to the large number of participants using our listserv (now more than 500 participants and in continual use for 11 years – since January 1999). This has worked well during 2009, and we plan to continue using this process in 2010.
Supporting Peace Corps at LGBT Related Recruiting and Information Events: During 2009, LGBT RPCVs assisted Peace Corps Regional Offices and Headquarters staff at several recruiting and/or information events around the country. This involved providing a printed package of materials. We also assisted in locating LGBT RPCVs to help staff at recruiting and information tables (most notably Gay Pride events during the summer 2009) to answer questions and provide Peace Corps support.
Financial Management: Beginning in 2008 we decided to no longer require membership fees. However, we continue to receive a “rebate” ($15 per person) from NPCA for members who identify us as their NPCA affiliate. 47 NPCA members joined or renewed naming us as their affiliate during 2009. We have included in our membership anyone who has paid us dues (either through the NPCA or to us alone) in the past 5 years or so. We have lost track of many of these (most due to invalid email addresses), but we now measure our membership at 375.
Washington DC Area LGBT RPCV Group Meeting Again: Over the years LGBT RPCVs has had affiliate groups in various metropolitan areas around the country: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston (New England), and New York. Currently the San Francisco and Washington D.C. groups are active. The D.C. group has reemerged after a couple of years of inactivity. The smaller New York group maintains a listserv.
Grants/Contributions: We made no grants in 2009, but are currently studying a proposal for a brochure in Romanian based on an HRC brochure on “coming out.” A current RPCV there who does volunteer work for Romania’s gay human rights organization, ACCEPT, will coordinate the project.
Communications: LGBT RPCVs administers a listserv with more than 500 participants. These are members of LGBT RPCVs, other LGBT RPCVs, current volunteers, applicants, nominees and others interested in Peace Corps. We do not require organization membership to be a participant. We see the administration of this listserv as a service to the larger Peace Corps and LGBT communities. We use our listserv to communicate up-to-date information about Peace Corps, Peace Corps Response, and Peace Corps related national and international issues. We also distribute our enewsletter to the listserv. It has been increasingly used as an integral part of our Mentor Program.
Our listserv continues to provide information about LGBT and Human Rights issues around the world, concentrating on countries where Peace Corps serves or has served in the past. This year, we have seen increasing homophobia and the diminishment of the human rights of LGBT people in Africa (in particular Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Senegal, Nigeria and Malawi),the Caribbean (especially Jamaica) and Eastern Europe (especially Russia). At the same time significant advances have been made in Asia (notably China, Indonesia, India and Nepal) and Latin America (with significant progress in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Argentina).
Our quarterly newsletter has been published every quarter for more than 14 years. In 2008 we converted to an all-electronic format. This has saved us about $2000 a year, and has allowed us to serve a much larger membership, not required to pay membership dues. We have had two of our articles republished in NPCA’s WorldView magazine during 2009. WorldView is also planning a shorter version of a 2009 article from our newsletter by the first HIV+ PCV to complete service after acquiring HIV while serving as a PCV.
In our February 2009 enewsletter we published an article by the first female to male transgender PCV. This was widely distributed on the internet, and with an additional interview used in a program to highlight the diversity of Peace Corps by idealist.org, an organization that features volunteering opportunities.
Counseling and Advice: Increasingly, LGBT applicants, nominees and current volunteers are contacting us to help resolve issues with Peace Corps, usually related to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Two or three of our members provide relevant information, advice and resources. Our aim is to resolve problem issues within the context of Peace Corps non-discriminatory, equal employment and volunteer security policies.
Assisting OMS with Ongoing PCMO Training: Last spring we were contacted by Kathleen Jordan from Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services (OMS). She was looking for resources to help her develop and deliver a component for this year’s (2009) Peace Corps Medical Officer (PCMO) Continuing Medical Education (CME). This would provide information and resources to PCMOs about meeting the medical and emotional needs of LGBT PCVs. We provided her with contacts of current and recent LGBT Volunteers. We also developed and distributed an internet-based survey over our listserv. The survey was answered by 45 current LGBT PCVs and mostly recent RPCVs who serve or served in countries around the world. The results were used to develop a training session in two locations (Washington D.C. and Bangkok) where all PCMOs were trained. Feedback on these sessions was very positive, and such a session will be included in future CME.
You can contact Mike Learned at firstname.lastname@example.org.