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National Days of Advocacy: Voices from a Team of Peace Corps Advocates

On Capitol Hill Advocacy Day, a team of five RPCVs visited six congressional offices to urge lawmakers to support the Peace Corps. Hear what they had to say about why they advocate for the Peace Corps.

By Tiffany James

 

As part of NPCA’s National Days of Advocacy 2023, 120 Peace Corps advocates from 30 states and the District of Columbia returned to Washington, D.C., for an in-person Capitol Hill Advocacy Day on March 9. Grouped into 27 teams, the advocates spent about eight hours meeting with more than 160 congressional offices in support of the Peace Corps. Among the groups was Team 18, which included Flavio Cabrera (Peru 2019–21), Kerry Miller (Belize 2019–20), Jean Wintemute (Costa Rica 1980–83), and Meredith Martin (Eastern Caribbean 2000–02). They were led by team lead Athena Fulay (Uzbekistan 1999–2001), who has over two decades of experience working in the District and currently serves as the Fulbright Scholar Program Outreach & Recruitment Manager for the Institute of International Education. The members of Team 18 focused their efforts on speaking with their representatives for Texas and Tennessee — meeting with staff from the offices of Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Bill Hagerty (R-TN) as well as Representatives John Carter (R-TX) and David Kustoff (R-TN). Throughout the day, some members of Team 18 spoke with NPCA staff to share the Peace Corps issues they were advocating for during their in-person meetings. Read what they had to say below.

The members of Team 18 meet with a staffer from the office of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).


Meredith Martin

Peace Corps Service: Eastern Caribbean 2000–02
Constituent’s State: Tennessee
Advocacy Issue: Increased Peace Corps Funding

What Peace Corps issue are you advocating for today?
Martin: I’m advocating for expanded funding for the Peace Corps. There’s no better time in the world right now for Americans to step up and renew their leadership in the world. And one of the best ways to do that is in communities, working with people, truly understanding their needs, and allowing us to make a difference in the world.

How’s your experience been so far today?
Martin: I did not know what to expect coming today. I was nervous and anxious, but also excited. National Peace Corps Association has done a great job with all of the briefings to make sure we know what we’re talking about to know how to approach things. I’m so thankful that I came today. It reminds me of one of our goals of the Peace Corps, which is to bring back our experiences from the countries in which we served to make a difference in our country.

Is there any memorable moment that you can think of today, any memorable meeting?
Martin: It was really interesting meeting with the staff of the senators from my home state, though I’ve never really done that before. It was eye-opening to me on how you do impact, you do have a voice, and how you can impact what’s going on, what impacts your state, what impacts our country by just taking the time to have conversations with people.

Is there any memorable moment you want to share about your Peace Corps experience, in general?
Martin: I’m so thankful, and I feel so lucky that I did the Peace Corps. I served at a really interesting time in the world. I was halfway through my service when the September 11 attacks happened. And so on one hand, there were people that adored Americans, and then there were those that didn’t. And it was an interesting time because you felt very connected to being an American, but you also felt very connected to the communities that you were in. And I can remember one day to get to town to go grocery shopping — we’d go once a month — it was about an hour and a half bus ride to get there. And there was a guy on the bus that was saying loudly: ‘Oh, Americans got what they deserved’. I can remember being really upset, and some ladies from my village literally leaned forward, smacked him on the back of the head, and said, ‘Shut your mouth. All Americans aren’t like that’. In that moment, I knew that my job was done. I was doing my job. I was representing our country, and I had become a member of that community.


Flavio Cabrera

Peace Corps Service: Peru 2019–21
Constituent’s State: Texas
Advocacy Issue: An extra year of Non-Competitive Eligibility (NCE) Status for newly returned Volunteers
“I’m advocating for the extension for one extra year of the non-competitive eligibility status. I do believe once you return as a Peace Corps Volunteer, if we are able to have not just one year but two years of that non-competitive eligibility that will allow us more time to find a better job or to join a master’s or PhD program here in the U.S.”

 

Kerry Miller

Peace Corps Service: Belize 2019–20
Constituent’s State: Texas
Advocacy Issue: Peace Corps Reauthorization Act & Peace Corps Funding
“I’m advocating for the reauthorization of the Peace Corps so that the funding is there to put Peace Corps back in the countries that shutdown during COVID. We now have 51 countries that have Peace Corps [Volunteers] onboard and the funding will ensure that future countries will also be able to put the Peace Corps back in their field.”

 

Jean Wintemute

Peace Corps Service: Costa Rica 1980–83
Constituent’s State: Texas
Advocacy Issue: Peace Corps Reauthorization Act & Peace Corps Funding
“I’m advocating for the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act which includes many needed fixes for the Peace Corps — one is the Whistleblower Protection, and the other is to continue with the Sexual Assault Advisory Council. The other thing is for an increase in the Peace Corps budget, [which] is such a tiny part of the whole U.S. federal budget, but increasing it will mean that we can have a much better presence around the world.”

 

Watch this YouTube video where a few members of Team 18 share why they believe it’s important to urge lawmakers to support the Peace Corps.


Tiffany James is Associate Director of Strategic Communications with National Peace Corps Association. Write her here.