Advocacy

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Congress passed the act with bipartisan support in both houses late last year. see more

    Congress passed the act with unanimous bipartisan support in both houses late last year. On January 5 President Trump signed it into law.

     By Jonathan Pearson and Steven Boyd Saum 

     
    On January 5 the Peace Corps community got some much-hoped-for good news: President Trump signed into law H.R. 7460, the Peace Corps Commemorative Work Extension Act, which extends the authority of the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation to establish a commemorative work on Federal lands in the District of Columbia to commemorate the mission of the Peace Corps and the ideals on which the Peace Corps was founded.

    Here is some background on the legislation.

      

    Congress Passed the Commemorative Time Extension

    Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA) served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Dominican Republic. After he was elected to the House of Representatives in 2012, one of the first pieces of legislation he introduced and passed provided congressional authorization for the creation of a Peace Corps Commemorative in Washington, D.C. On the afternoon of December 17, 2020, in the closing days of his fourth – and final – term in the House of Representatives, one of Congressman Kennedy’s final accomplishments included securing House passage of a time extension that will allow work on the commemorative to move forward without interruption. 

    Late on December 20, 2020, the United Sates Senate followed suit, quickly and unanimously approving the legislation.

    The Senate sponsors of companion legislation, Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) issued a press releaseafter the Senate vote, paying tribute to Peace Corps Volunteers and praising the unanimous bipartisan support for the project. “

    For more than 50 years, the Peace Corps has served as a powerful vehicle for volunteers who wish to use their talents to carry America’s humanitarian values to other parts of the world,” said Senator Portman. “By reauthorizing this project, we can ensure the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation can finish this important project and honor those Americans who have donated their time and talent to serving others. I am pleased my colleagues in the Senate passed this important legislation so that it will now be sent to the president’s desk." 

     

    Watch: “A lasting tribute” — Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA) pay tribute to the service of Peace Corps Volunteers over 60 years and ask for passage of the bill.


    The Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation has made great progress on this project, with design selection, site selection near the National Mall, and unanimous approval by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts in September on the revised design concept.
     

    Rendering of Peace Corps Commemorative at Peace Corps Park. Courtesy of Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation.

     

    “A lasting tribute to the legacy of the Peace Corps”

    Congressman Joe Kennedy’s departure marks the end of an era. Since 1947, a Kennedy has had a seat in Congress with only two brief interruptions. The first, Joe Kennedy’s great uncle John F. Kennedy, created the Peace Corps by executive order in March 1961.   

    Speaking on the House floor, Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA) noted that it is fitting for the Peace Corps Commemorative legislation to be sponsored by President Kennedy’s grand-nephew. Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) said the commemorative will serve as a “lasting tribute to the legacy of the Peace Corps.”

    On December 9, Joe Kennedy delivered his farewell remarks to the House and spoke of how it is the task of each generation to expand the meaning of “we” in the phrase “We the people,” the opening words of the U.S. Constitution. “Our future is big and bright,” Kennedy said, “bit it will take everything — and everyone — to reach it.”

    “Today the House unanimously passed a seven-year Commemorative authorization extension, among Rep. Kennedy’s final bills before ending his House term," said Roger Lewis, President of the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation. “Americans who have served as Volunteers, worked for the Peace Corps or share Peace Corps ideals and values, are profoundly grateful for Rep. Kennedy’s steadfast commitment to and support of the Peace Corps and its historic mission.”

     

    Congress Delivered a Funding Victory for the Peace Corps

    Significantly, Congress delivered a funding victory for Peace Corps in December as well: holding steady on funding as the agency prepares for redeployment of Volunteers in 2021 after an unprecedented global evacuation in 2020. In negotiations for a Fiscal Year 2021 spending package, Congress faced a choice of three very different routes: 

    1. Maintain level funding for the agency at $410.5 million, as it makes plans to begin redeploying Volunteers in 2021; this was the route recommended by the House of Representatives.
    2. Accept cuts of up to $51 million, trimming the budget to $359 million as was proposed by the Senate Appropriations Committee. 
    3. Agreeing to a compromise figure between the House and Senate recommendations.

    As both chambers prepared for votes on the evening of December 21, 2020 release of the agreed-upon spending document revealed that Congress would move forward with the House recommendation of level Peace Corps funding, which is critical for investing in efforts to ensure the health and safety of Volunteers and the communities where they serve.

    “We are extremely grateful to our Capitol Hill Peace Corps champions for their efforts to make sure Peace Corps remains strong with level funding to help it begin the process of redeploying thousands of Volunteers in the field,” said National Peace Corps Association President Glenn Blumhorst. “I also want to thank the thousands of members of the Peace Corps community who wrote a letter, made a phone call, reached out to neighbors and friends, or took action through the media. The fight to sustain funding for Peace Corps is your victory.”

    That’s not the only victory in the closing days of this Congress.

     

    Access for Menstrual Hygiene Products for Volunteers

    After meeting with and speaking to female Peace Corps Volunteers, Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY) introduced legislation in March 2020 to ensure access to menstrual hygiene products for Volunteers. House Bill 6118 called upon Peace Corps to develop a comprehensive policy to ensure Volunteers needing such products have adequate access wherever they are serving. 

    While the legislation did not pass, what it was aiming for will guide Peace Corps’ work going forward: In the Fiscal Year 2021 State/Foreign Operations Appropriations package, language pertaining to this legislation was included in the final agreement. The language instructs Peace Corps to provide a strategy, within 90 days after passage of the legislation, to ensure all Volunteers who need feminine hygiene products have access to them, regardless of country of service. The language further states that the strategy shall take into consideration availability of products in-country, the price of those products, and the local cultural norms surrounding menstruation.

     

    Peace Corps Redeployment and Evacuees: Congress Overrode Presidential Veto January 1

    High on the congressional priority list for passage each year is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Included in the 4,500 page document that has passed both chambers is reporting requirements pertaining to Peace Corps redeployment and Volunteers who were evacuated earlier in 2020.

    Introduced by Congressman Dean Phillips (D-MN), the legislation calls for a report to Congress from Peace Corps three months after bill passage on efforts of the agency to:

    • Provide an update on offering a redeployed Peace Corps assignment to all evacuees who wish to continue service;
    • Obtain approval from countries of service to allow the return of Peace Corps Volunteers;
    • Provide adequate health and safety measures including COVID-19 contingency plans; and
    • Identify any need for additional appropriations or new statutory authorities and the changes in global conditions that would be necessary to achieve the goal of safely enrolling 7,300 Peace Corps Volunteers during the one-year period beginning on the date on which Peace Corps operations resume.

    President Trump vetoed the NDAA on issues not related to Peace Corps. But Congress overrode the veto on January 1, 2021, ensuring the measure becomes law.
     


    Last Updated January 6, 2021 at 1:15 PM.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Let's make this the largest mobilization of the Peace Corps community see more

    Last spring National Peace Corps Association delivered advocacy materials to every member of Congress. This year that work goes virtual. 

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    Starting in March 2021, and for the 17th consecutive year, National Peace Corps Association is planning National Days of Action in support of the Peace Corps.

    But this year we’re going virtual.

    March 1, 2021, will mark the 60th anniversary of President Kennedy’s executive order establishing the Peace Corps. Last year, Volunteers were evacuated from around the world because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The redeployment of Volunteers is expected in the coming months. And, with a new president and Congress — which will have nearly 70 new members – there is tremendous work to be done to ensure a strong future for the agency and its next generation of Volunteers. So we need a mobilization like never before.

     

    Congress will have nearly 70 new members. There is tremendous work to be done to ensure a strong future for the agency and its next generation of Volunteers. 

     

    Step Up, Sign Up!

    After a successful series of virtual district office meetings with lawmakers this past fall, we will be gearing up for nationwide activities during the months of March and April.

    Follow this link and sign up to be among the first to step forward to lead Days of Action activities in your region. Take the lead organizing a virtual district meeting with your elected representatives. Organize a virtual letter writing night. Plan a statewide training on how to be an effective advocate for the Peace Corps. A stronger, better and redeployed Peace Corps begins with you! You won’t need to come to Washington, DC. You can be a leader from the comfort of your home.

    Questions? Contact us at advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org.


    Jonathan Pearson is the Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    A victory for the Peace Corps community. And urgent action needed for funding. see more

    Legislation introduced by Joseph Kennedy III will enable a project years in the making to be seen through to completion. Senators Portman and Shaheen call on their colleagues to pass the bill as well. But funding for the Peace Corps Agency is still at risk for 2021, with the Senate having put forth a $51 million cut.

     By Jonathan Pearson

     

    After Dominican Republic Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA) was elected to the House of Representatives in 2012, one of the first pieces of legislation he introduced and passed provided congressional authorization for the creation of a Peace Corps Commemorative in Washington, D.C.On the afternoon of December 17, 2020 in the closing days of his fourth – and final – term in the House of Representatives, one of Congressman Kennedy’s final accomplishments included securing House passage of a time extension that will allow work on the commemorative to move forward without interruption.

    The Peace Corps Commemorative Work Extension Act (H.R. 7460) passed unanimously on a voice vote. Final passage of the legislation still needs Senate approval and a presidential signature to become law.

    The Senate sponsors of companion legislation, Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) issued a press release after the House vote paying tribute to Peace Corps Volunteers and calling upon the Senate to pass the bill as well. “For more than 50 years, the Peace Corps has served as a powerful vehicle for volunteers who wish to use their talents to carry America’s humanitarian values to other parts of the world,” said Senator Portman. “I am pleased that this legislation was approved by the House today, and I urge my Senate colleagues to support it so that it can head to the President’s desk for his signature.” 

     

     Watch: “A lasting tribute” — Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA) pay tribute to the service of Peace Corps Volunteers over 60 years and ask for passage of the bill.


    The Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation has made great progress on this project, with design selection, site selection near the National Mall, and unanimous approval by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts in September on the revised design concept.

     

    Rendering of Peace Corps Commemorative at Peace Corps Park. Courtesy of Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation.

     

    “A lasting tribute to the legacy of the Peace Corps”

    Congressman Kennedy’s departure marks the end of an era. Since 1947, a Kennedy has had a seat in Congress with only two brief interruptions. The first, Joe Kennedy’s great uncle John F. Kennedy, created the Peace Corps by executive order in March 1961.   

    Speaking on the House floor, Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA) noted that it is fitting for the Peace Corps Commemorative legislation to be sponsored by President Kennedy’s grand-nephew. Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) said the commemorative will serve as a “lasting tribute to the legacy of the Peace Corps.”

    On December 9, Joe Kennedy delivered his farewell remarks to the House and spoke of how it is the task of each generation to expand the meaning of “we” in the phrase “We the people,” the opening words of the U.S. Constitution. “Our future is big and bright,” Kennedy said, “bit it will take everything — and everyone — to reach it.”

    “Today the House unanimously passed a seven-year Commemorative authorization extension, among Rep. Kennedy’s final bills before ending his House term," said Roger Lewis, President of the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation. “Americans who have served as Volunteers, worked for the Peace Corps or share Peace Corps ideals and values, are profoundly grateful for Rep. Kennedy’s steadfast commitment to and support of the Peace Corps and its historic mission.”

     

     

    Peace Corps Funding Under Threat

    As the 116th Congress races to a close, Peace Corps-related activities in need of congressional action include advocating for full funding for the agency in 2021.

    The current deadline for Congress to complete its work on a Fiscal Year 2021 spending plan is midnight Friday, December 18. There are signs Congress might pass another continuing resolution to extend that deadline into the weekend and possibly early next week. Among the many items at stake is Peace Corps’ budget. While the House recommended level funding of $410.5 million, the Senate put forth a $359 million allocation – a $51 million cut.

    Make your voices heard with your lawmakers to urge them to support level funding for Peace Corps.

    Click Here to Take Action

     

    Peace Corps Redeployment and Evacuees

    High on the congressional priority list for passage each year is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Included in the 4,500 page document that has passed both chambers is reporting requirements pertaining to Peace Corps redeployment and Volunteers who were evacuated earlier in 2020.

    Introduced by Congressman Dean Phillips (D-MN), the legislation calls for a report to Congress from Peace Corps three months after bill passage on efforts of the agency to:

    • Provide an update on offering a redeployed Peace Corps assignment to all evacuees who wish to continue service;
    • Obtain approval from countries of service to allow the return of Peace Corps Volunteers;
    • Provide adequate health and safety measures including COVID-19 contingency plans; and
    • Identify any need for additional appropriations or new statutory authorities and the changes in global conditions that would be necessary to achieve the goal of safely enrolling 7,300 Peace Corps Volunteers during the one-year period beginning on the date on which Peace Corps operations resume.

    President Trump has indicated that he will veto the NDAA on issues not related to Peace Corps. The president has until December 23 to do so. Congress is contemplating strategies to overturn the veto should it be issued.
     


    Last Updated December 18, 2020 at 4 PM. Watch this story for updates.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Your voice can prevent a $51 million cut to Peace Corps funding see more

    As Peace Corps prepares to redeploy Volunteers in early 2021, the work for Peace Corps’ future begins in earnest. And right now we need to make sure there’s funding for the towering task ahead.

    By Jonathan Pearson 

     

    Congress is working toward a December 11, 2020 deadline to agree on a Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 spending bill. And they have a $51 million Peace Corps funding difference to resolve.

    Earlier this year, the House of Representatives approved an FY 2021 appropriations bill that includes level funding of $410.5 million for Peace Corps. But the Senate Appropriations Committee has put forth a spending bill that proposes cutting Peace Corps funding by $51 million — down to $359.5 million.

     

    Take Action

    Urge your Senator & Representative to Support Peace Corps Funding

     

    Six Reasons to Support Level Peace Corps Funding 

    Maybe you’ve heard rumblings along these lines: “Why should we provide the same funding to Peace Corps when there are no Volunteers in the field?” 

    Here are six reasons for starters:
     

    1. Redeployment Opportunities: Peace Corps plans to begin redeploying Volunteers in January 2021 in Cambodia and Saint Lucia. Further announcements could be coming soon. All 60 countries where Volunteers were serving prior to the pandemic have expressed interest in having Volunteers return. And, with positive news emerging about vaccines and other health protections, the prospects for significant redeployment in FY 2021 are on the rise.
       
    2. Flat Funding For Years: Fiscal Year 2021 would mark the sixth consecutive year in which Congress has not provided a funding increase to Peace Corps. This flat funding has limited opportunities and forced the agency to scale back some programming. During this period, adjusting for inflation, Peace Corps’ effective purchasing power has been reduced by up to $40 million.
       
    3. Health and Safety: The health, safety, and security of Volunteers is regularly cited as Peace Corps’ top priority. Rigthly so, it’s a critical concern when it comes to Congressional oversight. Redeploying Volunteers in a world living with COVID will come with additional costs. We owe it to the Volunteers and the communities where they serve to make sure that these heightened needs are met.
       
    4. Moment for Greatness: The current pause in Peace Corps service presents a unique moment to re-imagine, reshape, and retool Peace Corps for a changed world. NPCA has just released a community-driven report, “Peace Corps Connect to the Future,” that lists dozens of recommendations to reform and improve the Peace Corps. Implementing some of these recommendations requires new investment; and other longstanding reforms that have been called for have not been implemented because of funding. Now is the time to for bold change so that Peace Corps can meet the challenges of our new age. And, as we prepare to mark the 60th anniversary of Peace Corps in 2021, we can recommit to a Peace Corps whose impact in the years ahead will be even broader and more profound. 
       
    5. Opportunity for All: Among the critical recommendations in the ”Peace Corps Connect to the Future“ report is a call to break down racial and economic barriers to serving in the Peace Corps. Service as Volunteers should be accessible and welcoming for all qualified individuals who wish to serve their country. Building and sustaining this effort will require an ongoing commitment — and financial resources to make good on the promise.
       
    6. Serve, Serve, Serve! At home and abroad, we recognize the need for people and communities to come together in the spirit of serving together in solidarity. When it comes to Peace Corps Volunteers overseas — and investing the skills and valuable experience of returned Volunteers here at home — this is a time to build. There is bipartisan support for expanding service by Americans. Peace Corps can and should lead the way.

     

  • Ana Victoria Cruz posted an article
    A Volunteer on his first experience organizing meetings with Congress to advocate for Peace Corps see more

    A Volunteer evacuated from Mongolia on work to help members of Congress understand the value of Peace Corps service — and what they can do to help 

    By Daniel Lang

     

    The summer of 2019 I was training to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mongolia. More politically involved peers raised concerns that we should not take for granted that legislators would continue to fund the Peace Corps; more than 100 members of the House voted to defund it. That fall I swore in as a Volunteer and a close friend, Austin Frenes, began service in China. We both received assignments as university English instructors.

    In January 2020, Austin learned his cohort would be China’s last; the program would, in Peace Corps terms, graduate. Mongolia began to restrict travel amid a preemptive quarantine. Peace Corps China consolidated in Thailand — then ended. In February, Peace Corps Mongolia evacuated; we were put on administrative hold. A week later, home in Nevada, I got word that our service was closing. I’m waiting to hear when we might reinstate. 

    I wasn’t looking for a leadership role in organizing meetings with members of Congress. I had no experience as a citizen lobbyist. But in August I saw a call to action email from National Peace Corps Association asking me to do exactly that, as part of a “virtual district office initiative.” I attended a webinar and learned NPCA had no documented meetings of returned Volunteers with Nevada’s congresspeople. I knew our legislators could do more to support Peace Corps.

     

    The possibility of making important contributions  like this are why, we said, it was important for Peace Corps to both become better and to redeploy.

     

    NPCA’s Advocacy Director Jonathan Pearson helped me to decide which lawmakers to meet with. He put me in touch with other Nevada RPCVs whose service spanned continents and decades. They were strangers to me personally, but we had that common bond as Volunteers. They also echoed advice I had heard in training: We might not know the greatest impact of our service for years to come.

    Earlier in the summer I had shared a story of my Peace Corps service with a high school classmate. Through her, we were able to arrange a Zoom call with the staff of my congressman, Steven Horsford (D-NV) in September. On the call were fellow Volunteers Alexis Zickafoose (Georgia, 2018-20), Alan Klawitter (Liberia, 1975-77), Taj Ainlay (Malaysia, 1973-75) and Kathleen DeVleming (Ethiopia, 1972-74). Alexis was just finishing her second year of service when she was evacuated. Alan and Taj shared stories of their service and the impacts of Peace Corps over the years — reasons why we were asking our representative to support H.R. 3456, the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act introduced by RPCV Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), and H.R. 6833, the Utilizing and Supporting Evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers Act introduced by Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN).

     

    RPCVs in the Show Me State: A district meeting with staff from U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) included Kirsty Morgan (Kazakhstan 1998–2000), Erin Robinson (South Africa 2005–07), Don Spiers (Venezuela 1973–75), Joseph O’Sullivan (Brazil 1973–75), Amy Morros (Mali 1996–98), and Mia Richardson (North Macedonia 2018–20), founder of RPCVs Serving at Home. Photo by Amy Morros

     

    Kathleen raised points about the skill sets of many Volunteers, and the importance of legislation aimed at putting RPCVs to work to help combat the pandemic here at home. She spoke about the work that her husband, John DeVleming, had done to eradicate smallpox in Ethiopia while serving as a Volunteer and working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The possibility of making important contributions like this are why, we said, it was important for Peace Corps to both become better and to redeploy.

    I realized a few things from this experience. This work is all in our Third Goal — helping Americans, including our representatives and senators in Congress, better understand the world. It’s also part of showing openness, adaptability, and flexibility. And serving as a citizen lobbyist at home is much like engaging in citizen diplomacy abroad.

    Ultimately, all U.S. citizens can contact our leaders — or, should I say, our public servants. I know we’re all called to act in different hours. I felt this as my hour. I hope you consider this, too. Let’s help make sure that Peace Corps endures as something even better than it has been.

     

    As of press time, RPCV advocates have organized 30 virtual district office meetings across 16 states, with dozens of additional meetings being sought. Make plans to participate in our next round of district meetings, coming in March 2021 during our annual National Days of Action.

     


    This story was first published in WorldView magazine’s Fall 2020 issue. Read the entire magazine for free now in the WorldView app. Here’s how:

    STEP 1 - Create an account: Click here and create a login name and password. Use the code DIGITAL2020 to get it free.

    STEP 2 - Get the app: For viewing the magazine on a phone or tablet, go to the App Store/Google Play and search for “WorldView magazine” and download the app. Or view the magazine on a laptop/desktop here.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Urge your Senators to pass legislation on voting rights and police reform. see more

    As we celebrate an anniversary, renew a commitment to building peace and friendship here are home by taking a stand for equity and justice under the law.

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    We are just days away from the 60th anniversary of a moment that jump-started the establishment of the Peace Corps. At 2 a.m. on October 14, 1960, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy gave an impromptu speech outside the University of Michigan’s student union. After a day of campaigning, he didn’t expect a crowd of thousands to be waitinig, but there they were. 

    Those familiar with the speech recall these words:

    "How many of you who are going to be doctors, are willing to spend your days in Ghana? Technicians or engineers, how many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives traveling around the world?”

    Not as well known are the words that followed:

    “On your willingness to do that, not merely to serve one year or two years in the service, but on your willingness to contribute part of your life to this country, I think will depend the answer whether a free society can compete. I think it can! And I think Americans are willing to contribute. But the effort must be far greater than we have ever made in the past.”

     

    “I think Americans are willing to contribute. But the effort must be far greater than we have ever made in the past.”

     

    In the months ahead, the enthusiastic answer to Kennedy’s question led to the creation of the Peace Corps — and began a journey that nearly a quarter million Volunteers have undertaken. Sixty years after this foundational moment for the Peace Corps, we invite you to contribute a small “part of your life to this country” — through an advocacy action that seeks to help our nation fulfill its promise of justice and equality for all. 

    We invite you to write to your U.S. senators and urge action on two pieces of legislation before that body:

    • Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has introduced the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (S. 4263), named after the iconic Congressman and civil rights leader whose beloved wife Lillian Miles Lewis, earlier served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nigeria.
       
    • Meanwhile, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) has introduced the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 (S. 3912), similar to legislation passed in the House named in remembrance of George Floyd.

    By following this link, you can send personalized messages as a member of the Peace Corps community, urging your Senators to take action.


    Take Action

     

  • Ana Victoria Cruz posted an article
    Welcome a number of new Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to the NPCA team see more

    Meet the newest members of our team.

    By Glenn Blumhorst

    Photo of schoolgirl in Panamá by Eli Wittum

     

    Next week we mark two days that resonate deeply with the Peace Corps community. On Monday, September 21, we celebrate the International Day of Peace. And on Tuesday, September 22, we commemorate the 59th anniversary of the passage and signing of the Peace Corps Act — the legislation that created the Peace Corps. One of its advocates in the House of Representatives was Illinois Republican Marguerite S. Church, who valued the aspiration to nurture “human dignity and confidence” around the world.

    But that world has changed. And here on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the agency, we have both the opportunity and responsibility to help reimagine and reshape the Peace Corps — and our community — to be better and stronger. So I’m delighted to welcome a number of new Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to the NPCA team to help do that work — from consultant and Council on Foreign Relations Member Jalina Porter to full-time team member Marieme Foote, who was evacuated from Benin in March and is taking on responsibilities supporting advocacy and outreach. We’ve also brought on board database expert Robertino Bogart and consultant Kim Dixon to work with part-time team members Caitlin Nemeth and Molly O’Brien as they spearhead efforts to connect, inform, and engage community members. 

    And we have three more opportunities to join our team: We’re looking for a Director of DevelopmentFinance and Administration Associate, and Associate Editor, Global Stories. Together we can foster a diverse, vibrant, and united Peace Corps community that has the energy and commitment to tackle the big challenges in front of us.

     

     

    Jalina Porter | Strategy Consultant

    Jalina Porter will be contributing to several key areas of our work, including partnerships; advocacy; strategic communications; and our diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies. She has been an active collaborator with NPCA advocacy programs for many years, and she introduced Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick at our July 18 Peace Corps Connect to the Future ideas summit.

    A term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Jalina is a strategic communications advisor who specializes in Congress, peace and security, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Throughout her career, she has advised and trained over 3,000 public and foreign policy professionals, veterans, artists, athletes, politicians, and leading corporate executives. She served in Peace Corps Cambodia 2009–11 and later served on the board of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, D.C. as development director. She was named a 2018 top 35 Black American National Security and Foreign Policy Next Generation Leader by New America and a 2019 Foreign Policy Influencer by the Women’s Foreign Policy Group. She is also a member of the inaugural cohort of the NPCA 40 Under 40 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. She is a proud graduate of Howard University, where she received her bachelor’s degree, and Georgetown University, where she earned her master’s. A former professional dancer, Jalina is passionate about the arts, living with intention, and unique storytelling through movement and writing.

     

    Marieme Foote | Advocacy and Administrative Associate / Outreach Specialist

    Marieme Foote served as a Volunteer in Benin from September 2018 until the global evacuation in March 2020. While serving as a Sustainable Agricultural Systems Agent, she worked alongside men and women’s groups to address issues concerning food security and agriculture. After returning to the U.S., she became involved in advocacy work for evacuated Volunteers and worked with Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security (WCAPS) to gather data and create a report to advocate for better support for evacuated Volunteers. She holds a B.A. in political science with a minor in environmental studies from Ithaca College. She identifies as a Senegalese-American, so she has spent time both in the U.S and Senegal, where a part of her family resides. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and knitting.

     

    Robertino Bogart | Database Management Specialist

    As a Volunteer in Ghana 2017–19, Robertino taught the computer class at a junior high school and worked on a number of health, education, and agriculture projects with students and community members. He co-led a team of PCVs, software developers, and farmers that won the 2018 Peace Corps Cashew Hackathon. They created the prototype for a data collection tool that collects data about cashew harvests and provides reliable and accurate pricing and sales data for farmers and cashew buyers. Prior to joining the Peace Corps, Robertino worked as a database developer with the SQL programming language. He is adding python programming language to his repertoire to manage data and create visualizations. He holds a B.A. in mathematics from George Mason University and enjoys swimming and cooking.

     

    Kim Dixon | Team Leader, Peace Corps Community Connect 

    Kim joins NPCA as a part-time consultant after many years of sales, marketing and management consulting with IBM. On the technical sales side she focused on organizational change management when implementing Internet solutions; she later founded a consulting firm in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her true calling appeared when she went to Georgia as a Peace Corps Volunteer 2014–16 and worked with internally displaced persons. When her service concluded, she returned to the States, but her heart remained in Georgia. In 2017 she returned for another 18 months. Among other diversions and hobbies, Kim has danced with the Raleigh Little German Band throughout the East Coast, Germany, Austria, and Belgium. 

     

     

    Caitlin Nemeth | Outreach Specialist, part time

    Caitlin Nemeth is a Coverdell fellow at the University of Colorado-Denver and expects to complete her Master of Public Administration degree in 2021. She served as a Volunteer in The Gambia 2017–19. She has a B.A. in public health policy and English from the College of William and Mary. While studying at W&M, Caitlin worked for the university’s Phonathon, building rapport with alumni and other associates of the College, and raising money for scholarship funds, diversity & inclusivity initiatives, and academic departments. As a shelter advocate at Avalon, A Center for Women and Children located in Williamsburg, she began to build necessary interpersonal skills while deepening her understanding of the complexities of nonprofit public health programs. Her time at the shelter encouraged her to combine her dream of joining the Peace Corps with her career ambition of implementing positive public health change. In Caitlin’s spare time, she enjoys sailing and paddle boarding on the Chesapeake Bay, baking delicious cookies and cakes, and reading speculative fiction novels.

     

    Molly O’Brien | Outreach Specialist, part time

    Molly O’Brien comes to NPCA after completing her M.A. in Public Service/Nonprofit Administration at Marquette University earlier in 2020. She was the recipient the Trinity Fellowship, a competitive program focused on social and economic justice, and she worked at Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity providing programmatic support for homeowners. Molly was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Trang, Thailand 2016–18 and in Karak, Jordan 2014–15. Since her return from the Peace Corps, she has been active in the RPCV community, serving on the board of the Milwaukee Peace Corps Association as their membership coordinator. Prior to Peace Corps she earned a B.A. in history and communications from Loyola University Chicago. She resides in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she enjoys spending as much time outdoors as possible.

     

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Organize and mobilize virtual district meetings over the next seven weeks. see more

    How can you help? Meet with your national legislators now – virtually.

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    We are entering a period where the future of the Peace Corps is on the line. The next 18 to 36 months will be crucial to the survival of the agency. Why? Peace Corps must have the necessary resources to redeploy as soon as practicable, with expedited applications for recent evacuees.

    Returned Peace Corps Volunteers are the most influential voices when it comes to speaking up for Peace Corps. And efforts to ensure Peace Corps’ future are ramping up now. It begins with virtual district office meetings.

    First up: On Tuesday, August 25 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, RPCVs will virtually meet with Republican Congressman and Co-Chair of the House Peace Corps Caucus Garrett Graves. This personal outreach lets legislators know how important Peace Corps is to you — and you can help them understand the impact and value of Peace Corps service to communities back home.

     

    Get on the map!

    Check out our growing map of emerging meetings. If a meeting in your area is in the works, reach out and sign up. If no meeting appears in your area, follow this link to get started — and contact advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org to tell us where you want to organize a meeting. 

     

     

    What if I’ve never participated in an advocacy meeting before? 

    No problem! While past experience helps, passion and preparation can more than make up for that. If you are new to organizing or participating in advocacy meetings with Congressional offices, contact us if you want a review of some of the basics. We have also laid out six easy steps you can follow here

     

    Download Virtual District Office Meetings Materials

      

    Download Toolkit

    Organize a Virtual District Office Meeting

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Here’s how we’ve been advocating for evacuated Volunteers — and a Peace Corps in a changed world. see more

    Here’s how we’ve been advocating for evacuated Volunteers — and a Peace Corps in a changed world.

    By Jonathan Pearson and Steven Boyd Saum

     

    The coronavirus pandemic and temporary suspension of all Peace Corps programs marks the greatest existential threat to the agency in its history. When Volunteers were evacuated, they were ripped from communities with hardly any notice; in March they came back to a pandemic and an economic maelstrom. Regulations typically would not allow them to be eligible for unemployment insurance; their health insurance coverage would expire in a month. In some cases they had no home to come back to. 

    Supporting those Volunteers became top priority. As part of the $2.2 trillion stimulus package signed into law March 27, we lobbied for $88 million in additional funding to support the safe evacuation and immediate readjustment needs of Volunteers. Thanks to help from supporters in Congress, new regulations were issued by the Department of Labor declaring that evacuated Volunteers are eligible for unemployment insurance. Health insurance coverage was extended. We have also sent letters to governors of some states where evacuated Volunteers have had trouble receiving the unemployment assistance they should.

     

    Thanks to help from supporters in Congress, new regulations were issued by the Department of Labor declaring that evacuated Volunteers are eligible for unemployment insurance. Health insurance coverage was extended.

     

    What’s ahead? A concerted, lengthy mobilization is required to ensure the future of Peace Corps. And as nationwide protests against the killing of George Floyd and racial injustice have made profoundly clear since the end of May, we need to uphold Peace Corps values of equity and justice here at home — as well as abroad — as we work to support Peace Corps in a changed world. That’s an essential part of our advocacy work as well.


    On the Hill

    It may seem a lifetime ago, but it was only on March 5, 2020 that 200 members of the Peace Corps community took part in our annual Day of Action on Capitol Hill. Groups of returned Volunteers — including 35 Volunteers from China, evacuated five weeks earlier — met with members of Congress. For the first time ever, we delivered materials to every senator and representative. Returned Volunteers also presented the NPCA Sam Farr Congressional Leadership Award to Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and Congressman Hal Rogers of Kentucky for their leadership on Peace Corps issues.
     

    Ink on paper: some of the bipartisan support for Peace Corps last year.
     

    Community advocacy was essential in getting a record 42 senators to sign the annual “Dear Colleague” letter in support of Peace Corps, co-authored by Susan Collins (R-ME) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). It also bolstered efforts by the Peace Corps Caucus in the House — led by RPCVs John Garamendi (D-CA) and Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA), and Representative Garrett Graves (R-LA) — to secure 167 signatures on a House letter requesting $450 million for Peace Corps in fiscal year 2021.

    As it turns out, our Day of Action was about the last big day of meetings for anyone on Capitol Hill before COVID-19 began to shut down Washington, D.C. The crisis that pandemic created for Volunteers has meant our advocacy work is more important than ever. That work just doesn’t happen in person right now.

    The following section outlines positive legislation for Peace Corps and evacuees. But there’s one instance when we’ve asked the community to raise their voices against legislation: the Working Under Humanity’s Actual Needs (WUHAN) Rescissions Act introduced by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) that would take back the funding used to support evacuated Volunteers


    In the Works

    There’s a great deal of national legislation in the works that our community can get behind — some that we helped shape.
     

     

    Senate

    UNITE Act (S.B. 3642)
    Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) developed legislation with NPCA to mobilize U.S. citizens — especially 
evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers — to combat the COVID-19 pandemic by expanding response programs. Extends opportunities for evacuees to purchase health insurance to six months. Calls for expedited procedures to redeploy evacuees. House Bill 6560 parallels it. Introduced by RPCV John Garamendi.

    Senate Bill 3700

    Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Addresses unemployment and health care benefits for evacuees, expands service opportunities, promotes return of Peace Corps programs.

    Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act 
(S.B. 3624)  
    Chris Coons (D-DE), joined by Chris Van Hollen and others. Has drawn national media attention amid increasing calls for national public service programs. 

    Cultivating Opportunity and Response to the Pandemic through Service (CORPS) Act (S.B. 3964) 
    Senators Chris Coons, Roger Wicker (R-MS), and others. 
Expands national public service programs with priority enrollment for evacuated Volunteers. 

     

    Joint Legislation

    Reauthorize Peace Corps Commemorative Project
    Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Representatives Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) and Garret Graves (R-LA) ask to extend time for work on a commemorative and park near the Capitol, celebrating the mission and ideals of the Peace Corps. 

     

    Letters: Combat COVID-19

    National Health Corps Letter (April 21) to House leadership
    Representatives Ami Bera (D-CA), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Susan Brooks (R-IN), and Bill Foster (D-IL). Calls for a National Health Corps to combat COVID-19, specifically referencing evacuated RPCVs as a resource.

     

    Bi-Cameral Letter (April 2)
    Senator Chris Van Hollen and Representative Dean Phillips state the need for evacuees to have jobless protections and opportunities to use their skills to combat COVID-19. 

     

     

    House

    Inspire to Serve Act of 2020 (H.R. 6415)
    Introduced by Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and joined by Don Bacon (R-NE), Chrissy Houlahan, Michael Waltz (R-FL), and others. 
    Incorporates some recommendations offered by the Commission on Military, National and Public Service in a report issued in March 2020. Extends non-competitive eligibility for Peace Corps service from one to three years; proposes pilot program for Peace Corps Response Volunteers to work remotely; involves Peace Corps leadership in a national Council 
on Service.

    Utilizing and Supporting Evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers Act (H.R. 6833)
    Introduced by Representatives Dean Phillips (D-MN) and Don Young (R-AK). 
Extends opportunity for evacuated RPCVs to continue to purchase health insurance through Peace Corps beyond three months. Calls for expedited opportunities for evacuated RPCVs in programs aimed at combating the COVID-19 pandemic here at home. Expedited opportunities to return to Peace Corps service. Also includes language of the no-cost, bi-partisan Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act to allow the Peace Corps logo on grave markers or death notices.

    Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act 
(H.R. 6702)
    Introduced by David Price (D-NC) and joined by more than 15 cosponsors. Funds 750,000 national service positions over three years to support pandemic relief and recovery. Gives placement priority to Peace Corps Volunteers, Fulbright grantees, or AmeriCorps participants whose service or grant was interrupted by COVID-19.


    In the weeks ahead we will be calling on our community to support Peace Corps and its values. We hope you’ll join us and take action: advocacy.peacecorpsconnect.org


    Jonathan Pearson is the Advocacy Director for National Peace Corps Association. Steven Boyd Saum is the editor of WorldView magazine. This story was first published in WorldView magazine’s Summer 2020 issue. Read the entire magazine for free now in the WorldView app. Here’s how:

    STEP 1 - Create an account: Click here and create a login name and password. Use the code DIGITAL2020 to get it free.

    STEP 2 - Get the app: For viewing the magazine on a phone or tablet, go to the App Store/Google Play and search for “WorldView magazine” and download the app. Or view the magazine on a laptop/desktop here.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Peace Corps legislation likely when Congress reconvenes in late April see more

    Last week Congress approved legislation calling for $2.2 trillion in emergency stimulus—legislation that included $88 million for Peace Corps. That was the third law passed by Congress to address the coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences.

    Work is now well underway on a fourth stimulus package, with more Peace Corps related legislation on the way. 

     

    Peace Corps Legislation Announced

    National Peace Corps Association has been working closely with Congressional leaders to enhance benefits for Peace Corps Volunteers. On Friday, April 3, Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced legislation that would address several key concerns of the Peace Corps community. The legislation seeks to:

    • Address the need to provide some form of unemployment compensation for evacuated Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who are jobless several months from now, having exhausted their initial Close of Service financial support (readjustment and evacuation allowance).
    • Further extends health insurance benefits to evacuees.
    • Expedite hiring of RPCVs using their Non-Competitive Eligibility for federal job openings.
    • Prompt redeployment of Peace Corps Volunteers as soon as practicable and an expedited re-enrollment process for evacuated RPCVs.

     

    Read Senator Murphy's Press Release

     

    “We applaud the bipartisan effort of Senators Murphy, Collins, and Feinstein to introduce this important legislation to address some of the longer-term support needs of evacuees, and to reinforce Peace Corps’ stated goal to redeploy Volunteers around the world as soon as possible,” said Glenn Blumhorst, National Peace Corps Association President and CEO. “While we anticipate the agency is already at work to address some of these concerns, we are so grateful that a number of congressional offices have been reaching out to us, asking how they also can best support Peace Corps and its Volunteers. Legislation such as this sends a strong message that Congress is committed to the return of thousands of Volunteers across our interconnected world, ready to address many of the major global challenges we face.”

    This is the first of what are expected to be several legislative initiatives to address concerns and needs of the Peace Corps community.

     

    Senate, House Letters Released

    Also this week, Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Representative Dean Phillips issued a bicameral Senate/House letter to the Secretary of Labor asking that evacuated RPCVs and Americorps volunteers be eligible for unemployment benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act (part of the CARES Act, passed last week). A second letter calls upon Peace Corps, Americorps, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide RPCVs with the opportunity to enlist in domestic COVID-19 response efforts. 

    Read this press release to learn more about these letters.

     

    Final Week for Peace Corps Funding Letter

    Finally, we are about to enter the last week of NPCA Action Alert to ask Senators to sign an important Senate letter to support continued strong funding for Peace Corps' annual budget. Twenty-six senators have signed the letter, which has an April 10th deadline. Follow this link to learn more and take action!

     

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    A rundown of various Peace Corps COVID-19 legislation before Congress see more

    Congressional response to the COVID-19 pandemic includes various legislative initiatives that fully or partially seek to support Peace Corps and the 7,300+ evacuated Volunteers. Here’s a summary of the key legislation that is currently under consideration.
     


    Support this Legislation!

    Follow this link to write your members of Congress in support of any/all of the following legislation.


    Senate Legislation
    Senate Bill 3700 (S. 3700)

    NPCA worked closely on drafting this legislation that extends the period through which evacuees could purchase Peace Corps post-service health insurance; instructs Peace Corps to reopen programs as soon as practicable and expedites redeployment of evacuees; and promotes opportunities for evacuees to secure federal employment or assist with federal pandemic response efforts.

     

    Senate Bill 3642 (S. 3642) — UNITE Act

    This legislation, developed with NPCA, outlines proposals to expand COVID-19 response programs through the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and includes Peace Corps evacuees among those listed for priority hiring; extends opportunities for evacuees to purchase post-service health insurance to six months; calls for expedited procedures to redeploy evacuees, and for Peace Corps to issue a report on its redeployment plans, including plans to redeploy evacuees.

    • Introduced by: Ed Markey (D-MA); joined by Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
    • Co-Sponsors
    • Status: Referred to the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
    • Read the Bill Text
    • Press Release

     

    Senate Bill 3624 (S. 3624) — Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act

    This legislation would fund 750,000 national service positions over three years to support pandemic relief and recovery, and would include evacuated Returned Peace Corps Volunteers for priority placement through the program. 

    • Introduced by: Chris Coons (D-DE); joined originally by Jack Reed (D-RI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Dick Durbin (D-IL).
    • Co-Sponsors
    • Status: Referred to the Finance Committee.
    • Read the Bill Text
    • Press Release

     


    House of Representatives

    House Bill 6833 (H.R. 6833) — Utilizing and Supporting Evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers Act

    This legislation was drafted in close coordination with NPCA and allows evacuees the possibility to purchase post-service health insurance through the agency beyond three months should they choose; instructs the Peace Corps to coordinate expedited processes to assist the placement of evacuees in pandemic response initiatives; and instructs Peace Corps to resume overseas programs as soon as practicable, with an expedited redeployment process for evacuees.

     

    House Bill 6560 (H.R. 6560) — UNITE Act of 2020

    ​​​​​​​Working with NPCA, this legislation outlines proposals to expand COVID-19 response programs through the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and includes Peace Corps evacuees among those listed for priority hiring; extends opportunities for evacuees to purchase post-service health insurance to six months; calls for expedited procedures to redeploy evacuees, and for Peace Corps to issue a report on its redeployment plans, including plans to redeploy evacuees.

    • Introduced by: RPCV John Garamendi (D-CA); joined originally by Bobby Rush (D-IL), Debra Haaland (D-NM), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Sean Casten (D-IL), and Ann Kuster (D-NH).
    • Co-Sponsors
    • Status: Referred to the Education and Labor, Foreign Affairs, and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees.
    • Read the Bill Text
    • Press Release

     

    House Bill 6415 (H.R. 6415) — Inspire to Serve Act of 2020

    ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​This legislation would extend Non-Competitive Eligibility for Peace Corps service to three years; proposes a pilot program through Peace Corps Response in which Response Volunteers could work remotely; involves Peace Corps leadership in a Council on Service; proposes Peace Corps, the Commission for National and Community Service, and the Department of Defense to collaborate on joint marketing and cross-promoting of various forms of service. (This bill incorporates some of the recommendations offered by the Commission on Military, National and Public Service).

    • Introduced by: Jimmy Panetta (D-CA); joined originally by Don Bacon (R-NE), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Michael Waltz (R-FL), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Gil Cisneros (D-CA), Denver Riggleman (R-VA), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), and Jason Crow (D-CO).
    • Co-Sponsors
    • Status: Referred to the Education and Labor, Armed Services, Foreign Affairs and a number of other House committees.
    • Read the Bill Text

     

    House Bill 6702 (H.R. 6702) — Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act

    This bill would fund 750,000 national service positions over three years to support pandemic relief and recovery, and includes evacuated Returned Peace Corps Volunteers for priority placement through the program. 

    • Introduced by: David Price (D-NC). Joined originally by Doris Matsui (D-CA), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Ami Bera (D-CA), Kim Schirer (D-WA) and fifteen other original co-sponsors.
    • Co-Sponsors
    • Status: Referred to the Education and Labor, and Ways and Means Committees.
    • Read the Bill Text
    • Press Release

     


    TAKE ACTION

    Write your members of Congress in support of any/all of the following legislation.
     

    Write to Your Member of Congress

  • House legislation includes proposals for RPCV evacuees to continue service. see more

    New Peace Corps legislation continues to emerge to help evacuated Volunteers, this time in the House of Representatives. On April 30, Representatives Dean Phillips (D-MN) and Don Young (R-AK) announced the “Utilizing and Supporting Evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers Act,” which addresses several issues to support present and future needs of evacuated Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. The legislation is also supported by Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), and Jennifer Wexton (D-VA).

    In a press release issued by Representative Phillips, National Peace Corps Association President Glenn Blumhorst notes that “At the heart of this legislation are initiatives to engage these volunteers in what they do best — opportunities to continue serving others, both here at home to contain and overcome the pandemic, and overseas as soon as conditions permit Peace Corps to redeploy.”

    ​​​The Phillips-Young legislation would:

    • Extend the opportunity for evacuated RPCVs to continue to purchase health insurance through Peace Corps beyond the current three months.
    • Instruct the Corporation for National and Community Service to expedite opportunities through which evacuated RPCVs can be assigned to programs aimed at combating the COVID-19 pandemic here at home.
    • Expedite opportunities for evacuated RPCVs to return to Peace Corps service once it is practicable for the agency to begin redeploying volunteers overseas.

    In light of the many lives being lost during the pandemic, the legislation also includes language of the no-cost, bi-partisan “Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act,” legislation that would allow the Peace Corps logo to be included on grave markers or in death notices.

     

    “At the heart of this legislation are initiatives to engage these volunteers in what they do best — opportunities to continue serving others, both here at home to contain and overcome the pandemic, and overseas as soon as conditions permit Peace Corps to redeploy.”
       — Glenn Blumhorst, President & CEO, National Peace Corps Association

     

    2020 Progress: Efforts to Help Evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers

    National Peace Corps Association has been working with Congress on a variety of Peace Corps initiatives. The announcement of the Phillips-Young House legislation is the latest in a long string of positive steps to support Peace Corps and recent evacuees.

    • Evacuee Unemployment Compensation Confirmed (April 28): The U.S. Labor Department issued guidelines which confirmed evacuated RPCVs are eligible for unemployment under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act. Read more here.
       
    • National Health Corps Letter (April 21): In a letter to House leadership, Representatives Ami Bera (D-CA), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Bill Foster (D-IL) propose the creation of a National Health Corps to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically referencing evacuated RPCVs as a resource. Read more here.
       
    • Markey Legislation (April 13): Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) announced legislation that seeks to mobilize U.S. citizens — especially evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers — to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more here.
       
    • Record Senate Funding Letter (April 10): A record 42 Senators signed the annual Peace Corps funding Dear Colleague letter. Led by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the letter requests robust funding for Peace Corps in Fiscal Year 2021, which begins October 1. Read more here.
       
    • Murphy Legislation (April 3): Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) announced legislation to address unemployment and health care benefits for Peace Corps evacuees, expand service opportunities, and promote the return of Peace Corps programs overseas. Read more here.
       
    • Bi-Cameral Letters (April 2): Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Congressman Dean Phillips (D-MN) led joint Senate/House letters on the need for evacuees to have jobless protections and the need for evacuees to have opportunities to utilize their skills to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more here.
       
    • Peace Corps Stimulus (March 27): Congress passed and President Trump signed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package to respond to the pandemic. Included in that package was $88 million to cover the evacuation of 7,300 volunteers and provide initial readjustment support for the evacuees. Read more here.
       
    • House Peace Corps Funding Letter (March 13): A bi-partisan group of 167 lawmakers signed a House Peace Corps funding letter requesting $450 million for Peace Corps in fiscal year 2021. The letter was issued by leaders of the Peace Corps Caucus RPCVs John Garamendi (D-CA) and Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA), and Representative Garrett Graves (R-LA). Read more here.
       
    • Capitol Hill Advocacy Day (March 5): More than 200 members of the Peace Corps community conducted more than 220 meetings on Capitol Hill during NPCA’s 16th annual National Days of Action in Support of the Peace Corps. We were joined by 35 Peace Corps Volunteers from China, evacuated five weeks earlier, to speak to the importance of their work. See photo album here.
       
    • Former Directors Support Independence (January 7): NPCA issued a letter authored and signed by ten former Peace Corps directors opposing Senate legislation to place Peace Corps under the authority of the State Department. Read more here.

     


     Support our Efforts

    Donate

     

    Story Updated 01 May 2020 11 a.m.

  • Kaylee Jensen posted an article
    Why placing the Peace Corps under the State Department is a bad idea see more

    A Senate bill would make Peace Corps part of the State Department. Ten former Peace Corps directors write why that’s a terrible idea.


    Here’s the text of a letter that ten former Peace Corps directors delivered on January 7 to senators James Risch and Bob Menendez, respectively Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The goal: Keep the international perception of Peace Corps’ independence and ensure the agency’s non-political status in order for its continued success. As part of NPCA’s National Days of Action, advocates met with lawmakers to take action against this legislation. In addition to our March 5 Capitol Hill advocacy day, RPCVs organized solidarity events nationally in March and April.

     

    As former directors of Peace Corps, we are writing to respectfully request that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reject the bill S.2320, which would end the Peace Corps as an independent agency. That would place at risk the 7,400 Volunteers working in some 60 countries around the world and their mission of international cooperation and volunteer service.  

    The independence of the Peace Corps has been carefully protected by Presidents, Secretaries of State, and Congresses for the past 58 years. Part of the reason was to insure that Volunteers would not be confused with those carrying out day-to-day U.S. foreign and security policies. Turning the Peace Corps into a bureau of the Department of State would void that independence. The long-term strategic value of Volunteer service is to contribute to development in other countries, foster greater awareness of the United States through their partnership with citizens of other countries, and broaden our country’s understanding of other peoples when Volunteers return home. 

    Volunteers reflect U.S. values, the character of our citizens, and the nation’s strategic commitments to peace and mutual respect. Their invaluable achievements in international understanding have largely been possible because of the Peace Corps’ independence under 11 Presidents. It is noteworthy that the Peace Corps came into being under President John F. Kennedy in 1961 and its independence was re-affirmed by the law signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. 

     

    “The Peace Corps is not an instrument of foreign policy because to make it so would rob it of its contribution to foreign policy.”
           — Secretary of State Dean Rusk, 1961

    It is why every Secretary of State has sent cables to every Ambassador directing them to respect and value that independence. The 1983 cable from President Reagan’s Secretary of State George Shultz was one example. He wrote, “To be effective (Peace Corps) must remain substantially separate from the formal day-to-day conduct and concerns of foreign policy because of its unique people-to-people character.” In 2007, Secretary [Condoleezza] Rice wrote: “The Peace Corps’ role and its need for separation from day-to-day activities of the mission are not comparable to those of other U.S. government agencies.” And in 1961, Secretary [Dean] Rusk wrote: “The Peace Corps is not an instrument of foreign policy because to make it so would rob it of its contribution to foreign policy.”

    All of us, as former Directors of the Peace Corps under Democratic and Republican presidents, have met foreign ministers and heads of state, journalists and members of parliament, doctors and teachers, in Africa, Latin America, Asia, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union who have said, “I was impacted by a Peace Corps Volunteer.” They then named the Volunteer. Then we would have a conversation about the power of the Peace Corps to bridge divides and empower people. 

    Volunteers today are working with their counterparts, teaching in schools, working in health clinics, bringing modern information technology to help farmers and small business, and conveying our belief in the mutual benefit of international cooperation. Peace Corps continues to receive more requests for Volunteers than it can satisfy and more requests to join the Peace Corps than it can accommodate with existing funding. The international perception of the Peace Corps’ independence and non-political nature is imperative to its continued success.

    We are deeply concerned that the current legislative proposal S.2320, by ending that independence, would place both Volunteers and the Corps itself at grave risk. 

     

    Joseph Blatchford
    Appointed by President Nixon, 1969–71

    Nick Craw
    Appointed by President Nixon, 1973–74

    Richard F. Celeste
    Appointed by President Carter, 1979–81

    Carol Bellamy
    Appointed by President Clinton, 1993–95

    Mark D. Gearan
    Appointed by President Clinton, 1995–99

    Mark L. Schneider
    Appointed by President Clinton, 1999–2001

    Gaddi H. Vasquez
    Appointed by President George W. Bush, 2002–06

    Ronald A. Tschetter
    Appointed by President George W. Bush, 2006–09

    Aaron S. Williams
    Appointed by President Obama, 2009–12

    Carrie Hessler-Radelet
    Appointed by President Obama, 2014–17

     

    VIEW A FACSIMILE OF THE LETTER HERE.  

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Joblessness is among the major concerns facing evacuated RPCVs see more

    Today the U.S. Labor Department issued special unemployment guidelines which clarifies that evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers are eligible for this assistance.

    Given the unique circumstances of the pandemic and the projection that evacuees would be returning to a seriously contracting economy, National Peace Corps Association has advocated for some type of joblessness assistance to address this concern.

    The $2.2 trillion stimulus package to address the COVID-19 pandemic, approved on March 27, included a provision for “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” (PUA). Introduced by Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), this part of the legislation created a temporary unemployment compensation program to provide federally funded benefits to people unable to work because of the Coronavirus. 

    Nearly a month ago, Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Congressman Dean Phillips (D-MN) issued a joint Senate/House letter to clarify that evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers would be eligible for benefits under the PUA.

    Tuesday’s guidelines specify that evacuees are indeed eligible (see Question 29 on page I-8):

    29. Question: Is a Peace Corps and Americorps participant who is no longer volunteering because their volunteer sites are closed due to COVID-19 eligible for PUA?

    Answer: Yes. An individual participating in Peace Corps and Americorps who would not qualify for regular UC, whose volunteer site is closed down as a direct result of COVID- 19, and who has suffered a loss of income is eligible for PUA.

    Good news,” Senator Van Hollen posted in a Tweet on Tuesday afternoon. “They were in limbo but we just learned that thousands of evacuated Peace Corps volunteers who were required to return from overseas posts will qualify to receive unemployment compensation. I also hope they can return to their missions as soon as it is safe to do so!”

     

     

    In a press release Tuesday evening, Senator Van Hollen added: “For decades, Peace Corps and AmeriCorps volunteers have served our country at home and abroad — promoting democracy, literacy, development and good will. Today, these men and women — thousands of whom have been recalled — deserve the same safety net provided to others at this moment of need. I’m glad to see the Department of Labor follow Congressional intent and provide the certainty of this relief.”

    “The Peace Corps represents the very best in American leadership on a global stage,” Representative Phillips said in the press release, “with volunteers serving alongside communities in their fight against sickness, hunger, and economic insecurity. We must honor that commitment in this time of economic turmoil. I am thankful for the leadership of Senators Wyden and Van Hollen, and for the Department of Labor’s willingness to listen.” 

    Read the full release here.

     

    Next Steps

    Various states around the nation, including CaliforniaMassachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Texas are issuing guidelines for individuals to apply under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Individual evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers will need to contact state labor departments to find details on how to apply. A particular challenge may be faced by evacuees whose state of residence when they joined Peace Corps is different from their current state of residence. The advice shared with us: Start by reaching out to the labor department in your current state of residence.

    This is one more important milestone in efforts to secure health and financial benefits for Volunteers. Read a recap of those efforts here. 

     

    Story updated April 28, 2020 at 20:15.

  • JM Ascienzo posted an article
    Winners Announced for the 2016 Sam Farr Congressional Leadership Award see more

    Today, the National Peace Corps Association is pleased to announce the selection of Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-TX) and Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) as winners of its 2016 Sam Farr Congressional Leadership Award. The official presentation will take place on September 22nd during a reception following Peace Corps Connect’s Capitol Hill Advocacy Day. Free tickets for Capitol Hill Advocacy Day are available here.

    The award—formerly the Congressional Leadership Award—given annually to bipartisan members of Congress who demonstrate leadership to champion the Peace Corps and its ideals on Capitol Hill, has been renamed in honor of Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA). Congressman Farr, winner of the award in 2011 and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Colombia (1964-1966), is retiring from Congress in January at the end of his term.

    Selected by NPCA’s Board of Directors, Congresswoman Granger and Congresswoman Lowey are receiving the award for their outstanding efforts to provide the Peace Corps with the necessary funds it needs to provide more Americans and host country communities with the opportunity to partner in development, service and peace. Congresswoman Granger and Congresswoman Lowey, Chairwoman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Subcommittee, fought hard to secure a record $410 million budget for the agency for this fiscal year.

    Recognized numerous times for their work on behalf of vulnerable populations at home and abroad, Congresswoman Granger—serving the greater Fort Worth area as Texas’ 12th District representative since 1997—and Congresswoman Lowey—serving New Yorkers in the 20th, 18th and 17th Districts since 1989—both gave thanks to Congressman Farr upon receiving news of the announcement.

    “From the time I first came onto the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, Congressman Sam Farr and his compelling personal experience convinced me that the Peace Corps is a priority,” Congresswoman Granger said. “As Chairwoman of the Subcommittee, I strove to provide the resources needed to this important program. Congressman Farr has always been a tireless advocate for the Peace Corps, and I am honored to be selected as a co-recipient for the National Peace Corps Association’s 2016 Sam Farr Congressional Leadership Award.”

    “It’s an honor to receive this year’s leadership award alongside my good friends and colleagues, Congresswoman Kay Granger and Congressman Sam Farr," Congresswoman Lowey said. "As the Chair and Ranking Member of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, Kay and I have heeded Sam’s wise counsel for years and made Peace Corps funding a priority in our annual appropriations bill.  Sam’s tireless energy and commitment to the Agency has helped thousands of young Americans volunteer as ambassadors across the world and represent the best our country has to offer.  This year, on the Peace Corps’ 55th anniversary, we celebrate the service and sacrifice of over 220,000 volunteers.”

    Known to his colleagues as Mr. Peace Corps, Congressman Farr has been serving California’s Central Coast as its 20th and 17th District representative since 1993. Driven by his experiences with poverty while serving in a barrio near Medellin, Congressman Farr has dedicated his life to Peace Corps ideals. From floor speeches in the House to arranging for his colleagues to meet with Volunteers in the field to making eleventh hour phone calls to appropriators, for over two decades Congressman Farr has reminded his colleagues that the Peace Corps is “the American taxpayer’s best bang for its buck.” The epitome of the Peace Corps’ Third Goal of educating Americans about a country of service, Congressman Farr has worked tirelessly to help achieve better relations between America and his beloved Colombia. He was awarded Colombia's Order of San Carlos in 2012. 

    It is said that Peace Corps Volunteers represent the best America has to offer. Sam Farr represents the best the Peace Corps has to offer.

    Please join us in congratulating the 2016 Sam Farr Congressional Leadership Award recipients Congresswoman Granger and Congresswoman Lowey!

    Nominations Now Accepted for the Inaugural 2016 Advocate of the Year Award

    NPCA’s Board of Directors is pleased to announce the creation of an Advocate of the Year Award, to be given to up to two individuals or NPCA affiliate groups for outstanding service to advocate for the Peace Corps and its ideals. The official presentation of the award will be given on September 22nd at the Peace Corps Connect Conference.  

    Nominations for the inaugural award will be accepted through August 31st. Click here to submit your online nomination.

    Please join us in congratulating the 2016 Advocate of the Year Award recipient(s) on September 22nd at Peace Corps Connect.