Ana Victoria Cruz posted an articleA 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.
STEP 1 - Create an account: Click here and create a login name and password. Use the code DIGITAL2020 to get it free.
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Steven Saum posted an articleHere’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.
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.
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.
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.
District office meetings, letter writing sessions...all in support of Peace Corps! see more
From Miami to San Diego, calls to action will be incorporated into viewings of a new Peace Corps documentary film. In Denver and Albany, letter writing gatherings are in the works. In Portland, Oregon, advocates are making their own video to share with lawmakers about why Peace Corps is important. And, from Richmond to Austin to San Bernardino, leaders of the Peace Corps community are seeking meetings with the district offices of their elected representatives.
As part of our 16th annual National Days of Action in support of the Peace Corps, community members from every corner of the country are organizing local solidarity events in support of the Peace Corps in March and April, in addition to out March 5th Capitol Hill National Day of Action.
You don't have to come to Washington to make known your support for the Peace Corps. Check out our interactive map below for details on activities being planned in your area. And, if there's nothing currently planned in your area, please fill out this registration form so you can be an advocacy leader in your state/region. Help us organize activities in every state!
Questions? Contact NPCA's Community Engagement Associate Arianna Richard for more information.
NPCA is proud to partner with Water Charity to bring clean water to the world.
Visit watercharity.com to learn more.
For just one day in 2020 - make a difference for Peace Corps see more
As 2019 winds down, advocates for a strong and vibrant Peace Corps will reflect on a year which saw introduction of comprehensive legislation in the House of Representatives to further support and honor the Peace Corps community, a proposed (and defeated) vote to eliminate all Peace Corps funding in the current fiscal year, Senate legislation to place Peace Corps under the State Department, and a pending decision to support stable – or slightly higher – funding for the agency.
These challenging issues will be front and center in March 2020 for the 16th consecutive National Days of Action in Support of the Peace Corps.
Sharing your experience on the importance of Peace Corps to your congressional representatives is as important as it ever has been. Sign up to help! Here's how:
Come to Capitol Hill in March
Our annual day-long Capitol Hill advocacy day is set for Thursday, March 5, 2020. We’re planning for at least 150 advocates to be with us for a full day of direct advocacy. You can start planning to be with us by registering right here, right now! The deadline to register is Thursday, February 13th.
Organize a Solidarity Event at Home
Whether it’s a letter writing party, an advocacy 101 training, or a district office meeting with your member of Congress, we need Days of Action solidarity events throughout next March (and even into April). Don’t delay, sign up here today so we can start planning with you.
Have questions? We're here to help. Email email@example.com.
Peace Corps funding, RPCV health and honoring service were all on our Capitol Hill advocacy agenda see more
Once again this year, NPCA marked Peace Corps Week by kicking off its 15th Annual National Day of Action, urging our community to reach out to Congress in support of the Peace Corps.
Approximately 125 passionate advocates joined us on Capitol Hill for more than 160 meetings with congressional offices.
Was it the best Day of Action ever?
The answer: Not yet.
NPCA on the Hill
"We had a great day on Capitol Hill," said NPCA Advocacy Director Jonathan Pearson. "But the work is actually just beginning. We laid a great foundation for our efforts to increase funding for the Peace Corps, raise the disability pay for RPCVs with serious service-related injuries or illness, and honor RPCV service by allowing the Peace Corps logo to be used at gravesites or in death notices. Our efforts in the coming weeks and months will determine how successful we are in addressing these items and helping the Peace Corps be the best it can be."
"Every year I've seen in the Peace Corps news that funding for the organization stays strong. I might have sent a scripted message or two to my elected officials advocating for Peace Corps. But I never realized the efforts that go into securing the budget that the agency needs to thrive, sometimes even in an adverse political climate when other international programs are getting slashed. Taking part in the NPCA Capitol Hill advocacy day gave me just a small glimpse of what it takes ... and wow. This was such a well organized event.... the amount of prep work the NPCA advocacy team did to prepare for it must have been extraordinary. As a first timer it gave a bit of a thrill to run all over Capitol Hill and visit the offices of 18 elected officials from Illinois to talk up the NPCA / Peace Corps agenda. We had sit-down meetings with 6 of them. Best part of the day was meeting with an Illinois congressman whose son recently started Peace Corps training. We talked about the Peace Corps budget and all, but at the end of the day, he was a dad, and we chatted about the realities of training, personal safety, how often to send mail, paying customs on care packages, and when to make a family visit. It brought it back to what the Peace Corps is all about, making personal connections. So much fun. Would recommend it to anyone.... see our legislative process at work. Hoping I can make it again next year."
-Kathryn Hall (Costa Rica 1985-1987)
Take Action Now
Your help is needed! Here is how you get started:
- Contact Congress: In the past several days, more than 750 messages have been sent to Congress on key Peace Corps issues. We need thousands more. Follow this link and send a quick message to your lawmakers now.
- Organize an Activity: Our National Days of Action continue! Help us make this a nationwide effort by organizing an event in your hometown: host a letter writing gathering, request a district office meeting with your lawmaker(s), or hold an advocacy training. Your first step? Register your event here.
Take A Look Back
Our success requires your support! Make a donation to NPCA advocacy efforts here.
We're gearing up for our annual National Days of Action starting with Capitol Hill on February 28th see more
2019 marks the 15th consecutive year that National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) is mobilizing the Peace Corps community during Peace Corps week in order to advance our goal to help the Peace Corps be the best it can be.
That effort will involve a push to secure the first increase in funding for the agency in nearly five years, continue to seek health care improvements for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who come home with service related illnesses or injuries, and advance legislation that honor and respect Peace Corps service.
We Need YOU
From the hallways of Congress to the main streets of your local communities, we need your involvement during an uncertain political environment. There is no more important way to bring the world home than sharing your views on Peace Corps service with your members of Congress.
As we prepare for our National Days of Action, here’s how you can help.
- Join us on Capitol Hill: Register now for our February 28th Capitol Hill advocacy day. We need 200 committed advocates to bring the Peace Corps message to all 535 congressional offices. No prior experience is necessary, but we need you to register no later than February 10th.
- Organize a Solidarity Event Back Home: We need activity in all fifty states! From February through April, RPCVs will be organizing district office meetings with members of congress, conducting phone call and letter writing gatherings, and educating friends and neighbors on the importance of supporting the Peace Corps. Even if you don’t have key details planned, sign up here today so we can help you plan your local solidarity event.
- Write Your Lawmakers Right Now: Take five minutes right now to write your elected representatives. With the new Congress one week into their job, congratulate your lawmaker(s), wish them well and introduce them to key Peace Corps initiatives as we move forward.
Be sure to visit NPCA’s advocacy webpages in the coming weeks to stay up-to-date on developments as we build towards our National Days of Action.
Help us bring 200 advocates to Capitol Hill see more
For the past fourteen years, National Peace Corps Association's contribution to Peace Corps Week has been devoted to raising the collective voice of our community to urge Congress to support measures aimed at strengthening and improving the Peace Corps. Over those years, that day has served as a launch point leading to tens of millions of additional dollars to support Peace Corps programming, and legislation enhancing Peace Corps health, safety and recognition.
Now, as we prepare for the 15th annual Capitol Hill Day of Action, you can make plans to join in!
We will be on Capitol Hill on Thursday, February 28, 2019. On this day we will urge strong funding for the Peace Corps, explain why Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who come home with service-related illnesses or injuries need further support, and promote other forms of recognition for Peace Corps service.
Will you be one of the Peace Corps voices on Capitol Hill February 28th?
Register for NPCA's Capitol Hill National Day of Action right now...right here!
House Foreign Affairs Committee Approves Revised Version of H.R. 2259 see more
As we prepare for a June 28th Peace Corps Health Justice Capitol Hill advocacy day (click here to register), pending health and safety legislation took another important step forward, but not without a setback.
Thursday morning, the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) unanimously approved the latest version of the legislation (H.R. 2259). The bi-partisan legislation was introduced by Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) and RPCV Congressman Joe Kennedy (D-MA).
The next stop for the legislation is expected to be the floor of the House of Representatives for a final vote by the chamber. In March, the Senate gave unanimous approval to its version of this legislation.
The HFAC vote was on an amended bill Congressmen Poe presented to the committee. Several differences remain between Senate and House bills and will require further negotiation.
Similarities and Differences
There is significant alignment in many provisions in the Senate and House bills dealing with continued or new reforms to address sexual assault and other forms of violence against serving Peace Corps volunteers. There is also similar language to address reforms to further improve medical care for serving volunteers.
As the House legislation now stands, significant changes were made to proposed reforms to support Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who are back in the U.S. confronting injuries or illness related to their service. Perhaps the most significant change is the removal of a provision originally proposed and fought for by the affiliate group Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers, to increase the low level of financial support for individuals whose short or long term injuries or illness render them eligible for workers’ compensation.
With some opposition among other House members due to costs related to the workers' compensation provision, Congressman Poe expressed his disappointment in removing that portion of the bill. As he noted in his submitted remarks to the committee, "I fought long and hard to increase the disability payment provided to disabled returned volunteers so they can make ends meet. I hope that this provision will one day become law. However, until then, the (other) improvements in this bill are essential and valuable for our angels abroad."
Read this press release with comments from Congressmen Poe and Kennedy following today's HFAC action.
A bi-partisan group of HFAC members took time during the committee meeting to express support the the Peace Corps, its volunteers and various parts of the House legislation. They included HFAC Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), Brad Sherman (D-CA, who noted his wife was a volunteer in Togo who needed medical care and faced an interruption in her service), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Tom Garrett (R-VA).
A bi-partisan group of sixty House Representatives are co-sponsors of H.R. 2259.
Come to Capitol Hill for Health Justice Awareness Day - June 22 see more
We are very proud of the hard work and commitment of our NPCA Volunteer Advocacy Coordinators – who are the key conduits between NPCA advocacy staff and our community at large. As we approach our third annual Health Justice Awareness Day, we are featuring Louisiana Advocacy Coordinator Kendra LeSar (Honduras 2007-09), who will be on Capitol Hill on June 22 to advocate for critical Peace Corps health care legislation, something she cares about from both a professional and personal perspective.
Best of Both Worlds
When Kendra graduated from college, she faced a decision that many face. Peace Corps or graduate school? “When I found the Master's International program at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine it seemed like the best of both. I was assigned to work with two government-run health centers in eastern Honduras where I taught reproductive health, HIV prevention, and nutrition classes.”
Kendra’s main assignment ended turned out to be teaching 5th grade sex education at a public elementary school. “I loved it and have worked in school health ever since.”
Making Advocacy Personal
As an experienced advocate who has engaged at both the national and state level, Kendra is coming to Washington because she knows the most effective advocacy goes beyond a phone click.
“I think that participating in our democracy is critical. While emails and phone calls are useful, showing up and speaking to elected officials and their staff can have a huge impact on their consideration of issues.”
And, when it comes to Peace Corps post-service health care, Kendra’s personal experience is like that of many others. “I am coming to share my personal experience as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who is proud to have served my country but who also faced challenges accessing care for service-related injuries when I came home. I hope to speak with elected officials from Louisiana to tell them how important the Peace Corps is and how difficult it can be, under the current system, for volunteers to receive the health care that they need.”
Progress on Multiple Fronts
As the Advocacy Coordinator with the Louisiana Peace Corps Association, Kendra says she is seeing increased interest in advocacy for Peace Corps and many other issues. “Our campaign to contact elected officials in March led to (Congressman) Cedric Richmond signing on to the Peace Corps funding Dear Colleague letter for the first time. It's exciting to see our efforts pay off!”
At the same time, Kendra notes that being an advocate for the Peace Corps goes beyond funding. “Funding is obviously essential to keep the Peace Corps operating, but to truly support the current, future, and returned volunteers we need to advocate for policies to improve the agency. As a public health professional, I think it is critical to ensure that all volunteers have access to the health services they need both while they are serving and when they return home.”
There is still time to join Kendra on Capitol Hill on June 22nd, but you need to register here by our Sunday, June 18th deadline.
And, if you can’t join us on Capitol Hill, set aside time and make plans to take action on June 22nd during our Health Justice Awareness Day.
#8: If not us, who? We have to act: Health Justice Awareness Day, June 22 see more
As the Peace Corps community prepares for our 3rd annual Health Justice Awareness Day on June 22nd, here are eight reasons why you should join us on Capitol Hill or make plans to take action to advance Peace Corps health legislation in the House of Representatives (HR 2259, A.K.A. The Sam Farr Peace Corps Enhancement Act).
1. The Right Thing to Do
Peace Corps Volunteers served our country with honor and distinction, putting their health and well-being at risk. For those who came home with service-related illness and injuries, we need to help them get the care and support they deserve.
2. Strengthened Care at Posts
From codifying health standards at Peace Corps posts, to further addressing malaria prophylaxis standards, to further monitoring and evaluating volunteer satisfaction, The Peace Corps Enhancement Act seeks to further strengthen care in the field.
3. Continuity of Care
The Peace Corps Enhancement Act proposes to expand Peace Corps involvement in post-service diagnosis and treatment for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) with service-related health issues for up to six months.
4. Fairer Compensation
For disabled RPCVs whose health needs are most severe, the legislation would raise the woefully inadequate worker's compensation level that some in our community struggle to survive on.
5. Sexual Assault
A Sexual Assault Advisory Council - established as part of the 2012 Kate Puzey Act, would be extended through 2023 to provide ongoing review and guidance in supporting Peace Corps sexual assault survivors.
6. Agency Involvement
This bi-partisan legislation has been prepared with significant input from the Peace Corps. Most of the key provisions have been supported by Peace Corps leadership.
7. Tracking the Numbers
A new addition to this legislation - recommending further surveys of RPCVs on how their service-related health needs are being met - can help identify further health care challenges and improvements.
8. If Not Us, Who?
When it comes to wounded members of our military, there are literally thousands of organizations established to address and support their needs. This is not the case with Peace Corps Volunteers, RPCVs and their family members who often struggle in silence. If we don't stand up for them, who will?
While health legislation will not address every need of every current/returned volunteer dealing with service related issues, passage can address many key issues, provide many improvements, and continue to chart a pathway forward. If you want to improve heath care for current and returned volunteers, visit National Health Justice Awareness Day or click the button below:
Growing concern about Peace Corps' funding requires your action. see more
Many in our community are asking about the future of the Peace Corps in the new political landscape. While we remain hopeful that an improved and expanded Peace Corps will be a priority of the new administration and 115th Congress, there are growing indicators of concern.
Among those concerns are indications that our nation’s International Affairs Budget (which includes Peace Corps) will be targeted for significant cuts. That’s why NPCA President & CEO Glenn Blumhorst (pictured here, second from left) and Government Affairs Officer J.M. Ascienzo went to Capitol Hill Wednesday with nearly 90 other leaders in the business and international development community as part of the US Global Leadership Coalition’s advocacy day to make the case for a sustained $60 billion for the International Affairs Budget (otherwise known as the 150 Account).
Another concern? We now enter the beginning of the budget and appropriations season for the first time in two decades without just-retired RPCV Congressman Sam Farr, our lead champion for the Peace Corps on Capitol Hill.
This is why we need a united and energized community to raise our collective voice to support Peace Corps’ $410 million appropriation, ensure the opportunity for all qualified applicants to serve, and continue to advance legislation and other initiatives to improve the Peace Corps.
Uniting and Engaging our Community in March
We have the vehicle to take action, and it is only a few weeks away: NPCA’s 13th annual National Days of Action in Support of the Peace Corps. Following immediately on the heels of our own Capitol Hill Day on March 2nd, NPCA affiliate groups and advocacy coordinators are also mobilizing activities during the first half of March right in your backyard.
Affiliate groups in Maine and Colorado, from Miami to St. Louis to Spokane, are organizing district office meetings with their lawmakers. The Phoenix RPCVs are planning an advocacy training, while the Minnesota RPCVs are combining advocacy with an evening of storytelling. Atlanta RPCVs are designing their own Day of Action postcards to send to Members of Congress, while the Kentucky RPCVs are incorporating letter writing to their lawmakers into their monthly dinner gathering.
Come together March 3 – 15 to make it unequivocally clear that our nation needs the Peace Corps now as much as any time in its 56-year history.
From honoring an RPCV leader to a huge Capitol Hill mobilization, check out our 2016 highlights. see more
2016 was an especially momentous and memorable year for the Peace Corps community's advocacy efforts. With major victories and progress made, arrivals and departures, new initiatives launched and familiar ones improved upon, the Peace Corps community's causes were championed at a whole new level, and none of it would have been possible without you — citizen advocates from across the country and all over the world. You visited with lawmakers from district offices in Fort Worth to Capitol Hill, sent in thousands of messages and phone calls, garnered a record number of Congressional signatories, and went Farr and beyond what was asked of you. Thank you!
As we prepare for a new political environment in 2017, your participation, energy and donations to NPCA's advocacy efforts are needed now more than ever. NPCA can provide you with the necessary resources to advocate, but we'll need you to ensure the future of the Peace Corps!
As we close out the year, we're celebrating those champions and moments from 2016 that helped make the Peace Corps community the best it can be.
- Mr. Peace Corps Says Goodbye. After decades of service to the Peace Corps community and its causes on Capitol Hill, Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA) announced his retirement. Known to his colleagues as "Mr. Peace Corps" for his staunch advocacy of a program he regularly referred to as "the American taxpayer's best bang for its buck," Congressman Farr began his career in public service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia. To honor Congressman Farr, a PCV/RPCV healthcare bill was named...
- The Sam Farr Peace Corps Enhancement Act. H.R. 6037, introduced by Congressmen Farr and Ted Poe (R-TX) in the House in September, aims to improve healthcare for PCVs/RPCVs with service-related conditions. A collaborative effort by Congressmen Farr and Poe, the Peace Corps, NPCA affiliate "Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers," and NPCA, the bill will need the support and action of the Peace Corps community as it is reintroduced in the House along with the introduction of a Senate version in the new Congress. Awareness on Capitol Hill for greater care for what Congressman Poe calls "angels abroad" is in large part thanks to the community's efforts during...
- Capitol Hill Advocacy Day. Set as the kickoff for Peace Corps Connect 2016 and to coincide with the 55th anniversary of the signing of the Peace Corps Act into law, over 200 advocates from the Peace Corps community met with lawmakers and their staffs to champion our community's causes. Highlights from the day included speeches by Congressmen Mike Honda (D-CA) (RPCV El Salvador) and Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) (RPCV the Dominican Republic), retired Lt. Gen. and former Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, and the participation in meetings by several Peace Corps host country embassy representatives. The day was capped in tribute to Congressman Farr, when NPCA renamed its Congressional Leadership Award the...
- Sam Farr Congressional Leadership Award. Peace Corps champions Congresswomen Kay Granger (R-TX) and Nita Lowey (D-NY) were co-recipients of the inaugural award for their outstanding efforts to secure greater funding for the agency in FY2016—$410 million, an historic high. In their acceptance speeches, both Congresswomen Granger and Lowey spoke of what an honor it was to receive an award in its first year named for such an admirable colleague and friend, and spoke of their appreciation and support for a program they've come to know through conversations not only with Congressman Farr, but from Peace Corps community advocates. NPCA also wanted to recognize the enormous volunteer achievements of its citizen advocates, and awarded Richard MacInyre with the inaugural...
- Advocate of the Year Award. A longtime Maine Advocacy Coordinator, MacIntyre (RPCV South Korea), represented the best of the community's advocacy efforts. With approximately 40 Advocacy Coordinators around the country, these volunteer leaders are crucial to boosting the community's impact. Whether they're organizing district office meetings with lawmakers in Lincoln, NE, promoting advocacy at affiliate group events in Jacksonville, FL, or organizing congressional letter-writing Happy Hours in Buffalo, NY, they're helping get the community's voice to those who can act on it. As new NPCA Advocacy Coordinators sign up from across the country — including Seattle, WA, Columbia, MO, and New York City — our efforts will be stronger than ever in 2017, and we'll need them to build on past victories, like the record number of signatories for the...
- FY16 Peace Corps Dear Colleague: Authored by bipartisan Peace Corps champions in both chambers of Congress, this year's letter urging greater funding for the Peace Corps garnered a record number of lawmaker's names in the House — 165 — and 30 more in the Senate. The number of signatories has consistently grown, thanks in large part to the community's efforts to make phone calls and send in emails throughout the year, especially during June, when the community sent in over...
- 10,000 Messages! By providing you with new click-to-send letter writing software, we not only provide an easier way in which to write to your members of Congress, we also are better able to monitor and report on our impact. In May, we issued the challenge: 10,000 messages to Congress supporting increased Peace Corps funding. You delivered and then some, with nearly 12,000 messages to Capitol Hill in less than thirty days. That is a benchmark we want to build upon as we begin 2017.
- The Walk for Peace: Several hundred RPCVs and Peace Corps supporters marched through Washington, D.C. to Capitol Hill on September 25, 2016 to tell our leaders that the world needs a bigger, better Peace Corps. The walk began at University Yard at George Washington University, traveled down Pennsylvania Ave. past the White House, and ended on Capitol Hill for a speaker series highlighting the impact of Peace Corps.
- A Shifting Advocacy Landscape: RPCV Congressman Mike Honda (El Salvador ) lost his re-election bid during the November elections. Coupled with the retirement of Representative Sam Farr (Colombia), Peace Corps representation in Congress will be at its lowest level in nearly 40 years.
- 2017 Preparations: With a new President-Elect, the beginning of a new Congress, and the election of more than 50 newcomers to the U.S. Senate and House, we are already preparing for 2017. The year ahead will involve introducing the Peace Corps community to the Trump administration and many freshman lawmakers, making a strong case for increased Peace Corps funding in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, re-introducing and advancing Peace Corps health legislation, monitoring and providing input on the nomination of a new Peace Corps Director, and much, much more. It all begins with our National Days of Action in early March, where we will call upon everyone in the Peace Corps community to reach out to policymakers to express support for the Peace Corps. This year's initiative includes a goal of 100 activities around the country during the first half of March.
Make it an even better New Year by becoming involved.
Reach out to your regional and/or state NPCA Advocacy Coordinators and let them know you're interested in attending district meetings. Does your region or state need an Advocacy Coordinator? We can help you become one or enlist others. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donate to the advocacy program. To ensure the future of the Peace Corps, we'll need scale up our efforts on Capitol Hill while also continuing to help you advocate from afar and in your districts. Every gift counts!
Thank you for all you do and happy New Year!
JM Ascienzo posted an articleOn Capitol Hill, new legislation is introduced to address key RPCV service related health issues see more
Representatives Ted Poe (R-TX) and Sam Farr (D-CA) introduced Peace Corps healthcare legislation earlier today that would provide Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) with service-related conditions greater healthcare, including an increase in worker's compensation benefits and extending the length of time they remain under Peace Corps' care. The bipartisan Sam Farr Peace Corps Enhancement Act (H.R. 6037) also reauthorizes key provisions of the Kate Puzey Act, including the extension of the Office of Victim Advocacy to care for survivors of sexual assault, and the extension of Peace Corps' Sexual Assault Advisory Council to 2023.
Through a press release on his website Rep. Poe said, “Congress took a historic step in passing the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act in 2011, but there is more work to be done to protect our angels abroad...This bill will go even further to both keep volunteers healthy and ensure that those who have experienced sexual assault have the assistance and protection they need. These safeguards are necessary not only to protect current volunteers, but also to ensure more young Americans join the Peace Corps in the future.”
“Since its establishment in 1961, Peace Corps has served as a vehicle for peace, hope and compassion,” said Rep. Farr. “I’m deeply humbled to have Judge Poe, a strong advocate for Peace Corps Volunteers in his own right, name this bill after me and I’m honored to cosponsor it. Expanding, promoting and improving Peace Corps has been a passion of mine since serving in Colombia from 1964-1966 and I look forward to using my remaining few months in Congress to continue this important mission.”
Other provisions in the legislation attempt to strengthen anti-malarial protections for currently serving volunteers, strengthen the number and training requirements for Peace Corps Medical Officers, removes the Peace Corps five-year rule from certain management support positions, and requires further publication requirements for the annual volunteer satisfaction survey.
Several of the key RPCV health provisions in the legislation have been advocated by Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers, an NPCA affiliate group established several years ago to raise more awareness and support for RPCVs facing health challenges stemming from their Peace Corps service.
Health legislation, as well as strong funding for the Peace Corps, will be key issues raised during NPCA's Capitol Hill Advocacy Day on Thursday, September 22.
Follow this link to read a summary of H.R. 6037.
Follow this link to read the legislation.
Follow this link to add your support for Peace Corps funding and health legislation in advance of NPCA's Capitol Hill advocacy day.
Do NPCA advocates make a difference? You need to read about these two first timers to Capitol Hill. see more
Many among the estimated 230 National Peace Corps Association advocates who participated in our Peace Corps 55th Anniversary advocacy day had no previous experience in the world of Capitol Hill citizen-lobbying. Among them were our October Advocates of the Month, the Ashland, Oregon husband and wife team of Asifa Kanji and David Drury.
For David and Asifa, their Peace Corps experiences were recent and extensive, serving first as 27-month Volunteers in Mali from 2011 - 12 and later signing on as Peace Corps Response Volunteers in both Ghana and South Africa.
Capitol Hill? That was another story.
The couple didn't know exactly what to expect when they signed up to take part. "As first-timers, Asifa and I were a little nervous about it all", said David. "How are you supposed to act around a Senator or Congressperson? What do you say? We didn't want to be an embarrassment to Peace Corps."
That, they were not! And, as Asifa noted, "Whoever would have thought (advocating on the Hill) would be the highlight of my Peace Corps Connect experience."
David and Asifa studied the NPCA briefing papers the night before, and gathered at a church on the morning of advocacy day, joining four other Oregonians who also had little or no advocacy experience. With this in mind, NPCA bolstered the group by connecting them with Pat Wand, a former NPCA Board member and long-time Capitol Hill advocate who had previously lived in Oregon. The first stop was a constituent coffee where the group had a few minutes meeting junior Senator Jeff Merkley, followed by additional time with his staff to make the case for increased Peace Corps funding and better health care support for Volunteers and RPCVs with service-related illnesses or injuries.
Wand got the group started with both of the group's Senate meetings. But then it was time for Team Oregon to split up and meet with their respective members of the House of Representatives. "Oh my, we are on our own!" thought Asifa. "Suddenly, it was my turn to speak to my Republican representative."
In this case, the meeting (pictured above) was with Congressman Greg Walden, a key member of the House Republican leadership. Asifa shared her story of being an immigrant to this country, and how her decision to become a U.S. citizen was very much due to her desire to serve in the Peace Corps. "I have to tell you, I have never been so proud to say I was an American as when I was in the Peace Corps."
Upon sharing she was originally from Tanzania, Congressman Walden noted he had recently visited that country on a congressional delegation (CODEL) with RPCV Congressman and Peace Corps champion Sam Farr. He pulled out his i-phone, shared photos and talked about his CODEL trip.
With a strong connection made, David and Asifa got to the business at hand. As Asifa recalls, "After that it wasn't hard to look him in the eye and with a big smile ask him to co-sponsor H.R. 6037 (Peace Corps health legislation). My husband, who knew that Rep. Walden had worked hard to improve the medical services military vets get, was quick to add that PCVs have served their country too and deserve better care for medical conditions related to their service. The congressman was on board. Wow."
Congressman Walden became one of the first co-sponsors of the legislation. and there is no doubt it was due to the efforts of Asifa and David! The meeting had more than a passing impact, as RPCV Congressman John Garamendi shared the story of being approached later that day on the House floor by Congressman Walden, who wanted to tell him about the meeting with his RPCV constituents.
David was generous in his praise of the NPCA for a successful first-time advocacy experience. "We couldn't have done it without the fantastic support provided by the NPCA staff and advocacy volunteers...The NPCA staff did all the heavy lifting, setting up appointments, providing briefing sheets, and heading up each state delegation with an experienced person who showed us how it should be done. They worked their tushes off* to make us look good. And once you've done it, you see how satisfying and fun advocacy can be."
We are very proud of our advocates of the month for their highly significant and successful participation on Capitol Hill.
NPCA can continue congressional outreach only with your support. Donate now to the Community Fund to advocate for a bigger, better Peace Corps.
JM Ascienzo posted an articleRegistered for the September 22nd Capitol Hill Advocacy Day? Here's all the information you need. see more
NPCA's Capitol Hill Advocacy Day
Important Info, Reminders and Agenda
Welcome! If you're reading this it's because you've decided to join nearly 250 Peace Corps community members to champion an improved, expanded Peace Corps on Thursday, September 22. We'll be urging Congress for more funding for Peace Corps and better healthcare for Returned Peace Corps volunteers. Whether you're a seasoned Peace Corps advocate or it's your first time on the Hill, we've got all the info and materials you need to make an impact. See you soon!
— Jonathan and J.M.
Advocacy 101 Webinar, 12:00 Noon EDT, September 18: New to Capitol Hill advocacy or need a refresher course on what to expect? We've got you covered. This 45-minute session will focus on topics ranging from what a congressional office meeting is like to how to prepare for the day. For in-depth discussion on talking points and issues, join us for the in-person orientation (below). Email us at email@example.com to sign up for September 18 with the subject line "Advocacy 101 Webinar."
In-Person, 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM, Wednesday, September 21, Lutheran Church of the Reformation, 212 East Capitol St NE, Washington, DC 20003: Registration will begin at 5:30 PM, and our orientation program will begin at 6:00 PM. During the orientation you'll meet others in your state delegations, and we'll go over specifics on our advocacy issues — including recently-introduced health legislation and Peace Corps funding —and answer any questions. The in-person orientation is strongly encouraged.
Capitol Hill Advocacy Day
All Day, Thursday, September 22
Registration, 7:15 AM to 8:00 AM, Lutheran Church of the Reformation, 212 East Capitol St NE, Washington, DC 20003: Continued registration, and meet up with your meeting delegations over coffee/tea and breakfast items.
Kickoff, 8:00 AM to 9:15 AM, Lutheran Church of the Reformation: Remarks by the Peace Corps community's Congressional champs and special guests. Many of you will have meetings starting at 10 AM, though a few groups may have meetings earlier, and will need to leave the kickoff early.
Meetings, throughout the day, House and Senate Office Buildings: Access to your meetings and delegations, talking points and leave-behind materials, and maps of Capitol Hill will be available both in-hand and by mobile app closer to September 22.
Reception and Awards Ceremony, 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM, Hart Senate Office Building, Room 902: Please join us to celebrate the day with your fellow advocates and Hill staff, and to honor Colombia RPCV Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) for his decades of service to the Peace Corps community, and the recipients of NPCA's Sam Farr Congressional Leadership Award, Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY). Beverages and hors d'oeuvres will be served.
Staging Room, 10:30 AM to 4:30 PM: Hart Senate Office Building Room 512 will be our staging area throughout the day. There you can reconnect with team members, write thank you notes and meeting reports, drop off luggage, or take a break! Hart 512 will be staffed throughout the day.
Arriving on September 22 after 10:30 AM?: Go first to Hart Senate Office Building Room 512 — our staging room — to get your meeting materials.
What should I wear? Please dress as you would for an interview — with footwear ready for plenty of walking — or if possible in clothing from your country of service. We'll have NPCA advocacy swag for you, but wear all the Peace Corps pride you want!
Will there be food? There will be coffee/tea and breakfast items at the morning kickoff (7:15 AM to 9:30 AM) and beverages and hors d'oeuvres at the reception and awards ceremony (5:00 PM to 7:00 PM). There are cafeterias and coffee shops in most Senate and House office buildings. Food is allowed to be brought in to all Senate and House office buildings, and we encourage you to carry light snacks or fruit with you.
How do I get there? We recommend accessing Capitol Hill area by the Metro subway, exiting at either Union Station on the red line or Capitol South on the orange, silver and blue lines. These metro stops are about a 10-15 minute walk from the Lutheran Church of the Reformation.
What should I bring? Smiles, good attitudes, and something to take plenty of pictures with!
State Resources! Visit NPCA's State Advocacy Toolkits page for background on your lawmakers, their past support for Peace Corps issues, and Peace Corps' presence in your state.
Advocacy Day Issue Materials: Talking points and leave behinds for 1) Sam Farr Peace Corps Enhancement Act (health bill) and 2) Peace Corps funding. *We will have these printed for you in your registration packets.
New to the Hill? Check out these key guidelines for making any meeting a success.
Want to tweet and post to social media? Please do! Use the hashtags #NPCAHillDay, #PeaceCorps55, #PeaceCorpsNOW, and #RPCVHealth for general advocacy, and #MrPeaceCorps to celebrate Rep. Sam Farr's decades of service to the Peace Corps community.
Questions or Concerns?
They'll all be answered at the in-person orientation on September 21. But for anything pressing or for last minute cancelations, contact Jonathan or J.M. from the advocacy team.
Jonathan Pearson: firstname.lastname@example.org / (202) 293-7728 ext 21
J.M. Ascienzo: email@example.com / (202) 293-7728 ext 24
Peace Corps Connect Conference Registration
Finally, while most of have already done so, there is still time to register for other events during our Peace Corps Connect Conference. See Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and authors Sebastian Junger and Sara Chayes. Check out action oriented workshops and visit our sold out exhibit space. Plan to participate in a Walk for Peace. See old friends, make new ones, and learn more about how to continue to commit to Peace Corps ideals. You can register right here, right now!