Peace Corps Worldwide – About the bloggers

Concetta Bencivenga (Thailand 1992–94), a former recruiter for the New York office of the Peace Corps, is a vice president at the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia. Concetta’s blog is Want to Join the Peace Corps?

Laurette Bennhold-Samaan has worked in the cross-cultural field since 1985. As the first Cross-Cultural Specialist with the bennhold-samaan-l1Peace Corps (1996-2001), she managed strategic cross-cultural initiatives and co-authored their first cross-cultural workbook: Culture Matters/Culture Matters Trainer’s Guide and has consulted and delivered more than 50 workshops in over 45 countries. She recently joined Accenture as their Sr. Manager of Global Mobility setting global mobility strategy and policy. Prior to her current position, she co-created the Global Mobility department at The World Bank supporting staff and families departing to over 100 countries. She holds an MA in International Affairs focusing on cross-cultural communications and international business and has been an international elected board member of The International Society for Intercultural Education, Training, and Research (SIETAR) and currently on the board of directors with Ten Thousand Villages (fair trade non-profit organization). Laurette’s blog is Crossing Cultures: The New You.

Bonnie Lee Black earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University/Los black-bAngeles in June 2007. An honors graduate of Columbia University (BA, Literature/Writing, 1979), she has been a professional writer and editor for nearly 30 years, and an educator — in the U.S. and overseas — for over 15 years.

For ten years (1986–96) she was a chef, caterer, and cooking instructor in Manhattan, during which time her freelance writing focused on food. In 1996, she joined the Peace Corps and served as a health and nutrition Volunteer in Gabon, Central Africa. Her new book, How to Cook a Crocodile: A Memoir with Recipes (Peace Corps Writers, 2010), recounts her experience teaching healthy cooking in Gabon.

Bonnie’s first book, somewhere-child

Somewhere Child, was published by Viking Press in 1981. Her essays have appeared in a number of published anthologies and literary journals. She now lives in Taos, New Mexico, and teaches English and Creative Nonfiction Writing at University of New Mexico/Taos.

Bonnie’s blog is Cooking Crocodiles & Other Food Musings

Linda Bergthold (Ethiopia 1962–64) is an independent consultant and researcher. lbergthold1Most recently she was a senior consultant for Watson Wyatt Worldwide, a human resources consulting firm, based in the Los Angeles office, focusing on strategic planning and compliance for clients in California and nationally. She is currently consulting to a variety of clients on health reform, comparative effectiveness research and evidence-based benefit design.

Prior to joining Watson Wyatt, she was a vice president in the California office of The Lewin Group, a national health policy consulting firm, and a principal with the William M. Mercer human resources consulting firm. She spent five years as a health policy researcher at Stanford University’s Center for Health Policy, studying coverage decision making in California and national managed care plans, funded by the California HealthCare Foundation and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation before returning to consulting with Watson Wyatt in 2002.

Because of her varied experience in research, public policy, and benefits consulting, Linda worked with California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi on his universal health care coverage plan in the early 1990s and was subsequently selected to work on the benefit package for the White House Health Care Reform Task Force in 1993 as co-chair of the Benefits Working Group. She has served as the national consumer representative to the Medicare Evidence Development and Coverage Advisory Committee in Washington, D.C., and is a board member of the California Technology Assessment Forum. She was head of the health care blog team for the Obama campaign in 2008 and continues to blog on Huffington Post and Daily Kos on a variety of health care issues.

Linda was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia in the first group sent there by President John F. Kennedy. She was an English teacher and her husband worked in a teacher training school in Addis Ababa. When she returned to the U.S. she taught English at the Paul Lawrence Dunbar high school in Washington D.C. and later at Brookline High School in Brookline, Massachusetts. Linda and her family spent four years in Latin America, working in Ecuador and Nicaragua, before returning to California in 1974.

Linda holds a B.A. from the University of California at Los Angeles, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California. She was a Pew Health Policy Doctoral Fellow at the Institute for Health Policy, UCSF. She is a widely published author on benefit design, medical necessity and purchasing strategies. Her book, Purchasing Power in Health, published in 1990 is a history of business participation in health care policy between 1970 and 1990. Linda’s blog is Health Reform, Health Care.

Leo Cecchini (Ethiopia 1962–64) was yet another member of Ethiopia I — it was so early in lcecchini-1the history of Peace Corps that the group had its farewell party in the White House with John Kennedy. Leo taught geography at a high school in Asmara, now the capital of Eritrea, and coached the school’s soccer team to two league championships.  From there he spent 25 years as a US diplomat, mainly promoting American trade and investment with the world.  He “retired” to become the first managing director of a joint Turkish-American public relations company in Ankara, Turkey.  That initial venture into private business was followed by working with the first black owned property development company in South Africa, managing director of a South African owned company in Orlando, Florida, a Wall Street stock broker,  managing director of a clothing maker in London, partner in a wine importing business in Washington D.C., real estate agent in Florida, and now an investment adviser.  Leo is a native of Washington D.C., has a degree in economics from  the U. of  Maryland, and speaks five languages. Leo’s blogs are Your Money: The New Economy and YouTravel: Train Treks, Environment — Light, Not Heat and Vino Fino

Ralph Cherry was a PCV in Kumasi, Ghana, 1969-71 where he taught secondary school rcherryFrench language and English lit at what was then called Kumasi High School. He is one of the few people who can say he spent virtually his entire professional life at the Peace Corps.  Over the years he held several positions within the agency, first as a recruiter, and then passing through various agency positions that ushered recruits through the selection process and finally, literally, onto the plane that would take them to their assignments.  He then moved to the Africa region in 1998, from which he retired in 2003 after acting as Deputy Chief of Operations  as  of that office for a year.  Ralph is a composer and singer who has performed his songs in various venues in Boston and Washington, D.C.  He lives in Arlington, VA, with Steve Hopkins, his partner of 29 years. Ralph’s blog is Notes from the Rainbow Room.

Karen DeWitt (Ethiopia 1966–68) taught seconday school TESL in Ghion, Ethiopia. Karen is a kdewittwriter/producer, and has been a staff writer for The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and a senior producer at ABC’s “Nightline.”Karen is also a great cook — years ago she had her own TV cooking show called “Hot Off The Press” in DC. She was a contributor to Peace Corps: The Great Adventure [Peace Corps/USGPO, 1997, 1999]. Karen’s blog is I Don’t Speak Cuisine.

John F. Fanselow served as a Peace Corps Volunteer with the first group to go to Nigeria from 1961 to 1963. fanselow-jHe then worked with Peace Corps Volunteers for two years as a Contractor’s Overseas Representative from Teachers College, Columbia University in Somalia from 1966 to 1968, as an in-service trainer in Togo, The Ivory Coast and Senegal, and then as a trainer at TC for groups going to Africa. He earned his Ph.D. at TC and was then invited to join the faculty there. In 1987 he started an off-campus M.A. Program in Tokyo for Columbia University, Teachers College in 1987 grew out of work he had been doing with teachers in Japan. After becoming Professor Emeritus at TC in 1996, John was invited to become president of a private tertiary institution in New Zealand. Nine years later he left that institution, and returned to Japan where he is a visiting professor at Akita International University.

His book publications include Breaking Rules: Generating and Exploring Alternatives in Language Teaching (Longman, 1987), Contrasting Conversations: Activities for Exploring Our Beliefs and Teaching Practices (Longman, 1992) and Try the Opposite (SIMUL, 1992). His book titled Huh?. . . Oh. . . . Aha! . . .: Activities for Student Centered Learning is to be published this year. John’s blog is You Call Yourself a Teacher?!

Mark Fullmer (Philippines 2010-2012) is currently serving as a teacher of fullmer-mEnglish language fluency in one of the largest batches of Peace Corps Volunteers assigned to the Philippines. Prior to service, Mark lived across the United States, finding employ as a construction worker, musician, nightwatchman, hotel receptionist, and college writing instructor. He is the author of the poetry collection, Tweet, Tweet: a mysticotelegraphic fistbump panegyric to the American open road odyssey [Mutual Respect Books 2009], a story collection, On the Beautiful Sea [CreateSpace 2008], and a novel, 1337: A Game Novel [Facebook 2010], which details the great American subculture of videogaming. His writing and music can be found at Mark’s blog is Peace Corps in the 21st Century.

Don Gayton did small-scale agricultural extension in Colombia, with the objective of gayton-d1improving nutrition. He worked for a year in a very remote jungle area; he thinks the Peace Corps sent him there because he was disruptive during Training. The Choco was a fascinating experience, but certainly no place to practice small-scale agriculture since the local folks were very well fed already. For my second year I lived in a village in the Andean coffee zone, and worked with small farmers and their families, encouraging market gardens. It was a thrill to see the moms and children come — for the first time — to the Saturday markets as sellers, rather than just buyers.

He became a Canadian citizen in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, and live in the British Columbia Interior.

Don  works as a grassland ecologist, and has written six books of non-fiction, mostly on natural subjects. The most recent book is Okanagan Odyssey: Journeys through Terrain, Terroir and Culture published by Rocky Mountain Books in May of 2010. Don’s blog is Man Facing West.

Rajeev Goyal (Nepal 2001–03)  graduated from Brown University in 2001 goyal-rwith a degree in English Literature, and was sent to Namje village in the eastern hills of Nepal to teach English.  The village suffered from an incapacitating water shortage.  Each day beginning at 4 AM, entire families including small children walked down the steep mountainside to the river to collect water.  Many of the women made the 2-hour journey 5 to 6 times each day.  Determined to help, Rajeev traveled back home, raised nearly $50,000 from a group of Indian doctors on Long Island, and helped construct a two-stage water pumping system that supplies clean water to 800 people.

After Peace Corps, Rajeev raised over $250,000 for a new school, and water and environment projects for Nepal, travelling  back over 10 times.  He did this while in law school.

For the past 22 months, Rajeev has worked full-time to expand the Peace Corps.  He has organized thousands of RPCVs, met with hundreds of Capitol Hill staff, sought out Peace Corps champions in Congress, and conducted a campaign that will grow the Peace Corps FY 2010 budget significantly. Today, he is the coordinator of the Campaign. Rajeev’s blog is Push for Peace Corps.

Harlan Green (Turkey 1964–66) was part of Turkey V, a rural community development group and hgreenworked in the western Turkish village of Ismet Pasha on livestock, poultry and irrigation projects.  Ismet Pasha was settled by Bulgarian Turks after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire in the 1920s. Harlan is an economist who has been a syndicated financial columnist for 10 years, and publishes weekly financial columns in the Santa Barbara News-Press, Santa Barbara’s daily newspaper. Harlan’s blog is Your Money: Popular Freakonomics.

Jennifer Meleana Hee (Bulgaria, 2004–07) left paradise in her mid-20s and moved hee-jto post-Communist Eastern Europe, where she said good-bye to her bikini, and hello to her new best friend — the space heater. In Bulgaria, she worked as a Youth Development Volunteer for a Roma (gypsy) NGO and Orphan Sponsorship International. She extended her Peace Corps service, and then left during her third year, having fallen in love on Myspace dot com. Three years later, she can now say this with a straight face.

Currently, Jenn is a natural foods cook/baker by day and writer/editor by night. She is the editor of the Hawaii Women’s Journal, travel columnist for Chromatic Magazine, and has been published in Worldview Magazine, The Smart Set, and innov8. She is a rock climber, Existentialist, and the proud owner of the only Bulgarian street dog in Hawaii. Jenn’s blog is Post-PCV, Post-Feminist!

Will Jordan (Senegal 1971–72, Liberia 1972) taught English as a foreign language in the Peace Corps. After PC service, he continued jordan-wthrough the ’70s teaching as an illegal alien in Paris and then in Arabia, Iran and UAE while intermittently being in the US and getting a MA at Syracuse and playing professional soccer. After several NFL training camps, Will received his Ph.D. in second language reading in technical fields and became part of that subclass at universities — the adjunct professor. With the lingering death of his wife, Will’s lifelong interest in metaphysics came to the fore and he shifted from university teaching to energy work and healing. His book The Incarnation of CatMan Billy explores the notion of coming back in a different body to see life from a new perspective — lightly, seriously, joyfully, but most of all — hopefully — as a good read. Will’s blog is On the Road with CatMan Billy.

Cristina O’Keeffe (Ukraine from 2003–05) was an Economic Development Volunteer. okeeffe-cShe obtained funding, designed, implemented and conducted trainings for the Youth Leadership Program, with over 50 university students and 100 children participating.  She taught marketing, public relations and creative writing at local schools, universities and institutions throughout Lviv. She founded the Lviv Youth Hostelling Association (LYHA) bringing the first youth hostel to the city of Lviv, and authored The Personal Guide to Lviv published in 2005 as fundraising enterprise.

As a creative writer, Cristina has had numerous poems and essays published online and in print. Most recently, her essay “Mama Esta Trabajando (Mommy is Working)” appeared in the 2009 anthology Chicken Soup for the Soul:  Power Moms. Her non-fiction book, Finding Francis, was published in 2003.  She is currently working on two major creative projects:  a poetry chapbook entitled Bunny was a Horse, and a full-length fiction book called Letters to Helen.

Currently, Cristina is a professional copywriter. She runs LookOut Communications, which helps small business transform their visions into words.  She lives in Stewart Manor, NY with her husband, Thomas, and two daughters. Cristina’s blog is The Arts: Writing Right.

Susan O’Neill (Venezuela 1973–74), is the author of Don’t Mean Nothing: Short Stories of soneillViet Nam (UMass Press, 2004), a collection based on her stint as an army nurse during the Viet Nam war. She edits Vestal Review, a literary magazine for flash/sudden fiction. Her essay blog and some of her fiction and non-fiction can be found from her home page at Susan is a photographer in addition to being a writer. You can see her black and white prints at her site. She and her fellow military and Peace Corps veteran husband live in the fantastic foreign land of Brooklyn, New York. Susan’s blog is Humor: Off the Matrix.

Doane Perry (Uganda 1966–69)  was a secondary school teacher of African history and world history in English [the dperrynational language] at two schools one in the bush and one in the capital of Uganda, and worked on rewriting the Uganda early history curriculum. In his off hours he created and edited a Uganda Peace Corps Volunteer magazine, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and sailed in a dow to Zanzibar. Upon returning to the U.S., Doane earned a doctorate in visual anthropology in 1976 and has been collecting and keeping track of Peace Corps Film since the early 1990s when he organized a film festival for the Boston Area Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. He has been a leader of: the Boston RPCV group, Friends of Uganda, the National Peace Corps Association and RPCVs for Environment and Development. He has worked in education and in the computer industry and is now an innkeeper in Massachusetts. Doane’s blog is The Arts: Film.

Hugh Pickens (Peru 1970–73) is a physicist who has explored for oil in the Amazon jungle, pickens-hcrossed the empty quarter of Saudi Arabia installing microwave communications systems, built satellite control stations for NASA all over the world, and has retired in his hometown of Ponca City, Oklahoma where he cultivates his square foot garden, and photographs local events.

Since 2001 Hugh has edited and published “Peace Corps Online.” His other writing accomplishments include contributing over 900 stories to “Slashdot: News for Nerds,” and articles for Wikipedia and “Ponca City, We Love You.” Hugh’s blog is “Hugh Pickens Writes Writes.”

Joanne Roll was a Health Education/Rural Community Development Volunteer in Colombia from 1963 to 1965. She worked with a Colombian nurse and indigenous midwives to develop an UNICEF sponsored Maternal Education program. The nurse taught the midwives basic hygiene and safe practices. The midwives and she then taught the same course to pregnant women. She and her site partner also worked in other health education programs.

When Joanne returned to the US, she worked briefly in Washington DC in a low-level position at the Office of Economic Opportunity, but fled that city for the mountains of the West. She did graduate work at the University of New Mexico in Latin American Studies with an emphasis on Anthropology, and then earned a Masters in Public Administration. Joanne’s main career focus was as a caseworker and rehabilitation manger for agencies serving the developmentally disabled; subsequently she retired to raise her family.

After decades she is once more interested in all things Peace Corps — what it was and what it might become. She has searched for Peace Corps public records in many places, and it is this research she hopes to share. Joanne’s blog is Peace Corps: Public Records

David Sears taught English in a high school and then a teacher training college in Morocco with the Peace sears-dCorps. He stayed on in Morocco with USAID and PC Training for a couple more years and, following his return to the US and an MBA degree, worked in international development for many years, focusing on small business development and management training. He started Cambridge Data Systems to provide on-line tools for recruitment for development projects in 1997 and continues to manage that enterprise. In all his jobs he has spent many, many hours reading resumes and, though he can’t help with interviews, networking, or actual work, he has learned a lot over the years about what makes a good (or bad) resume. David lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with his wife and two daughters. His blog is Talking Resumes.

Okolo Schwinn-Clanton was introduced to the Peace Corps before he was even born. schwinn-clanton-oHis Father, Gerald Schwinn, served in the Peace Corps in Nigeria from 1963 to 1965 and taught English. It was there that Gerry read a book entitled “Okolo, boy of Nigeria” to his students. When his son was born, the name was already picked.

Okolo has many years of experience as a Financial Representative with Northwestern Mutual Financial Network. He also has experience as a personal trainer at the well known Gold’s Gym. Okolo’s vision for Financial Fitness is to be able to work out with people, while discussing finances. He is available for consultations on either/both topics, just email him at

searles-dP. David Searles served three years as the Country Director for the Peace Corps in the Philippines from 1971 to 1974, and then spent two years at Peace Corps headquarters as Regional Director for North Africa, Near East, Asia, and Pacific (NANEAP) and as Deputy Director of the agency under John Dellenback (1974–76). His career has included periods during which he worked in international business, government service and education. Following the end of his business career in 1990 David earned a Ph. D. from the University of Kentucky (1993), and published two books: A College For Appalachia (1995) and The Peace Corps Experience (1997), both published by The University Press of Kentucky. His blog is Remembering the ’70s.

Mishelle Shepard (Czech Republic 1994–96) taught English at Gymnazium in Cheb, Czech Republic as a Peace Corps shepard-mVolunteer and later went back to the country to teach at Charles University in Prague. Her experiences during these years sparked a fascination with self-sufficiency which blossomed into many more years of overseas work and travel in order to discover what drives the life and work of those in less consumer-oriented cultures than her own. She has an MA in French Literature and has been working as a contract instructor, teaching mainly French and ESOL for fifteen years and began freelance writing a decade ago. As a ghostwriter and in her own name she has had books and articles published on topics as diverse as personal financial planning and topless sunbathing in Thailand. Her latest adventure is by far the most challenging of all, homesteading , which as a total novice offers a learning curve so steep it will require her passionate devotion for the rest of her days. Mishelle’s blog is Homesteading: Starting from Scratch.

Jennifer Williams (Ghana 2005–07) taught visual art and vocational calabash williams-jart at Wa School for the Deaf. Besides teaching, she helped her school generate income for the art program through the sale of student artwork, and traveled around Ghana apprenticing herself to local craftspeople in order to learn how to properly teach the craft of calabash art, eventually putting together a manual on the subject. She also read lots and lots of books, shared quarters with two half-wild cats and a black widow spider (all poor housemates), joined a women’s group, and was taught the only correct way to eat a groundnut, cut grass, swallow fufu and sweep her room. She put down some of her observations in a series of paintings on gourds depicting Ghanaian women and girls, several of which have been displayed in juried shows in Virginia and New York. In the summer of 2008, she returned to Ghana and began a storybook project with a Ghanaian friend and fellow artist, a work in progress.

Jennifer holds a degree in fine art and English from Southern Adventist University in Tennessee, and an MFA in illustration from School of Visual Arts in New York City. She is currently working on several writing and illustration projects, teaching, and volunteering with the deaf community in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Examples of her artwork can be seen on her website She also maintains a sketch blog

Jennifers blog is The Arts: Art = 1,000 Words

Contact us at . . .
. . . peacecorpsworldwide [at] gmail [dot] com

To place an ad on Peace Corps Worldwide.

To have work considered for publication on Peace Corps Worldwide (PCVs and RPCVs only).

Submit a brief description of your article or proposal for an article.
Include your name, phone number and country and years of Peace Corps service.
All submissions must be electronic.
Decisions on actual publication of an article will be made once the piece has been received and reviewed.
You will be notified if your submission is accepted.
To have a book considered for review in the Peace Corps Writers blog:
Send a copy of the book, along with your mailing address, email address, phone number, and country and years of Peace Corps service to:
John Coyne, 99 Reed Avenue, Pelham Manor NY 10803.

A word of caution — we do not guarantee that your book will receive a positive review. If it should turn out that you are not happy with the review of your book we will not make alterations in the published review, we will simply remove the review and any mention of the book on the site.

To announce the publication of your new book in the Peace Corps Writers blog (RPCVs and PCVS only), send the following (your book will not be listed unless all information is provided):

full title + sub-title of the book if there is one
your full name
your country and years of Peace Corps service
co-authors, illustrators
month and year of publication
price of book
ISBN number
How book can be purchased online if not available at Amazon


About rictandag @rictandag @LVHelpGro Returned U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer, Tandag, Surigao del Sur, Republic of the Philippines 1979-1980; Financial Management training Program [FMP], G.E., Appliance Park, Louisville, Kentucky 1981-1982 Champion [two days] Jeopardy 1986 Attorney, Los Angeles, CA 1989-1995 Disabiility Rights Attorney,, Las Vegas 1998-1999 Immigration Asylum Attorney, throughout the State of Kansas 1999-2001 Supply Logistics Specialist, UPS Las Vegas, 2006- present [business] advocate for: [Gawad Kalinga, tagalog for "to give care"]
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