Asilomar Meeting

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Friends of Nigeria Biennial Meeting, Asilomar, Pacific Grove, CA, October 17-20, 2013.

Contents

Abbreviated Schedule (printed on back of Name Tags)

Friday, Oct. 18  8 to 8:45 am — Guided local walk by Lisa Bradshaw.
9:30 to 11 am — Biennial Business Meeting 
11:10 to 12:30 am — David L. Koren, keynote speaker.
1:30 to 3 pm — Strategic Planning, Communications Session 1
3:10 to 4:15 pm —Process Session 2
4:30 to 6:30 pm FON Patio Reception 
6:30 on Dinner on your own 
Saturday, Oct. 19  7 a.m. Tai chi and yoga with Bud Abbott
8 to 9:15 am — FON Board meeting 
9 am to 4 pm —Wine tour 
9:30 to noon — Formal Process Session 3
Afternoon —Lunch on your own, local highlights
5:30 to 6 p.m. Reports of the planning groups. 
6 to 9 p.m. FON’s Cookout Buffet
Sunday, Oct. 20  7 a.m. Tai chi and yoga with Bud Abbott. 
Morning Farewell

Biennial Business Meeting

  1. Welcome to Conference – Mike Goodkind
  2. President’s Report — Greg Jones
  3. Financial Report — Greg Jones for Peter Hansen
  4. Board Elections — Greg Jones
  5. VSO Project Update — Andy Philpot
  6. Fantsuam Update - Greg Jones

President's Report

Special Thanks to Mike Goodkind

  • 6/1/12 I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma
  • I was due to assume presidency 7/1/12
  • Mike continued on in President’s role until 3/1/13
  • Since then no VP, so Mike has been key source of advice
  • Plus he organized this meeting
  • Thanks Mike!

2 Years of Events

  • 7 VSO-sponsored projects
  • 2 AUN Scholarships for $500 matched by PCNAF + an individual -> $2,000 in scholarship
  • Ongoing funding to VSO + Fantsuam
  • We Care Solar support
  • Heller Emergency Support Fund
  • Minneapolis Dinner
  • T-Shirts
  • Boston Dinner

Where we choose to spend our $$

  • Projects: 20,700
  • Newsletter 10,012
  • Meetings Off Balance Sheet
  • Fantsuam 7,680
  • VSO 6,315
  • Membership solicitation 2,647
  • Heller Fund 2,000
  • Directory 1,847
  • T-shirt Production 1,235
  • AUN Scholarship 1,000

Peace Corps Connect Boston

  • Atiku Abubakar flap
  • Scheduled to attend Boston with retinue of 20
  • NPCA wanted FON to host a reception
  • We allocated $500
  • Murray Frank leaned on UMass Boston African Studies Dept. to sponsor
  • Last minute visa problem, trip cancelled!
  • 10 FON members attended
  • Good meeting, lots of ideas, vibes
  • FON Dinner afterwards

Good Signs

  • Strong Newsletter
  • Excellent Finances
  • Very active board email exchanges
  • Good process for selecting projects
  • Strong support for direct projects

Bad Signs

  • Poor attendance at biennial meeting
  • Difficulty raising committee to run meeting
  • Only 4 of 14 board members in attendance

Recommendations

  • Hold FON Biennial meeting in conjunction with Peace Corps Connect
  • Undergo strategic planning process
  • Learn from other Country Groups
  • Find out what our membership wants us to do
  • Build upon our strengths

Friends of Nigeria and Voluntary Service Overseas

by Andy Philpot

  • VSO History
  • Voluntary Service Overseas was founded in 1958 by Alec and Moira Dickson with the encouragement of such notables as the Duke of Edinburgh and a bishop or two.
  • With the ending of conscription in the UK, it was thought that there should be some way for the young to spend some time growing up before entering the work force or going to university.
  • Therefore, at the outset, VSO was made up of high school levers who served for one year in mainly Commonwealth countries working for pocket money. Many VSOs taught often teaching what they had just learned themselves. There was little idea of answering the real development needs of a country.
  • In those early days, the local British Council representative administered VSO, sometimes willingly but sometimes the volunteers were seen to be a bit of a nuisance. VSO now have their own staff, many of whom are indigenous personnel.
  • In 1962, VSO started to recruit brand new graduates but for only for a one year term. In 1966, I asked to extend for a year but was told by my British Council minder that it was impossible and in any case, there were no chemistry teachers needed in the mid-west at that time. When VSO in London eventually agreed, I had to get a list of schools that could use me from Ginny Cruikshank in the Benin Peace Corps office.
  • In 1965, the 14 VSOs in the mid west were outnumbered and out administered by some 114 of Peace Corps volunteers.
  • Teaching and living with the likes of Dave Sugarman from Nigeria 10 and Cleigh Purvis – from 14, I found myself adopted by Peace Corp to the extent that Mike Taylor your doctor in Benin offered me gamma globulin shots whenever he was passing by.
  • By 1968, the graduates were all serving for two years and in that year, VSO had some 1400 volunteers world -wide compared to the Peace Corps’ 15,000. In 1980, the high school programme was abolished. By 2004, the brand new graduate programme had been phased out and replaced with the recruitment of people, in a wide variety of jobs. The VSOs filled specific needs or requests of a host country. These new volunteers did not necessarily have degrees but had to have at least two years of experience in their field. At the moment, the average age of VSO volunteers is about 38.
  • More recently, VSO has combined with or is associated with a number of other development organizations. VSO International as it is now know has offices in Holland, Ireland, North America, India, the Philippines, Kenya and Uganda. The new VSO offers long and short-term job placements and one innovation is south- south postings, such as the Ugandan and Kenyan volunteers to Nigeria.
  • In the late 50s, President Kennedy asked the founders of VSO to the White House to ask their advice about the formation of the Peace Corps.
  • Some 50 or so years later VSO, with other organization, founded International Citizens Service, an international organization similar in many ways to the original VSO concept. According to David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, International Citizens Service was inspired by the Peace Corps.
  • Now to our involvement with VSO
  • VSO is an NGO and while it does receive some government funding it relies on contributions from individuals, corporations and organizations such as ours.
  • Early in 2004, Peter Hansen suggested that VSO might be suitable recipient of our members’ donations. Their sponsorship programme requires volunteers to report to their sponsors quarterly. These reports in our newsletter would keep us in touch with what was going on in Nigeria at a level we could associate with.
  • Most of our VSOs have been very good in keeping in touch. One of them, Canadian Glen Dodge, suggested that we might like to contribute to a micro lending scheme at the Fantsuam Foundation, which led to our on-going involvement with that organization.
  • Anne and I had the good fortune to hear Kzanka Comfort, the chief operating officer at Fantsuam, speak at meeting hosted by CUSCO International in Toronto and found her inspiring in her dedication to the organization and the local community.
  • Now to our more recent VSOs
  • Sarah Corley worked for the Girls Power Initiative based in Calabar. She has just returned to the UK at the end of her one-year placement. Our present VSO, Stacey Cram, is as an Advocacy Adviser for the Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All. You can find out more about Sarah and Stacey in the last two issues of the newsletter. As of September this year, we have contributed a total of $44,550 to VSO.
  • In early 2011, the board of directors started offering VSOs in Nigeria small grants of up to $3000. These grants are for projects either within their placement organization or within their community in Nigeria. The projects are to have some sort of material outcome.
  • I send out the initial requests for applications through the VSO Nigeria Newsletter and then email application forms to those who ask for one. Mike Goodkind, Jim Clark, Greg Zell, one of the Nigeria VSO staff, and I, then vet the applications before being presented to the board of directors for final approval. At both stages, questions are asked of the volunteer to clarify points, and in some cases, they are asked to revise their budget in terms of tangible items. Supervision is to be done by the volunteer and we do not pay for local labour unless it is of an expert nature.
  • Over the years, we have developed a good relationship with the VSO Nigeria staff. We feel it important to have ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground if we can.
    • For the first project, we supplied Glynis, from the UK with $2812 for the rebuilding some schoolrooms. She suddenly returned to the UK. Her replacement, Kasia, also from the UK was then transferred but the building was completed.
    • We sent $1915 to Simon, a Ugandan volunteer who wanted to re-establish a demonstration fish farm in order to help local farmers open up new opportunities to make money
    • Then came Phillemon’s request for $3000 for the refurbishment of a run-down private health clinic so it could be taken over by the local health officials and the community
    • Silvester from Kenya received $1173 to establishment a tree farm to try to control riverbank erosion and an education programme about climate change in the local schools and community.
    • More recently, Lukas from Germany applied for $1525 to buy higher yield maize seed for his community. He had to suddenly go back home but the project was taken over by Collins from Uganda. The maize is doing well and feeding the community.
    • Finally, Michael from Uganda asked for $1875 for the renovation of a community centre in Cross Rivers State for many at risk children and youth. This was our first request from the southern part of the country. All the rest have been from the north.
  • In this last round, we had six applicants of which we could only chose two – not an easy process.
  • We request the volunteer send a quarterly progress report, which, overall, they are very good at doing along with many photos of the progress being made.
  • To date we have given six grants for a total of $12,300.
  • There is always a worry that the money disappears in the transfer process, but thanks to our international financier, Peter Hansen this has not happened, the project will not proceed as planned for whatever reason, the volunteer may return home before the completion of the project or the money just disappears with perhaps the volunteer. I am glad to say that none of our fears and concerns has been realized.
  • The frequency and amount of the grants depends on the generosity of our members.
Andy Philpot
VSO 1965-1967

Fantsuam News

Older Voices
  • During the sectarian crisis in Kafanchan in 2011, the voices of the older population were not heard.
  • Fantsuam Foundation has contacted some elders and we are now facilitating a process that will re-assert their roles and relevance in their communities

Image:Fantsuam elders 2.jpg John Dada addressing a group of elders


Kids Club
  • We have resumed our Kids Club activities to provide recreation and opportunity to protect vulnerable children, especially during crisis situations


Hematocrit Centrifuge
  • We have constructed a hematocrit centrifuge using locally available materials: bicycle wheel, fan belt, etc. This enables us to provide some basic hematology services in our clinic; its efficiency is comparable to the imported version, and it costs only a fraction of the imported version. It is designed for rural communities where electricity is not readily available. The designer is Dr Awojobi and the construction was done by our roadside welder in Kafanchan.

Image:Hematocrit 2.jpg

Election of Board of Directors

Existing Directors (all reelected)

  • Barbara Bush
  • Lucinda Boyd
  • Steve Clapp
  • Jim Clark
  • Virginia Delancy
  • Murray Frank
  • Mike Goodkind
  • Peter Hansen
  • Greg Jones
  • Warren Keller
  • Lynn Olsen
  • Andy Philpot
  • John Romano
  • Greg Zell


New Nomination (elected)

  • David Strain

David Koren's Presentation: THE BIAFRAN AIRLIFT

Much too big to include in this file. See:

The presentation is also available in living color with sound and visual effects on YouTube! Go to www.youtube/watch?v=Q-V0a-Pcg1U. A link is also available by searching "Koren YouTube Biafra” on Google. Thanks to Mike Goodkind's wife Marion for videotaping the presentation and Jason Sayler for professionally producing the finished copy.

That version, at 1:24:46, is somewhat formidable. For those that don’t have an hour and a half to devote to historical recollections, a shorter, 27-minute version is available at youtu.be/fwxie6F1Q6s.

Strategic Planning Session

  • This is a wiki presentation of my slides for Strategic Planning. The discussion that actually took place follows.

Image:Strategic planning article.jpg

Existing Mission Statement:
  • To be a national network of Nigeria Peace Corps alumni and other friends of Nigeria, to promote the interests of the Nigerian people and to educate Americans.
Existing Goals:
  • To educate the American public about Nigeria
  • To promote policies consistent with the Peace Corps experience
  • To be the alumni association for Nigeria Peace Corps Volunteers
  • To promote continued service to the Nigerian people
  • To keep members informed about events in Nigeria

Challenges, Issues

  • Aging membership
  • No new blood
  • 90s volunteers not responding

Friends of Liberia Strategic Plan

  • [Referred to, but not thoroughly discussed. See fol.org]

Challenge

  • How to communicate our results
  • How to engage others in the process
  • How to generate enthusiasm

Strategic Planning Discussion

Questions
  1. What should we do in light of the fact that we are all getting older and soon may be unable to do much?
  2. There are no volunteers currently serving in Nigeria, and those who served in the 90s have not responded to calls to become involved, so what is the long term fate of FON? It has been suggested that we merge with some other West African RPCV group and act as the “wise uncles” to that group, until we fade away.

Strategic Planning Process

We looked at the slide above depicting a complicated process of doing strategic planning. The threat of having to do that inspired people to get down to what mattered to them and to short circuit the process. We discussed FON’s Mission & Goals, starting out with the Mission & Goals from the website. Here is what we have currently:

Mission Statement
  • To be a national network of Nigeria Peace Corps alumni and other friends of Nigeria, to promote the interests of the Nigerian people and to educate Americans.
Goals
  • To educate the American public about Nigeria
  • To promote policies consistent with the Peace Corps experience
  • To be the alumni association for Nigeria Peace Corps Volunteers
  • To promote continued service to the Nigerian people
  • To keep members informed about events in Nigeria

Pretty quickly we decided that FON is an affinity group. We shared experiences with others who served in Nigeria, and the fact that we are all of a similar age is a good thing. If some other group volunteered to merge with us and give us advice, why would we be interested in joining with them? Ultimately, if we fade away, so what? If our average age is late 60’s, early 70’s, then we should have another 10 years of vitality. Let’s plan to do what matters during the next 10 years, and let (someone else) manage the fade-out after that. Mike Malaghan has worked with World War II veterans groups, and they are certainly getting old and fading away. But none of those groups would even entertain the idea of affiliating with a Korean War group or Vietnam War group. The experiences are just plain different. So it is with Nigeria. Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone each has a different character, a different experience, and what would we add to their group function?

  • We decided we really aren’t educating the American public about Nigeria. We also decided that promoting policies consistent with the Peace Corps experience didn’t really mean anything. And yes, we should keep informed about Nigeria, but that is not a reason for being. So our 3 purposes are:
  1. To be the alumni group for those who served in Nigeria
  2. Sponsor service projects in Nigeria
  3. Encourage our membership to record our stories and make them available to others.
  • We had just heard an inspiring talk from David Koren about his experience of the Biafran airlift just after his Peace Corps experience. The energy in the room after that talk was palpable. Although David was rushed at the end of his talk, one of his closing points is that nobody else can tell your story, and your story is an important part of our collective history.
  • How shall we do #1 + #3? [We felt we have a pretty good process in place for #2, and we should let people know how just much we have been doing.] We should hold meetings where we encourage members of training groups to get together and share their stories. Yes, get that box of aerograms we sent back to our mothers, transcribe them, and use them as a springboard to recall those events that shaped our lives. Digitize those carousels of slides, and write up your explanations of why those impossibly young people look so happy in the pictures. Then come to a meeting of your peers, and share the most moving, most intimate, or funniest stories. Inspire others to plumb their history and recollections and identify why it is all of us can say that our experiences in Nigeria had a transformative effect upon our lives.
  • One way to motivate people to delve into their memories is to get as many people as possible at a meeting from your training group. Mike Malaghan volunteered spark Group 25 attendance. Your president will reach out to Group 22. There were 4 people from Group 15, and there was talk of someone leading the charge, but I didn’t get the name. Think about who in your group has been the one reaching out the most, contact that person, and together develop a plan to hold a group reunion at the next FON meeting. Or if your affinity group is geographic (the people who served in your town while you were there), Peter Hansen can certainly produce a list of everybody you need to get in touch with.
  • The group liked the idea of having deadlines, and they would like to hold the next meeting in Nashville, along with the 2014 Peace Corps Connect meeting. The fact that this year’s meeting was only attended by 24 former volunteers was in fact one of the reasons that the meeting worked so well. Everybody got a chance to talk with each of the other people at the meeting at a personal level. It has also been suggested that we not meet in conjunction with the annual NPCA meeting so that we can concentrate on our stories and our internal group support. However, certainly the leadership stands to learn a good deal from other groups, so sharing the energy of other Peace Corps affinity groups can be a good thing.
  • Individuals volunteered to write up why all of our stories would be worthwhile to write up, the specific language of the mission + goals, and some other things (which I forget). Yes, we should do a survey of the membership, but first figure out what it is we need to know from them. For example, knowing how they use technology might influence how we present the newsletter or modify the website. It was suggested that we emphasize that anybody who asks for a printed newsletter instead of an electronic newsletter is taking away from our ability to sponsor projects in Nigeria.
  • Process: we should write up what we concluded, share it with everybody in attendance, and then submit it to the board. Then have a phone conference for the board to discuss it, but open the phone conference to anybody in the membership.

Revised Mission Statement & Goals

After the general discussion 3 volunteers went off to do the detailed wordsmithing for the Mission and Goals. Jody Keller, John Blaine, and (?) Mike Abkin.

Mission
  • To be a communications hub for people interested in the country and the citizens of Nigeria.
Goals
  • Purposes of the organization include but are not limited to:
    • Be the alumni association for Peace Corps and other volunteers who served in Nigeria;
    • Create a legacy in the form of a durable collection of insights and memories from time spend in Nigeria;
    • Fund projects which have as their aim to make a positive impact on the lives of Nigerians.

Thanks for the memories

by Peter Stolzman

  • Slides, photos, letters, training manuals, language aids, invitations, pamphlets, travel guides, caps, traditional clothing, carvings, lesson plans, exam papers, schedules, language dictionaries, books, music, sound recordings, anecdotes and more are needed and wanted.
  • Peace Corps essentially ended its presence in Nigeria in the 1970s (there were three small groups that went in the 90s) and it has become very clear that with us the legacy of Peace Corps Nigeria rests. Nigeria touched us all and we in turn left our own small impression on Nigeria. Whether it was providing that middle level manpower the country couldn’t provide or making close and important friendships with the “host country nationals” or, like me, bringing the whole experience home to be shared with other Americans, we were all touched.
  • Now is the time for us to do something with those experiences. FON would like to create an archival history so that our collective experiences and impressions will be available for study and reflection. FON has begun an archive at American University and perhaps they will be interested in expanding it. If not we will search elsewhere.
  • All of us should look to what we can contribute. Nothing should be thought of as unimportant or trivial, it’s all part of our experiences. Look to your slide collections (you know – that box in the attic you haven’t thought about in years). Find that pile of letters home that your mother saved. The journal you kept is ideal. Take a few moments and write up your favorite stories and impressions. Remembrances of projects and activities can be living, breathing artifacts (I have a tape of a local PC singing group).
  • The 1500+ members of Peace Corps Nigeria can create a significant and lasting memory of our time in Africa. We were there at the beginning – we witnessed and shared excitement of the creation of a nation. We survived the struggles to bring it into being and we watched (frequently horrified) as it developed.
  • A piece of ourselves is there and we can pass it on. Think what you can share, find the things that others won’t necessarily understand or appreciate and donate it to the archive.
  • Friends of Nigeria held its Biennial Meeting in Pacific Grove, CA. The Asilomar Conference Grounds were a spectacular setting for a weekend of reconnecting, reminiscing and planning. All weekend we laughed and told stories. It all seemed so long ago and yet it was only yesterday. People we had never met melded into one large family, sharing the bonds of the adventures of our youth.
  • Our next meeting (probably Nashville, TN in 2014) will be a good place to start. If all do just a little we can produce and complete a wonderful legacy. Don’t allow Peace Corps Nigeria, the second largest operation in the early years, to disappear. Memories only last as long as we do unless we take steps to pass them on.

Friday Pictures

  • Animated Discussions over Lunch

Image:IMG_4811.JPG

Norm Gary, Barbara Jones, Alice Gosak, Andy Philpot, [probably Stephen Vincent, if I remember the hat correctly], Catherine Liddell Skapura. Any nominations for the owner of the hand?
  • Serious Strategic Planning Discussion

Image:Strategic_Planning_Discussion.JPG

Catherine Liddell Skapura, Mills Tandy, David Strain, Andy Philpot, Norm Gary, John Blaine, Stephen Vincent, Mimi Budd, Monique LeBlanc, a sleeping Greg Jones
  • Peppers Mexicali Cafe, facing north

Image:Peppers 1.jpg Andy Philpot, Bud Abbott (toasting), Marion Goodkind, Catherine Liddell Skapura, David Koren, Kay Koren

  • Peppers Mexicali Cafe, facing south

Image:Peppers 2.jpg Greg Jones, Mike Goodkind, David Strain, Bob Skapura, Mills Tandy, Andy Philpot

Saturday Board Meeting

Election of Officers
  • President: Greg Jones
  • Vice President: Steve Clapp
  • Treasurer: Peter Hansen
  • Secretary: Murray Frank
  • Newsletter Editor: Jim Clark
  • Membership Chair: Barbara Tansey Bush
  • Assistant Treasurer: Warren Keller
The Assistant Treasurer position was created as a strategic move. Should Peter Hansen get hit by a truck, FON would be in deep trouble. Warren will provide institutional backup.
Steve Clapp agreed to take the Vice President's position, but he has no intention of becoming President.
We discussed the Asilomar meeting and the enthusiasm of the people attending.
We unanimously passed a motion to hold the next biennial FON meeting in conjunction with the 2015 NPCA Peace Corps Connect meeting which is scheduled the last weekend in June and is planned to be held somewhere in the west.

Saturday Pictures

  • Enjoying the Wine Tour

Image:IMG 4832.JPG

John Blaine, Richard Holmquist, Jody Keller, tour guide Norm Gary, Anne Philpot, Mills Tandy. Note how cloudy the sky is. It looks as if they have almost finished their glasses of wine.
  • Hearst Social Hall listening to Stephen Vincent reading poems about Biafra in front of a wonderful, warm fire. Note the ingenious use of a headlamp to make up for the sketchy light.

Image:Steve_Vincent_Reading.JPG

Bud Abbott, Mimi Budd, Stephen Vincent in headlamp, David Koren, Monique LeBlanc. 
The poem was about getting through a checkpoint to take a boat across the Niger while evacuating.  Great poem! 
Buy Stephen's book to read it yourself!
  • Dinner outside on a COLD Saturday night

Image:IMG 1127.jpg Tomako Malaghan, Mike Malagan, Jody Keller, Warren Keller, Peter Anderson, Mimi Budd obscured by Monique LeBlanc, Richard Holmquist. Mike Goodkind at the table to the rear, probably with Kay Koren + David Koren. Is that the back of Norm Gary off to the right? Note the heater between the tables. Two heaters made the dinner possible. Everybody wore the warmest clothing they had, but the heaters made it possible to eat the chicken with your gloves off.

  • After dinner we sang songs, inspired by our Troubador, Bud Abbott

Image:IMG 1124 80pct.jpg

  • Catherine Liddell Skapura, Bud Abbbott. Pardon the fuzziness of the focus. Bud played a mean guitar, in spite of the cold.
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