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  • Steven Saum posted an article
    We celebrate return of Volunteers to service. And pay tribute to a leader at NPCA. see more

    As we celebrate Volunteers returning to service in dozens of countries, we pay tribute to a leader here at NPCA who made a difference at a critical time for the Peace Corps community.

     

    By Dan Baker

    At left: El Paso, 2019 — Glenn Blumhorst assists migrants at the border. 

     

    Just as the Winter 2023 edition of WorldView went press, Carol Spahn was sworn in as Director of the Peace Corps. I was delighted to be there as RPCV Rep. John Garamendi delivered the oath of office. This is an exciting and important moment. The Peace Corps community has spent nearly three years seeking to maintain and restore Volunteer programs across the world. There have been enormous obstacles, and the Peace Corps has emerged from the pandemic with a renewed clarity of purpose, better Volunteer services, and an undeniable sense of urgency that it hasn’t seen since its inception. And at the beginning of 2023, the return to service continues to gain strength and momentum, thanks to the hard work of hundreds of local Peace Corps staff, agency leaders, health and safety professionals, recruiters, and all of those who make these programs possible. We especially celebrate Volunteers boldly leading the way into the new Peace Corps.

    The pandemic forced National Peace Corps Association, like many organizations, to pivot in unforeseeable ways. The past few years have arguably been the most important in the history of this community-driven organization. NPCA itself looks much different than it did even one year ago. One of the key changes we must acknowledge was the departure last year of NPCA’s longest-serving president and CEO, Glenn Blumhorst.

    We celebrate Glenn’s important new role with the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation, which will establish a commemorative just steps from the Capitol. At the same time, many at NPCA will greatly miss his leadership of the organization. I find it fitting to honor his tenure at NPCA in this edition of WorldView by sharing some of his Peace Corps story — and a few of his most important achievements.

     

    Amplifying Impact

    Glenn launched his career with the Peace Corps, serving as an agriculture extension Volunteer in Guatemala 1988–91, supporting 18 rural Mayan Indian communities in the central highlands. Those who know his skills and dedication to service would not be surprised to know how successful he was as a Volunteer, working to increase household incomes, build an elementary school, and bring electricity to a remote village of 40 families. That work led him to nearly two decades of increasing leadership roles with the international development organization ACDI/VOCA. Then, in 2013, following a national search by NPCA, Glenn was brought on to serve as its president and CEO.

     

    Glenn Blumhorst and 3 colleagues in village in Guatemala

    Community partners: In the highlands of Guatemala, from left, Manuel Alvarado, Tiburcio Alvarado, Carmelina Alvarado Gonzales, and Volunteer Glenn Blumhorst. Photo courtesy Glenn Blumhorst

     

    Glenn soon set to work transforming NPCA: guiding the organization from struggling alumni association to a dynamic community-driven social impact enterprise. That new vision was informed in large part by Glenn’s “listening tours” across the country — meeting with NPCA affiliate group leaders, donors, and individual members to better understand their priorities. His travels took him to meet with members of the Peace Corps community in all 50 states — at potluck dinners and annual meetings, community service projects and RPCV reunions — to listen and share experiences and, together, plan for the future.

    Glenn restored and strengthened NPCA’s financial health by adopting a new business model: moving away from a dues-paying membership to opening membership to all. NPCA invited community members to invest in and support causes they care about, and NPCA provided avenues for voluntary financial contributions. That quadrupled annual revenues, enabled us to triple our staff and grow programs, and exponentially increased member engagement in NPCA’s mission. RPCV affiliate groups grew as well, from 130 to 185 under Glenn’s leadership, with many focusing explicitly on specific social impact causes.

    Glenn helped modernize NPCA’s advocacy program and grew constituent outreach. That fed successful efforts to increase Peace Corps’ federal appropriations by $30 million — and it helped fend off attempts to slash the agency’s budget (even defund it!) as well thwart an ill-advised attempt to fold the Peace Corps into the State Department. Along the way, Glenn ensured NPCA never lost sight of important reforms needed within the agency to improve Volunteer safety, security, healthcare, and post-service benefits. A milestone in that work: The Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act, signed into law in 2018, which improved the provisioning of healthcare for Volunteers, program oversight, and how the agency handles sexual assault allegations.

     

    Living Peace Corps Ideals

    The lack of services for returning Volunteers is something Glenn understood. He worked with NPCA to put in place — well before COVID-19 hit — the framework for the Global Reentry Program. That program was launched immediately when the global evacuation of Volunteers was announced in March 2020. (I stepped down from the NPCA Board to join the staff as director of the program.) The long-term vision is to provide a bridge between Volunteers’ service and a lifetime of Peace Corps ideals.

    Amid the turmoil of the pandemic’s early days, NPCA also successfully lobbied for $88 million in additional support for Volunteers; and NPCA worked to get the U.S. Department of Labor to issue guidelines that evacuated Volunteers were eligible for help under the Pandemic Assistance Program.

     

    Michelle Obama, Glenn Blumhorst, Barack Obama

    Global partnership: In 2015 with Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama, Glenn Blumhorst marks the launch of the Let Girls Learn initiative. Photo by Pete Souza/The White House

     

    In summer 2020, harnessing the experience, commitment, and innovative ideas of the Peace Corps community, NPCA convened a series of national town halls and a global ideas summit under the title Peace Corps Connect to the Future. A community-driven report from the summit contained over 220 recommendations to Congress, the Peace Corps agency and executive branch, and the Peace Corps community. It has served as a vital roadmap for many reforms and improvements that began being implemented by Peace Corps leadership prior to the return of Volunteers to service. It’s fair to say this community-driven effort also laid the groundwork for some of the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation proposals in a generation.

    These are just a few of the initiatives Glenn led NPCA to tackle. There is the launch of the Community Fund to support community projects by Volunteers, returned Volunteers — and, beginning in 2020, evacuated Volunteers — in the U.S. and globally. There is the Benevolent Fund, to support RPCVs experiencing acute hardship. And in the future, there will be Peace Corps Place, envisioned as a hub for the Peace Corps community in the Truxton Circle neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

    Glenn has begun leading a multimillion-dollar capital campaign to underwrite design and construction of the Peace Corps Commemorative. It will honor the creation of the Peace Corps in 1961 and those aspects of the American character exemplified by Peace Corps service. We are deeply grateful to Glenn for his past, present, and future service to Peace Corps ideals, and we look forward to celebrating this commemorative together when it is completed.

     

    As a part of all that NPCA has accomplished under Glenn’s leadership, we have seen tremendous growth in how NPCA tells its stories. The past three years this work has been led by Director of Strategic Communications and Editor of WorldView Steven Saum. With thought and care, the WorldView team has crafted a magazine of powerful stories and images. Those efforts have earned top national awards the past two years. Behind the scenes, Steven also orchestrated NPCA’s social media presence, newsletters, and other publications — notably the “Peace Corps Connect to the Future” report. We are sorry to announce that this will be Steven’s last edition of WorldView magazine as he moves into a new role in California.

    Interim successors for Glenn and Steven are in place, but we will stand on their shoulders as we move into the next chapters of support for a united and vibrant Peace Corps community. Please keep in touch, and stay connected online and through our email newsletters. And watch for more important Peace Corps news in upcoming editions of WorldView.


    Dan Baker is President and CEO of National Peace Corps Association. He served as a Volunteer in Bolivia 1999–2002 and Timor-Leste 2002–03, and with Peace Corps staff in Washington, D.C., Costa Rica, and Ethiopia. Write him.

     February 02, 2023
  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Volunteers had projects and grants to fund them. They had to leave and the money was frozen. see more

    Volunteers had projects and grants to fund them. They had to leave and the money was frozen. But that’s not the end of the story.

    By NPCA Staff

     

    Photo: Katherine Patterson and students of Bumbuta Secondary School in Tanzania. Patterson started the Save the Rain project to provide clean water for the school community.

     

    When Peace Corps Volunteers were evacuated from around the world, we heard from thousands asking for advice and help. They were not only worried about their own well-being, but time and again they wanted to know: What about the communities they left? the work they were doing? the projects developed together — already approved for Peace Corps grants that would now be frozen?

    Our answer: the Community Fund. We set up an application process for Volunteers and reached out to the Peace Corps community for crowdfunding support. Regulations for the Peace Corps grant programs require a Volunteer to be in a community to oversee a project. As a nonprofit organization, National Peace Corps Association ramped up a more flexible solution. That especially makes sense when many Volunteers are in regular contact with their host communities. Thanks to your support, some projects are already fully funded. Some are seeking contributors. We get new applications from evacuated Volunteers each week — and we welcome more. peacecorpsconnect.org/give

     

    Vanuatu | Chelsea Bajek

    Home: Rochester, New York / Arlington, Virginia

    For close to two years I served as a Community Health and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Education (WASH) Volunteer. I lived and worked in a small rural community on Paama Island, where I was given the name Lumi. I helped facilitate water and sanitation projects and programs to improve awareness on health, nutrition, and hygiene. I had been accepted to extend my service for a third year to work with the Ministry of Health in the capital on public health initiatives. When we were evacuated, I left behind not only my belongings, my house, my work, but also my community and my family and friends. I left behind people I called Mama and Papa, auntie and uncle, brother and sister, and countless abus (grandparents).

    One of the projects I was working on was with the local women’s group, helping them to raise funds to purchase sewing machines and related materials to be used in skill-building workshops. We had an open Peace Corps Partnership Program grant, but we lost funding when Volunteers were evacuated. There are limited resources on this small remote island, and supporting the Paama Women’s Handicraft Center will help increase opportunities for women’s economic development and empowerment; the clothing and baskets they make will be sold to pay school fees and support families. Though I am back in the United States, I continue to work with the women’s group on this project, believing it can provide real change for these women. 

     

     

     

    Benin | Cristal Ouedraogo | FUNDED!

    Home: Montgomery County, Maryland

    In Benin, women and girls face more barriers to education than men and boys. As an education volunteer, I heard people in my community express a desire to bridge that gap. So we put together a plan for a literacy and research center to create a safe space for girls to pursue academic excellence and increase gender equity in school — and give them the tools needed to be independent, lifelong learners outside the classroom. The project will benefit some 500 secondary school students — boys as well as girls — and provide technology training for teachers and community members as well.

    The project was approved for a Peace Corps Partnership Program grant that was suspended when I was evacuated. But with support the Peace Corps community has given through NPCA, we’ll still help these students — and inspire boys and girls to thrive academically, socially, and creatively.

     

      Speak and Spell: Cristal Ouedraogo was working with these students in Benin when she had to evacuate. A grant from the Community Fund will ensure the project she started becomes reality. 
     

    Moldova | Alyssa Gurkas

    Home: Westfield, New Jersey

    To combat violence against women and empower the female population in Hînceşti, Moldova, I worked with colleagues at the Mihai Viteazul Middle School to develop a plan for a tech-equipped community room. It would also host seminars on domestic violence, financial literacy, and online safety. It will benefit teachers and parents and scores of students. The funds will be used to purchase a smartboard, a computer, speakers, printer, paper, markers, flip-chart, notebooks, and lunches for seminars.

    Originally this project was going to be funded through Peace Corps’ Small Project Assistance Program, but due to the COVID-19 evacuation the project was canceled before it even began. The school actually had installed internet and already purchased chairs and desks fulfilling their community contribution — 25 percent of the grant that was required — only to find out that the project was then canceled. That hit my colleagues hard.

    But when I let them know that the Community Fund might still make it possible, English teacher Aliona Goroholschi wrote me: “I felt happiness without edges … Anything is possible when you have people who care and support you.”

     

    Colombia | Elyse Magen | FUNDED!

    Home: San Francisco, California

    As a Peace Corps Volunteer I was working with a women’s group in Santa Marta who harvest cacao and make artisanal chocolate desserts. These women are all cacao farmers themselves and have had little economic opportunity. They have not had a formal education; at a young age, they were displaced due to violence in their region. But with the business they have started, Transformación, they will be building disposable income in a culture where women have little opportunity to work.

    The grant provided by the NPCA Community Fund will allow them to carve out a workspace that complies with health sanitation codes. It will allow them to purchase machinery to make an edible chocolate bar, which will expand their market and increase profits. This, in turn, will allow them to provide for their families and invest not only in themselves but also in their children. Transformación hopes that other women can get involved in their business and that it can symbolize a wave of social change.

     

     

    Tanzania | Katherine Patterson | FUNDED!

    Home: Washington, D.C.

    With the secondary school in my community of Bumbuta, I was working on a rainwater catchment system and handwashing stations to increase access to clean water. Right now, students must carry large buckets containing drinking and cleaning water to school every morning; the water that many bring comes from unsanitary sources. With a rainwater catchment system, the school community will gain access to clean water — and improve education on water, sanitation, and hygiene practices.

    The project was approved but funding was halted as a result of the COVID-19 evacuation. I was over the moon when I found out there’s another option for funding. My ward executive officer messaged: “We wanna thank you so much tusaidie ... we love you so much!”

    Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To leave the world a bit better ... to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived — that is to have succeeded.” I’ll be able to keep a promise to myself to leave my village in a better place than when I arrived. More important, this will enable students to live healthier lives! 

     


     

    Colombia | Joshua Concannon

    Home: Kansas City, Missouri

    I was working on an effort to train dozens of women in clothing design and production by providing them with technical workshops and entrepreneurship classes from professionals. Their community is heavily reliant on agriculture for its source of jobs, so this project will diversify the economy — and provide jobs and sources of income for women. We worked together on a grant application and were approved through the Peace Corps Partnership Program. The women were overjoyed — and justifiably proud.

    One week later, all Volunteers were evacuated and Peace Corps rescinded the funds. But the opportunity with NPCA has revived my hope. Edilsa Mascote, the leader behind the project, was very emotional when I told her that there is still a chance we can get the funding. She started tearing up because she thought all hope was lost. She told me it was the perfect light they needed in their lives during this very dark time.

     

    Learn more about these and other projects supported by the Community Fund — and make a gift to help Volunteers complete them.


    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.

    Thanks for reading. And here’s how you can support the work we’re doing to help evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers.

     August 13, 2020
  • Communications Intern posted an article
    Thanks to the groups and individuals who have supported evacuated Volunteers and their projects see more

    Thank you to the groups and individuals who have supported evacuated Volunteers and their communities around the world during this time of crisis.

    By NPCA Staff
     

    In the months since the unprecedented global evacuation of Peace Corps Volunteers, National Peace Corps Association Affiliate Groups across the country have been generous with time and support they have shown evacuated Volunteers. They have provided service and assistance here in the United States during the COVID pandemic.

    A number of affiliate groups have also made generous donations to enable NPCA to provide vital transition support and services to the 7,300 recently evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers. This crucial support amplifies our community’s global social impact by providing small grants for the projects of evacuated Volunteers. And it sustains important connections with communities around the world during a time of crisis. Find out more and make a gift here.

    To all who have given support to NPCA’s Community Fund, the RPCV Benevolent Fund, and to to the Global Reentry Program: Thank you! We give special thanks to these NPCA Affiliate Groups for their generous donations: 

     

    • Atlanta Area Returned Peace Corps Volunteers

    • Friends of Colombia

    • Friends of Jordan

    • Friends of Nepal

    • Heart of Texas Peace Corps Association 

    • Peace Corps Iran Association

    • North Carolina Peace Corps Association

    • Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of New Jersey

    • RPCVs of Northeastern New York

    • RPCVs of North Florida

    • Southeast Michigan Returned Peace Corps Volunteers

    • Tennessee Returned Peace Corps Volunteers

     

     

    A place to stay: Schoolgirls at Enukweni Community Day Secondary School in Malawi. A safe place means access to education. Volunteer Lydia Babcock was working with community members to obtain grant funds to renovate the hostel where they live during school terms. Then Babcock was evacuated. NPCA groups and members stepped up and funded this project and others. Photo by Lydia Babcock.

     


    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.

     November 02, 2020
  • Helene Dudley posted an article
    RPCV micro-loan program partners with Community Fund to disburse grants to Colombia. see more

    By: Helene Dudley (Colombia 1968-70, Slovakia 1997-99)

    In July 2016, The Colombia Project - TCP Global became a NPCA Community Fund beneficiary. In September of last year, the first disbursement of funds for TCP Global micro-loans was allocated to the Colombia-based NGO, PROEDUPAZ, in Suan. While TCP Global has funded over $500,000 in loans in 5 countries, this new program in Suan is the first program established with the assistance of a Peace Corps Response Volunteer, Will Osolinsky (pictured below with PROEDUPAZ President, Alejo Narvaez and prospective loan recipients). 

    In only four months, $1,500 has been invested twice resulting in repayments that lead to $3,000 of more new loans. Loans in Suan average $176 and support cottage industry, sales, animal husbandry and similar projects.

    Although Will has completed his assignment in Suan, he remains in contact with PROEDUPAZ to assist TCP Global in the mentoring process.

    If Suan continues to yield good results, TCP Global will authorize additional fund transfers until the permanent loan pool is adequate to meet the micro-loan needs of the community. With continued success, PROEDUPAZ will earn funds, which they can use for community service projects. Both TCP Global and PROEDUPAZ are volunteer organizations providing their services at no cost, thus allowing for 100% of donations to be distributed as micro-loans. 

    TCP Global loans are best suited for small and remote communities. According to information shared at the 2014 Micro Credit Summit in Mexico, this is a niche that is currently underserved by major micro-finance institutions, which find them cost-prohibitive to serve.  Since the TCP Global model invites existing grassroots organizations to run loan programs in their own communities, there are no travel costs, and result in better loan decisions since they are made by people who know the community well.  Loan recipients are invited to serve on the board, ensuring community ownership that enables loan programs to thrive despite leadership changes in the host organization.  

    For more information, contact helenedudley@yahoo.com

    PROEDUPAZ leaders Alejo and Delvis maintain the folders on each loan recipient and oversee the screening, funding and collections on all loans.

    TCP Global met with Colombia Peace Corps staff and trainees in October, 2016 to explain how to bring micro-loans to additional Peace Corps sites.

    This mother and her daughter completed a micro-entrepreneur workshop coordinated by PROEDUPAZ.

    Click here to donate to TCP Global and other projects led by the Peace Corps community. 

     January 26, 2017
  • Helene Dudley posted an article
    Rotarians and RPCVs combine their synergies for the greater good. see more

    By: Helene Dudley (Colombia 1968-70, Slovakia 1997-99)

    Peace Corps and Rotary have a longstanding history individually as well as together. The two communities have compatible values, compatible interests, and compatible approaches to society’s problems. I am one of thousands of Americans with membership in both. I was introduced to Rotary through my work with The Colombia Project, a micro-loan program started by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs).  After receiving several grants and presenting to the Rotary Club of Coconut Grove, Florida it occurred to me that I should become a member. Soon two more RPCVs working with The Colombia Project joined, followed by a loan administrator in Colombia and then a former Peace Corps Korea language teacher – all because the Coconut Grove Rotary Club supported an RPCV micro-loan program.  As an RPCV and Rotarian, I am amazed at the synergies that exist between these two groups.

    In 2014, Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet, who comes from a family of Rotarians, signed two collaborative agreements with Rotary – for pilot projects in the Philippines, Thailand and Togo and to encourage Rotary Clubs to support the Peace Corps partnership program (PCPP).  

    Subsequent to those agreements, over 30 Rotary Clubs from hometowns of Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) serving in Costa Rica have partnered with Costa Rica Rotary Clubs in the Give-A-Book literacy project to provide libraries for schools and communities served by PCVs.  Rotarians traveled to Costa Rica to personally present books.  Upon returning home, PCVs made presentations to the sponsoring Rotary clubs. In addition to the books, the Peace Corps-Rotary alliance in Costa Rica organizes other humanitarian projects such as an eye clinic organized by two PCVs for March 2017 with Rotarian eye doctors participating from Rotary Clubs in Florida, Indiana, and California.

    Collaboration with currently serving Volunteers is off to a good start but even better opportunities exist for Rotary-RPCV collaborations like those with the Denver Rotary Club’s cook stove research in Vanuatu, girls’ education in Senegal and the Coal Creek, Colorado Rotary Club’s water projects in Panama. The full potential for collaborations between Rotary and RPCVs through the NPCA remains largely untapped but ultimately should be even more attractive to Rotarians in providing RPCV partners with proven track records.

    One Rotary supported RPCV program, The Colombia Project – TCP Global, builds zero overhead, sustainable micro-loan programs in five countries to date. By partnering with organizations already working effectively at the grassroots level, virtually no overhead is required to manage 30-45 open loans.

    Just as the Rotary-Peace Corps Partnership invites Rotary Clubs to support PCPP working with PCVs, an expansion of this collaboration into the Peace Corps community could provide financial support for current and future projects vetted through the National Peace Corps Association's Community Fund such as TCP Global micro-loans, Water Charity, The Village Link, and other projects that involve Rotary in some, but not all implementation sites. Rotarian and RPCV hybrids are coming together to create an affiliate group, so be sure to let us know if you are a Rotarian.

     

    In 2017, there are two unique opportunities to strengthen ties between Rotary and the Peace Corps community. RPCV Rotarians are encouraged to visit the Peace Corps booth at the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta, GA this June 2017.  All Rotarians and members of the Peace Corps community are also encouraged to attend Peace Corps Connect annual conference in Denver, CO this August 2017.


    The Peace Corps Community and the Rotarian Community each do a tremendous amount of good in the world. Since projects can have far greater impact when we collaborate with others, imagine what could be accomplished if the two organizations joined forces.  

     December 20, 2016