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  • Steven Saum posted an article
    A statement from the Chair of the Board of Directors of National Peace Corps Association. see more

    An in-depth work of investigative journalism has shone light on a horrific problem. There are steps we can take now. A statement from the Chair of the Board of Directors of National Peace Corps Association.

    By Maricarmen Smith-Martinez

     

    Today USA Today published an in-depth investigative piece chronicling the experiences of multiple women who have been victims of sexual assault while serving as Peace Corps Volunteers. Their stories are devastating. And the statistics cited in the article about the prevalence of sexual assault are profoundly disturbing.

    We owe it to these women to read their stories — and to truly hear what they are saying. Those of us who have been victims of sexual assault know firsthand that it takes immense courage to come forward, especially given how the initial reports of these women were handled. And let us be unequivocal: There must be zero tolerance when it comes to sexual misconduct within the ranks of Peace Corps staff.

    We owe it to all Volunteers — past, present, and future — as well as their families, to ensure that Peace Corps does better.

    Peace Corps Acting Director Carol Spahn issued a statement today outlining how the agency is addressing these very serious issues. All of the incidents chronicled in the story have been referred to the Peace Corps Inspector General for investigation. And Spahn has made sure that returned Volunteers know they can reach out directly to the Inspector General, as well as to the agency. 

    We underscore that call throughout the Peace Corps community: We must ensure your voices are heard. And on behalf of myself, the board and staff at National Peace Corps Association, we want you to know that you can reach out to us as well. We are here to listen — and to support you. 

     

    Following the Letter of the Law

    Just a few weeks ago, at an event marking the 60th anniversary of the Peace Corps, former Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet recounted once again how, while she served as a Volunteer in Western Samoa in the 1980s, she was a victim of repeated sexual assault by a Peace Corps staff member. And again, she recounted how the Peace Corps failed to take action.

    Since that time we know that progress has been made. The Kate Puzey Act led to the establishment of a sexual assault advisory council in 2013. The Sam Farr/Nick Castle Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act was passed in 2018 and includes strengthened criteria for hiring overseas doctors and medical support staff and lays down a number of critical requirements:

    • evaluation of all medical staff for compliance to all relevant policies and guidelines
    • accessible health and safety information for Peace Corps applicants before they are assigned to a particular country
    • designated staff at each post to serve victims of sexual assault
    • authority for the Sexual Assault Advisory Council to conduct case reviews. 

    In this moment, when there are no Volunteers in the field, it provides an opportunity and a responsibility for Peace Corps to conduct a thorough review of the Farr/Castle law and other previously passed legislation to ensure full compliance in all aspects. We are very concerned that this is not the case at this time.

    The statement issued today by the Peace Corps notes that a new Security Incident Management System is being deployed. We know from conversations with the agency that, in lay terms, this will integrate systems for reporting and tracking sexual assaults and other crimes. That is part of the solution. A broader effort on implementing better tech-driven systems to serve Volunteers and communities is also underway while there are no Volunteers in the field. But, again, this is only part of the solution.

     

    We Must Protect Whistleblowers

    What is also part of the solution: legislation introduced to the House of Representatives on March 1 — H.R. 1456 — which provides whistleblower protection for Volunteers. As noted by bill sponsor John Garamendi (D-CA), the bill “Extends whistleblower and anti-retaliatory protections that currently apply to Peace Corps contractors to Peace Corps Volunteers, including protections against reprisals by any Peace Corps employee, Volunteer supervisor, or outside contractor.” This legislation also directs the Peace Corps and U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security to update plans and protocols for Peace Corps Volunteer security support and protection in foreign countries.

    As Emma Tremblay, one of the women who shares her heartbreaking story in the USA Today piece notes, passing this legislation is one way to show support for her and other Volunteers.

     

    We know that beyond this legislation much work remains to be done. And we know that it is our responsibility as engaged members of the Peace Corps community to ensure that efforts continue. After all, it is in the mission of National Peace Corps Association to ensure that Peace Corps is the best that it can be. An agency where sexual assault metastasized in recent years has tremendous work to do.

    It shouldn’t escape notice that April is sexual assault awareness month. This is not something that we should think about in the abstract. Every victim of an assault — like the women who share their stories in this article — is a person whose life has been deeply harmed.

    It should not escape notice that only this week Kathy Buller, Peace Corps Inspector General — and executive chair for the Council of the Inspector General on Integrity and Efficiency’s legislation committee — was testifying before Congress regarding the importance of the independence and reinforcement of the work by inspectors general throughout the government.

    And it absolutely should not escape notice that, while this particular USA Today piece focuses on the stories of women who are white, Peace Corps and others must ensure that victims who are people of color receive the full support throughout their service and afterward. Racial justice and equity demand it.

    Let’s take to heart what legal scholar Catharine MacKinnnon wrote in The Atlantic two years ago, reflecting on the rise of the #MeToo movement: “Conceive a revolution without violence against domination and aggression. Envision a moment of truth and a movement of transformation for the sexually violated toward a more equal, therefore a more peaceful and just, world.”


    Maricarmen Smith-Martinez is Chair of the Board of Directors for National Peace Corps Association. She served as a Volunteer in Costa Rica 2006–08.

    • Joanne Roll It is important to note the Office of the Inspector General of the Peace Corps has been investigating the problems associated with implementation of these laws for ten years. There is one page... see more It is important to note the Office of the Inspector General of the Peace Corps has been investigating the problems associated with implementation of these laws for ten years. There is one page which lists all the reports done. The OIG has no enfocement power. Here is a link to that page: www.peacecorps.gov/about/inspect...
      3 months ago
  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Now is the time to build back the Peace Corps better than before. see more

    All former living directors of the Peace Corps have joined together to send a ringing message to President Biden: Now is the time. Build Peace Corps back better than before — and over the next five years, put 10,000 Volunteers in the field.

    Below is the full text of the letter.  Download a PDF of the letter here.

     


    April 26, 2021

    President Joseph R. Biden
    The White House

    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

    Washington, DC 20500

     

    Dear President Biden,

    We write to you today as a bipartisan, unified group of former directors of the Peace Corps to express our full support for a revitalized Peace Corps, one that advances our nation’s critical foreign policy goal of world peace through international cooperation and service. We believe that now is the right time for the Peace Corps to build back better than it ever was before.

    We therefore call on you and your administration to commit to raising the number of Peace Corps Volunteers in the field to a sustained level of 15,000 over the next decade, beginning by increasing the agency’s annual budget to $600 million by FY 2025. This funding level would support our five-year goal of 10,000 volunteers, consistent with bipartisan reauthorization legislation currently advancing in both chambers of Congress. Your support for this long overdue goal would galvanize the American peoples’ spirit of service and international engagement that the Peace Corps represents. Previous presidents, both Democrats and Republicans, have endorsed doubling the size of the Peace Corps. Now is the time to fulfill that promise.

    As you are aware, more than 240,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps over the past 60 years, cumulatively serving in 142 countries and providing well over three billion hours of service to our nation and the world. Yet due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, there are currently no Peace Corps Volunteers serving abroad today. Such a situation does untold damage to our strong community-based worldwide presence and the United States’ image abroad. We must send our volunteers back to the field as soon as possible, and we believe you will have strong backing to do so. There is overwhelming support from all host countries for the return of volunteers. They see the history of volunteers joining in public health campaigns to eradicate smallpox, polio, and measles as evidence that the Peace Corps can play a vital role in confronting today’s pandemic as well as the long-lasting consequences of COVID-19 in our partner nations.

     

    There is overwhelming support from all host countries for the return of volunteers. They see the history of volunteers joining in public health campaigns to eradicate smallpox, polio, and measles as evidence that the Peace Corps can play a vital role in confronting today’s pandemic as well as the long-lasting consequences of COVID-19 in our partner nations.

     

    Throughout our decades of bipartisan leadership of the Peace Corps, we benefitted from deep bipartisan congressional support for the agency. We served both Republican and Democratic presidents and understood, as you do, that the Peace Corps is an American innovation, not a partisan one. When Americans volunteer abroad, they are not seen as Democrats or Republicans; they are seen as Americans.

    That is why we are encouraged by renewed bipartisan leadership in Congress to maintain that bipartisan tradition for the Peace Corps. New legislation, the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021 (H.R. 1456), which has been introduced by Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA), will advance the policy goals we seek. We call on you to fully support this legislation, as well as the anticipated Senate companion legislation, so that it can be quickly sent to your desk for your signature into law.

     

    This bill is visionary. It creates a clear blueprint for the agency’s future, one that we all share, to ramp up volunteer numbers to meet the tremendous challenges faced by our international partners while facilitating the American peoples’ reengagement with the world.

     

    This bill is visionary. It creates a clear blueprint for the agency’s future, one that we all share, to ramp up volunteer numbers to meet the tremendous challenges faced by our international partners while facilitating the American peoples’ reengagement with the world. Critical reforms are included in the bill that reflect the longstanding requests of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer community. These include enhancements to the provision of health care, with special attention to women’s health and safety; mental health care; readjustment allowance; volunteer security; whistleblower protections; and post-service hiring opportunities.

    The bill’s provisions demonstrate that Congress is listening to the Peace Corps community, which provided significant input into the bill, ensuring a better experience for the volunteer, agency, and host country. Your support for the bill’s vision and policy prescriptions will show the Peace Corps community that you, too, understand their needs and support their hopes for a renewed Peace Corps.

    In closing: Now is the time, under your leadership, to take a bold stroke to renew the original promise of the Peace Corps expressed in 1960 by President John F. Kennedy when he called upon young Americans to dedicate themselves to the cause of peace and friendship. We honor that vision and the vigorous support that all his successors have provided. We hope that in the days ahead, you, given your longstanding support for the Peace Corps, will join them in advocating for a reimagined, reshaped, and retooled Peace Corps for a changed world.

     

    Sincerely,

    Nicholas Craw (1973–74) 
    Nixon Administration

    Richard Celeste (1979–81) 
    Carter Administration

    Elaine Chao (1991–92) 
    Bush Administration

    Carol Bellamy (1993–95)
    Clinton Administration

    Mark Gearan (1995–99)
    Clinton Administration

    Mark Schneider (1999–2001)
    Clinton Administration

    Gaddi Vasquez (2002–06)
    Bush Administration

    Ronald Tschetter (2006–09)
    Bush Administration

    Aaron Williams (2009–12)
    Obama Administration

    Carrie Hessler-Radelet (2014–17)
    Obama Administration

    Josephine (Jody) Olsen (2018–21)
    Trump Administration


    Download a PDF of the letter from Peace Corps Directors to President Biden here.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Our May advocacy agenda includes thank you messages, targeted legislative advocacy and media work! see more

    Now is a good time to thank representatives who signed on to the House Dear Colleague Letter. And there’s work ahead on bolstering support for the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act — and ensuring a robust budget to provide critical support for Volunteers — particularly when it comes to health and safety.

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    Our National Days of Advocacy in Support of the Peace Corps included more than 90 events and activities in March and April, with more scheduled for May — and more still being planned. Now is a good time to say thank you to Representatives who signed the House Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter.

    We still have important work ahead on bolstering support for the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (House Bill 1456), with the possibility of similar legislation being introduced in the Senate this month.

    And when President Biden releases a proposed budget for Peace Corps, we’ll need your help to ensure that Peace Corps has the funds to provide critical support for Volunteers — particularly when it comes to health and safety. 

    So, what’s next? Here’s our May agenda:

     

    Say thank you!

    Over the last few weeks we received an outpouring of support from representatives who signed the annual House Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter. If your member signed the letter, join us in thanking them for their support, and encouraging them to continue to champion Peace Corps–related legislation in order to improve and strengthen the Peace Corps. We are awaiting the release of a similar Senate Dear Colleague letter and will need your mobilization when the letter is issued.

     

    More House co-sponsors and Senate legislation?

    We still have some very important work to do with the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (House Bill 1456). With 45 confirmed co-sponsors (only three fewer than in the previous Congress), we must continue to encourage our representatives to co-sponsor this bill strengthening Peace Corps funding, programming, and Volunteer support. The proposed funding increases over four years would allow for us to build back a better Peace Corps that is capable of enacting many of the crucial changes that the Peace Corps community has raised as priorities. 

    May could also be the month when a similar reauthorization bill is introduced in the Senate. We hope that more information will be available soon. Keep an eye out for this anticipated legislation — and join us in supporting it! 

     

    Biden budget and media mobilization

    President Biden has already provided an overview of his much anticipated Fiscal Year 2022 budget, including a recommended 12 percent increase in our nation's international affairs programs. In the next two weeks, the White House is expected to send a fully detailed budget to Congress, including recommended funding for the Peace Corps.

    As the president's budget release will likely garner significant media attention, we want to be prepared to respond to news stories with letters-to-the-editor highlighting the Peace Corps portion of the budget. Can you plan to help us?  Write to us at advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org to express your willingness to help. Include the city and state where you reside.

     

    Other actions

    Our action center continues to promote other issues through which you can raise your voice with your elected officials. Members of our community who have significant student loan debt can share your experiences with Congress as it debates this issue. You can also raise your Peace Corps community voice to your Senators, who have the House-passed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act before them now.

     


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

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    It has been decades since Congress tackled Peace Corps legislation this sweeping. see more

    It has been decades since Congress tackled Peace Corps legislation this sweeping. Along with important reforms, it would lead to 10,000 Volunteers serving in the field — a number not seen in half a century. 

    By Jonathan Pearson

    Illustration by traffic_analyzer

     

    On March 1 of this year, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and California Congressman John Garamendi introduced H.R. 1456, the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021. Co-sponsored by Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), who serves as co-chair of the House Peace Corps Caucus with Garamendi, H.R. 1456 will serve as the foundation for National Peace Corps Association’s 60th anniversary legislative agenda.

    The date it was introduced carries weight; it was on 3/1/61 that President Kennedy issued Executive Order 10924 establishing the Peace Corps.

    What’s significant about this new bill? Over the years, Congress has passed Peace Corps–related legislation on a variety of individual subjects, including bills that strengthened the agency’s response to sexual assault, authorized a commemorative work near the National Mall to recognize Peace Corps service, improved certain health and safety protocols, and provided necessary funding and provisions to safely bring home and support evacuated Volunteers in March 2020. But it has been decades since Congress has come together to pass comprehensive legislation to address a wide range of issues that support and honor Peace Corps service. 

    In a press release, Congressman Garamendi said, “Now more than ever, Congress must support the Peace Corps’ mission and realize President Kennedy’s vision of generations of young Americans ready to serve their nation and make the world a better place. Our reauthorization bill does exactly that, and provides much-needed resources to Volunteers.” 

     

    In a post-COVID world with a global recession, with healthcare problems around the world, particularly in developing countries, the Peace Corps mission is going to be more critical than ever.

     

    Garamendi spoke to members of the Peace Corps community on March 1, as NPCA kicked off its annual National Days of Advocacy in Support of the Peace Corps. Congressman Graves sent a video message, in which he noted how important Peace Corps’ mission will be moving forward: “In a post-COVID world with a global recession, with healthcare problems around the world, particularly in developing countries, the critical nature of your mission is going to be (greater than ever).”

    As of May 14, 45 members of the House have signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation. Consideration is underway for companion legislation in the Senate. 


    U.S. Capitol and stripes 

     

    Think big, follow through

    Here are some of the provisions included in the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021:

     

    Steady, Sustainable Funding Increases

    Recommends increased funding of approximately 10 percent in each of the next four fiscal years, aiming for $450 million in Fiscal Year 2022 and reaching $600 million in Fiscal Year 2025. This would move toward the stated minimum target of 10,000 Volunteers in the field — a number proposed in the original Peace Corps Act, and a figure not realized in more than 50 years. This would also provide funding for many of the needed and overdue reforms called for in this legislation — as well as reforms that were called for in previous legislation but were never implemented.

     

    Increased Volunteer Benefits

    Would increase Volunteers’ readjustment allowance to $417 for each month of service, raising the total allowance for two years of service from $8,000 to $10,000. Paid post-service health care would be extended to three months upon completion of service.

     

    In-Service Health

    Calls upon the Peace Corps to consult with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concerning recommendations for prescribing malaria prophylaxis. And it requires health personnel in countries where malaria is present to receive adequate training in the side effects of such medication. The legislation also incorporates the language of the Menstrual Equity in the Peace Corps Act (H.R. 1467) introduced by Representative Grace Meng (D-NY). This bill requires the Peace Corps to ensure access to menstrual products for Volunteers who require them, either by increasing stipends or providing the products for affected Volunteers.

     

    Workers’ Compensation

    In the long-standing effort to provide more support for returned Volunteers disabled by service-related illness or injury, H.R. 1456 would increase the monthly workers’ compensation rate for these individuals.

     

    Non-Competitive Eligibility (NCE) Protections

    For RPCVs seeking to utilize NCE for federal job opportunities, H.R. 1456 would pause the one-year benefit in times of a federal government shutdown or hiring freeze. It would also delay the start of NCE eligibility for RPCVs unable to work when coming back home due to service-related illness or injury.

     

    Support for Current and Future Evacuated Volunteers

    Codifies that Volunteers who face evacuation and the end of their service through no fault of their own — as happened to Volunteers globally in March 2020 — receive benefits to which they would otherwise be entitled as Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, determined by the Peace Corps director; and that these Volunteers should be given expedited consideration for redeployment if they so choose.

     

    National Advisory Council

    Would reestablish a National Advisory Council to bring more exposure to the agency and its work. The council would also be charged with considering key issues related to the Peace Corps’ future, including agency progress in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion; and it would examine financial barriers that might prevent individuals from applying to the Peace Corps.

     

    Whistleblower Protection

    Extends whistleblower and anti-retaliatory protections that currently apply to Peace Corps contractors to Peace Corps Volunteers, including protections against reprisals by any Peace Corps employee, Volunteer supervisor, or outside contractor.

     

    Honoring Service

    Includes the language of the Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act sponsored by Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ) since 2013. This bill would confirm that an allowable use of the Peace Corps name, official seal, and emblem would include its use at gravesites or in death notices.

     

     

    Concrete Steps from a Community-Driven Report

    John Garamendi served as a Volunteer in Ethiopia 1966–68, as did his wife, Patti. Joining him and Garret Graves as original co-sponsors on this legislation are Grace Meng (D-NY), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Ed Case (D-HI), Albio Sires (D-NJ), and Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-AS). Radewagen represents American Samoa today, and she has a Peace Corps connection; she served on Peace Corps staff in the Northern Mariana Islands 1967–68. 

    National Peace Corps Association has been a key player in helping shape this legislation as well. Drawing on actionable recommendations in the community-driven “Peace Corps Connect to the Future” report, NPCA worked with congressional staff to begin to address priorities developed through eight town halls and a Global Ideas Summit in 2020. Some previous calls for reform have not been fully implemented; this would make them law—and provide funds to follow through.

     

    Notably, the legislation is also endorsed by the National Whistleblower Center.

     

    Notably, the legislation is also endorsed by the National Whistleblower Center.

    “Passing this legislation will require every member of the Peace Corps community to take five minutes to write or call their members of Congress urging support for these reforms,” says NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst. “It will require hundreds of advocates to reach beyond our community and speak to the importance of Peace Corps and its mission through traditional and social media.” 

    The landmark legislation is of a scope not seen in many years. To give it momentum in Congress, the Peace Corps community will need to do some heavy lifting.

    “We will need dozens of advocates willing to continue organizing and conducting meetings to bring forth the importance of this legislation directly to members of Congress and their staff,” Blumhorst says. “And we need additional, highly committed individuals willing to volunteer as state and regional advocacy coordinators, joining more than 40 current advocacy leaders who have sparked legislative victories, past, present, and future.”

     

     

    Story updated May 14 at 3 PM: number of members of the House who have signed on as co-sponsors of H.R. 1456  


    Jonathan Pearson is Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. You can be a leader in passing H.R. 1456 and charting the course for Peace Corps’ future. Contact advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org to get started.  

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    We need diverse and experienced leadership at Peace Corps — and a commitment to reimagine the agency see more

    With our allies in Congress, we’re working to ensure that the administration understands this is no time to return to the status quo. We need diverse and experienced leadership at Peace Corps — and a commitment to reimagine, reshape, and retool for a changed world.

    By Glenn Blumhorst

     

     

    Many of us in the Peace Corps community took note of the pledge in President Biden’s inaugural address to “engage with the world once again. Not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. And, we’ll lead, not merely by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.” 

    Those words resonate with the Peace Corps mission, not with a sense of “be like us!” but with a sense of solidarity and commitment to working and learning alongside one another, wherever we serve. One of the messages we’re driving home to members of Congress and the Executive Branch: If we’re reengaging with the world, let’s do it with ideals that are supposed to represent what’s best about this country — even as we work in our communities and at the national level to build a more perfect union. 

    That said, if we value the role of the Peace Corps, we have to be serious about reimagining, retooling, and reshaping the agency for a changed world. As the administration appoints new leadership for the agency, it is critical that it brings on board not only a director but top staff who reflect a commitment to equity and racial justice, and that these leaders come equipped with global experience and a deep understanding of — and commitment to — the Peace Corps community.

     

    Equity, experience, and community

    At the Peace Corps agency, January 20 marked the departure of Director Jody Olsen, who led the agency during unprecedented times, including the global evacuation of Volunteers in spring 2020. Last fall she was optimistic about Volunteers returning to the field as early as January 2021. But by December it was clear that was no longer a possibility. Plans are now for Volunteers to return in the second half of 2021. The health and safety of communities and Volunteers is paramount.

    Carol Spahn has been named Acting Director of the Peace Corps. The Biden Administration has also begun to announce new political appointments. We’re meeting with Spahn and the leadership team as it takes form to ensure that we keep moving forward with the big ideas the Peace Corps community has outlined to meet the needs of a world as it is, not as it was. For Peace Corps, as with so much in this country, now is not the time to return to the status quo. Now is the time for historic changes.

    When many hundreds of members of the Peace Corps community came together in summer 2020 for a series of town hall meetings and a global ideas summit, it was with a sense of an agency, a nation, and a world facing multiple crises. From those meetings came “Peace Corps Connect to the Future,” a community-driven report that brings together big ideas and targeted, actionable recommendations for the agency and the Executive Branch, Congress, and the wider Peace Corps community — particularly NPCA. 

     

    Past directors of the Peace Corps who served under Democratic and Republican administrations alike have underscored to us that the big ideas put forward here are absolutely essential.

     

    Past directors of the Peace Corps who served under Democratic and Republican administrations alike have underscored to us that the big ideas put forward here are absolutely essential: that many of them address longstanding issues and sorely needed changes, but there never had been the opportunity to undertake them on a major scale. Now is that time.

    Whom the Biden Administration appoints to top posts at the agency sends a powerful signal to the community. Will the leaders reflect a commitment to equity and racial justice — and a serious commitment to the quarter million strong Returned Peace Corps Volunteer community? Members of Congress who have been champions for Peace Corps funding are watching as well. 

     

    A roadmap for change

    The report “Peace Corps Connect to the Future” provides a roadmap for change. While the report is far-ranging in point-by-point recommendations that are grouped into eight separate chapters, here are three overriding themes that emerged. We’re working to ensure that the administration and new staff at the agency take these to heart: 

     

    1. The Peace Corps community must be a leader in addressing systemic racism.

    The Peace Corps agency, like American society as a whole, is grappling with how to evolve so that its work fulfills the promise of our ideals. This means tackling agency hiring and recruitment, and greater support for Volunteers who are people of color, to ensure an equitable Peace Corps experience. It also means ensuring that perceptions of a “white savior complex” and neocolonialism are not reinforced. These are criticisms leveled at much work in international development, where not all actors are bound by the kinds of ideals that are meant to guide the Peace Corps. Conversely, many in the U.S. bristle when hearing these terms; but it’s important to both recognize the context and address them head-on to enable a more effective and welcome return for Volunteers. 

     

    2. The Peace Corps agency needs to stand by its community — and leverage it for impact. 

    The agency’s work is only as good as the contributions of the people who make it run. This does not mean only staff but includes, in particular, the broader community of Volunteers and returned Volunteers. In programs around the world, it absolutely includes the colleagues and communities that host Volunteers. NPCA has demonstrated that it is both possible and beneficial to become community-driven to promote the goals of the Peace Corps. Community-driven programming will keep the work both current and relevant to the world around us, ensuring that the agency succeeds in its mission in a changed world.

     

    3. Now is the moment for the Peace Corps agency to make dramatic change. 

    The opportunity for a reimagined and re-booted Peace Corps now exists and it should be taken.

     

    Who is there to lead the change matters. From the Peace Corps community, this message came through clearly: When it comes to the permanent director, they should be an individual of national stature, preferably a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, who is committed to transformational change at the agency. They must have the gravitas to advance the Peace Corps’ interests with both Congress and the White House while also making the case to the American people about the value of a renewed Peace Corps for the United States — and communities throughout the world.

    In an unprecedented time, the Peace Corps community has come together with an unparalleled response. With the new administration, there are Returned Peace Corps Volunteers with years of experience already taking on key roles in the U.S. Department of State, Department of Labor, and National Security Council. These appointments show a value placed on experience and racial equity — and a commitment to leading with the best. Let’s ensure that commitment carries over to Peace Corps as well. 


    Glenn Blumhorst is President & CEO of National Peace Corps Association

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    It's the first step in congressional consideration of Peace Corps funding. And the news is good. see more

    On July 28 the House of Representatives approved a $430.5 million Peace Corps budget for 2022 — an increase of 5 percent. It points to the first meaningful increase in funding in six years.

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    (UPDATE – July 28, 2021, 9:00 PM Eastern): On a mostly party-line vote, the House of Representatives approved a Fiscal Year 2022 spending package for the Department of State and other foreign operations. Included in the $62.2 billion State/Foreign Operations bill is a $20 million funding increase for the Peace Corps — nearly 5 percent. The Senate has not yet taken up its version of a State/Foreign Operations spending bill.

     

    (UPDATE – July 1, 2021, 2:00 PM Eastern): The full House Appropriations Committee today approved a $62.2 billion State/Foreign Operations spending package for Fiscal Year 2022 that includes a recommended $20 million funding increase for the Peace Corps — nearly 5 percent.

    The package was approved on a 32–25 party line vote. It will next head to the full House of Representatives — at a date yet to be determined — for further debate and voting.

    No similar action has been taken yet by the Senate Appropriations Committee in advancing its version of the State/Foreign Operations spending plan for the fiscal year that begins October 1, 2021.

     

    (UPDATE – June 28, 2021, 8:30 PM Eastern): On a voice vote, the House Appropriations Subcommittee for State/Foreign Operations approved a $62.2 billion international affairs budget for Fiscal Year 2022. This represents a 12 percent, $6.7 billion increase over the current fiscal year. Included in this budget is $430.5 million for the Peace Corps, a $20 million increase over current funding. In brief remarks, Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) referenced the Peace Corps as one of several programs that will provide “needed humanitarian assistance” around the world. No amendments to the bill were made, but that could possibly change when the full Appropriations Committee considers this funding package on Thursday morning.

     

    The House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee for State/Foreign Operations had recommended a Fiscal Year 2022 funding package that includes $430.5 million for the Peace Corps.

    This recommendation represents a $20 million increase — nearly 5 percent — in funding for the agency for the fiscal year that begins October 1. A subcommittee vote on this recommendation is expected on Monday evening. Should this figure be eventually approved, it would mark the first meaningful funding increase for the agency in six years. That’s good news for the Peace Corps.

     

    “The Peace Corps is on the way back,” says Glenn Blumhorst, President and CEO of National Peace Corps Association, upon learning the news. 

     

    “The Peace Corps is on the way back,” said National Peace Corps Association President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst, upon learning the news. “This recommendation by the State/Foreign Operations Subcommittee reinforces congressional support — not only for the robust redeployment of Peace Corps Volunteers — but the importance of providing the agency with funding that will allow for many improvements and reforms that will build a stronger program for the next generation of volunteers. Our community needs to stay engaged to make sure this strong commitment by the subcommittee is advanced.”

    Read the subcommittee’s press release on its entire $62 billion spending package for U.S. international affairs programs. 

    Today’s action was bolstered by the annual Peace Corps funding Dear Colleague letter, a bipartisan action issued earlier this year by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA).

     

    Updated July 1, 2021 at 2 p.m. Return to this post for updates this week on actions and reactions on FY 2022 Peace Corps Funding in the House of Representatives.


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

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Take action to urge an increase in Peace Corps funding! see more

    As Congress begins to turn its attention to Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations bills, is the Peace Corps poised for a funding increase?

     

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    There’s a long way to go in the annual appropriations process. But the possibility of a meaningful Peace Corps funding increase — which would be its first in six years — got a boost recently through the annual Senate Peace Corps funding letter.

    Led by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D–CA) and Susan Collins (R–ME), the letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee for State/Foreign Operations requests “appropriate robust funding in Fiscal Year 2022 of at least $430 million.”  Here’s a release with more about the letter. And here’s the full text of the letter itself.

    Earlier this year, 156 members of the House of Representatives signed a similar letter, requesting $450 million for Peace Corps in the fiscal year that begins October 1, 2021. However, earlier this month, President Biden requested continued flat funding for the Peace Corps — which would not provide the kind of robust support needed as Peace Corps prepares to return Volunteers to the field and enact needed reforms. 

     

    Take Action: Contact members of the Senate and the House

    We urge you to write to your members of Congress and ask them to provide the Peace Corps with a long overdue raise in Fiscal Year 2022. It is especially important to write to lawmakers who serve on the Senate/House Appropriations Committees.

     

    Who Signed the Senate Letter?

    Here's the state-by-state list of signers of this year’s Senate letter:

    Arizona: Sinema

    California: Feinstein, Padilla

    Colorado: Bennet

    Connecticut: Blumenthal, Murphy

    Delaware: Carper

    Georgia: Warnock

    Hawaii: Hirono, Schatz

    Illinois: Duckworth, Durbin

    Maine: Collins, King

    Maryland: Cardin, Van Hollen

    Massachusetts: Markey, Warren

    Michigan: Stabenow

    Minnesota: Klobuchar, Smith

    Nevada: Rosen

    New Hampshire: Hassan, Shaheen

    New Jersey: Booker, Menendez

    New Mexico: Heinrich, Lujan

    New York: Gillibrand

    Oregon: Merkley, Wyden

    Rhode Island: Reed, Whitehouse

    Vermont: Sanders

    Virginia: Kaine, Warner

    Washington: Cantwell

    West Virginia: Manchin

    Wisconsin: Baldwin

     


    Jonathan Pearson is the Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. Contact advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org to find out how you can help.

  • Braeden Waddell posted an article
    Parents of Nick Castle, who died while serving as a Volunteer, advocate for a better Peace Corps. see more

    The parents of Nick Castle, who died while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in China, trace how they began their ongoing work to ensure that Peace Corps lives up to the ideals that their son believed in.

     

    By Sue and Dave Castle

    Photo: Dave and Sue Castle flanking Senator Bob Corker (R-TN)

     

    Sue and I never thought of becoming involved in politics or advocacy until our son Nick died while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in China on February 7, 2013.

    Nothing could have been further from our minds. 

    For all of you who have suffered a significant loss of a loved one, you can understand grief and pain. There is no preparation for the loss of your child.

    After considerable effort to get the facts and determine how Nick could have died while being cared for by a Peace Corps Medical Officer, we became committed to making sure no other family would have to lose their child, parent or sibling due to medical incompetence and negligence.

    It was apparent the Peace Corps that Nick joined failed to follow the guidelines and procedures established by their own policies and practices.  We were surprised to learn there had been no update in legislation pertaining to health care since the Peace Corps was established by Congress in 1961.

     

    Our reform efforts began almost four years ago to change the culture of the Peace Corps and re-define the medical services provided to volunteers.  

    So where do you begin?

    We began by reaching out to our Senators in California: Senator Boxer and Senator Feinstein. And we didn’t begin with a direct phone or in-person conversation with our Senators. 

    We had no experience in lobbying. One of the early lessons learned is if you are willing to give up and go away no one is going to stop you. But if you are persistent, continue to write and call Congressional offices, people begin to recognize you are serious and committed to addressing a problem. 

    You also must have some suggestions for your Congressional representative as to what is needed to improve the current condition.  

     

    Putting a face and a voice to the cause is so important to advancing your efforts. That is something that cannot be duplicated in an e-mail or phone call. 

    It is not always about a political party either. We are not constituents of the two most significant Congressional people who offered their help and committed to our efforts. It happens to be two Republicans: Representative Ted Poe and Senator Bob Corker. Their involvement comes from realizing a need for the Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018.

    We also worked with the previous Director of the Peace Corps, the interim Acting Director of the Peace Corps, and now the current Director, Dr. Jody Olsen. Director Olsen sees the necessity for the legislation. During our recent meeting with her, she expressed her full support and commitment to see the needed changes included in the legislation are implemented.

    This, along with the partnership with the National Peace Corps Association, has made our goal a reality. There are countless individuals who have worked towards seeing this bill pass through Congress. We are almost there. We realize this bill does not include all the issues currently affecting Peace Corps Volunteers, mainly raising the disability rate from GS7 to GS 11; however, we remain committed to working for reform. This bill is just the first step.

     

    The Peace Corps’ Mission

    To promote world peace and friendship by fulfilling three goals:

    To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women

    To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served

    To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

     

    The Fourth Goal:

    To be supportive, show compassion and advocate for Volunteers who may have had a different experience.

     

    The Fourth Goal was started by us to create awareness of healthcare issues and act as a resource for volunteers and their families. We are in the infancy stage of developing this organization. There is a need to advocate and support Peace Corps Volunteers who return from service with issues not easily remedied by traditional Peace Corps resources. We hope to be able to work with Peace Corps on policy and with Congress to develop legislative measures. We hope to work with current and RPCVs to identify not only areas of concern but also positive experiences to learn from and share.

    We have learned that two voices are more powerful than one. Imagine what can be done with a thousand voices.

    Connecting with another human being face to face with honesty and sincerity makes a difference.

    Doing something because it is the right thing to do. Isn’t that what the Peace Corps is all about?

     

    SUPPORT YOUR COMMUNITY: 

    Write to your members of Congress urging final passage of Peace Corps health/safety legislation and adoption of the House version of the bill, while also noting more work needs to be done in the future to address the needs of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who come home with service-related illnesses or injuries.

     


    The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the National Peace Corps Association or its members.

    Story updated with copy edits June 3, 2021.

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    This proposal comes up short, if we’re serious about building a better and stronger Peace Corps. see more

    The budget proposed today by the White House comes up $40 million short of where it needs to be to implement critical reforms staked out in the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021.

     

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    President Joe Biden has sent his Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) budget request to Congress. Included in his budget is a request of $ 410.5 million for the Peace Corps. By all measures, to build a better and stronger Peace Corps that can help the United States reengage with the world, this comes up short.

    The President’s request represents flat funding — and a maintenance of the same level of support that the Peace Corps has received for the past six years. It stands in stark contrast to bipartisan House legislation introduced in March that would provide $450 million in funding to ensure the implementation of critical reforms. 

    “We are grateful to the Peace Corps’ congressional champions for setting out a vision of a Peace Corps that is renewed, revitalized, and reformed, buttressed by a budget that meets the goals of the Peace Corps community,” said National Peace Corps Association President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst. “But proposed level funding will not enable us to build a better, stronger, and more inclusive Peace Corps for a changed world.”

    Indeed, as the Peace Corps community has underscored time and again, long-needed reforms have not been adequately addressed in part because of a lack of funding. 

     

    Congress has shown: This is where we need to be.

    The bipartisan support for Peace Corps in Congress includes the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1456) legislation, introduced by Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA), which calls for $450 million to support the Peace Corps in FY 2022. ( Here’s a link you can use to reach out to your lawmaker to ask them co-sponsor this legislation.) Garamendi and Graves also sponsored an annual Peace Corps funding Dear Colleague letter, signed by a bipartisan group of 156 lawmakers, which also urges at least $450 million for the coming fiscal year.

    Strong support for the Peace Corps was also reinforced by every living past Peace Corps director who signed this letter to President Biden. That group includes those who served under Republicans and Democrats alike going back to the Nixon administration. A revitalized Peace Corps, they wrote, “advances our nation’s critical foreign policy goal of world peace through international cooperation and service. We believe that now is the right time for the Peace Corps to build back better than it ever was before.

    Earlier this spring, on the 60th anniversary of the day that President Kennedy created the Peace Corps by executive order, all living directors also convened for a conversation about the past, present, and future of the Peace Corps. One question they tackled: Given three minutes with President Biden to talk about the Peace Corps, what would they say? They spoke about the value of national and public service in uniting a nation, about the role Volunteers can play in public health efforts around the world, about the return on investment for decades to come — and one shared the perspective of the president of Guinea, who spoke of how the presence of Volunteers in communities is worth far more than millions in foreign assistance alone.

     

    “We have an opportunity to build back better and reengage with the world. And when it comes to Peace Corps, we need to put our money where our mouth is.” 

     

    While the budget proposal from the White House is disappointing, we’ll take this moment to note that over the past several years the Peace Corps community has worked closely with champions and members of Congress to sustain the Peace Corps through tough times. And Congress has laid out a clear goal of where we need to be for a better and stronger Peace Corps.

    “We will work closely with these champions to ensure that the Peace Corps’ budget is robust for the future,” said Glenn Blumhorst. “We have an opportunity to build back better and reengage with the world. And when it comes to Peace Corps, we need to put our money where our mouth is.”

     

    READ MORE: Key reforms — some of which require robust funding to become reality — are staked out in the community-driven report “Peace Corps Connect to the Future.”


    Jonathan Pearson is the Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. Contact advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org to find out how you can help.

  • Communications Intern 2 posted an article
    An open letter from hundreds of returned Volunteers and three former U.S. ambassadors see more

    An open letter from 350 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who have served in Ethiopia and Eritrea — signed by former U.S. ambassadors and more

     

    By Jake Arce

     

    AS BLOODSHED IN THE TIGRAY REGION of Ethiopia drew toward the end of its third month, more than 350 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and a trio of former U.S. ambassadors issued an appeal to Congress asking for the U.S. to condemn the violence and demanding better humanitarian access, heightened protection of civilians, a U.N. investigation into human rights violations, and the lifting an information blockade. The returned Volunteers were joined by scores of former Fulbright fellows and other concerned citizens. They did not advocate for any political entity but “in support of human dignity.” 

    Violence in the region was triggered by an election in Tigray in November 2020 that the government of Ethiopia deemed unconstitutional. Fighting flared between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and government forces, sending tens of thousands of people fleeing into neighboring countries. Now more than 2 million people have been displaced.

     

    “We ask that the United States does not forget that its strongest allies are not simply constituted of politicians in Addis Ababa,” the letter states. “They are also the students, teachers, farmers, and healthcare workers that Peace Corps Volunteers collaborated with in the urban and rural communities currently embroiled in turmoil.” 

     

    There have been extensive reports of civilians killed, tortured, or internally displaced, as well as destruction of infrastructure, including health clinics, which are crucial during a deadly COVID-19 pandemic. In late March the prime minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, confirmed the presence of Eritrean troops in Tigray, with many organizations reporting human rights abuses — including extrajudicial killings and the ransacking of Eritrean refugee camps by these forces. 

     

    Mother and child, refugees in Sudan: some of the more than 2 million people displaced by violence in Tigray. Photo by Nariman El-Mofty / Associated Press

     

    The letter was written by returned Volunteers who served in Ethiopia and Eritrea and sent in February. It urged humanitarian aid to Tigray amid reports of starvation. Over 5 million people remain food insecure; famine stalks.

    “We ask that the United States does not forget that its strongest allies are not simply constituted of politicians in Addis Ababa,” the letter states. “They are also the students, teachers, farmers, and healthcare workers that Peace Corps Volunteers collaborated with in the urban and rural communities currently embroiled in turmoil.” 

    In March, the U.S. State Department declared it was looking into cases of human rights abuse in Tigray and offered additional humanitarian aid in response to the conflict. 

  • Brian Sekelsky posted an article
    Highlights and recordings from a week of celebration and discussion about the future of Peace Corps see more

    Highlights and recordings from a week of celebration and wide-ranging discussion about the future of Peace Corps. And a review of some of the stories you don’t want to miss.

    Edited and Produced by Jake Arce and Orrin Luc


    On March 1, 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed executive order 10924, establishing the Peace Corps with the hopes of promoting world peace and friendship. Peace Corps Week is a time for us as a community to commemorate and recognize all of the ways that Peace Corps has made an impact — in individual lives and in communities around the world.

    This year we mark six decades. But this is also an unprecedented time for the Peace Corps. In March 2020, all Volunteers serving around the world were evacuated because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a community-driven effort, National Peace Corps Association is working to help transform Peace Corps: to reimagine, reshape, and retool the agency for a changed world. So while we celebrate this historic milestone, we also focus on the work that must be done in the present to make a better and stronger Peace Corps for the future.

    Here are highlights of events held to celebrate Peace Corps Week 2021. Included here are events for which we have recordings and links. Listings will be updated as more events become available.

    Scroll down for a look at some news stories, opinion pieces, and slide shows that were published during Peace Corps Week. 

    Be sure to sign up for our newsletter (at the bottom of our homepage) and to follow us on social media for the latest. And, of course, be sure to join NPCA (the basic level is free!) to receive WorldView magazine and explore stories in greater depth. 

      

     

     

    EVENTS

     

    Monday, March 1 

    RPCV Rep. John Garamendi introduces Comprehensive Peace Corps Legislation

    On March 1st 2021, RPCV Representatives Garret Graves (R-LA) and John Garamendi (D-CA) introduced the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1456) in the House of Representatives. We invite readers to view Congressman Garamendi's press release, where readers can find a link to the legislation and the many provisions to improve and honor the work of Peace Corps Community.

    The key points of The Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021 include:

    • Authorizes $600 million in annual funding by fiscal year 2025 for the Peace Corps to support the goal of deploying 10,0000 volunteers worldwide, once safe and prudent to do so following the subsidence of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is an increase over the flat $410 million funding level provided by Congress in recent years.

    • Expedites re-enrollment of volunteers whose service ended involuntarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic and allows volunteers to resume in-country service, once safe and prudent to do so.

    • Directs the Peace Corps to provide benefits (readjustment allowance, health insurance, noncompetitive eligibility status for federal hiring) to Volunteers whose service ended involuntarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    • Guarantees three months of health insurance coverage for returned Volunteers paid by the Peace Corps, with the option to renew for additional three months at individual expense. Currently, the Peace Corps only offers automatic enrollment for 2 months of paid health insurance coverage, with the option to renew for another month at individual expense.

    • Requires the Peace Corps to outline various public and private health insurance coverage options to returned Volunteers, including for returned volunteers under the age of 25 with coverage on their parent’s health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

    • Includes the Menstrual Equity in the Peace Corps Act sponsored by Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) since 2020.

    • Extends whistleblower and anti-retaliatory protections that currently apply to Peace Corps contractors to Peace Corps volunteers, including protections against reprisals by any Peace Corps employee, volunteer supervisor, or outside contractor.

    • Includes the Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act sponsored by Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ) since 2013.

    • Extends Peace Corps Volunteers’ 12-month hiring preference for most federal job openings during any federal hiring freeze, government shutdown, public health emergency (such as COVID-19 pandemic), or while a Volunteer receives federal worker’s compensation benefits for any injury during their Peace Corps service.

    • Directs the Peace Corps and U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security to update plans and protocols for Peace Corps Colunteer security support and protection in foreign countries.

    • Increases the federal workers’ compensation rate for all Peace Corps volunteers injured or disabled during their service from a GS-7 to a GS-11 level, the same rate provided for Peace Corps volunteers with dependent children under current law.

    Read our Peace Corps Reauthorization Act issue brief and talking points. There is no companion legislation in the Senate at the present moment.

     

     

    Celebrating 60 Years of Service and Friendship – A Conversation with Peace Corps Directors

     

    Peace Corps at University Wisconsin-Madison hosted former Peace Corps Directors for a broad-ranging discussion and personal insights into their time directing the agency. The former directors also provided their advice on the Peace Corps going forth, along with recommendations for the Biden Administration. The conversation was moderated by RPCV Donna Shalala.

    Many directors highlighted that the pandemic had actually increased the need for Volunteers — and now is the time to make a difference. Former Director Mark Gearan (1995–99) put it so: “We’re at a point now in our nation’s history and country where the importance of service, national and community service, could not be more important.” 

    View a recording of the conversation here. 

     

    Former Directors: “If I had three minutes to talk to President Biden about the Peace Corps…” 

    Nick Craw: “My first request would be to double the size of the program.” 

    Richard Celeste: “Double it!” 

    Gaddi Vasquez: “Grow and expand the Peace Corps.” 

    Aaron Williams: “Now is the time.”

     

    More takeaways:

    Donna Shalala | Former Representative of Florida in U.S. Congress, Former Secretary of Health and Human Services (RPCV Iran 1962–64) 

    “The Peace Corps has always been bipartisan. It has always had the support of both parties. Some of the most significant budget increases were during Republican presidency, so that has been very important for the Peace Corps.”

     

    Jody Olsen | Peace Corps Director 2018–21 

    “Our 60 years, our 245,000 returned Peace Corps Volunteers, is what has kept us strong this last year, and is what is going to get us back as soon as possible.” 

     

    Carol Bellamy | Peace Corps Director 1993–95 

    “What was always the same were the Volunteers: They were flexible, the ingenuity was incredible, and they figured out how to make things work.”

     

    Elaine Chao | Peace Corps Director 1991–92 

    “We talked to the former communist heads of all these countries, and they all knew about Peace Corps, and they all wanted us to be there. And it was just amazing to them that Americans, young Americans, would be willing to go to their country, work basically for nothing for two years, and help people that they’ve never met. That was something so moving to them.” 

     

    Aaron Williams | Peace Corps Director 2009–12 

    “It’s a privilege to serve as Peace Corps Director. It’s a sacred privilege, too, because we’re entrusted with this iconic American institution that Sargent Shriver created. And one that provides young Americans a chance to serve around the world and promote world peace and friendship — and to present the full scope of American diversity.”

     

    Ron Tschetter | Peace Corps Director 2006–09 

    “I went over to swear in the first group and we had a wonderful exchange of thoughts and ideas and then we went to the swearing in part of it and I raised my hand and started the process and as I looked out over the group of Volunteers, there were three or four of them who were in tears because of the emotion of what was happening... I think it told me what it really means to the Volunteers.”

     

    Gaddi Vasquez (Peace Corps Director from 2002-2006): 

    “Opening Mexico was one of the great memories of my time as director of the Peace Corps because it is a country that has great opportunities for Peace Corps Volunteers and I think thus far has proven to be a very robust program.” 

     

    Richard Celeste | Peace Corps Director 2002–06 

    “I think that the changes here in this country and around the world as a consequence of the pandemic are going to be a challenge and an opportunity for us.”

     

    Mark Schneider (Peace Corps Director from 1999-2001): 

    “The Volunteers that I’ve come in contact with over the years across the globe really continue that tradition of service and commitment to their country, to their family, and to their community and trying to convey something that will help others.” 

     

    Carrie Hessler-Radelet (Peace Corps Director from 2014-2017): 

    “Peace Corps is really aware now, it has made more policy changes. It’s trained every single volunteer and staff person. It’s built an office of advocacy. Specialized training and training in trauma and informed care for first responders, an anonymous hotline hosted by a similar organization, and a Sexual Assault Advisory Council.”

     

    Mark Gearan (Peace Corps Director from 1995-1999):

    “We’re at a point now in our nation’s history and country where the importance of service, national and community service, could not be more important. It’s what unites us, and Volunteers would say that it crosses the boundaries of difference. We know the needs exist both domestically and globally for service. So as we celebrate this 60th anniversary of the Peace Corps, which is well placed — the 70th anniversary of the Peace Corps, and the 70th anniversary of President Kennedy’s call to service, can really be a major accomplishment in the next ten years to enhance the threads of service.”

     

     

    Tuesday, March 2 

    Women of Peace Corps Legacy | Former Women Peace Corps Directors: A Conversation

     

     

    Withdrawing volunteers was “the most difficult decision I made in my life.” 
    —Jody Olsen, Peace Corps Director 2018–21

    The Women of Peace Corps Legacy hosted four women who have served as Peace Corps Director for a conversation on their experiences as directors and Volunteers, tackling the challenges of administering the agency to, as Carrie Hessler-Radelet recounted, being a victim of sexual assault. Jody Olsen discussed how the pandemic led to the unprecedented decision in 2020 to evacuate all Volunteers — and the tremendous organizational efforts that took around the world. “We weren’t aware of what was happening country by country,” Olsen said. “Suddenly, what was a gentle wave was becoming a big wave and a big tsunami.”

    Watch the discussion here.

     

     

    Wednesday, March 3

    Museum of the Peace Corps Experience and Katzen Arts Center at American University

    Exhibit Opening – “Peace Corps at 60: Inside the Volunteer Experience”

     

     

     

     

    It’s about stories connecting people and communities. “Peace Corps at 60: Inside the Volunteer Experience" is curated by Jack Rasmussen, Director of American University Museum; Aly Schuman, Alper Initiative for Washington Art Fellow; and RPCV Patricia A. Wand, Co-Chair of Museum of the Peace Corps Experience. The virtual exhibition showcases objects and stories from more than 30 Volunteers.

     

     

    Thursday, March 4 

    Smithsonian Folklife Festival | The Peace Corps at 60 and Beyond: “A Towering Task” Screening & Discussion

    “Rebuilding world peace and friendship, one relationship at a time.”

     

     

    This pivotal moment allows us to look back on 60 years of Peace Corps promoting world peace and friendship, while also looking forward to the next chapter of Peace Corps history. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival began in 1967, not long after the Peace Corps, with many similar goals — especially to promote a greater understanding and appreciation of world cultures. In 2011, the Folklife Festival commemorated the agency’s 50th anniversary with a program that featured Peace Corps volunteers and their partners from 16 countries.

    In 2021, the Festival once more explores the agency’s significance and impact by hosting a discussion with: Acting Peace Corps Director Carol Spahn; Director of “A Towering Task” Alana DeJoseph; and RPCVs Rayna Green and Rahama Wright. All discussed their time in the Peace Corps, along with recommendations for improvement going forward — especially in the wake of the COVID pandemic, and deeply felt need to foster diversity.  

     

    Takeaways:

    Carol Spahn: Host countries are hoping to have Volunteers back soon. The need to continue sending Peace Corps Volunteers out to the host communities in the future will help to further her goal of “rebuilding world peace and friendship, one relationship at a time.”

    Rahama Wright: The experience of Volunteering drives home for communities and Volunteers alike that they “share a common humanity.” Wright also brought up some of her current initiatives in Northern Ghana, in relation to SheaYeleen butter products and production in 14 different villages.  

     


    Peace Corps Agency | 60 Years of Service: RPCVs’ Impact on the Fields of Philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility

     

     

    From Peace Corps to work in global philanthropy and social causes: panelists brought to bear their experience and expertise over the past several decades, tackling social issues through nonprofit work, social initiatives, and partnering with the private sector. On hand for the event, from left: Stephany Guachamin Coyago, Manager, Leadership Advancement Programs, Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (RPCV/Peru); Harris Bostic, Senior Advisor, Tides (RPCV/Guinea); and Bruce McNamer, President, The Builders Initiative (RPCV/Paraguay).

    Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff opened up the discussion by praising the work of the Peace Corps around the world, and he addressed how Volunteers have made an impact abroad over the past 60 years.

     

    “Peace Corps Volunteers are moving mountains and tackling some of the most pressing global issues on a grassroots level.”
    — Douglas Emhoff

     

    Emhoff also discussed the importance of the Peace Corps in representing the values and diversity of the United States. “Peace Corps volunteers are moving mountains and tackling some of the most pressing global issues on a grassroots level,” he said. He also stated that the commitment of Volunteers show by serving — and promoting service — has offered  inspiration to many Americans.

     

     

    Saturday, March 6

    Sacramento Valley RPCVs | Peace Corps 60th Anniversary with Representative John Garamendi

     

     

    RPCV Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) and his wife and fellow RPCV Patti Garamendi took part in a conversation with Peace Corps recruiter John Keller for Sacramento Valley . RPCVs in California. The Garamendis served with the Peace Corps in Ethiopia. On March 1 of this year, John Garamendi introduced the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021, which includes authorizing $600 million in annual funding by fiscal year 2025 for the Peace Corps and expediting re-enrollment of volunteers whose service ended involuntarily due to the COVID-19.  

    Read our Peace Corps Reauthorization Act issue brief and talking points.  There is no companion legislation in the Senate, at the present moment.

    Watch the conversation with Congressman John and Patricia Garamendi here. 

     

     

    Peace Corps Week Encore — Tuesday, March 9

    The 60th Anniversary of the Peace Corps: The History of the Program and What Lies Ahead

     

     

    In President Kennedy’s first days in office, he asked Sargent Shriver to create the Peace Corps, which over the last 60 years has sent over 250,000 Americans to more than 140 countries to serve as global citizens. Mark Shriver, President of the Save the Children Action Network (left), and Glenn Blumhorst, President of National Peace Corps Association, took part in a conversation at Kennedy’s campaign promise and forward to what lies ahead for the Peace Corps. The event was hosted by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Elizabeth J. Wilson, the inaugural director of the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society and Professor in the Environmental Studies Department at Dartmouth. It was sponsored by the Dartmouth Center for Social Impact, the Dickey Center, and the Rockefeller Center.

    “The Peace Corps seeks peace through service, not through economic strength nor military power,” Shriver said, quoting a speech delivered by his father, Sargent Shriver, who served as first Director of the Peace Corps. And, as Blumhorst noted, “the cause of building peace is far from finished.”

    Dive into Darmouth’s history with Peace Corps — and connections around the globe.

    Watch the event here: The 60th Anniversary of the Peace Corps – The History of the Program and What Lies Ahead | Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy, Dartmouth College 

     

     


    PEACE CORPS WEEK IN THE NEWS: STORIES, OPINION PIECES, SLIDE SHOWS

     

    The Peace Corps remains “one of America’s greatest achievements, appealing to our highest instincts.”

    — Maureen Orth, special correspondent for Vanity Fair, Colombia RPCV, and founder of the Marina Orth Foundation

     

     

    Maureen Orth, Former Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III, and NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst are featured in American Way magazine in a special feature on Peace Corps’ 60th Anniversary. The profile chronicles the work of these three Volunteers as examples of leadership and inspiration..

     

     

    The Chicago Tribune: “Abolishing the Peace Corps would be a mistake”

     


    Chicago Tribune editorial board member and Returned Corps Volunteer Lara Weber answers the question posed for her years ago: "Why should you, a white woman, go work in Africa?" For her personally, it began with: “I liked the Peace Corps’ grassroots approach to development work - that we would be working as partners with local community members, not as ‘experts’ or advisers.” 

    She makes the case for why Peace Corps can and should continue to make an impact. Read her piece in the Chicago Tribune and a response from NPCA here.

     

     

    Listen Up: Colorado Public Radio talks to evacuated Volunteers — and takes a deep dive into future recommendations for the Peace Corps

     

    Alana DeJoseph digging well in Mali - Challenges Ahead
    “What really personally hurt the most was not being able to say goodbye to the two women I worked with and then my kids,” evacuated Volunteer Hunter Herold tells Colorado Public Radio. Herold and Dylan Evans were Volunteers evacuated from Kosovo in March 2020 as COVID-19 swept the globe. Calvin Brophy was serving as a Volunteer in Ethiopia. They tell their stories to host Ryan Warner. And Alana DeJoseph, director of the documentary “A Towering Task,” takes a deep dive into her service as a Volunteer in Mali in the 1990s and the humbling lessons it offered. She explores making of her Peace Corps documentary, and how we need to reimagine and retool Peace Corps for a changed world — including how the Peace Corps community needs to address systemic racism, financial barriers to serving, health care benefits, and more.

     

     

    NBC News: The Peace Corps Turns 60

     

    NBC News serves up a feature on where Peace Corps has been — and the challenges the agency faces today. The segment includes Harvard University’s Professor Fredrik Logevall, Senior Advisor to the Director of the Peace Corps Darlene Grant, and Peace Corps Volunteer Ben Whong. It also addresses Peace Corps’ struggles and successes with adjusting to pandemic life.

    One Takeaway from Darlene Grant:

    “I served as a Peace Corps volunteer after 18 years as a faculty member at the University of Texas. I chose to serve 2009–11 in Cambodia. It changed the trajectory of my career, the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers will tell you what they received from the people in their host country and communities was so much more than what they gave.”


     

    What We Can Do Together: Senator Elizabeth Warren to the Peace Corps Community

     

    “I strongly believe in what we can do together,” says Senator Elizabeth Warren. “Thank you for pouring your heart into your work.” A message of gratitude in honor of 60 years of service by Peace Corps Volunteers around the world — working with communities to build a better future together when it comes to education, health, food security, and so much more.

     

     

    Thank you for making our state, the nation, and the world a better place: Colorado Governor Jared Polis to Volunteers

     

    “Peace Corps has three goals, and it’s the third goal in particular — to promote the understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans — that I particularly want to celebrate,” says Colorado Governor Jared Polis in a video message of thanks. “Returned Peace Corps Volunteers spend 27 months in their host countries contributing to their development and success. But it’s really what they do after, both here in the U.S. and abroad, that makes the Peace Corps such a transformational program. RPCVs continue to serve, including on the front lines of the pandemic here in Colorado. And their cross-cultural fluency helps us move forward as a Colorado for all.”

     

     

    “Liberia and Peace Corps have enjoyed a long and mutual friendship which I trust will continue and expand once the pandemic is under control.”

    —Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former president of Liberia 

     

    Former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Photo by Thierry Gouegnon / Reuters

     

    “My country has benefited greatly from decades of Volunteers,” President Johnson Sirleaf writes. “Many served in our critical education sector teaching math, science and English in schools throughout the country. They also inspired young Liberians on the value of public service and promoted strong relationships with them. As president of Liberia one of my first acts was to invite the PC to return as they had been absent during our long years of conflict. It was a pleasure to meet each new group and I was immensely honored to swear many of them in.”

     

     

    “Thank you for your love for my country, how much you dedicated to it, and hopefully how much you will in the future.”

    —Francisco Santos Calderón, Colombian Ambassador to the United States

     

    Ambassador Santos, who previously served as vice president of Colombia, recorded an anniversary message for Volunteers. “Celebrating 60 years of the Peace Corps in Colombia is something that fills my heart with gratitude, with happiness, with excitement, and with hope,” Santos says. “That is what the Peace Corps is: hope — hope of being better human beings, hope of having a better world, hope of how we can help one another.”

     

     

     

    The Seattle Times: “May we live the motto of my beloved Peace Corps in Cameroon: ‘We are together.’”

              

    Grant Friedman, left, worked as a health and education Volunteer in Cameroon from September 2019 through March 2020. His time as a Volunteer was cut short abroad due to the pandemic, but he paints an optimistic picture for the future of the Peace Corps and its vital role in fostering meaningful international development. Here’s what he wrote for the Seattle Times.

     

     

    Washington Post Opinion:

    How can the Peace Corps be reimagined and revitalized for the 21st century? “One path forward is looking to our past: a new commitment to and reorientation of the United States Peace Corps that could work with a renewed focus, not as a tool of foreign aid, but as a way for all Americans to engage, listen to and learn from the rest of the world,” writes Lacy Feigh. She served as a Volunteer in Ethiopia and is completed her doctorate in history at University of Pennsylvania. She wrote this compelling this compelling piece for the Washington Post.

     

     

    Through the Decades: 60 Years of Peace Corps Photos

    The Peace Corps agency put together this celebratory photo series charting Peace Corps’ evolution through the decades over the past 60 years.

     

    Story updated March 24, 2021 at 10 p.m.

     


    Jake Arce is a graduate student at American University’s School of International Service and is working as an intern with WorldView magazine.

    Orrin Luc serves as Digital Content Manager for National Peace Corps Association. He served with the Peace Corps in El Salvador and Mexico. 

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    The “Dear Colleague” Peace Corps letter draws signatories across the country. see more

    The “Dear Colleague” letter calling for $450 million in Peace Corps funding draws support from members of Congress across the country.
     

    By Jonathan Pearson

    Just a few weeks ago Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), Co-Chairs of the House Peace Corps Caucus, issued a letter to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State/Foreign Operations for some long-needed support — and to bolster funding as the Peace Corps agency undertakes to send Volunteers back into the field. 

    The letter calls for increasing Peace Corps funding for Fiscal Year 2022 from $410 million to $450 million. Members of the Peace Corps community mobilized across the country to make sure their representative understood the importance of this support. 

    Thanks to those efforts, 156 lawmakers across the country signed the bipartisan House Peace Corps funding letter. That includes members of Congress from nearly every state — Alabama to Wisconsin, Delaware to Texas, California to Kansas — and from Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

    Read the letter here — or scroll down. And see who signed it below. 

    If you see your Representative listed as having signed this letter, please follow this link and thank them for taking positive bipartisan action to support the Peace Corps at this critical time.

    Thank Your Member of Congress

     


    SIGNATURES

    as of Monday, April 26, 10:00 AM: 156 

     

    Alabama: Sewell

    Alaska: Young

    American Samoa: Radewagan

    Arizona: Gallego, Grijalva

    California: Barragan, Bass, Bera, Brownley, Carbajal, Cardenas, Chu, Costa, DeSaulniers, Eshoo, Garamendi (co-author), Jacobs, Khanna, Kim, LaMalfa, Barbara Lee, Mike Levin, Lieu, Lofgren, Lowenthal, Matsui, McNerney, Napolitano, Panetta, Peters, Sanchez, Speier, Swalwell, Takano, Vargas

    Colorado: Crow, DeGette, Neguse

    Connecticut: Courtney, Hayes, Himes, Larson

    Delaware: Blunt Rochester

    District of Columbia: Norton

    Florida: Deutch, Lawson, Soto, Wilson

    Georgia: Bishop, Hank Johnson, McBath, David Scott

    Hawaii: Kahele

    Illinois: Bustos, Danny Davis, Rodney Davis, Foster, Chuy Garcia, Kelly, Rush, Schakowsky

    Indiana: Carson

    Iowa: Axne

    Kansas: Davids

    Kentucky: Barr, Yarmuth

    Louisiana: Graves (co-author)

    Maine: Golden, Pingree

    Maryland: Brown, Raskin, Sarbanes

    Massachusetts: Auchincloss, Keating, Lynch, McGovern, Moulton, Neal, Pressley, Trahan

    Michigan: Dingell, Kildee, Slotkin

    Minnesota: Craig, Phillips

    Missouri: Cleaver

    Nevada: Horsford, Titus

    New Hampshire: Kuster

    New Jersey: Gottheimer, Kim, Malinowski, Norcross, Pallone, Pascrell, Payne, Sherrill, Sires, Van Drew

    New Mexico: Leger Fernandez

    New York: Clarke, Delgado, Jones, Higgins, Katko, Carolyn Maloney, Sean Patrick Maloney, Meeks, Morelle, Rice, Suozzi, Tonko, Torres, Velazquez

    North Carolina: Adams, Manning

    Northern Marianas: Sablan

    Ohio: Beatty, Anthony Gonzalez

    Oregon: Blumenauer, Bonamici, DeFazio

    Pennsylvania: Boyle, Evans, Fitzpatrick, Wild

    Puerto Rico: Gonzalez-Colon

    Rhode Island: Cicilline, Langevin

    Tennessee: Cohen

    Texas: Allred, Castro, Doggett, Escobar, Vicente Gonzalez, Green, Jackson-Lee, E.B. Johnson, Veasey, Vela

    Vermont: Welch

    Virginia: Beyer, Connolly, Luria, McEachin, Spanberger, Wexton

    Virgin Islands: Plaskett

    Washington: DelBene, Jayapal, Larsen, Schrier, Adam Smith, Strickland

    Wisconsin: Kind, Moore

     

    If you see your Representative listed as having signed this letter, please follow this link and thank them for taking positive bipartisan action to support the Peace Corps at this critical time.

     


    Here’s the Text from the Letter

    Read it below — or download the PDF.

     

    April 28, 2021

     

    The Honorable Barbara Lee, Chairwoman
    Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs

    Committee on Appropriations

    U.S. House of Representatives

    The Honorable Hal Rogers, Ranking Member

    Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs

    Committee on Appropriations

    U.S. House of Representatives

     

    Dear Chairwoman Lee and Ranking Member Rogers:

    Thank you for your commitment to the Peace Corps. Because of your efforts, the agency is poised for even greater impact at a time when the unique role of the Peace Corps is urgently needed. To ensure the Peace Corps has the resources needed to further its mission, we respectfully ask that you appropriate $450 million for fiscal year 2022.

    Public support for Peace Corps remains strong, and its programs continue to renew and expand, but the agency’s potential is severely limited by its essentially flat funding levels in the past six years. The agency’s budget allocation has not increased beyond $410.5 million since fiscal year 2016. Providing $450 million for fiscal year 2022 would allow the Peace Corps to resume in-country Volunteer activities once safe and prudent to do so, and support the longstanding goal of deploying of 10,000 volunteers worldwide.

    More Americans want to serve than the Peace Corps has the funding to absorb. The ratio of annual applications to available Volunteer positions currently stands at over 4:1. Retired General Stanley McChrystal has called this gap between applicants and service opportunities “democratic energy wasted and a generation of patriotism needlessly squandered.” Additionally, six years of essentially flat funding has compelled the agency to cut both pre-service and in-service training days to meet budget restrictions, meaning Volunteers get less time for language, technical, and cross-cultural training.

    The Peace Corps works to accomplish its legislative mandate within the context of unique security challenges, and the agency has taken steps to improve the health and safety of its Volunteers as it implements provisions within the Sam Farr Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018 (Public Law 115-256). However, there remain residual health care policy issues within the agency that require increased budgetary support. In particular, we need increased funding and compensation levels for Volunteers temporarily or permanently disabled as a result of their service abroad.

    Similar to members of our military and diplomatic corps, Peace Corps Volunteers take an oath to serve our country, and do so often in remote, challenging environments. Increased funding is necessary to ensure that Peace Corps can fulfill its commitment to the health and safety of American citizens who choose to serve.

    We thank you for your efforts to provide Peace Corps with the resources it needs to fuel the next generation of American leadership, and we respectfully ask that you make this $450 million investment in the agency for fiscal year 2022.

     

    Sincerely,

     

    John Garamendi
    Member of Congress

     

    Garret Graves
    Member of Congress

     


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

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    With your help we had another strong response in securing bipartisan support on this letter. see more

    A bipartisan letter from two members of Congress calls on colleagues to sign on to strong support for Peace Corps during this critical time.

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA), Co-Chairs of the House Peace Corps Caucus, have issued a letter to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State/Foreign Operations for some long-needed support — and to bolster funding as the agency undertakes to send Volunteers back into the field. The letter calls for increasing Peace Corps funding for Fiscal Year 2022 from $410 million to $450 million.

    You can read the final letter here, or see the list below for a state-by-state rundown of lawmakers who signed the letter.

     

    Take Action

    If your member of the House of Representatives is listed below, that means they signed onto the Peace Corps funding letter. If they signed the letter, send them a thank you message!

     

    Take Action Now

     

     

    Who Signed the Letter?

    Here are the lawmakers who signed the Garamendi-Graves Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter for Fiscal Year 2022. 

     

    DEADLINE to sign on: 10 AM Today, Monday, April 26, 2021

    SIGNATURES as of Monday, April 26, 10:00 AM: 156 (THIS LETTER IS NOW CLOSED)

     

    Alabama: Sewell

    Alaska: Young

    American Samoa: Radewagan

    Arizona: Gallego, Grijalva

    California: Barragan, Bass, Bera, Brownley, Carbajal, Cardenas, Chu, Costa, DeSaulniers, Eshoo, Garamendi (co-author), Jacobs, Khanna, Kim, LaMalfa, Barbara Lee, Mike Levin, Lieu, Lofgren, Lowenthal, Matsui, McNerney, Napolitano, Panetta, Peters, Sanchez, Speier, Swalwell, Takano, Vargas

    Colorado: Crow, DeGette, Neguse

    Connecticut: Courtney, Hayes, Himes, Larson

    Delaware: Blunt Rochester

    District of Columbia: Norton

    Florida: Deutch, Lawson, Soto, Wilson

    Georgia: Bishop, Hank Johnson, McBath, David Scott

    Hawai'i: Kahele

    Illinois: Bustos, Danny Davis, Rodney Davis, Foster, Chuy Garcia, Kelly, Rush, Schakowsky

    Indiana: Carson

    Iowa: Axne

    Kansas: Davids

    Kentucky: Barr, Yarmuth

    Louisiana: Graves (co-author)

    Maine: Golden, Pingree

    Maryland: Brown, Raskin, Sarbanes

    Massachusetts: Auchincloss, Keating, Lynch, McGovern, Moulton, Neal, Pressley, Trahan

    Michigan: Dingell, Kildee, Slotkin

    Minnesota: Craig, Phillips

    Missouri: Cleaver

    Nevada: Horsford, Titus

    New Hampshire: Kuster

    New Jersey: Gottheimer, Kim, Malinowski, Norcross, Pallone, Pascrell, Payne, Sherrill, Sires, Van Drew

    New Mexico: Leger Fernandez

    New York: Clarke, Delgado, Jones, Higgins, Katko, Carolyn Maloney, Sean Patrick Maloney, Meeks, Morelle, Rice, Suozzi, Tonko, Torres, Velazquez

    North Carolina: Adams, Manning

    Northern Marianas: Sablan

    Ohio: Beatty, Anthony Gonzalez

    Oregon: Blumenauer, Bonamici, DeFazio

    Pennsylvania: Boyle, Evans, Fitzpatrick, Wild

    Puerto Rico: Gonzalez-Colon

    Rhode Island: Cicilline, Langevin

    Tennessee: Cohen

    Texas: Allred, Castro, Doggett, Escobar, Vicente Gonzalez, Green, Jackson-Lee, E.B. Johnson, Veasey, Vela

    Vermont: Welch

    Virginia: Beyer, Connolly, Luria, McEachin, Spanberger, Wexton

    Virgin Islands: Plaskett

    Washington: DelBene, Jayapal, Larsen, Schrier, Adam Smith, Strickland

    Wisconsin: Kind, Moore

     

    Don’t see your Representative listed yet? Then they need to hear from you! Thanks for rallying others to join you in supporting Peace Corps at this critical time.


    Here’s the Text from the Letter

    Read it below — or download the PDF.

     

    April 28, 2021

     

    The Honorable Barbara Lee, Chairwoman
    Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs
    Committee on Appropriations
    U.S. House of Representatives

    The Honorable Hal Rogers, Ranking Member
    Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs
    Committee on Appropriations
    U.S. House of Representatives

     

    Dear Chairwoman Lee and Ranking Member Rogers:

    Thank you for your commitment to the Peace Corps. Because of your efforts, the agency is poised for even greater impact at a time when the unique role of the Peace Corps is urgently needed. To ensure the Peace Corps has the resources needed to further its mission, we respectfully ask that you appropriate $450 million for fiscal year 2022.

    Public support for Peace Corps remains strong, and its programs continue to renew and expand, but the agency’s potential is severely limited by its essentially flat funding levels in the past six years. The agency’s budget allocation has not increased beyond $410.5 million since fiscal year 2016. Providing $450 million for fiscal year 2022 would allow the Peace Corps to resume in-country Volunteer activities once safe and prudent to do so, and support the longstanding goal of deploying of 10,000 volunteers worldwide.

    More Americans want to serve than the Peace Corps has the funding to absorb. The ratio of annual applications to available Volunteer positions currently stands at over 4:1. Retired General Stanley McChrystal has called this gap between applicants and service opportunities “democratic energy wasted and a generation of patriotism needlessly squandered.” Additionally, six years of essentially flat funding has compelled the agency to cut both pre-service and in-service training days to meet budget restrictions, meaning Volunteers get less time for language, technical, and cross-cultural training.

    The Peace Corps works to accomplish its legislative mandate within the context of unique security challenges, and the agency has taken steps to improve the health and safety of its Volunteers as it implements provisions within the Sam Farr Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018 (Public Law 115-256). However, there remain residual health care policy issues within the agency that require increased budgetary support. In particular, we need increased funding and compensation levels for Volunteers temporarily or permanently disabled as a result of their service abroad.

    Similar to members of our military and diplomatic corps, Peace Corps Volunteers take an oath to serve our country, and do so often in remote, challenging environments. Increased funding is necessary to ensure that Peace Corps can fulfill its commitment to the health and safety of American citizens who choose to serve.

    We thank you for your efforts to provide Peace Corps with the resources it needs to fuel the next generation of American leadership, and we respectfully ask that you make this $450 million investment in the agency for fiscal year 2022.

     

    Sincerely,

     

    John Garamendi
    Member of Congress

     

    Garret Graves
    Member of Congress

     

     

    Story updated April 7, 2021 at 2:30 p.m. 


    Jonathan Pearson is Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. Write him at advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    What will Peace Corps’ future hold? It’s up to us. And work is underway. see more

    On March 1 we kicked off a season of advocacy in support of the Peace Corps. And we’re working to transform it for a changed world. On March 1, Rep. John Garamendi introduced comprehensive Peace Corps legislation.

     

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    For 17 years, one of National Peace Corps Association’s key contributions to Peace Corps Week is our National Days of Advocacy. This Peace Corps 60th anniversary year is marked by a global pandemic and social distancing, as well as national crisis that includes a U.S. Capitol closed to visitors. In spite of these unprecedented challenges, our advocacy mobilization carries on. And during the months of March and April, your involvement is needed like never before.

     

    Our March 1 Kickoff

    Our Days of Advocacy kickoff began on March 1 (Peace Corps Day). More than 250 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) former Peace Corps staff and other supporters joined a meeting which featured remarks by Peace Corps champions in Congress including RPCV Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA). Several advocacy leaders shared their planned activities in the coming weeks and many joined individual state/regional breakout meetings to discuss further plans for mobilization.

    It's not too late to get involved in our National Days of Advocacy. In fact, we are just getting started!

     

    Take Individual Action Right Now

    Follow this link to write to your members of Congress. Share this link with others. We need every citizen who believes in the importance of the Peace Corps to contact Congress at this consequential moment in Peace Corps history!

     

    Get Involved

    Check out our 2021 Days of Advocacy map to see if any activities — virtual meetings with congressional offices, virtual letter writing, advocacy workshops, and more — are already in the works. If there’s no activity already scheduled in your area, fill out this form and help lead one!

     

    Virtual Workshop Recording

    If you are new to advocacy, follow this link for details on how to plan and carry out effective virtual advocacy meetings. And, here is a video recording of our March 9th Virtual Advocacy 101 Workshop.

     

     

    More Resources:

    Visit our State Resources page for a one-page document about Peace Corps activity in your state (which you can download and use as a leave behind document for congressional office meetings), and to see profiles of every member of Congress.

    Follow this link for our generic, two page leave behind document that you can share with congressional offices.

     

    Issues: Funding, Peace Corps Legislation, COVID Relief, Jobs

    Our Days of Advocacy Agenda is still taking shape. We’ll update this page as more information becomes available. During March and April 2021, here are some of our key Peace Corps–related advocacy issues:
     

    Peace Corps Funding

    Our advocacy to support strong Peace Corps funding begins now, as Congress begins to work on federal appropriations for Fiscal Year 2022 (which begins October 1, 2021). In the weeks to come, we anticipate intensive mobilization to urge members to sign annual Senate and House Peace Corps Funding “Dear Colleague” letters. Right now, our specific request is that you ask senators and representatives include strong funding for the Peace Corps when they submit their individual requests to their respective Appropriations Committee. The Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (see below) recommends a roughly 10 percent increase in FY 22 funding for Peace Corps — from $410 Million to $450 Million — to support redeployment and key reforms.

    Click here to read our Peace Corps Funding issue brief and talking points.

    Click here to read the House Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague letter.

    Click here for a letter writing action to support the House Dear Colleague letter.
     

    Comprehensive Peace Corps Legislation

    On March 1, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer John Garamendi (D-CA) and Representative Garret Graves (R-LA) introduced the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1456) in the House of Representatives. Read Congressman Garamendi's press release, which includes a link to the legislation and an outline of the many provisions to support, improve, and honor the work of Peace Corps Volunteers and those who have returned.

    At this time there is no companion legislation in the Senate.

    Click here to read our Peace Corps Reauthorization Act issue brief and talking points.

    Click here for a one–page document you can give to your representatives during House meetings. 
     

    COVID Relief and Jobs Legislation

    In both the Senate and the House, identical legislation has been introduced to mobilize resources, confront the COVID-19 pandemic, and prioritize the hiring of RPCVs (among others) in the response. The Health Force, Resilience Force and Jobs To Fight COVID-19 Act of 2021 (Senate Bill 32; House Bill 460) is starting to gain co-sponsors. Thank your members if they are already a co-sponsor. If they are not, ask them to co-sponsor this legislation. Click here to read our issue brief and talking points.

     

    Story updated April 7, 2021 at 5:00 PM Eastern Time. 


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

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    Full funding of $410.5 million for fiscal year 2021 see more

    Full funding of $410.5 million for fiscal year 2021. And Peace Corps must put together a plan to provide access to menstrual hygiene products wherever Volunteers are serving. 

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    Peace Corps received good news on the budget front in December: Congress approved level funding for the agency at $410.5 million. The House had supported full funding all along, but the Senate Appropriations Committee had called for cutting $51 million. 

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


    More from Congress

    The 4,500-page National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes reporting requirements regarding Peace Corps redeployment and Volunteers who were evacuated in 2020. Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) introduced that component. Three months after bill passage, Peace Corps must update Congress on offers of redeployment assignments to all evacuated Volunteers who wish to continue service; progress on obtaining approval from countries of service to allow return of Volunteers; health and safety measures, including COVID-19 contingency plans; and need for additional funds or new statutory authorities to safely enroll 7,300 Volunteers within one year of resuming operations. Congress passed the NDAA in December. President Trump vetoed it on issues not related to Peace Corps. On January 1, Congress overrode the veto, making the bill into law.

    After meeting with female Peace Corps Volunteers, Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) introduced House legislation in March 2020 to require Peace Corps to develop a policy to ensure Volunteers have adequate access to menstrual hygiene products wherever they are serving. During NPCA’s Days of Action, returned Volunteers spoke with members of Congress about the value of this legislation. It didn’t pass, but what it was aiming for will guide Peace Corps’ work going forward: The Fiscal Year 2021 State/Foreign Operations Appropriations package includes language instructing Peace Corps to provide a strategy within 90 days to ensure access for Volunteers to feminine hygiene products. 

     

    Read more updates on Congress here.