Michelle was born and raised in Lorain, Ohio. After graduating from Ohio State, she served as a Health Volunteer in the Guidimaxa region of Mauritania (1989-1991) and remains close with her Mauritanian counterpart who now resides in Cincinnati Ohio.
To the disappointment of her parents, she did not return home after her “close of service”, opting to assist with famine relief efforts for CARE in Chad and with Operation Provide Hope in the Siberia. After a second stint in Chad she attended the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Tulane, earning an MPH, and remained on as an Epidemiologist for the WIC Program in New Orleans.
She followed her heart back to Africa and worked for the Center for Evaluation and Population Statistics (1997-1999) in Nigeria followed by a lengthy stay in South Africa (1999 – 2008) which ended with her role as U.S. Embassy Liaison for Project Phidisa, a Clinical Trial studying HIV/AIDS management and treatment.
Michelle met Ron Branch, a native of Jacksonville, in Pretoria. After several years of a long-distance relationship they married and now both call Mandarin home. Michelle is a former Director of the Refugee Resettlement program at Catholic Charities (2008 -2018) and is grateful for the opportunity to continue to advocate on behalf of refugees as the Coordinator of First Coast Returned Peace Corps Volunteer’s signature dinner project. https://first-coast-rpcvs-npca.silkstart.com/cpages/projects
Ellen Siler had dreams of joining the Peace Corps after she finished college.
Then she got married during her sophomore year and instead of heading to some exotic foreign land ended up settling down in a small town near where her husband was born. They had two children, a house, a car and the other trappings of the American dream. They both felt like there had to be more to life.
"Then two things happened in the same week," she said.
When her husband's family suggested they pick out funeral plots, it added to the sense of being trapped in a life that wasn't their dream. And when the Peace Corps announced a new volunteer program for families, it led them to sell everything except for what could be stuffed in five duffel bags.
Within two months, Siler, her husband and their two young girls were boarding a plane, heading for Jamaica.
"I felt so alive and energized," Siler said.
What awaited them was a life that was simple and hard. And Siler says she loved every minute of it. Not everyone else had the same reaction, though. Many families got to their destination and dropped out long before the end of their two-year service, leading the Peace Corps to discontinue the family program.
The Silers stayed. Ellen taught swimming. Although Jamaica is a tropical island, at the time only 4 percent of the population knew how to swim.
When Siler returned home, she continued to serve. She has spent the last 25 years running domestic violence centers and retired as CEO of Hubbard House. And when she is asked if the Peace Corps is still relevant, she talks about the impact of working side-by-side with someone from another country, breaking down stereotypes and building relationships.
To explain the level of respect for the Peace Corps in the 1970s, she recalls what happened when they were returning from a day trip to the other side of the island.
It was a volatile period in Jamaica. With an election approaching, it was common to see tanks patrolling the streets and hear gunfire at night. On this trip they got delayed and ended up traveling at night. They entered a small town and became trapped in the middle of a political rally, with people banging on their Volkswagen Beetle, rocking it from side to side.
They rolled down the windows a crack, held out two fingers and said, "Peace Corps! Peace Corps!"
The chant was picked up by the crowd and spread, the people parting to clear a path.
Helen Covington is a founding member of FCRPCV, Inc. In fact, she was at the very first meeting at Steve Orr's house when only three of us were there. Helen served in Tunisia in the TEFL program. Upon returning to the US, she got her MBA in International Management at Thunderbird Graduate School and worked in Corporate Communications in New York. After returning to Jacksonville, graduating and and working in the culinary field, she now teaches World History in the Duval County Public Schools and runs the Great Decisions discussion group at her school helping prepare the globalist of the future. She is proud to add that one of her students is currently a Peace Corps volunteer.
Janice Miller (Jan aka Naledi) attended college at UPENN and grad school at FSU, and worked as a Clinical Psychologist in mental health clinics and for 31 years in her private practice serving children and families. Her husband died in 2007 and she retired in 2011, following a dream to join the Peace Corps. She served in the Kalahari area of Botswana working in a senior secondary school of 1300 boarding students. On her return, she continues to work part time as a consulting psychologist and continues various volunteer activities.
Christopher McMillan is a current Board Member of the FCRPCV,Inc. He served as a Rural Education Volunteer in Zambia from 2012-2014. Upon completion of his service, Christopher worked as a Program Coordinator and Associate Academic Director for an international education non-profit in Washington D.C. In 2015, Christopher moved to Jacksonville and currently teaches students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. He completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at Campbell University in North Carolina
David A. Miron is a founding member of FCRPCV,Inc. A former Volunteer Leader in Colombia, David served as Director of Planning in Peace Corps Washington. After Peace Corps service David did graduate work at Georgetown University, University of Maryland, and Harvard University. David's work career included working for two Fortune 50 companies, and a Management Consulting company. David retired to Ponte Vedra Beach in 2003. As a Board member of FCRPCV, Inc., David helps with all forms of Communications.
Member-elected: Southern Tier Division (current term ends 2020)
During my Peace Corps service I learned how chemistry principles when applied appropriately could directly improve the quality of life for the least fortunate among us. This led to my 40-year career as environmental chemist working in academia, business, and government. My work has been at the intersection of soil and water quality and conservation agriculture. In writings, teaching, and public outreach I have emphasized that sustainable food and fiber production and environmental quality are co-dependent and that wise stewardship of natural resources is a primary social responsibility. I believe that NPCA board service will be an opportunity for my continued advocacy of these principles and will provide needed support, guidance, and opportunities for growth of on-going Peace Corps programs.