OUTspoken – Jim Kelly

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Click on this image to listen to Jim’s story, roughly 12 minutes.

OUTspoken is a monthly LGBTQ storytelling event at Chicago’s Sidetrack video bar, CLICK here to learn more. In August of this year, RPCV Jim Kelly spoke about his time in the Peace Corps.

From the OUTspoken Facebook page
“August storyteller Jim Kelly recently celebrated 70 years on this earth. Born and raised in rural Minnesota, Jim entered the U.S. Peace Corps in 1969 as a recent college graduate with a big heart and no skills. After his 3 ½ year Peace Corps service in El Salvador, he joined a non-profit organization focused on community leadership development and helped initiate projects in small villages in Venezuela (1 year) and Chile (4 years). He returned permanently to the U.S. in 1981, and shortly thereafter joined Oak Park-based CHP International, a private training company that, under contract to the Peace Corps, staffed and managed pre-service training programs for in-coming Peace Corps Volunteers in many countries in Central and South America, the Caribbean and Africa. As an Associate Director, Jim supervised the CHP training centers in Central and South America, traveling often to conduct performance reviews and provide staff training focused on Adult Non-Formal Education. He retired in 2007, and continues to live with his husband, Bruce Broerman. They’ve been together for over 29 years and married since August 3, 2014. Jim is “stepdad” to Bruce’s two adult children, and is “Papa Jim” to their five grandchildren ages 14 to 3 ½. “

From Jim’s words: 
“On August 1, 2017, I told a story about how my Peace Corps Volunteer service led to the 1991 publication of my Master’s thesis on the experiences of Gay and Lesbian Peace Corps volunteers during the first 30 years of the agency. My recommendations about how Peace Corps could improve its training and support systems for us were shared with Peace Corps country offices around the world. “

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World Connect – Making Global Local

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Link to application and additional information: https://www.worldconnect-us.org/domesticgrant-application/guidelines
World Connect is inviting all RPVCs to apply for funding for domestic projects. We want you to employ your creativity, interests, experiences, and skills to lead projects that educate, inspire, and empower young people and communities in the United States.

This opportunity is designed to be flexible and creative. We are looking for innovative and thoughtful projects that inspire young people and communities in the U.S. to act and make global connections. This can be through art, education, or any medium that inspires you! Host a global development seminar with people in the industry; found a slam poetry club exploring cross-cultural linkages; organize a potluck dinner with food from all over the world! Whatever your idea is, we want to hear from you. Need inspiration? Check out the examples in the linked guidelines and application.

World Connect will accept applications for grants up to $1,000* on a rolling basis through Monday, July 31, 2017. We will review, provide feedback, and make a final decision on your application within one month. Details are included in the attached application.

Want to set up a call to brainstorm and/or so we can answer your questions? Email Julia, Director of Education and Outreach at jhaney@worldconnect-us.org to schedule a call today!

General Questions? Send them to applications@worldconnect-us.org.

* If your project requires more than $1,000 pitch us your idea—we’re excited to listen!

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Why Peace Corps Pride celebrations are essential: thoughts of an openly gay Peace Corps Volunteer

Reposted with permission

My husband and I serve together as Peace Corps volunteers. We’re happy to work in our tiny community on the rice plains. We’re glad we could choose the country we serve in. One of the really nice things the Peace Corps has done over the past few years is to allow applicants to choose their country of service.

For openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender volunteers, this means we can avoid being invited to serve in countries where, because of religious or cultural influences, the people we serve could be motivated to attack and even kill us. Or, at the least, we can more easily avoid service where people would suspect in some way that we are worthy of condemnation and therefore decline to work productively with us.

It’s great to be able to avoid heightened risk of attack and murder. However, other lgbt-related pressures still confront us soon after arrival in our host country.

The usual dynamic of any American volunteer immersed in host country culture — looking, sounding, and feeling out-of-place — is magnified for openly lgbt volunteers. Our extra level of minority status, defined by differences in gender roles and sexual orientation, at times leaves many lgbt volunteers feeling like a super-aliens. Much of this distance may be because of host country unfamiliarity with American-style lgbt relationships.

Marriage and personal relationships are a fundamental element in every culture, and are a ubiquitous area of curiosity and discussion. Related conversational exchanges are part of forming personal relationships and are a natural part of bonding with host country friends. Yet openly lgbt volunteers often find these exchanges are unavailable, and such absence can cause loss of opportunity to build close friendships.

It seems to me that the missing conversations likely begin something like this:

  • I have a cousin I think you’d like to meet …
  • What kind of women are you like to date?
  • Are you dating someone?
  • How long have you and your husband been together?
  • What first attracted you to your wife?

It’s difficult for me to describe dynamics that result from the absence of something. But the dynamics are distancing. Lgbt volunteers describe how such distance creates a steeper climb for them as they work to integrate with their coworkers, neighbors and community. Openly lgbt volunteers of color or with disabilities have an even steeper climb. The volunteer may ask herself:

  • Is it just me, or are my colleagues keeping their distance?
  • Is the lack of connection because I’m lgbt, or is it because my language skills are inadequate?
  • Am I the first lgbt person this guy has met? Does he think I’m strange because I’m lgbt?

In other words, part of the steeper climb involves self-doubt. Self-doubt and feeling negatively about yourself is in no way an unusual dynamic in the history of lgbt people. Historically and even in the present day we have been marginalized, have been treated as criminals, we’ve been brutalized and executed, diagnosed as mentally ill, and regarded as sinners by the majority culture.

We have long felt like super-aliens, even at home. Cumulatively this is quite tiring and when added to the rigors of Peace Corps service, it becomes overwhelming at times.

Thank goodness for Pride! In June 1969 gay men in New York fought back against gay-hating police and lgbt people have celebrated Pride Day annually ever since. During one celebration each year, we show each other our solidarity and support. We feel the safety of our numbers, and the warmth and love of our non-lgbt friends, families and co-workers.

But Pride celebrations aren’t easily found in areas where Peace Corps volunteers work. So when a Pride celebration is available, it’s a big deal for lgbt PCVs. It’s great to feel the support of Peace Corps staff and of US officials at the local Embassy. To those Peace Corps and consular staff who make an extra effort to help lbgt volunteers feel affirmed, supported and loved: thank you.

 

IMPORTANT: Update Your Address

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Hello LGBT RPCV Members:
I’m sure you’ve already seen, but this 2017 Pride seasons, we have a current Booster campaign to sell LGBT RPCV T-shirts. CLICK HERE To check out the campaign and buy your shirt now. The campaign ends May 11th and shirt should be shipped by June, right in time for Pride month!
However, we also want to send ALL of our members a small token of appreciation this Pride – whether you’re buying a shirt or not. And we can only do that if we have the right address for you on file. If you aren’t already officially affiliated with us, CLICK HERE to sign up for your FREE NPCA membership and make sure to select “LGBT Returned Peace Corps Volunteers” as your associated affiliate group. If you are already an NPCA member, 1) make sure you have selected LGBT RPCV as an affiliate group and 2) confirm the correct address is on file (several are not!).
We’ll be pulling master list of members and address by Friday, May 19th, so make sure you’ll squared away then.
Thanks,
Manuel Colón
National Coordinator

2017 LGBT RPCV Pride Shirts

CLICK HERE to purchase your 2017 LGBT RPCV Pride Shirts right now
Campaign live until May 11th with expected deliveries by June 1st.

Funds collected from this campaign will be utilized to cover annual operating expenses. Additionally, we hope to also be able to provide assistance via Peace Corps Partnership Grants to projects that align with our mission. If enough is raised, we also look forward to providing funds to for in-person socials during the Pride season this summer and fall for our members across the US.

Thanks for supporting us!

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