At conferences of global educators in the Midwest in the mid-1970s, a handful of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers discovered one another and began meeting regularly to discuss how to promote at home the values and lessons they had learned as Peace Corps Volunteers in the developing world. They adopted as their mission one of the three goals articulated by President John F. Kennedy when he created the Peace Corps in 1961: come home and teach your neighbors about the communities where you served. They gave the growing numbers of returning Peace Corps Volunteers in America a continuing mission and a communal identity as Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs).
In 1978, these global educators joined with leaders of communities of RPCVs in New York, Washington, D.C. and four others, to create the National Council of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. They elected a steering committee to coordinate another convention the following year, 1979, to set a charter for a new group named The National Council of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (incorporated 1981), and to elect its first president. In 1993, we changed our name to the more inclusive National Peace Corps Association (NPCA).
… AND BEYOND
Upon their return from overseas, RPCVs continue to receive recognition. 120,000 RPCVs accepted the Beyond War Award in 1987 in honor of their commitment to nonviolence. Through their participation in volunteer projects or other endeavors, many RPCVs remain active in the Peace Corps community today. NPCA has encouraged and recognized outstanding service by members of the Peace Corps community by awarding over 20 Sargent Shriver awards for distinguished humanitarian service. We also recognize achievements with the Loret Miller Ruppe Awards that honor outstanding community service in the US and Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
In response to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, NPCA created the Emergency Response Network (ERN) of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers willing to respond to crises when needed. Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan subsequently modeled the Crisis Corps (later renamed Peace Corps Response) after this successful program.
In 2002, NPCA was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, along with the Peace Corps.
Members of our organization continue to testify on Peace Corps legislation and key issues like safety and security, and our 2003 advocacy campaign helped garner the largest appropriation ever in Peace Corps history: $308 million for FY2004, plus another $15 million for Peace Corps HIV/ AIDS activities.
In 2005 NPCA scored a crucial and significant victory for the independence of the Peace Corps and safety of Volunteers when it successfully coordinated the removal of Peace Corps references from military recruitment legislation.
NPCA’s More Peace Corps campaign (2008-2010) for a bigger, better and bolder Peace Corps led the way in securing an increase in funding for the Peace Corps beyond the amount requested by the President, which has only happened three times in its history. This campaign involved more than 20,000 active participants.
In coordination with the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, D.C., NPCA organized 200 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to march in President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Parade on January 20, 2009.
NPCA has played an advisory role to Returned Peace Corps Volunteers seeking the return of Peace Corps programs to their countries of service, as in the recent cases of Colombia, Sierra Leone and Indonesia.
In 2009, the National Peace Corps Association launched Peace Corps Connect, a website and online social networking platform to help current and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers connect with each other and share ideas about projects, events, careers, and advocacy issues.
The same year, NPCA launched Africa Rural Connect, its online collaboration space that brings together those who have lived and worked in Africa – including the African Diaspora, rural farmers and Peace Corps volunteers – to discuss solutions to agricultural challenges in sub-Saharan Africa.
On September 20, 2011, NPCA released a report, “A Call to Peace,” on the largest independent survey ever conducted to assess the impact of the Peace Corps over its 50 year history and beyond.
In 2011, NPCA led the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps by organizing large-scale events through the year, beginning with Global House Parties around the world on March 1, 2011, 10 Expos around the United States, and culminating in a 4-day weekend of events in September 2011.