Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Bulgaria" and "Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington D.C."

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== About Us==
  
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“Bringing the Experience Home”
  
===Communications===
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RPCV/W is a volunteer-run organization representing the sizable community of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and friends who live and work in the DC metropolitan region. They undertake 3-4 events per month and focus on three primary activities.
  
====Mail====
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* Holding social events such as happy hours, parties, field trips, and other fun, interest-based activities. Any member may start a club and utilize our network to organize it.
  
Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service considered normal in the United States. If you expect U.S.  standards for mail service, you will be in for some frustration.  Mail sent via airmail takes three to four weeks, and packages sent by surface mail take from two to six months. Some mail may simply not arrive (fortunately, this is not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen). Packages and letters arriving in Bulgaria are often checked by officials for dangerous items and sometimes for money or expensive items as well. The inspectors usually reseal the packages and letters and send them on, but some may never arrive at their destination.  Advise your family and friends to number their letters and include “Airmail” on their envelopes. (For letters, we recommend global airmail, available at U.S. post offices.)
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* Helping local nonprofits engaged in community development meet their needs for volunteer assistance by organizing regular service projects and partnering toward shared goals.
  
It is also advisable to have your mail addressed to you in both Cyrillic and Latin script. While this is not necessary, it does make Bulgarian postal handlers less suspicious of incoming mail.  We don’t recommend that your friends and family declare large values for packages sent or insure them, as you may need to pay a tax to release packages of considerable value from customs.  
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* Helping members advance their careers through structured professional development events and by establishing a vibrant, organized network of mentors in various industries.
  
Despite these challenges, we encourage you to write to your family regularly (snail mail or email) and to number your own written letters. It is a good idea to advise family members that mail is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly. Also advise them that in the case of a family emergency, they should contact the Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services in Washington, D.C.  
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From time to time, they also engage in events of a symbolic or historic nature, such as marching in a parade or participating in a public ceremony. Membership is open to all who share a passion for community service, professional development, and international engagement.
  
After pre-service training, you will become a Volunteer and move to your site. Mail should then be addressed directly to you at your new residence. You can provide this information to family and friends toward the end of training prior to moving to your site. If your residence does not provide for a secure or private mailbox, it may be better to have your personal mail sent to you at your work address.
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== 2012-2013 Mission Statement ==
  
Bulgarian postal and customs regulations for packages make it very impractical and expensive to receive anything except letter mail during training. Tell family and friends that they should NOT send packages until after you have completed training and are at your assigned site. At that time, you will be better able to assess what things from home you really need and how best to have them sent.
 
  
====Telephones====
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"To serve as a resource to RPCVs and friends in the Washington DC area through social events, community service projects, and professional development programs that embody the 3rd Goal and spirit of the Peace Corps."
  
Your apartment may or may not have a landline telephone— many don’t. For in-country calling, most Volunteers use mobile phones, which they purchase themselves. However, fees associated with mobile phones are high and most Volunteers find that talking for long periods of time on the phone is out of their budget. Instead, Volunteers (and most Bulgarians) generally rely heavily on text messaging from cellphones for a small fee. All of the major Bulgarian cellular service providers also offer free text messaging from the Internet, allowing Volunteers to send quick messages free of charge.  
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The Mission Statement may be revised each year by the current Board of Directors.  
  
Standard long-distance telephone service is available but expensive. If you are calling on a landline from outside the capital, it may take longer to get a connection. Some calling cards from the United States (e.g., those issued by AT&T, MCI, and Sprint) can be used to call the United States.  However, these cards will not give you access to other countries because of a phone block in Bulgaria.
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== Primary Programs ==
  
Many Volunteers feel that the best method of calling the U.S. is to do so at an Internet club. Internet clubs often have phone booths where you can call internationally for mere cents per minute. Another cheap option is to use voice-over Internet protocol programs such as Skype or VOIPStunt from a computer. Even if you do not have a computer or a home Internet connection, most towns have Internet clubs where you can use these programs.
 
  
If these options are not available in your town, you can make international calls from a local public telephone or post office.  The country code for Bulgaria is 359 for family and friends calling from the U.S.
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In addition to organizing regular social events for members, RPCV/W divides its long-term programming into four areas:
  
====Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access====
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=== Community Service ===
  
Some, but not all, Volunteers have access to computers at their work sites, which may or may not have Internet and e-mail capabilities. Work site equipment is intended to be used primarily for work-related activities, and you should not assume that it can be used for personal purposes.  Internet and e-mail access is becoming more widely available throughout Bulgaria, and Internet cafes can be found in most towns, although they are generally not found in the rural villages. While it is likely you will have Internet access not far from your site, you should not assume that you will have constant email access.
 
  
If you bring a laptop computer, the Peace Corps does not provide e-mail accounts or technical and repair support. While many Volunteers find computers extremely useful, the Peace Corps does not consider them to be essential and cannot replace them in the case of loss or theft. If you do bring computer equipment, insurance is highly recommended.  
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RPCV/W is committed to supporting local organizations engaged in community development in the DC area. Being all volunteers at heart, their members enjoy coming out on a weekend to assist with a worthy cause. Service events are organized by their Community Service Director. Local organizations are encouraged to submit calls for volunteers in their weekly newsletter.
  
===Housing and Site Location===
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=== Partnership for Peace ===
  
Housing is generally provided by a Volunteer’s sponsoring organization. Most Volunteers live in a modest studio or one-bedroom apartment with plumbing, heating, and electricity.  The range of available housing may vary greatly between Volunteers and sites. If you live in a town or city, you will likely live in an apartment in a communist-style housing “block,” that, from the exterior, resembles the high-rises in public housing projects in U.S. cities.
 
  
Volunteers assigned to smaller communities should be prepared for the possibility that they may live in a private room in the home of a Bulgarian family. This can offer huge advantages in terms of being accepted into a local family and being “taken care of.” Note that Bulgarian standards of privacy differ from those in the U.S. It is also common that landlords may leave some of their personal items in an apartment that they are renting out.  
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Each year, RPCV/W enters into a special relationship with a grassroots nonprofit that shares its goals and values. In addition to awarding them a cash grant based on the proceeds of their yearly fundraiser, they advertise their events and helps them organize volunteers for their activities. The Vice President is charged with coordinating and strengthening the PfP program. The process begins with a call for proposals, the Board selects the finalists, and group members vote for a winner during the end-of-year elections.
  
Your heat source could be either one or more portable heaters, central heat, or wood-burning stoves in some rural areas. Heat and electricity are very expensive, and Bulgarians usually only heat the room they are currently in. They usually only turn on their hot water boiler when they are planning to take a shower. Expect for it to be cold inside during the winter, and for it to be very hot during the summer. Indoor climate control concepts differ from what you are likely used to in the U.S.
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=== Professional Development ===
  
The Peace Corps staff uses an involved and thorough process to identify Volunteers’ host organizations and towns. Potential host organizations fill out an in-depth application in which they state their reasons for wanting to work with a Volunteer, their organizational goals, how they see a Volunteer fitting into their organization, what specific work the Volunteer will assist with, desired skills, and available resources. Staff visits each site and discusses these items with the potential hosts, and ultimately uses a methodical system of evaluating potential sites based on their strengths and the potential for a Volunteer to be successful at those sites.
 
  
Toward the middle of your 11-week pre-service training (PST), the Peace Corps office and training staff match trainees and sites, and trainees learn where they will live and work for the next two years. Education, professional experience, and level of Bulgarian language ability are considered in matching individual Volunteers’ skills with the needs of each site. Volunteers should be prepared to serve in any region of Bulgaria.  
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RPCV/W strongly believes that all RPCVs should be encouraged to network freely, and urges its members to make time for their peers who are looking to climb the ladder. To this end, they host regular networking events and career panels. They also track various RPCV groups that exist within government agencies and large employers. This program is overseen by a Professional Development Director who acts as the organization's chief networker and job coach. Jobs are posted in RPCV/W's Linkedin Group and individual members often post opportunities in its Facebook Group.
  
===Living Allowance and Money Management===
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=== Special Events ===
  
You will receive a monthly living allowance that will enable you to maintain a modest lifestyle similar to that of your host community counterpart. This allowance will be deposited in your bank account every month by Peace Corps/Bulgaria.  It is intended to cover food, household supplies, local transportation, recreation, entertainment, and incidental expenses such as postage, film, reading material, stationery, and toiletries. In most cases, rent and utilities are paid by the sponsoring organization, but the Peace Corps assists with these expenses in some circumstances.
 
  
Most Volunteers in Bulgaria find their living allowance to be sufficient for their needs, as long as they live a frugal lifestyle. The lifestyle you adopt while serving in Bulgaria will determine how far your living allowance goes. These days in Bulgaria, there are many things to spend money on, and if you choose to eat daily in restaurants, travel a significant portion of your weekends, and buy imported food and toiletries, your living allowance likely will not last through each month. You may also have a harder time becoming a part of your community if you live at a higher level than the average Bulgarian. If you adopt a more typical Bulgarian lifestyle, cook frequently, and choose primarily from the ample selections of local goods, your living allowance should be more than adequate. It is important to live at the same economic level as your Bulgarian counterparts.  
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RPCV/W is often called upon to plan and participate in major public events. In September of 2011, RPCV/W organized the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps commemoration at Arlington National Cemetery, which hosted over 5,000 participants and included a parade across the Memorial Bridge. Since 1984, they have gathered each year to lay flowers at the gravesite of John F. Kennedy. They have marched with Peace Corps in Presidential Inaugurations and are now participating in DC's LGBT Capitol Pride Parade.
  
===Food and Diet===
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== Other Services ==
  
It is possible to eat a very healthy and natural diet in Bulgaria, if you prepare many of your own meals and use local foods.  Larger towns and cities offer many of the same basic staples that you can find in the United States, with the exception of pre-prepared and instant foods. Volunteers in smaller towns sometimes experience shortages of certain items, especially in the winter, but there is typically an ample food supply if you are flexible about cooking with what is currently available.  If you live in a small village, you may choose to occasionally shop in larger towns in your region, to fill in your food supplies and get items unavailable at your site.
 
  
Grilled meat and potatoes or salads best capture the essence of Bulgarian cuisine. Meals served in a family setting are heavy, oily, filling, and take hours to finish (after a big Bulgarian meal, you may have to lie down and rest a while!).  Many dishes are overly salty by American standards and Bulgarians cook with lots of sunflower oil. Pork and chicken are the most popular meats—served roasted, breaded and fried, or grilled. The selection of seafood is limited, and it is advisable to refrain from eating it unless you know its origin.  Seafood from the Danube or the Black Sea should generally not be eaten, while trout from mountain streams and fish raised on farms is generally safe to eat.
 
  
Vegetarians may get weary of eating breaded cheese, fried potatoes, or salad every time they go out for a meal or visit Bulgarian friends, but the abundance and low prices of wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables in season make it possible to prepare delicious meals at home. Prices of produce fluctuate greatly according to the season. Peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, cabbages, eggplants, zucchinis, and carrots are almost always available. However, in the winter, depending on your community, you may have to rely mostly on potatoes, cabbages, carrots, dried beans, and canned items. Locally-grown fruits are available from late spring to late fall. During the winter, you may have to make do with canned fruits and fruit juice and imported fruits such as bananas, apples, and oranges.
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=== Social Media===
  
Cereal and grains are available, although breakfast cereals can be expensive, as Bulgarians typically do not eat cereal for breakfast. The typical Bulgarian breakfast is “banitza” a delicious pastry made from filo dough and cheese—which is made fresh daily in most towns and villages and costs around 35 cents. Bulgarians eat bread with every meal, and even the smallest town has a place where you can buy freshly-baked bread on a daily basis. Rice, pasta, and all-purpose white flour can also be purchased easily, but you will have to search extensively for whole-wheat flour. Various types of beans are widely available, and lentils are widely used. Dried soybean product was used in the past as a cheaper substitute for meat, and is available in specialty stores in the larger towns and cities. Boxed, long-life pasteurized milk is readily available.  Milk packaged in plastic bags is not pasteurized and should be boiled before drinking. The two types of local cheese are delicious and always available. Imported cheese is also available but expensive. Bulgarian yogurt, made primarily from cow and sheep milk, is a staple of the Bulgarian, and is well-known world wide.
 
  
A cookbook of recipes to help you make the most of products available in Bulgaria will be given to you during training. You will be making a lot of things from scratch here, and if you do not already know how to cook, you will learn. Don’t worry, before long you will be sharing your favorite recipes with other Volunteers.  
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RPCV/W maintains a Facebook Group, Facebook Page, Twitter Feed, Linkedin Group, and a group on the NPCA Ning Network. It also maintains a robust website that allows members to interact with eachother, and a weekly newsletter that any member can utilize. With these tools, it is able to reach thousands of RPCVs and others.
  
===Transportation===
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The Facebook Group is a popular spot for new arrivals to introduce themselves and ask about housing or jobs. Members with property to lease naturally prefer RPCV tenants, and use the group as an alternative to Craigslist. Some use it to ask the group to recommend services, places to eat, and things to do. Members may fundraise and share their causes there. In short, it's an open forum which supplements our physical activities and keeps the network fresh.
  
Bulgaria has a large network of bus and train routes, which makes it possible to travel to practically all destinations by public transportation. Many Volunteers have experienced thefts while traveling, however, so you must be vigilant in protecting your valuables while using public transportation.  Traveling on trams in Sofia requires extra vigilance.  
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The Linkedin Group is similar, but less outwardly active. Most of its use happens behind the scenes, as members search out peers to network for professional opportunities. The Twitter Feed and Facebook Page are controlled by the Public Relations Director, who is charged with keeping members informed and engaged.
  
When traveling on trains, it is best to travel in a compartment with a baba (grandmother) as a protection against crime.  If possible, put your heavier baggage on the shelf above your head (not above someone else’s) so that you will notice if someone tries to take it down. Put smaller luggage underneath your feet. Although people may warn you against this (a Bulgarian superstition says you will lose money), it is a relatively safe option.
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===Innovation===
  
===Geography and Climate===
 
  
Bulgaria is located in the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. The country is bordered by the Black Sea in the east, Turkey and Greece in the south, Macedonia and Serbia in the west, and Romania in the north. Although slightly larger than Tennessee, Bulgaria stands out as a land of great geographic and environmental diversity. The average elevation is 480 meters (1,584 feet) above sea level.  
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Members of RPCV/W are closely involved in the Peace Corps Innovation Challenge, and the organization promotes innovative uses of technology to benefit serving PCVs and returned volunteers.
  
The country has four major geographic regions. The most northerly is the Danube plateau, which rises from the shores of the Danube River to the foothills in the east. Its climate is continental, with hot summers and cold winters. The second region is the Balkan Mountains (or “Old Mountains” to the Bulgarians), which extends across the center of the country and blocks cold winds from the plains of Russia. The third region, the valley drained by the Maritsa River in the south, has a Mediterranean climate with mild, rainy winters and warm, dry summers. South of the Maritsa Valley is the fourth region, the Rhodope Mountains, which forms the border between Bulgaria and Greece.
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== History==
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Bulgaria has a Mediterranean climate with four distinct seasons. As in the United States, weather patterns have been changing in recent years, so it is difficult to describe a “typical” year. Spring generally brings frequent rain. Spring and fall are temperate and feature beautiful flora. Summer temperatures average about 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius); but in July and August, they can reach the 90- to 100-degree Fahrenheit range for a two-week period or longer. The highlands in the northeast are cooler than the more Mediterranean climate of the southwest. Bulgaria can get cold and gray in the winter, with temperatures averaging around 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius).  
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RPCVs have been coming to DC since the Peace Corps was founded. Many were involved in the Peace Movement of the 1960s and there are several documented instances where RPCVs gathered to protest the war in southeast Asia. They found jobs in the civil and foreign service and set down roots. They began forming groups in the 1970’s, banding together for social solidarity and to support projects abroad. RPCV/W was formed in 1979 as an offshoot of the National Council of Returned Volunteers, which is now known as the National Peace Corps Association. RPCVs in DC banded together to do service projects, network, and commemorate special events such as Peace Corps anniversaries.  RPCV/W was formally incorporated as a 501c3 nonprofit organization in 1991. As the years passed, a diverse, multi-generational community of RPCVs came into being, with new members arriving every week.
  
===Social Activities===
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There are an estimated 5,000 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers living in the Washington, DC Metro area. Over 1,000 are active, dues-paying members of RPCV/W.
  
There are a multitude of activities you can explore, however, if you are open to trying new activities that you may have not previously thought of as social/recreational activities. You may find out that you enjoy hanging out with the local babas (grandmothers) and learning to can food, that you get used to spending hours on end at a local coffee shop (this is likely to be the most popular social activity in your town!), and that you are not comfortable spending much time at the local disco, as it may be full of your high school students. The trick is to find things that give you satisfaction and enjoyment. It is up to you to make the most of your leisure time, and there is plenty to do if you just go out and look for it.  
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According to a 2012 survey, most of RPCV/W's members join to network, make friends, and to become familiar with the DC Peace Corps Community. 83% attended at least one event throughout the year. 85% receive the weekly email newsletter. Most reported making friends, participating in events, and getting involved with local volunteer projects. Others reported getting jobs, finding mentors, and even meeting their significant other through the network.
  
Bulgaria has museums, concerts, town festivals, theaters, athletic events, hot springs, outdoor markets, historical and ethnographic centers, coffee shops, bars, discos, and cinemas (in bigger towns and cities) for you to enjoy. The most recently released American films are shown in English with Bulgarian subtitles but are usually dubbed by the time they make it to the video rental shops.  
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The median age of RPCV/W's membership is 32, and over half possess an advanced degree. They work in international development and the nonprofit sector primarily. 74% are female and 29% are male. Columbia Heights is their neighborhood of choice. There are also large concentrations in Shaw, Bloomingdale, and Eastern Market.
  
Bulgaria boasts some of the most magnificent natural areas in Eastern Europe, with a great diversity of flora and fauna.  Opportunities for outdoor recreation include hiking, camping, rock climbing, and birdwatching. Many of the towns in mountain regions have local hiking clubs. During the winter, Bulgarian ski resorts attract skiers from the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, and the Nordic countries.
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==Membership Policy==
  
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
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Membership in RPCV/W is open to all. First year is always free. Member dues have remained $15 per year since 1986.
  
One of the difficulties of finding your place as a Peace Corps Volunteer is fitting into the local culture while maintaining your own cultural identity and acting like a professional all at the same time. It is not an easy thing to do successfully, and we can only provide you with guidelines. As a representative of a Bulgarian organization, you will be expected to dress and behave accordingly. “Business casual” is the catchall term for appropriate professional attire as a Volunteer in Bulgaria.  
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* Members are eligible for discounts to special events.
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* Members are granted access to our online directory to search for and contact other members.
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* Members can register for and attend restricted "Members Only" events.
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* Members can access and freely network in our private Linkedin Group.
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* Members may submit news items, including fundraisers and events, to our weekly newsletter.
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* Members may post fundraisers or small events requiring payment in our Facebook Group, which serves as the public forum of our organization.
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* Members may participate in sub-committees called by the Board of Directors and lead Board-sanctioned events.
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* Members shape the organization by organizing clubs, electing the Board of Directors, and assuming leadership roles.
  
Bulgarians dress very stylishly and take great pride in their appearance. They commonly, however, only have a few outfits that they wear repeatedly. While there is no hard-and-fast rule, a foreigner who wears ragged or dirty clothing is likely to be considered disrespectful and possibly unreliable. Improper attire creates difficulties in gaining the respect and acceptance of your Bulgarian colleagues. At the same time, Volunteers who outdress the Bulgarians they work with may find they have difficulty fitting in. In general, Volunteers should dress to match their colleagues. Sometimes this can mean nice jeans and a casual, button-up shirt; other times this can mean wearing a tie daily. In an ethnic Bulgarian community, colorful and stylish attire is likely very appropriate, while in some minority communities, more modest dress is important. Keep in mind that you can purchase most clothing you would want for day-to-day use for reasonable prices throughout Bulgaria, so you may want to bring minimal clothing from the U.S.  
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==External Links==
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[http://rpcvw.org/?utm_source=peacecorpswiki&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=PCWiki Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington D.C.]
  
You will also have semi-regular occasions to dress up for weddings and other special events, so bring some more formal attire in addition to professional clothes for everyday wear in the office or classroom. Casual clothes like jeans, shorts, T-shirts, and tank tops are also appropriate in some situations, but almost always outside of the professional environment.  
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[http://www.facebook.com/rpcvw RPCV/W's Facebook Page]
  
===Personal Safety===
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[http://www.facebook.com/groups/rpcvw/ RPCV/W's Facebook Group]
  
More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon; Volunteers may be at the highest risk for pickpocketing when they are in cities with other Volunteers and are speaking English on the street. It is obvious then that they are foreigners, and they are less attentive because they are distracted by conversation. Incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Bulgaria Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help you reduce your risks and enhance your safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Bulgaria. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well being.  
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[http://www.twitter.com/rpcvw/ RPCV/W's Twitter Feed]
  
===Rewards and Frustrations===
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[http://www.rpcvw.us4.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=6542714c69023bc7f6fa51510&id=b97898cf65/ RPCV/W's Free Weekly Newsletter]
  
Volunteers in Bulgaria must demonstrate a great deal of flexibility, patience, and maturity. Counterparts may sometimes feel threatened by your different methods, your energy, and your drive to work. When you first arrive at your site, you will need to focus on building relationships and gaining the trust of your colleagues and community. Then, you will be in a much stronger position to get things done. Many Volunteers find that once they are accepted by a community, they are “in” and are both embraced the their communities and are well-respected. It takes considerable time and effort to get to this point. Although earlier groups of Volunteers in Bulgaria have made the Peace Corps known to many in the community, you may have to explain your role as a development worker. The concept of volunteerism is a bit odd to most Bulgarians. In spite of your modest stipend, you may be perceived as a rich foreigner. You should expect frequent and lengthy delays in almost everything you are engaged in.
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[[Category:Regional Associations]]
 
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[[Category:RPCV Associations]]
All Volunteers are expected to be highly motivated and proactive, flexible, professional, and committed to the Peace Corps’ ideals and goals. The Peace Corps staff and current Volunteers take their commitment to serve the people of Bulgaria seriously. We invite you to join us in this effort, but only if you are confident that you can commit yourself to completing your two-year assignment.
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[[Category:RPCV 50th Anniversary]]
 
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[[Category:RPCV/W]]
Because of the many economic and political difficulties and changes Bulgaria faces, the atmosphere in the country is one of uncertainty. The changes occurring in Bulgaria today are some of the most significant in its history, and Bulgarians from all walks of life are sacrificing time and comfort to make a new Bulgaria, that is part of the global world. Being a part of this historic moment in Europe should be both fascinating and immensely satisfying to any Volunteer who is willing to work hard and give generously of his or her time.
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[[Category:Bulgaria]]
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Revision as of 14:37, 22 July 2013

About Us

“Bringing the Experience Home”

RPCV/W is a volunteer-run organization representing the sizable community of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and friends who live and work in the DC metropolitan region. They undertake 3-4 events per month and focus on three primary activities.

  • Holding social events such as happy hours, parties, field trips, and other fun, interest-based activities. Any member may start a club and utilize our network to organize it.
  • Helping local nonprofits engaged in community development meet their needs for volunteer assistance by organizing regular service projects and partnering toward shared goals.
  • Helping members advance their careers through structured professional development events and by establishing a vibrant, organized network of mentors in various industries.

From time to time, they also engage in events of a symbolic or historic nature, such as marching in a parade or participating in a public ceremony. Membership is open to all who share a passion for community service, professional development, and international engagement.

2012-2013 Mission Statement

"To serve as a resource to RPCVs and friends in the Washington DC area through social events, community service projects, and professional development programs that embody the 3rd Goal and spirit of the Peace Corps."

The Mission Statement may be revised each year by the current Board of Directors.

Primary Programs

In addition to organizing regular social events for members, RPCV/W divides its long-term programming into four areas:

Community Service

RPCV/W is committed to supporting local organizations engaged in community development in the DC area. Being all volunteers at heart, their members enjoy coming out on a weekend to assist with a worthy cause. Service events are organized by their Community Service Director. Local organizations are encouraged to submit calls for volunteers in their weekly newsletter.

Partnership for Peace

Each year, RPCV/W enters into a special relationship with a grassroots nonprofit that shares its goals and values. In addition to awarding them a cash grant based on the proceeds of their yearly fundraiser, they advertise their events and helps them organize volunteers for their activities. The Vice President is charged with coordinating and strengthening the PfP program. The process begins with a call for proposals, the Board selects the finalists, and group members vote for a winner during the end-of-year elections.

Professional Development

RPCV/W strongly believes that all RPCVs should be encouraged to network freely, and urges its members to make time for their peers who are looking to climb the ladder. To this end, they host regular networking events and career panels. They also track various RPCV groups that exist within government agencies and large employers. This program is overseen by a Professional Development Director who acts as the organization's chief networker and job coach. Jobs are posted in RPCV/W's Linkedin Group and individual members often post opportunities in its Facebook Group.

Special Events

RPCV/W is often called upon to plan and participate in major public events. In September of 2011, RPCV/W organized the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps commemoration at Arlington National Cemetery, which hosted over 5,000 participants and included a parade across the Memorial Bridge. Since 1984, they have gathered each year to lay flowers at the gravesite of John F. Kennedy. They have marched with Peace Corps in Presidential Inaugurations and are now participating in DC's LGBT Capitol Pride Parade.

Other Services

Social Media

RPCV/W maintains a Facebook Group, Facebook Page, Twitter Feed, Linkedin Group, and a group on the NPCA Ning Network. It also maintains a robust website that allows members to interact with eachother, and a weekly newsletter that any member can utilize. With these tools, it is able to reach thousands of RPCVs and others.

The Facebook Group is a popular spot for new arrivals to introduce themselves and ask about housing or jobs. Members with property to lease naturally prefer RPCV tenants, and use the group as an alternative to Craigslist. Some use it to ask the group to recommend services, places to eat, and things to do. Members may fundraise and share their causes there. In short, it's an open forum which supplements our physical activities and keeps the network fresh.

The Linkedin Group is similar, but less outwardly active. Most of its use happens behind the scenes, as members search out peers to network for professional opportunities. The Twitter Feed and Facebook Page are controlled by the Public Relations Director, who is charged with keeping members informed and engaged.

Innovation

Members of RPCV/W are closely involved in the Peace Corps Innovation Challenge, and the organization promotes innovative uses of technology to benefit serving PCVs and returned volunteers.

History

RPCVs have been coming to DC since the Peace Corps was founded. Many were involved in the Peace Movement of the 1960s and there are several documented instances where RPCVs gathered to protest the war in southeast Asia. They found jobs in the civil and foreign service and set down roots. They began forming groups in the 1970’s, banding together for social solidarity and to support projects abroad. RPCV/W was formed in 1979 as an offshoot of the National Council of Returned Volunteers, which is now known as the National Peace Corps Association. RPCVs in DC banded together to do service projects, network, and commemorate special events such as Peace Corps anniversaries. RPCV/W was formally incorporated as a 501c3 nonprofit organization in 1991. As the years passed, a diverse, multi-generational community of RPCVs came into being, with new members arriving every week.

There are an estimated 5,000 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers living in the Washington, DC Metro area. Over 1,000 are active, dues-paying members of RPCV/W.

According to a 2012 survey, most of RPCV/W's members join to network, make friends, and to become familiar with the DC Peace Corps Community. 83% attended at least one event throughout the year. 85% receive the weekly email newsletter. Most reported making friends, participating in events, and getting involved with local volunteer projects. Others reported getting jobs, finding mentors, and even meeting their significant other through the network.

The median age of RPCV/W's membership is 32, and over half possess an advanced degree. They work in international development and the nonprofit sector primarily. 74% are female and 29% are male. Columbia Heights is their neighborhood of choice. There are also large concentrations in Shaw, Bloomingdale, and Eastern Market.

Membership Policy

Membership in RPCV/W is open to all. First year is always free. Member dues have remained $15 per year since 1986.

  • Members are eligible for discounts to special events.
  • Members are granted access to our online directory to search for and contact other members.
  • Members can register for and attend restricted "Members Only" events.
  • Members can access and freely network in our private Linkedin Group.
  • Members may submit news items, including fundraisers and events, to our weekly newsletter.
  • Members may post fundraisers or small events requiring payment in our Facebook Group, which serves as the public forum of our organization.
  • Members may participate in sub-committees called by the Board of Directors and lead Board-sanctioned events.
  • Members shape the organization by organizing clubs, electing the Board of Directors, and assuming leadership roles.

External Links

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington D.C.

RPCV/W's Facebook Page

RPCV/W's Facebook Group

RPCV/W's Twitter Feed

RPCV/W's Free Weekly Newsletter