The Ross Perot rule: “When you need a job done, you get together a small team and go with them all the way.”
Preferring projects that empower local communities or challenge the status quo, Tom Hebert is a public policy consultant and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Nigeria, 1962-1964). After his Peace Corps service he integrated the faculty of a black Southern university and later served two years establishing USO Clubs on U.S. Marine Corps combat bases in South Vietnam.
(Tailoring each Club to the location’s needs and hiring mostly local townspeople even five ugly Quonset huts became, as one reporter described USO Chu Lai, a “Carnival of Action.” His feel for settlement houses goes back to this time.)
Hebert’s first work with RPCVs in support of social justice came in late 1964 when, working with the Congress On Racial Equality (CORE), they peacefully followed Seattle police on their rounds to assure that they were “promoting public safety and protecting the civil rights” of inner city residents. Working again with RPCVs he was a UNICEF refugee relief officer during the Biafra war on the island of Såo Tomé where he challenged the racism of the church-led effort.
Tom later lived in Washington, DC for several years as a management consultant. And with RPCV John Coyne he co-authored three guidebooks about alternatives to traditional higher education. Working for the State Department in 1977-1979 he managed a technical training program for young Nigerians.
In 1986 he retired from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) after developing the Energy Conservation/Solar Institute on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Chattanooga. The Institute doubled as TVA’s center for innovation. Active in civic affairs, Hebert laid the foundation for Bessie Smith Hall, named in honor of the legendary “Empress of the Blues.”
Hebert believes Peace Corps House is possible because the Institute, for the first time, took TVA into an inner city neighborhood. Based on this experience, over the years Tom has encouraged Peace Corps to somehow “walk its talk” in a local neighborhood. The concept of an independent Peace Corps House is the direct result of those discussions.
For twenty years Hebert has lived in eastern Oregon on the Umatilla Indian Reservation where he has been a columnist for the Tribal newspaper, drafted the existing alcohol and drug policy, co-founded the Tribal cattle company, and developed the plan for a Tribal youth horse program.
With the challenge of Peace Corps House uppermost, Hebert maintains his sanity through his ability to laugh at himself.
Joe served in the Peace Corps from 2005-2008 in Uzbekistan and Suriname. He was a health education volunteer in Uzbekistan before that program closed early. He went on to Suriname, where he served for two years as a community economic development volunteer followed by a year as Volunteer Leader. He also spent his final year supporting UNICEF in developing an education pilot program.
Joe currently works as a Senior Communications Specialist for the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW). Prior to that and for 2 ½ years, Joe served in a consulting role as a Marketing, Communications & Business Development Specialist with organizations like the Peace Corps, Spina Bifida Association, ICRW, IREX, Split This Rock, and DeJoseph Productions – which is a company currently developing a documentary about the Peace Corps. He has worked with Ogilvy Public Relations, Sheladia Associates, Inc. (an architectural and engineering firm), and FHI 360.
Joe is originally from North Carolina and likes hiking, camping, gardening, baking, dancing, and working with energized colleagues for a good cause.
In 2010, Kelsey served in the Peace Corps as both a community health and economic development volunteer and primary resource teacher in the Kingdom of Lesotho. Her experience abroad reaffirmed her desire to craft compelling stories spotlighting human rights and social injustices.
Kelsey is the Associate Producer of “The Mama Sherpas” and “A Towering Task,” as well as Co-Producer of “Victorious: Women of the Gridiron” and Producer of “Rolling Out.”
An early days Peace Corps House team member, Kelsey developed this website, merging over 350 emails ideas bounced off her!
Kelsey currently works at Discovery Communications.
I have been in DC since 1965, mostly in Zips 2009 or 20036. Initially after PC Nigeria I taught high school and then worked in a variety of anti-poverty programs, some in Anacostia.
After a short period at the US Civil Rights Commission, I moved on to a variety of political activities:
- Helped to form the Committee of Returned Volunteers
- Worked in the CRV NYC office and made ‘70s trips to Cuba and North Vietnam
- Managed a political community bookshop
- Spent time at UNICEF during the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War and helped organize
the 1 st International Conference on Biafra.
Got back into the conventional work world after getting an MLS in the mid-70s and stayed with the same energy consulting firm until 2003. During which I had a son who has a Nigerian name – Okolo, the title of a book I taught in Nigeria.
In the early 2000s, I was instrumental in forming the Dupont Circle Village, an aging in-place organization. I continue to volunteer with DCV.
Have been interested in PC House because of its mission and the chance for a positive impact on Ward 8. Albeit needing to stay alert to gentrification and associated mass eviction. I also have 2 other rather modest links to Ward 8:
- I’ve sought to be involved with The Phillips Collection (where I work part-time) as
it adds a facility as part of THEARC’s expansion
- And monthly, I provide transport to a deceased neighbor’s daughter who is a resident of St. Elizabeths. A small group of her mom’s friends take her to exercise at the Jewish Community Center twice each month.
Looking forward to playing a role with PC House.
IRMA RODRIGUEZ, Board Member
Irma Rodriguez is the retired Executive Director of Queens Community House, a settlement house in New York City. She spent 25 years as the organization’s Associate Director before assuming the position of Executive Director in 2008.
During Irma’s time at Queens Community House (QCH), it grew from a local community center into a borough-wide organization with 25 sites in 11 neighborhoods and serving 25,000 children, families and older adults. Under her leadership QCH developed a particular expertise in organizing, neighborhood preservation, community building, and promoting social services as a vehicle for social change.
Since her “retirement” in 2015 she has been the part time director of the International Federation of Settlement Houses and Neighborhood Centers, a large international group with over 5,000 member groups across the world. It’s most recent conference in Berlin was attended by over 350 persons and focused on the work of settlements and neighborhood centers with migrants and refugees.
Irma is a graduate of The City College of New York/CUNY with a BA in Fine Arts and received her MSW in 1980 from the Hunter College School of Social Work. Irma has also taught courses in community organization, social administration, and social work field instruction at several local universities.
With her background in fine arts Irma sees the work of settlement houses and community organizing as creative work. Her interest in Peace Corps House is an extension of this and a desire to bring all the pieces of her life together.
Cassidy Whitson is an RPCV who served in Zambia focusing on rural education development and malaria prevention from 2016-2017.
Before her service she worked in communications and public relations, specifically in the nonprofit sector. With a background in news reporting, she is excited to bring her writing experience to Peace Corps House to research and develop fundraising opportunities.
Cassidy plans to pursue a Masters of Public Health degree beginning in the summer of 2018 and continue her work in Southern Africa focusing on health equity and malaria/HIV prevention education.
She is excited to be a part of Peace Corps House as it continues to grow and to expand her experience in social service and community engagement.