RPCV-NJ Persian New Year Celebration Event

Gerry Gillio, past President of the RPCV-NJ organization for many years, served in Iran from 1966 to 1968.  She was very gracious to share her home and Peace Corps experiences with a group of RPCV’s (and their family members) on Saturday evening, April 2.   The special event was in honor of the Persian New Year known as “No Rooz.”   No Rooz is the first day of spring each year and people celebrate for ten days.  There are traditional ceremonies, games and lots of special holiday foods that are associated with the celebration.

The room was filled to the max with guests and we all got a meaningful glimpse into this joyful occasion at Gerry’s home where she had prepared a variety of delicious Iranian dishes and desserts.  Several people opted to eat dinner on the floor in traditional Iranian style, as Iranian music played in the background.  We also drank tea in traditional style by putting a sugar cube in the front of our mouths and letting it dissolve as we sipped the hot tea through it (not an easy task!).

The host also put out a “7S” display of food and other items that had significant meanings related to the holiday.

IMG_9360-No Rooz 7S

The evening ended with a slide show of photos taken when Gerry was in Iran.  She showed us pictures of many historical places and also pictures of people with whom she became friends during her Peace Corps years (and beyond.)  We heard insightful stories about the Iranian people and some humorous stories about the good times that Gerry enjoyed during her stay in Iran.

Another highlight of the evening was the opportunity to meet several RPCV’s that most of us have never met before (even though they had been to RPCV events in the past.)  It was great to meet new people who have also served in the Peace Corps, and share some common experiences that typically join RPCV’s with each other.
IMG_9371-floor seating

One of the guests at the celebration, Jim Sutherland, would also shared his views on the event:

“Besides the delicious ethnic food, Bron [my wife] and I were particularly impressed by the slides Gerry showed from her time in Iran and the stories that she and Nick and Gloria Montaldo [Iran 1969-71] told of their more recent trips to the country.  It was very interesting and enlightening.  It was good to be among people who have an interest in and appreciation for other cultures and countries.”

Events of this type, at which volunteers share their Peace Corps experiences with others, are always very rewarding and informative. They highlight the unique aspects of each Peace Corps Volunteer’s experience, as well as reveal the common threads that span the Peace Corps experience in general.
If you would like to host one of these events, please contact Doug at rpcvnj.social@gmail.com.

Jersey Cares Day 2016

by Peter Arney & Kelly Matthews

On Saturday May 7, 3 RPCV-NJ members participated in Earth Keepers at Liberty State Park in Jersey City where we joined approximately 47 other volunteers and Park staff in weeding and mulching gardens at the park including a grove of trees planted in memory of people who died on 9/11 in New York City.  Despite the overcast skies, the rain held off and by the time we were finishing up the clouds were clearing and we could see the beautiful New York skyline including the top of the Freedom Tower.

Members Peter Arney and Doug Garatina welcomed Dave Brandwood, just returned from service in Vanuatu, and his brother Steve.  Dave comes from a Peace Corps family: his mother served in Botswana and his sister recently served in Ethiopia.  Despite some sore and aching muscles, a good time was had by all.

Also on May 7, RPCV-NJ members from South Jersey participated in a project titled “Clip, Cut and Cultivate in Camden” in conjunction with the South Jersey Land & Water Trust.  RPCV Andrea Wendell joined our South Jersey volunteer coordinator Kelly Matthews and her friend Meghan for three hours of work removing weeds and other shrubbery that were inhibiting the park’s growth, picking up garbage at the water’s edge of the park as well as cutting down overgrown tree branches.

2016 No JerseyCares IMG_20160507_094853881

North Jersey Cares

2016 No JerseyCares IMG_20160507_094921308

North Jersey Cares

2016 SoJerseyCares IMG_6081

South Jersey Cares

2016 SoJerseyCares IMG_6082

South Jersey Cares

April 23 Howell Living Farm- Potato Planting


by John Lawlor & Pete Watson

On Saturday, April 23, a dozen or so RPCVs participated in the annual potato planting at the Howell Living History Farm in Lambertville, NJ.  It turned out to be a beautiful day after starting a bit gloomy in the morning. In addition to the RPCV turnout, the local community also came out in force.


In August we will be back out there to pick the (hopefully) huge crop of potatoes.  In some years in the past we have harvested close to a ton of potatoes.  All potatoes will be donated to local food banks.  See you in August!

Pete Watson reported that the average donated to Trenton area soup kitchens and food pantries is one ton per year, since 1986…so, 30 tons so far with another ton, hopefully, on the way this year. We also figure that on average 150 visitors help plant, and another 150 help harvest. When you add in the additional visitors who help with cultivating, hilling and potato bug de-bugging, we are well over 10,000 participants…. all led by NJ-RPCVs.


IMG_1381 gerry at table

IMG_1382 plow

RPCV-NJ Annual Meeting Recap

The RPCV-NJ annual meeting took place on April 9th at the Cranford Community Center. All NJ RPCVs were welcomed. A review of the organization, committees and past and planned activities took place, followed by a luncheon at a local Irish restaurant, the Kilkenny House.  Thanks to Gloria Montalto (RPCV Iran) for helping to arrange the annual meeting and luncheon.

IMG_3478-group photoIMG_3516-audienceIMG_3609-luncheonIMG_3612-Gerry&Dan@lunch

Submit Your Peace Corps Photos

Your photos can help educate the public about the Peace Corps experience as well as raise funds for the Peace Corps and your country of service or country of your choice.

Announcing a Call To Peace Corps Photographic Artists Who Have or
Are Currently Serving as Volunteers in anticipation of
Spirit. Exhibition at 70 South Gallery.

70 South Gallery, a premier exhibition space and photography print services center located in Morristown, NJ USA invites you to submit images for possible inclusion in their upcoming Spirit. exhibition. This exhibition is intended to highlight and include photographic work and spirit of help of Peace Corps Volunteers (current and returned) from around the world. The theme of the exhibition is to showcase portraits of the local people taken by Peace Corps Volunteers.

More about this exhibit and how to submit your photos

Submission Deadline May 20th 5pm

Observations and Perceptions of Cuba – May 21

Saturday, May 21st -1pm

Enjoy a review of a 10 day trip to Cuba in December 2015 by
Janet Matts (RPCV Kenya 1977-1979) over  dinner at
Martino’s Cuban Restaurant 
212 West Main Street, Somerville, NJ
(908) 722-8602
Soups, salads, appetizers, Cuban sandwiches, other meals with chicken, beef and seafood.

Save a seat for this event!
RSVP by Wednesday, May 18th to

Parking: There is on-street parking and a large parking lot nearby, across the street, if on-street parking is not available.

Jersey Cares Day in Newark, NJ

As in years past, RPCV-NJ will be participating in this year’s Jersey Cares Day.

9 am-12 noon

Our original project that was selected for Jersey Cares Day was cancelled by Jersey Cares so we have decided to recommend 2 projects from which members can choose.  Since there was nothing scheduled in Central NJ, we have selected a project in the North and one in the South.

The North project is:
Earth Keepers in Jersey City at Liberty State Park. We will be doing various gardening projects including weeding, mulching, removing invasive botanical species
and planting.

The South project is:
Clip, Cut and Cultivate in Camden which involves landscaping work in Cherry Hill.

You can sign up directly on
Jersey Cares Day webpage.
You will then receive an e-mail from Jersey Cares confirming your registration and also providing location information.

HOWEVER, Please also send an e-mail to Peter Arney, Volunteer Chair, atrpcvnj.volunteer@gmail.com and he will relay your name to either the North or South RPCVNJ volunteer coordinator so they know to expect you as part of
our the RPCV-NJ group.

Full opportunity address and directions will be sent to you by e-mail after you sign up.

Looking for speakers for Peace Corps Day at Montclair

Peace Corps Day at Montclair (Wednesday, April 13, 2:30 – 4:00pm)

peace corps poster