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  • Cooper Roberts posted an article
    Learn more about serving overseas as a RPCV "Cultural Coach" see more

    CALL (Cultural Agility Leadership Lab) is an exclusive partnership between Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business and National Peace Corps Association, providing a turnkey solution for corporate-sponsored international volunteerism (ICV) and pro bono advisor programs.

    By Jenna Glickman, RPCV Colombia 2012-15

    In October, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in a third goal experience that involved sharing my host country culture with a group of international corporate volunteers. Better yet, this activity was a week-long immersion in country! This meant traveling back to my country of service, Colombia, for the first time since my COS, to be a cultural coach with the Cultural Agility Leadership Lab (CALL), in partnership with National Peace Corps Association.

    The CALL model is different than most corporate volunteering programs because it doesn’t just match volunteers with a nonprofit and send them on their way. CALL goes above and beyond and provides volunteers with technical and cultural support before and during the program, kind of like a mini PST. In this case, the volunteers were from Johnson & Johnson, and they traveled to Bogota for a month to provide expertise to Operation Smile Colombia. While Operation Smile is a well-known international NGO, the Colombia office is mostly self-run with staff who are experts at their mission: providing holistic services to children and their families with cleft conditions. The Colombia office asked for corporate guidance from J&J with the management and operations of the organization. Each J&J volunteer had an NGO counterpart with whom they worked directly on refining their strategic plan.

    My role as a cultural coach was to accompany the J&J volunteers for the first week in order to acclimate them to Colombian culture and customs, particularly in a professional setting. Inspired by my own sessions in PST and the famous Culture Matters book, I facilitated some cultural integration trainings and interactive discussions with the employees as well as the NGO staff so everyone could get to know each other better and find a good working style. However, my favorite part of the experience was planning the nighttime and weekend excursions around the city! We did a mix of typical touristy activities as well as a few that were off the beaten path. One night we went out for salchipapas, a Colombian street food staple involving cut up hot dogs, French fries, shredded lettuce, mayo, and pineapple sauce - delicious! Another night we played tejo, an extremely lively game that involves throwing rocks into mud pits with explosives (yes, really!). This cohort knew how to work hard and have a great time, estilo Colombiano!

    The work that the J&J volunteers did was definitely in the spirit of Peace Corps service. The four employees in the cohort all had diverse background and expertise, but were extremely proactive and flexible -- great attributes of future PCVs. Watching their final presentation, where they were confidently presenting their findings and recommendations to Operation Smile Colombia, evoked a feeling of pride, even though I was merely playing a supporting role in their journey. I am thrilled to have shared and enjoyed a piece of Colombian culture with some new amigos.


    If you'd like NPCA to be able to provide more opportunities for RPCVs like Jenna (including yourself!) to be able to get back to their country service in a meaningful way, please consider supporting NPCA with a donation.


     December 06, 2018
  • Bringing the Private Sector and the Peace Corps Community Together see more

    NPCA, in partnership with Northeastern University's Cultural Agility Leadership Lab (CALL), has created new opportunities for returned Peace Corps volunteers, while bringing private sector expertise to strengthen the capacity of local humanitarian development organizations in Thailand and other countries. The partnership matches RPCVs with skills-based corporate volunteers from Cigna, a global health service company, to deliver technical assistance to local NGOs, while also enhancing the cultural agility of the corporate volunteers. 

    For the past three years, Cigna has sent its rising leaders to Indonesia and Thailand through CALL to learn from and understand more on the health care needs of the Indonesian and Thai people.  Cigna and CALL interact with health care at many levels including the villages, government, and private hospitals, as well as healthcare NGOs throughout the country.  This year, the ITLP program worked in Chiang Mai with various NGOs under the umbrella of the Raks Thai Foundation, focusing on health populations including HIV/AIDS, drug-user groups, refugee and migratory groups, and youth development groups.  

    Joel Saldana (RPCV Thailand 2012-2014), a second year RPCV participant in the program, shared his thoughts. "It's been a great opportunity to work with Americans from the corporate world who are trying to learn about Thai people.  It's most fulfilling to have the 'aha' moments when you have that meaningful exchange through food, smiles, or a simple greeting," Joel is one of three RPCVs who accompanied nine Cigna skills-based volunteers on their short-term assignments in Thailand. RPCVs serve as cultural coaches and also provide technical guidance and support to the work undertaken. 

    Joel observed that "Cigna is putting their money where their commitments are—in developing a workforce that is ready to take on global challenges, is culturally agile, and is attempting to understand a little part of the world."  Cigna participants work with their assigned NGOs to help scale their success in program management, operations, or project solutions.  In a very short time frame, they learn how to work with Thai people, understand the organizations needs, and assist with their challenges.  

    NPCA envisions expanding the program to eventually field over 100 corporate volunteers in multiple countries, particularly linking them to NGOs where PCVs or RPCVs are involved. Forthcoming projects will field RPCVs and corporate volunteers from Johnson & Johnson on short-term assignments in Peru, Mexico and Guatemala. 

    For more information, please contact our International Programs division:

     September 18, 2017
  • Amanda Silva posted an article
    In June 2016, NPCA in partnership with CALL and Cigna, embarked on an adventure to Thailand! see more

    The National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) is a proud partner of Northeastern University's Cultural Agility Leadership Lab (CALL). NPCA continually seeks out opportunities to increase the impact of the Peace Corps community; with CALL, our organization pulls from the invaluable cultural knowledge and expertise of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV) to support projects abroad. 

    In June 2016, NPCA, CALL and our private sector partner, Cigna, created a team to address the needs of three nongovernmental organizations in Bangkok, Thailand. Twelve Cigna corporate volunteers provided pro bono IT support, while experiencing a crash course in cultural agility led by three RPCVs and Northeastern's Dr. Paula Caliguiri.

    Cigna representatives partnered with cultural coaches and Thailand RPCVs Jessica Martin, Joel Saldana Jr. and NPCA’s own J.M. Ascienzo. 

    With the guidance of RPCV cultural coaches, accomplishments of the Bangkok program include:

    Baan Nokkamin Foundation

    Cigna volunteers laid the groundwork for website design and strategy for the Baan Nokkamin Foundation, an organization that provides housing and opportunities for over 350 orphans. Cigna volunteers learned about Baan Nokkamin’s holistic approach to providing residents the skills they need to excel, and partnered on the project with Baan Nokkamin staff who first came to the foundation as young children in need.

    Childline Thailand

    Employees from Cigna supported the NGO, Childline Thailand, which cares for the country's most vulnerable and abused children, often the victims of child prostitution. Childline Thailand’s hub is a safe place near Bangkok’s Hua Lomphong train station for street children to receive a warm meal, extra schooling, or access to health and legal services. Cigna volunteers worked with staff from Thailand and Russia to design a website called Ya Tee Dek, which translates to “Don’t Hit Children.” The Ya Tee Dek campaign is an anti-corporal punishment resource for students, teachers and community members.

    Brighter Thailand Foundation

    Representatives of the Brighter Thailand Foundation traveled from Thailand’s northeastern Isaan Region to work with Cigna volunteers on improving its database and finance platforms. In partnership with the University of Missouri, the Brighter Thailand Foundation provides Thai youth with the opportunity to learn and strengthen leadership skills at week-long camps, often in coordination with currently-serving Peace Corps Volunteers.


    Throughout the week Cigna employees joined their NGOs away from the office to learn about Thai culture and the challenges local NGOs face. Since returning stateside the Cigna volunteers continue to collaborate with their respective NGOs, and the partnerships will last through December. The Bangkok trip followed last year’s inaugural CALL program in Indonesia.

    To support NPCA partnerships that leave a sustainable impact on NGOs abroad, visit today!

     August 17, 2016