The History of Friends of Colombia
Friends of Colombia (FOC) first began to form in 1988 when Tom Bauder, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) from one of the earliest volunteer cohorts, gathered other Colombia RPCVs who were attending the 25th anniversary of the Peace Corps in Washington D.C. This gathering initiated a chain reaction of letters, phone calls, and informal meetings that slowly led to the creation of the organizational by-laws, allowing Friends of Colombia to be incorporated in Maryland as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in December 1990.
The creation and initial growth of FOC was led by Tom and fellow RPCVs Bob Colombo, Pat Wand, Ruth Ann Gieser, and Gale Gibson. In 2001, Arleen Cheston was elected to replace Bob as board president, and Arleen and fellow RPCV Pat Wand, along with several others, took FOC into a new direction through the sponsorship of community-based projects and organizations in Colombia. FOC was also instrumental in reestablishing the Peace Corps in Colombia in 2010.
The committed group of individuals listed above, many of whom still serve as advisors, sought to take FOC into a new phase through recruitment of a younger generation of RPCVs who had served more recently in the country. Their recruitment was successful and Michael Band, RPCV from 2011-2013, was elected as the new president in 2019.