Soups for the Soul

Food brings the world together. That’s why the organization of former Peace Corps volunteers, Northern Ohio Returned Volunteers Association (NORVA), sponsors its biannual Soups of the World fundraising event, set for 6–9pm on November 11 at the Slovenian National Home aka the Nash in Slavic Village. It’s the sixth edition of the event, at which volunteers—along with members of Cleveland’s immigrant and refugee communities—share traditional soups from their countries of service or origin.

Talk to any former Peace Corps volunteer, and you’ll quickly learn what a life-changing experience their time overseas was, how it opened their eyes to new people, new ideas, and new cultures—as well as to foods. And when you undergo something that transformative, you want to share it.

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That’s what NORVA is all about. It’s one of a network of returned Peace Corps volunteer organizations across the country, dating back to the 1970s. With about 250 active volunteers, the Northeast Ohio group hosts speakers, networking opportunities, and social events. It offers an outlet for those volunteers to support one another, exchange information and ideas, and raise awareness among friends, family, and the community about the world outside the U.S.

Soups of the World attendees will receive a handcrafted ceramic bowl made by local potter Sandy Miller, who works out of the 78th Street Studios in Cleveland’s Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood. They then can choose to fill it with about a dozen soups (many vegetarian or vegan), arranged in stations representing different parts of the world.

“A volunteer who served in Ukraine said she would provide borscht,” says event chair Cinda Caldwell. “A volunteer from Georgia makes their traditional soup. We have a lot of people from Caribbean who come, and also Africa, and a lot of returned volunteers from South America , so we’ll hit all regions. The tables will be decorated with information about each country.”

The proceeds fund projects by current Peace Corps volunteers overseas in their country of service—perhaps starting a library or buying computers for a school.

“One of the goals of the Peace Corps is to bring the world back with us,” says Caldwell, who served in Uzbekistan. “No one is going to look at news from Uzbekistan and think anything about it until they have heard my stories. Then they can connect to it. We’re trying to work locally to promote awareness about other cultures.”

For more information about Soups of the World and to buy tickets, visit PeaceCorpsOhio.org.