As we prepare to blanket the nation in early March with district office meetings and other localized advocacy activities during the National Peace Corps Association's National Days of Action, featured advocates Faith and David Van Gilder will be amplifying our advocacy presence - as they have for the past several years - in northeastern Indiana.
"It's crucial that Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) make their voice heard at this key time of the year," said Faith, noting that March 1st marks the anniversary of President Kennedy's Executive Order which established the Peace Corps. "Elected officials need to hear from as many RPCVs as possible, especially now during the presidential transition and change of administration."
The Van Gilders take action in a variety of ways, including organizing letter writing gatherings. "Our gatherings in northeast Indiana are typically social, but sending letters to our elected officials gives us a tangible task that we can rally around and discuss," said David, adding that the new NPCA click-and-send software makes it easy and quick to send letters, with as much personalization as an individual chooses to make.
Preparing for March
They are also starting now to organize March district office meetings with their congressional representatives. The Van Gilders note that many members of Congress and their staff have large districts and may only be in a local office on particular days, limiting scheduling opportunities. And, when it comes to district meetings, David says the number of participants doesn't have to be great in number, especially if the group thinks strategically. "Arrange for no more than two or three RPCVs to attend, keeping in mind diversity. Do your research beforehand and learn your legislator's background, such as hometown, alma mater, family and hobbies." As an example, the Van Gilders note their new member of Congress served in the National Guard in Afghanistan. They are hoping to bring an RPCV who served in Afghanistan to their meeting.
While David and Faith experienced some differences between meetings that take place on Capitol Hill compared to back in the district, there are a number of similarities. "In both types of meetings, make sure you ask a staffer to take a photo," said Faith. "Then, share it on social media and tag the legislator. Be sure to dress professionally, arrive on time, share a personal story and emphasize the talking points supplied by the NPCA."
Advocates for the Next Generation
Why are these Indiana advocacy coordinators, these featured advocates, so generous with their time and driven to the cause? Faith and David say it's about giving back. "Serving in the Peace Corps (in Botswana in the mid 1980's) was one of the highlights of our life, and we hope thousands more Americans will be able to serve their country in a peaceful way. Our main goal as advocates is to ensure funding is adequate to keep the Peace Corps strong and relevant for many years to come!"