Chief Matari and Charlie Masilae Hunt

Charlie Masilae Hunt, right, and Ben Matari, chief of the village in Vanuatu where Hunt served as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

By Charlie Masilae Hunt, Rotary Club of Denver LoDo, Denver, Colorado

Imagine increasing your club membership by 50 percent in just one month. That is what my club did this past January. As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) and a member of Rotary, I have had a dream for some time now of recruiting returned Peace Corps volunteers into our club. It is a natural fit. The focuses of both organizations are almost identical. So recruiting returned volunteers is certainly logical. Our club just had an induction ceremony adding ten newly returned volunteers to our membership.

I am very active with Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Colorado, an organization that focuses on supporting newly returned volunteers, and also co-chair of District 5450’s Rotary – Peace Corps Alliance Committee, which inspires clubs to work with Peace Corps volunteers. Through those connections, I have had many conversations with returned volunteers about how Rotary can fit in with their professional development, international service, and local community service.

To my surprise, I found a number of these returned volunteers already had connections with Rotary. One of our new members was a Rotaractor. Two had received district scholarships while in college. One had received help from a Rotarian with his professional career.  One had been to Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) and served as a counselor.

I had heard from many of the returned volunteers that the difficulty in joining Rotary was typically a financial one. With that in mind, I talked to my club’s leaders about developing a satellite club under our club. We would set a different dues structure to allow for more of the returned Peace Corps volunteers to get involved with our club. Club leaders liked the idea. And so our new satellite was formed with a minimal dues structure which makes it very affordable and evening, rather than morning, meetings.

We include all of the satellite members in club committees, service projects, and club socials where our families are all invited. Two new members have connected with our district’s service efforts in water, sanitation, and hygiene. Three new members have already been in contact with our district grants chair to volunteer reviewing international service grant applications. They are willing to connect returned Peace Corps volunteers with clubs applying for grants to assist with refining their projects to have an understanding of local cultural issues.

Because of their shared mission, Rotary and the Peace Corps have a partnership agreement. You can learn more on our website, where we have created a toolbox, handouts, and videos to make it easier to leverage that partnership in your district.