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Our History

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) of Hampton Roads, Virginia

A History

Hampton Roads, Virginia, is home to one of 160 chapters of the National Peace Corps Association.  We boast approximately 80 RPCV members living across the region who served in 48 different countries around the world from the early 1960s to the present.  Our three largest nations of service include the Philippines with seven members, Jamaica with six and Honduras with four.  Our chapter of the NPCA came into being on 17 July 1998, when our bid for affiliation was accepted by the NPCA board of governors at their annual meeting in Minneapolis.  Although we are only in our twelfth year of “official” existence, there has been an RPCV presence here in Hampton Roads for a number of years.

Back in 1986/87 some enterprising person put together a list of 57 RPCVs in the area (we still have the original yellowed pages!), some of whom are still members today.  Deborah Reese, Jan Aycock, George Little and Jim Brown are all current members who date from that era.  One of these early RPCVs told us that, in those days, only about ten of the 57 used to get together every once in awhile, but after 1990 that small group stopped meeting altogether.  Meanwhile, Clay Drees (Sierra Leone 1977-79) moved here from California at around the same time.  One day in 1992 he heard about a Peace Corps recruiting session on the campus of Old Dominion University, and decided to attend to reconnect with the organization.


Countries of Service
RPCVs of Hampton Roads


Afghanistan, Benin, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Congo, Colombia, CAR, Cyprus, Czech Rep., Dom. Rep., Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Kenya, Korea, Liberia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Micronesia, Mongolia, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Panama, Papua/New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tonga, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia

That evening Clay met Dot Kelly, a PC recruiter who had just returned two years before from Sierra Leone–his own country of service!  After trading stories and speaking Krio for hours, Dot promised to send Clay a list of local RPCVs that her office maintained in Arlington.  That list had over 220 names on it, but after eliminating those in Richmond and those who had left the area, we had a working group of around 50 people.  During the next year Dot came to Hampton Roads several times on recruiting missions, and made contact each time with our fledgling RPCV group.  Our first group meeting took place on September 27, 1994 in the home of Dot’s sister Glenny White in Virginia Beach.  Twenty-seven former volunteers and friends showed up to meet assistant PC director Chuck Baquet, and to appear on the 11:00 WVEC news broadcast that evening for a story that reporter Karen Jones was doing on the Peace Corps!

That meeting really jump-started things again, and over the next few years we gathered a few more times–once at Clay’s house in Virginia Beach on 2 November 1995 and then at Jim Brown’s home in Norfolk on 27 June 1997–to socialize and trade “war stories.”  The organizational turning point came, however, at the event Bob Major hosted in Norfolk on 20 June 1998.  Over 40 RPCVs attended and, voting to associate our group with the NPCA, elected several brave souls to serve as officers to help launch that initiative.  This group–George Little, Jim Brown, Steve Johnson, Cindy Britton, Deborah Reese, Jan Aycock and Clay Drees–met ten times between 1998-2000 to generate chapter by-laws, host two successful socials, work on setting up a website, establish a non-profit chapter bank account, offer assistance to current PCVs in the field, and begin getting our RPCV members out into the Hampton Roads community as guest speakers.

It was a promising start, and has led over the past decade to many more projects designed to fulfill the Third Goal of the Peace Corps, “to bring the world back home.”  One of our most exciting enterprises during this period was the World-Wise Teachers’ Workshop we organized in October 2002.  This two-day event, held in conjunction with Tidewater Community College, ODU, Virginia Wesleyan College and the national Peace Corps office, introduced 65 local teachers to the Peace Corps’ “World-Wise” cross-cultural training materials for use in their Virginia classrooms.  Then in 2004 RPCVs of Hampton Roads were invited to Camp Allen Elementary School in Norfolk to take part in its “International Week.”  Nineteen of us visited classrooms at Camp Allen over the course of five days, sharing our Peace Corps experiences with the very eager and very well-prepared students there!  Since then our group has nearly doubled in size, and has held biannual social/recruiting events in Norfolk and Williamsburg in cooperation with the PC recruiting office in Arlington.  We have also supported several PCVs from this area in countries such as Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and the Malagasy Republic with donations of money, clothing and books, and have provided dozens of guest speakers for programs at schools, scout troops and churches over the years.  In March 2011 we hosted one of the most successful 50th Anniversary Peace Corps celebrations in the nation.  Teaming up with the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, we held a “Day of Cultural Celebration” at the Museum that featured African drummers, Indian dancers, a Jamaican story-teller and plenty of RPCVs in COS costumes wandering the galleries and sharing our Peace Corps experiences with excited patrons and children.  As we move forward in our second full decade of existence, we hope to continue and extend the record of service, support and fellowship that has characterized RPCVs of Hampton Roads throughout its history.

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4 Comments

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  1. Anne Patterson / Apr 30 2017 8:57 pm

    Is this still an active group? I’m a RPCV who just moved to the area looking to connect with other RPCVs and do some volunteer work!
    Anne Patterson
    Ethiopia 2015-2017

  2. Rodney / Jun 1 2011 1:39 pm

    Hi Clay! You may not remember me, but I came with my mom and sister to a social picnic hosted by Ms. Goldberg and other members of Hampton Roads RPCVs last summer in Williamsburg. I was nominated for Asia. I wanted to let you know that instead I will be serving in Zambia as a Rural Aquaculture Agent from August 2011 to October 2013. Thanks again for the hospitality you and the RPCVs showed to me during the picnic as well as for the encouragement and advice I received. I hope that I could stay in contact with you as well as with other RPCVs in the future.

  3. Michael C Baughan / Sep 13 2010 2:11 am

    Hi Clay,

    Nice website. Still need RPCV’s for 12 October, 2010: Peace Corps 50th Anniversary Panel Presentation at Va. Wesleyan College in Va. Beach? I’m now married & in Elizabeth City since last seeing you. I may be able to make it if you need more RPCVs. What time? Other than memories, what should I bring?

    Hope you are well.

    Pax,

    Dr. Mike Baughan Samoa ’78-’80

  4. Katie Young / Aug 24 2010 2:33 pm

    Hello RPCV’s,

    My name is Katie, I’m a current volunteer in Kenya and I have lived in Virginia Beach my whole life. I met many of you at a dinner party in Dec. 2008, prior to my leaving for Kenya, and found you all very encouraging and informative for a would be PCV. I’m trying to find out how to contact you all about a project I am doing. I’m not sure if anyone would be interested but I recently posted a partnership project on the PC website for a community center I am trying to renovate. The project is for the small village I live in. If you would be interested in donating to go to http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.donors and put in 615-177 into the search and donate there. No stress just putting it out there, I know things are a little tight back home right now.

    Asante sana,
    Katie Young

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