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Talking Points Memo No. 1

Tom HebertFrom the home page’s Purpose: “If realized, Peace Corps House will be a settlement house. . .” To this end, let’s think of this page as a digital Greek agora, originally the chief marketplace of Athens, the center of the city’s civic life and now defined as any place of popular political assembly. Here we can debate, hash it out, mix it up, carry on about the possibility of establishing in Washington D.C. a settlement house under a flag, “Peace Corps House: Social Services, Social Justice.” We just can’t sit down together over a couple beers. 

  • We hope that you have wandered the website, dug through its original planning Archives, learned about how settlement houses not only serve the people of a neighborhood directly, but make it a more livable place and a better home to raise a family. The website is also designed as an in-depth toolkit for developing such an institution. 
  • I want to thank again the many people listed under TEAMS in the navigation bar. In particular, Kelsey Marsh, Lesotho 2010-2012, who developed this website.
  • Given that I ain’t no day at the beach, it weren’t easy. Here in Pendleton, Oregon, I’m thought of as the town’s gadfly: a persistent irritating critic, one who acts as a provocative stimulus, a goad, a pesterer. As our city manage put it, “Hebert, you’re both a civic treasure and lightening rod.” It’s also true that I probably won’t be on-site in Washington during this important time. I don’t travel much any more. S’true. Onward and upward.
  • In developing a new project like PCH, it’s important to “get to reality quickly.” With this in mind, it’s also essential that a “windshield tour” of interested people driving around possible neighborhoods comes together soon. Get national settlement house leader Irma Rodriguez to come to town for a couple days. She the best. She’s available in November. 
  • Subsequently, it’s essential that after careful due diligence – contact be made with neighborhood leaders and local officials. In the Archives read the note to Catherine Buell, then Executive Director, St. Elizabeth East, a City project bringing back to positive life the old St. Elisabeth mental hospital area in Anacostia. There’s also a related document in the Archives taken from the original January Concept Paper,“ A Way Forward.”
  • The Paper was written when I still thought that some funding for Peace Corps House would come through space rental for a proposed Peace Corps Institute, a think tank which would double as an off-site location for more effective Peace Corps meetings. Well, that was an idea both inappropriate and impossible. Eventually I came to my senses.
  • As a result, one of our supporters has been Peace Corps director Carrie Hessler-Radelet. See her Letter of Support. 
  • Also know the idea of Peace Corps House sells itself easily in other important precincts. When RPCV and Congressman John Garamendi learned about Peace Corps House, he contacted Carrie offering his support. If PCH finds footing, he could bring in other members of the Peace Corps Caucus who would understand that a successful PCH would be a very visible selling point for the Peace Corps within the Congress.
  • Because a Peace Corps House is possible in most American communities, the NPCA’s 156 affiliate groups representing tens of thousands of RPCVs are an important resource. We will be in touch with them to encourage their consideration of these local opportunities for either a Peace Corps House or a Peace Corps Cafe or both.  
  • Of course the necessary player in all this is the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, D.C. (RPCV/W). See president Chris Robinson’s January 22nd Letter of Support. Here from their website:

Representing more than 2,500 returned Peace Corps Volunteers, Peace Corps staff, Peace Corps families and supporters, RPCV/W is one of the largest organizations of its kind in the world. It is also one of the most active, holding dozens of local events each year and frequently partnering with nonprofit organizations of all sizes and government agencies on shared initiatives.

Our Mission: To foster a community of RPCVs and friends in the Washington, D.C. area through social events, service projects and professional development programs that embody the spirit of the Peace Corps and to continue our service back home.

  • Oh yes, do read the Peace Corps House executive director’s detailed Job Description which calls for a highly experienced director, preferably someone with a Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW). But there will be an ever-growing number of volunteer opportunities for local RPCVs. And with mentoring and experience, down the road an RPCV will likely emerge as director.
  • But to get any headway with PCH – essential to that due diligence – needed is a sophisticated, locally informed feasibility study which will cost about $7,500. Another purpose of this website is to help with that fundraising.
  • Anyway, I do understand that it will take much time to get so many ducks in a row. The foregoing was simply to help get our House in order before they arrive. And mixed metaphors help.

Tom Hebert, Peace Corps House volunteer

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