by Thomas 'Skip' Mark, T-8
On behalf of the newly elected Executive Committee and Board of Directors, I would like to thank you for your interest in Friends of Turkmenistan. I am writing this letter to update you on the current state of affairs of the organization, to share with you our strategic plan for 2010, and to describe to you the benefits of becoming a member.
At the end of 2009, the future of Friends of Turkmenistan looked grim. The Board seeing indications of a lack of interest in the organization began to discuss the possibility of dissolution. The indicators that worried them included a sharp decline in membership, a lack of donations, and a tepid response to announcements for new elections. However, as word spread about dissolution, members and prospective members began engaging in a constructive discussion about the future viability of the organization.
Three basic conclusions came out of that discussion. First, the organization’s problems were not a result of a lack of need for organizations that promoted Turkmenistan. Second, the organization suffered from a lack of focus, such that prospective members were not aware of the benefits of membership. Third, there was sufficient interest and commitment by members and prospective members to refocus the organization so that it achieved the goals set out in its mission statement. As a result, a decision was made to begin the process of refocusing the organization and to elect new leaders.
Since that decision was made, I have seen tremendous progress and commitment in a very short period of time. In the last month, we have recruited and elected a new Executive Committee and Board of Directors; have discussed a strategic plan for 2010; have organized a small projects committee to develop a strategy for selecting and funding a small project in Turkmenistan; have redesigned the website and designed a new blog; and have organized social events in Boston, Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C.
Thanks to the commitment and vision of our Committee and Board, these are just the first steps in establishing Friends of Turkmenistan as an effective, member-driven organization that assists its members in maintaining an active connection to Turkmenistan. We also plan to facilitate that connection in the following ways:
First, and foremost, our main goal for 2010 is to select and fund a small project in Turkmenistan. As a member-driven organization, all members will have input in project selection, and are free to participate in the project to the extent possible. However, even if you have no time to contribute to the project, your member dues will directly contribute to our ability to achieve this goal. We plan to keep you up to date with the progress of our project through the website and blog, and envision this being an interactive project for members.
Second, we plan to foster each member’s involvement in a third goal project. Currently, we have the tools to organize and promote third goal projects on our website, blog, and facebook group pages. We also plan to assemble a Turkmenistan cultural box that will be available to our members to utilize in third goal presentations about Turkmenistan. Finally, we plan to serve as a liaison to NPCA so that our members are aware of all opportunities to engage in nationally organized programs like Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary.
Third, we plan to keep you apprised of current events in Turkmenistan. Currently, you can link to Turkmenistan news directly from our Website. We also plan to keep you informed of any major developments in Turkmenistan, as well as any new sources for news and analysis on Turkmenistan. Further, if you are searching for information of a more local variety, we offer that information on our new Camel Spit Blog.
Fourth, we plan to connect new Peace Corps volunteers to our current network of RPCVs. As part of this process, we plan to communicate with Peace Corps to host a staging event prior to the new group’s departure in March. We will also continue to use our website and our blog to provide helpful information for new volunteers and their families.
Finally, we hope to serve as a conduit to meeting and keeping in contact with individuals who share your connection to Turkmenistan, whether they be RPCVs or Turkmen nationals. We hope to accomplish this by keeping our social networking sites active and by organizing occasional social events like those of the past week. As we continue to grow, and as members become more active, we plan to host events in other cities, post pictures on our websites, and plan more wide-ranging programs.
Thank you for your time in reading this letter. I hope that you will take some additional time to visit our revamped website at www.friendsofturkmenistan.org and activate your membership. Friends of Turkmenistan is your organization, and will only achieve its full potential with an active and strong base of dues paying members. I believe that the strengths of a member driven organization is that its leaders ultimately act at the will of its members, and welcome your feedback and input on our strategic plan and any other issues that you feel that we should address.
Thomas ‘Skip’ Mark (T-8, Chardjew, 1999-2001)
President, Friends of Turkmenistan