Introducing Peace Corps Community Connect—an effort to connect, inform, and engage the Peace Corps community like never before.
By Marieme Foote, Caitlin Nemeth, and Molly O’Brien
Illustration by Forum One
The past year has underscored just how crucial the experience of Peace Corps service is, as are the values that it instills. Recent months have also driven home the fact that we need to connect, inform, and engage our community like never before. Which is why National Peace Corps Association has launched Peace Corps Community Connect.
As part of that team, we’re already partnering with groups of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and individual community members to find fellow RPCVs from their country of service. One goal is to connect our robust and active community and, in this time of social distancing, host virtual events, hear and better understand the impact of service on us and our communities — whether that service took place decades ago or was brought to an abrupt end last year.
At a time when it’s important to amplify our voices, Peace Corps Community Connect is also intended to link the entire Peace Corps community and bring change-makers together to engage on key issues like accessible healthcare, racial justice, and climate change. Lessons in the value of community are something learned by Volunteers who have served around the globe.
The 60th anniversary of the Peace Corps is a time for celebration. And it’s a time to commit to shaping a better future together. This year will be crucial for advocating for the reimagining and retooling of the Peace Corps for a changed world, and ensuring more meaningful positive and sustainable impact here at home.
As community outreach specialists, we’re working to connect 250,000 members of the greater Peace Corps community. For Marieme Foote, this work is shaped in part by her experience being evacuated from Benin in March. For her, it will help ensure we can build a better and stronger Peace Corps. Together with other evacuated Volunteers, she has advocated for greater support to Volunteers more broadly, and she has appreciated the sense of community she has experienced since returning.
For Caitlin Nemeth, who completed her service in The Gambia in 2019, the stories and insights from Volunteers and staff who went through the evacuation last spring have struck a chord. As Meg Holladay put it in the summer 2020 edition of WorldView, speaking of the work she was doing in Ghana: “Peace Corps work is so powerful because it’s work we do together with our communities, based on their priorities.” That sense of community-driven work carries into the efforts of Peace Corps Community Connect.
At a time of isolation that has lasted months, Molly O’Brien, who served both in Jordan and Thailand, has taken comfort in reconnecting with fellow RPCVs. It reminds her that a support network is always nearby: a place to share memories and experiences, and to find camaraderie with Volunteers from many generations and all walks of life.
We have already begun working with groups of returned Volunteers and former staff from around the world, helping them broaden and deepen their connections. We’ve been working with groups connected to countries including Guyana and Pakistan, Kenya and Kiribati, Vanuatu and Sudan. In the months ahead, we’ll be working with groups connected to every country where Peace Corps has served. As we do that, it’s with a clear awareness of this fact: Together we are stronger.