Empress is a women’s peer support group for female Peace Corps Volunteers currently serving in Jamaica. This group offers a judgement free, open forum space to commune with fellow Peace Corps Volunteers to discuss and manage women’s challenges during service. Some issues include managing gender roles, expectations and perceptions, unwanted attention and catcalling, and maintaining optimum health and wellness. We share information through monthly newsletters / emails to current female Peace Corps Volunteers, regional link ups, and bi-annual weekend retreats.
I serve on the Empress Board for 2017-2019 as the Resource Coordinator responsible for communications and (surprise) coordinating resources. Every month we reach out to current female Peace Corps Volunteers for recommendations for our monthly email / newsletter. These can come in the form of websites, good news, books, music, movies, podcasts, self care tips, journaling, and other stress coping mechanisms uplift and inspire fellow female Peace Corps Volunteers. Then each month I put these recommendations together and send them out as our monthly newsletter.
To give friends, family, and possibly returned, current, or potential Peace Corps Volunteers a peek into what Empress is about and share these recommendations with a wider audience, I’ll be posting these monthly newsletters to my blog as well! Identifying information for volunteers will be removed and their name will be replaced with “a Peace Corps Volunteer” for anonymity and privacy of the volunteers that contribute to the newsletter. I hope you enjoy our monthly resource email! Here is the 1st one of 2018:
Happy New Year Empresses,
We hope you all had a fulfilling and relaxing holiday season.
This month’s music recommendations are “Quiet” by MILCK and Rhiannon Giddons’s Freedom Highway album.
“Quiet” by MILCK: The Los Angeles based singer and other women sang this empowering song against sexual assault and abuse during the Women’s March on Washington DC at the beginning of 2017. Her song about refusing to stay silent about abuse turned out to be a prescient chorus for what would unfold throughout the year.
Rhiannon Giddons’s Freedom Highway album: The songs in this album trace the history of African American history and culture via stories starting with slavery, moving through Jim Crow, the great migration, the civil rights era, and all the way up to the present and Black Lives Matter movement. Listen to the song “Freedom Highway”, which is the title track for the album.
For reading as a stress coping mechanism this month, we recommend the book: “Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. A Peace Corps volunteer says, “I know a lot of people have already read it, but I really liked “Eat Pray Love”.. I’ve been finding difficulty finding balance in my personal and PCV life. The author’s search for pleasure, devotion, and then balance resonated with me because our life here is full of many extremes. She helped me see that sometimes you just need to take time with yourself to figure out just what you need in your life.” Find out more about the book here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19501.Eat_Pray_Love
For podcasts as a coping mechanism, we recommend the podcast “Pod Save the People” which focuses on social activism issues. A Peace Corps volunteer told us that she really appreciates how each episode starts with positivity, which is so important in these politically and socially divisive and difficult times. Women’s issues are intermingled throughout the episodes. Listen to the podcast and find out more here: https://crooked.com/podcast-series/pod-save-the-people/
This month’s self care tip is simple – Sleep In! Take the opportunity at least once this month to turn off all Saturday or Sunday morning alarms and sleep until your body and mind feel fully rested and ready to get up. Pro-tip: get to bed at a reasonable time and wind down by turning off all electronics 30 minutes prior to sleep, instead choose to read and/or do some gentle stretching before bed. Read about some surprising benefits of sleep here: http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20459221,00.html#spur-creativity-0
Our featured news story is “Cat Person”. It’s a recent short story published by the New Yorker that has spurred a lot of conversation about women dating in today’s world and the need for them to tend to men’s egos and not be difficult. Read more here: www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/12/11/cat-person
On the first day of 2018, Iceland passed a law to make it illegal to pay men more than women. Read more about it here: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/01/iceland-country-legalise-equal-pay-180101150054329.html
As 2017 came to a close, Barack Obama tweeted a series of good news stories from throughout the year. Follow his tweets and those stories here: https://twitter.com/BarackObama/status/946775615893655552
This month’s instagram highlight is Mujeres de Maiz – their instagram highlights art by women of color and has affirmations and good news to empower diverse women and girls. As stated on their website, “the mission of Mujeres de Maiz (women of the corn) is to bring together and empower diverse women and girls through the creation of community spaces that provide holistic wellness through education, programming, exhibition and publishing. As an inter-cultural, intergenerational and interdisciplinary collective they have made that space from the stage to the page, the gallery to the streets, and ceremony and wellness world for women of color by sharing their own specific blend of mind, body, spirit and cultural work.”
Their instagram handle is @mujeresdemaiz. You can also follow them on facebook and check out their website.
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in the US! In 2012, Barack Obama declared January the National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. The Blue Heart campaign is a global awareness raising initiative to fight human trafficking and its impact on society. Read about the Blue Heart campaign here: https://www.unodc.org/blueheart/en/-join-the-blue-heart-campaign.html
Read about the Blue Heart campaign in Jamaica here: http://www.jm.undp.org/content/jamaica/en/home/ourwork/gender/blue-heart-campaign.html
January is also Hot Tea month! So take a chance to cozy up with a cup of your favorite tea this month. Tea has many healthy benefits. It contains antioxidants and studies have shown that drinking tea may reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. Read more about the health benefits of tea here: https://www.today.com/series/one-small-thing/top-10-health-benefits-drinking-tea-t81111
~ Your Empress Board