Author Archives: lnicolaison

RPCV NJ Picnic – June 2


Terhune Orchards
330 Cold Soil Road
Princeton, NJ 08540

RPCV-NJ & NJ’s Peace Corps Recruiter(s) are collaborating on an event to combine:

* 9th annual RCPV picnic,
* Welcome Back recently returned volunteers,
* Send Off individuals about to leave for their Peace Corps service.

10 – 10:30 
Reception with refreshments
& country of service table displays
10:30 – 11:30 RPCV Panel
(application process & service discussion)
11:30 – 12:00  Candle Ceremony
(Send off for new PCVs/ PC invitees)
12:00– 3:00 (and beyond)
International Buffet – Potluck Picnic

The event is open to all RPCVs, PC invitees, friends & family as well as anyone interested in possibly joining the Peace Corps.

Bikes will be collected to donate to the Bike Exchange in Trenton, benefiting the Boys & Girls Club of Mercer County
Bring your used bike (in good condition) to the event & you will be directed where to leave it.

RSVP: Doug Garatina at

Outreach Opportunity – 4H Youth Leadership Camp


Save the Dates
 JUNE 25 & 26, 2019

June 25-26, NJ 4-H is conducting a youth leadership “camp” on the campus of Rutgers University.

The theme this year is
Solutions to World Food Issues.”

The goal is to share with young people the importance of food security in the world.
Are there are any available Returned Peace Corps volunteers who could both
a) share their experiences and
b) do a 45 min – 1 hour session/program with the
kids (ages 9-12).

RPCVs are sought who worked in agriculture and/or who can speak to global food security issues and who feel comfortable speaking to a youth audience.
As much as possible, the aim is to have some sort of a hands-on/interactive program.

This outreach opportunity is being pursued in cooperation with:

Matthew Newman (RPCV Albania)
4-H Agent/CEDH – Monmouth County
Rutgers Cooperation Extension

If you can participate in this program, please send a note to and Matt will get back to you.

Support RPCV-NJ on Amazon Smile

What is AmazonSmile?
AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization. You can choose to support RPCV-NJ by searching for “Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of New Jersey”

How do I shop at AmazonSmile?
To shop at AmazonSmile simply go to from the web browser on your computer or mobile device. You may also want to add a bookmark to to make it even easier to return and start your shopping at AmazonSmile.

Which products on AmazonSmile are eligible for charitable donations?
Tens of millions of products on AmazonSmile are eligible for donations. You will see eligible products marked “Eligible for AmazonSmile donation” on their product detail pages. Recurring Subscribe-and-Save purchases and subscription renewals are not currently eligible.

Can I use my existing account on AmazonSmile?
Yes, you use the same account on and AmazonSmile. Your shopping cart, Wish List, wedding or baby registry, and other account settings are also the same.

How do I select a charitable organization to support when shopping on AmazonSmile?
On your first visit to AmazonSmile, you need to select a charitable organization to receive donations from eligible purchases before you begin shopping.  Search for “Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of New Jersey” for your charity.
Amazon will remember your selection, and then every eligible purchase you make at will result in a donation.

Can I change my charity?
Yes, you can change your charity any time. Your AmazonSmile purchases after the change count towards your newly selected charity. To change your charity, sign in to on your desktop or mobile phone browser and simply select “Change your Charity” in “Your Account.”

For more information visit: About Amazon Smile

RPCV-NJ Treasurer Sought

Do you have some time to contribute to RPCV-NJ?

The Treasurer position will be vacated in June, allowing time to get familiar with the position before then.

RPCV-NJ Treasury is not complex but good bookkeeping skills and attentiveness to maintaining related documentation are required.

Work can all be done from home except attendance at quarterly Board Meetings. Timely communication (primarily email) with Board members is essential.

If interested, please contact:

Outreach/Third Goal Updates!

RPCV-NJ is now a partner supporting the production of this documentary
on the Peace Corps. This film will formally premiere on September 22nd in Washington, DC and screenings in NJ are being pursued.
RPCV-NJ is a charter member of this Museum to help extend the reach of Peace Corps beyond international host communities and individual volunteers.
RPCV-NJ is participating in this project as of November 2018 by recording interviews of NJ RPCVs to preserve the legacy of the Peace Corps as experienced and articulated by individual Peace Corps volunteers and staff. These interviews are being archived at the John F. Kennedy presidential library and museum in Boston.
RPCV-NJ became an official local seller of the International Calendars produced by RPCV Wisconsin- Madison to promote cultural understanding and awareness of international issues. A pilot program took place in the fall of 2018 and was very successful. Enhanced sales will take place beginning mid 2019 for the sale/distribution of the 2020 calendars.

Advocacy – Capitol Hill Day of Action

Friends, this February 28th we will be celebrating our 15th Day of Action in Washington, D.C. During our Capitol Hill Day of Action, we will meet with congressional lawmakers in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate in order to ask for their robust support of the program. Please use this link today to register and let us know if you will be attending.

If you are unable to attend, we hope you will consider organizing a Days of Action solidarity event with RPCVs in your area to build on the momentum of our day on Capitol Hill! Follow this link to register your plans to conduct one or more solidarity events. Click here.

On the N.J front we have some great opportunities for advocacy!

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing) has secured a seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, and she will be  the only New Jerseyan on the committee.  If you are in her district please consider setting up a meeting with her. If interested, please contact Susan Metzger.

Each year we request signatures from our representatives on a letter stating their support of the Peace Corps program. We ask that you reach out to your local representatives to express the value that P.C has for you! In particular, please consider reaching out to Senator Cory Booker here.

Project Support – Africa Surgery

RPCV-NJ held its first crowdfunding campaign in 2018. In partnership with Africa Surgery, Inc., a NJ-based non-profit organization established by RPCV Tom Johnson, funds were raised to provide medical intervention for Francess Kabia, (pictured) an 8-year-old Sierra Leonean. The campaign, spearheaded by NJ RPCV RJ Harper, successfully raised $2,350.00 and the funds received from Indiegogo after the close of the campaign were paid out to Africa Surgery in December 2018.

frances surgery

The funds raised supported not only Francess’s surgery but also, in order to fully utilize the funds, medical/surgical assistance was provided to one or more of the following Sierra Leoneans (all of whom are from small rural villages from different parts of the country):

Mariatu Koroma, age 14-15, whose left jaw has been swollen for over a year due to a decayed tooth. She has already had one surgery but might need a further one. She is staying at Africa Surgery, Inc. rented quarters in Freetown to be able to have regular check-ups and medical treatments from the oral surgeon in Freetown.

Kenfalah Kamara, age 32, also had his jaw swollen for over one year due to a decayed tooth. He too has had his first surgery and is staying at Africa Surgery, Inc. quarters in Freetown and is receiving ongoing treatment as he waits to see if he will need any further surgery to remove infection and ensure regrowth of his lower jaw bone. (The lower jawbone is the only bone in the human body capable of regeneration under certain conditions).

Fullahmusu Kabia, age 35, had a tumor of her parotid gland which was removed by the oral surgeon in Freetown. She is currently staying at quarters rented by Africa Surgery, Inc. in Freetown while getting regular check-ups and medical treatments.

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of New Jersey and Africa Surgery, Inc. thanks are extended to those who contributed to this campaign and for believing in the importance of assisting unfortunate citizens in a country that has suffered a devastating civil war and an epidemic of ebola in recent years.

Thanks to Tom Johnson for his longstanding and continued work helping Sierra Leoneans, to RJ Harper for managing the crowdfunding campaign and sincere appreciation is extended to NJ RPCV Ilwon Kang who was extremely helpful in generating support for this campaign.

RPCV Family & Friends Holiday Party Update

On Saturday, December 8, we held our second annual RPCV Family and Friends Holiday Party at the conveniently located Reformed Church of Highland Park.  The weather cooperated for us and our attendance was up by 8 people from our first attempt at this event last year. Holiday and some Rock music filled the air throughout the day. Thanks to one of our social coordinators, Naomi Shank, the hall was nicely decorated to create a festive holiday atmosphere. She created an “ice breaker” game that encouraged attendees to engage in meaningful discussions with others in such a way as to gain insight into who we are and what our Peace Corps experiences were like.

As usual, our international potluck luncheon was very delicious and varied.  By the end of the event there was not a single person who went home hungry.  We seem to never be under-supplied at our potluck events.  It is very impressive to see the time and effort that people devote to their food creations from around the world.

We were pleased to share this event with New Jersey Peace Corps Recruiter, Dan Turkel and Rutgers Peace Corps Recruiter, Michael Lifschultz, both of whom set up displays and brought Peace Corps literature for all to share.  They also invited potential Peace Corps volunteers to the event and we are pleased to announce that a few of them attended with their parents.  This was a great opportunity for them to meet and talk with RPCVs who served in a variety of countries.  At the end of the event they told us that Peace Corps is the path they will pursue.

The spotlighted event of the afternoon was a set of pre-planned presentations by four RPCVs.  They each took 5-10 minutes to tell a story about their Peace Corps experiences, some of which were Christmas related.  Each story was just as interesting and intriguing as all the others.  In fact, after the four scheduled speakers finished, several people from the audience volunteered to take the mic and share their own stories.   Many thanks to all who spoke that day.   Here is a list of the four scheduled speakers in addition to the supplemental speakers who followed—

John Pearson – Malaysia 1967-1969
Barbara Kelly – Senegal 1971-1973
Pat Spencer – Tunisia  1994-1996
Michael Lifshultz —  Nicaragua 2015-2017
Barbara Lee – Paraguay 1968-1969
Doug Groff – Ecuador 1968-70
Stephen Kornstein – Botswana 1976-78
Rosalind Malloy – Nigeria 1965-67

Photos from the event can be found on our Facebook page.
Please consider joining us next year at our Holiday Party in early December 2019.

Doug Garatina, RPCV-NJ Social Chair