2013 Year in Advocacy – National Peace Corps Association’s Top Ten
By Jonathan Pearson on Monday, January 6th, 2014
Happy 2014! As the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) Advocacy program turns its attention to the year ahead, we take a look back at progress and accomplishments during 2013. Our top ten list – in no particular order – appears below.
Enjoy this look back and make sure you and others you know are signed up to get our monthly advocacy updates and action alerts.
- Closing in on Commemorative Passage: Less than 100 bills passed the Congress in 2013. But as 2014 begins, one bill that is very close to final passage is Peace Corps Commemorative legislation. The Senate, led by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mark Udall (D-OR) moved swiftly to unanimously pass a bill by June. In the House, similar legislation was the first bill introduced by freshman Congressman (and Dominican Republic RPCV) Joseph Kennedy (D-MA). By the end of the year, the legislation was unanimously passed by the House Natural Resources Committee. The last step for final congressional approval is a vote by the full House of Representatives.
- Record House Signatures for Peace Corps Funding: Despite significant pressure to reduce deficits and cut federal spending, the Peace Corps continues to fare relatively well, in no small part to the efforts of advocates around the country. One way this is demonstrated is through the annual Peace Corps funding “Dear Colleague” letter introduced by Colombia RPCV Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA) and the four other House RPCVs in Congress. Once again in 2013, a record number of Congressmen/women – 142 – signed onto to Congressman Farr’s letter. Many of them signed thanks to many members of the Peace Corps community who asked for their support.
- Biggest Day of Action: Our annual National Day of Action – which coincides with Peace Corps Week – continues to grow. As more and more people take collective action from their homes on or about March 1st, our Capitol Hill presence increased as well, with more than 90 advocates representing 25 states and the District of Columbia in attendance. These individuals participated in 150 meetings with congressional offices, and dropped materials off to all 535 Senate and House offices to urge support for strong Peace Corps funding and other Peace Corps legislation. Mark your calendars as our 10th Annual National Day of Action is scheduled to take place on Thursday, February 27th. Contact us now if you plan to come to Washington and be part of the Capitol Hill advocacy team!
- Growing on the Home Front Too! Along with Capitol Hill advocacy, 2013 marked continued
development and growth of advocacy initiatives at the district office level. For the third year in a row, we coordinated district office meetings during August and September. We know of at least 53 meetings that were held (a new record). One direct impact of these meetings was securing an additional 18 co-sponsors on Peace Corps related legislation.
- Kenya Doctor Promotes Peace Corps: Our advocacy did not only entail future or Returned Peace Corps Volunteers sharing their stories with Congress. In June, a full day of Capitol Hill meetings featured Dr. Mahammud Said, the 2013 winner of the Harris Wofford Award Global Citizen Award. Dr. Said, who provides a wide range of health and humanitarian services to his native country and elsewhere around the world, credits Peace Corps Volunteers with playing a role in his commitment to serving others. Ethiopia RPCV Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) wrote an opinion piece in The Hill newspaper following his visit.
- Fighting for Equitable Treatment: In 2012, when Congress passed defense legislation which allowed military servicewomen support should they choose to terminate a pregnancy that resulted from rape, that left Peace Corps Volunteers standing alone as virtually the only individuals serving our country who would not receive similar support. To fix this inequity, the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced the Peace Corps Equity Act of 2013. By year’s end, roughly 2,000 RPCVs signed a Statement of Support urging Congress to fix the inequity. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) assumed leadership on the legislation following Senator Lautenberg’s death. At the end of the year 28 Senators had co-sponsored the legislation. Language that would authorize the legislative fix was included in a Senate appropriations bill, but not the House. At
year’s end it remained to be determined if the language would be included in final congressional approval.
- Peace Corps Caucus Forms: An overseas trip with Acting Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet and a number of members of Congress triggered conversation about the formation of a Peace Corps Caucus. As he often does, Peace Corps champion and Colombia RPCV Congressman Sam Farr set the wheels in motion to create this non-binding group of lawmakers who would come together under the premise of supporting a strong and vibrant Peace Corps. By the end of 2013, more than 30 members of the House of Representatives joined the caucus, some after being asked by NPCA advocates. More work to build the caucus will be an agenda item during 2014.
- Advocacy Coordinators: NPCA’s great and growing list of volunteer Advocacy Coordinators are playing an increasingly important role in enhancing and extending our outreach to other members of the Peace Corps community. Organizing advocacy workshops, coordinating district office meetings, writing local opinion pieces and building networks of citizen-advocates are some of the many ways these fantastic volunteers are helping to strengthen our movement. Contact us if you are interested in becoming an Advocacy Coordinator in 2014!
- Trip-a-Palooza: Three Weeks. Twenty-four cities. Thirteen states. Five thousand miles! In April, NPCA Advocacy Director Jonathan Pearson embarked on his most ambitious road trip to date, to meet and hear from members of our community. Jonathan was able to meet with ten NPCA member groups, hold five workshops and directly connect with more than 300 individuals. Follow this link to see some of the photos from his trip.
- Whiteboard Advocacy: The 2013 advocacy road trip also marked the launch of “The Peace Corps Difference”, a further effort to raise the voice of the Peace Corps community and bring a face to this person-to-person advocacy. RPCVs, former staff and others wrote brief messages on whiteboards under one of three themes: “Peace Corps Matters Because ____”; “I helped ____” (highlighting an accomplishment during service); or “Because of Peace Corps _____” (highlighting a transformative experience that has occurred due to Peace Corps service. This is an ongoing project that will continue in 2014. Follow this link to view some of the messages collected so far!