The Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Wisconsin – Madison group was formed in the 1970s as a social organization. Members found camaraderie in their shared experiences. Further, Peace Corps founders had given volunteers a mission: to return to their communities and use their experiences to create understanding among people. This is known as the Third Goal. As part of early community outreach, the group established a speakers’ bureau and created and taught lessons on Latin American and African culture in Madison schools.
Freeze for Food
At the same time, members sought ways to help their Peace Corps communities, and the group has been creative in fundraising. In 1981, the first Freeze for Food walk/run in January was started. This event has raised over $63,000 for non-profits, partnering with different international development organizations, most recently with the Colombia Support Network.
In the mid-80s the group made original quilts to raffle. Members who served in Brazil brought a Brazilian medical doctor they knew to the U.S. to study chiropractic. The group held themed events at the Cardinal Bar. An Ecuadorian farmer came to stay with members while he studied at the University.
The International Calendar
Then in 1987 the group came up with an idea to use the photographs members had taken: a calendar to show off the interesting places they had visited, featuring holidays from around the world. In 1988, 2,000 calendars were printed, with photos contributed by returned volunteers and world travelers from across the globe. More than 35,000 were printed in 2010. With 2013 sales, the group has raised over 1.1 million dollars. Funds are donated to Peace Corps Volunteer projects, local groups doing international awareness work, and to group-building for other returned volunteers.
‘we all’ Poster Project
Members began the we all poster project in 2009. This series of poster sets illustrate shared experiences throughout the world. They are used as multicultural teaching tools in K-12 settings, libraries, and EFL/ESL classrooms worldwide, with sales of over $35,000. Colorful, attractive, and intriguing, they are used to stimulate discussion about worldwide differences and commonalities.
While the group has a remarkable fund-raising history, the theme of sharing world experiences is never forgotten. Projects aim to connect our community with the world, to encourage exploration and discovery of shared experiences as well as what is special in each culture. As part of our local community, we participate in neighborhood festivals, at Overture Center events, at the Fair Trade Festival, and at such UW-Madison events as the World Music and Children’s Festivals. Members volunteer with organizations throughout Dane County.