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What You Can Do

by Colleen Conroy

The National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) has announced its newest Affiliate group, Peace Corps Community in Support of Refugees.  This NPCA Affiliate is promoting opportunities for returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) to volunteer their time and their talents in three major areas of refugee resettlement:

  • Support for US-based refugee resettlement;
  • Direct assistance of refugees overseas;
  • Advocacy on behalf of the national, state, and local levels.

With respect to the first bullet, the original NPCA Refugee Subcommittee determined that it would be efficient to offer RPCVs the opportunities to collaborate  in resettlement programs that are currently being implemented though the nine National Affiliate Agencies, as mandated by the State Department  (refer below for the list of the nine agencies).  The discussions to date between the National Affiliate Agencies and the NPCA Subcommittee have been extremely positive and enthusiastic.  Many of the National Affiliate Agency staff members are RPCVs and thus, are well aware of the experience and cultural awareness that RPCVs could offer the refugee population and they strongly believe that RPCVs can play a major role in refugee resettlement both in immediate and long-term activities.  The RPCVs’ assignment would depend upon the needs and focus of the collaborating National Affiliate Agency.  For example, in some cases, RPCVs might be asked to assist in isolated events, such as welcoming newly arriving refugees at the airport and/or in organizing a welcome dinner for refugee families. In other situations, RPCVs might have the opportunity for more comprehensive involvement with the refugee family, helping them settle into their new homes and new communities.

By way of example, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and NPCA have recently formed a partnership to engage RPCVs in US-based refugee resettlement efforts that extend beyond the initial 3 month resettlement period.  For RPCVs who live in the communities where HIAS is resettling refugees, RPCVs would work with one newly arrived refugee household (a  family or a group of roommates) for about a year, helping the family settle into a new  community, a new home, learn a new language, help the children enter school, and work with the parents to help them find employment.  In these situations, the HIAS RPCVs would function as both mentors and friends to these new families.  In preparation for the RPCVs collaboration, HIAS has prepared guide materials to help the RPCVs assume their multiple roles. 

The NPCA Subcommittee is currently discussing similar partnerships with United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, U.S Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and other National Affiliate Agencies and envisions the  the initiation of  these partnerships in refugee resettlement in early in January 2017 and continuing throughout the year.  As these partnerships are being developed, RPCVs and local groups are encouraged to contact the local affiliate of the resettlement agency directly.  A map and list of these affiliates can be found on our web page.  Indeed, many RPCVs and local groups are already doing this.

National Affiliate Agencies

Church World Service (CWS);

Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS)

Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC)

Hebrew Immigrant and Aid Society (HIAS)

International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS)

U.S, Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

World Relief (WR)

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