Annual Gala 2023: Annual General Meeting

Annual General Meeting

April 29, 2023

Presentation by:
Jenna Smith, President
Board 2020, President 2021-2023
RPCV Madagascar 2015-2017

Wow, it is so nice to be here with everyone in person at our first gala since December 2019. It has been a longggg few years. It seems weird to reflect back on early 2020, when I had just joined the board. RPCV/W was operating as usual, with a really engaged, excited community. There were over 7,000 peace corps volunteers serving around the world, and there were over 200,000 RPCVs. 


The previous boards of RPCV/W, which has been incorporated since 1979, over 40 years, really built something strong. In 2020, full of uncertainty, we quickly pivoted to virtual events. Our social director at the time, Ty Miranda, was extremely creative with ideas to connect people- we had dog happy hours, love is blind speed dating events (which I may or may not have participated in), plant talks, book clubs. I know it is hard to think about- I had to tell Ty after a while I couldn’t attend all of them because I was having stress dreams about virtual events… but the community found ways to connect and support each other during a very strange and challenging time. 

That year also highlighted gaps in our community. Previously serving in the Peace Corps does not wash us of our responsibilities to interrogate the power structures in which we live. Our community is not free from misogyny, racism, ableism, microaggressions, white saviorism and discrimination in general. Members of our community asked us to do better. And RPCV/W has taken that request seriously. Critical conversations are not easy, and the hardest labor often falls on those who are impacted the most, but they must be had to create a better, safer and more just world. 

Some people have asked me, who are we as RPCVs to address these challenges?

But this is our community, and addressing the unjust systems in which we live starts at home- with us, with our communities- and then further around the world. 

RPCVs are connected by our desire to create a more equitable world. As we continue into our careers, we must constantly evaluate our actions and how we contribute to the larger systems at play. 

As a small, community-led organization, RPCV/W does not answer to funders, the government or larger institutions. This is a powerful position to sit in, as it allows us to radically look at what is wrong and not shy away from discussions and action.

We recently updated our mission and created community guidelines that we hope will keep our community respectful and safe. 

MISSION The Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington DC (RPCV/W) fosters an inclusive network for members to connect through social, professional, and service opportunities. We build upon the skills and experiences of RPCVs to serve our communities and promote a deeper understanding of our world and its cultures.  VISION We envision a world in which all people are respected, valued, and treated with dignity and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers’ knowledge, skills, and perspectives are recognized and utilized for positive change in the Nation’s Capital and beyond.

Between 2020 and now, RPCV/W has partnered with community members to address: 

National RPCV Racial Justice Initiative Peace Corps Moving Forward: A Series of Town Halls on Sex- and Gender-Based Violence Revitalizing the LGBTQIA+ RPCV Affiliate Group No White Saviors + Returned Peace Corps Volunteers: Reflecting on the White Savior Complex and What it Means to Decolonize Partnerships Intersectional feminism book club Social justice book swap Salon Series: Critical Discussions

These programs are not the answers to every question, but they are the start of necessary conversations, and we will continue to hold true to our values and respond when members of our community ask us to support them. 

As I have mentioned, RPCV/W is run by the community, for the community. Your membership dues of $15 a year, pay for our operational costs

Monthly Overhead Costs Mailchimp Monthly (newsletter 5,000 subscribers) 				$78.43 Nationbuilder Monthly	(website and member database)		$78.24 OSI Monthly(PO box)										$60.00 Zoom Monthly											$13.17 Monthly Fees												$229.84  Approximate Revenue from Memberships Monthly			$250

Our programming and events are created by a volunteer board

President - Jenna Smith Secretary - Michael Svetlik Professional Development Director - Andy Sheridan Social Events Director - Brian Byrd Special Events Director - Nimu Sidhu Cultural Director - Pattie Walsh Community Service Director - Mandy McCleary Community Outreach & Engagement Director - Kenneth Goughnour Knowledge Management Director - Valerie Kurka Mentorship Director - German Rochez Development Director- Alex Winters

We were lucky to partner with these organizations these past few years. 

As we all know, the pandemic has been challenging, but in 2021, we launched into a vaccinated summer- shot girl summer or hot vaxx summer if you will- with in-person events. Bike trips, jam sessions, happy hours, hikes- we were beginning to become connected again. By 2022, we had a new Board of Directors and having meetings and events in person really did change things. It is so much easier to solve problems and tackle saving the world when you have humanized the people you are working with. 

Our team has worked really hard to update our policies so that everyone can be supported and our programming engages the community and connects back to the Washington DC community. Brian has planned about 100 social events in just 16 months. Then of course, we have the community service events Mandy has been planning and the cultural events organized by Pattie.

I personally have built so many relationships through this community. RPCV/W has been a home for me since the moment I decided to move to Washington DC from San Francisco 3.5 years ago. No matter how much I try to branch out, I keep coming back because this is a community of people who share my values and interests and honestly are pretty down to work hard, address challenges in the world, but still have a lot of fun and zest for life along the way! 

Looking around the room, I know so many other people have been impacted by this organization in similar ways. We look forward to providing more programming to connect everyone and have some fun- as well as address the needs of our community. I say this to everyone, every chance I get, but my door is always open. When someone has an idea or an issue they want addressed, RPCV/W can try to use the resources we have to help. 

We are here for our community, and without our community, we are not here. 

I want to take a moment to thank everyone who has worked so hard to keep this organization running these past few years. It was not easy, but we are in a really solid place to use what we have learned over the past few years and only grow stronger. 

Thank you to the board of directors from 2020-2023

Thank you to our members

Thank you to our sponsors for this event

Thank you so much to the board of directors in 2023

And a special thank you to Nimu Sidhu for chairing this event- you did an amazing job. 

Lastly thank you so much to everyone who came tonight! This is a celebration 3 years in the making. I am really looking forward to some comedy and flowers! Have a great time, everyone!