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  • 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
    With your help we can get a record number of signatures on this annual 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. To ensure support, your Representative needs to hear from you in the next two weeks.

    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 colleagues in the House of Representative calling for robust funding for Peace Corps. They are asking 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. (For details, see the letter at the end of this post.)

    The goal: Increase Peace Corps funding for Fiscal Year 2022 from $410 million to $450 million.

    The task for the Peace Corps community: Reach out to members of the House and get them to sign on — before the deadline of April 23.

    Our show of support is critical to ensure robust funding for the Peace Corps. We have only two weeks to deliver. 

     

    Take Action

    This is an action only for the House of Representatives. A similar action in the Senate is expected later. We’ll share that news as soon as we have it. 

    Here’s what you can do today: Contact your Representative and urge them to sign on to the Garamendi-Graves Peace Corps funding Dear Colleague letter.

    Share this news post with others you know who support the Peace Corps and urge them to take action, too. Peace Corps Volunteers can help tackle problems in communities around the world — and they’re being enlisted to help across the United States during the pandemic. Let’s make sure they have the support they need to get the job done.

     

    Take Action Now

     

     

    Who Has 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: Friday, April 23, 2021

    SIGNATURES as of Wednesday, April 14, 6:00 PM: 84

    ADDITIONAL SIGNATURES NEEDED to surpass 2019 record: 98

     

    Alabama: Sewell

    Alaska: Young

    American Samoa: Radewagan

    Arizona: Gallego, Grijalva

    California: Bass, Bera, Carbajal, Cardenas, Chu, Costa, DeSaulniers, Garamendi (co-author), Mike Levin, Lieu, Lowenthal, Matsui, McNerney, Panetta, Swalwell, Takano, Vargas

    Colorado: Neguse

    Connecticut: Courtney, Hayes, Larson

    Delaware: Blunt Rochester

    District of Columbia: Norton

    Florida: Deutch

    Georgia: Hank Johnson, McBath, David Scott

    Hawai'i: Kahele

    Illinois: Bustos, Davis, Foster, Chuy Garcia, Schakowsky

    Indiana: Carson

    Kansas: Davids

    Louisiana: Graves (co-author)

    Maine: Golden

    Maryland: Sarbanes

    Massachusetts: Keating, Lynch, McGovern, Moulton, Trahan

    Minnesota: Craig, Phillips

    Nevada: Horsford, Titus

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

    New York: Delgado, Jones, Katko, Sean Patrick Maloney, Tonko, Torres

    Northern Marianas: Sablan

    Ohio: Beatty

    Oregon: Bonamici, DeFazio

    Pennsylvania: Fitzpatrick

    Puerto Rico: Gonzalez-Colon

    Rhode Island: Langevin

    Texas: Allred, Castro, Vicente Gonzalez, Green, Jackson-Lee

    Vermont: Welch

    Virginia: Beyer, Connolly, Luria

    Washington: DelBene

    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.

  • 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.”

     

     

     

    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. 

  • 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.

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    John Garamendi, only returned Volunteer in Congress, is introducing Peace Corps legislation see more

    The 2020 congressional elections mark the end of an era for Peace Corps in Congress: Now there’s only one. And he is working on new legislation to support and improve the Peace Corps.

    By Jonathan Pearson

    Photo: John Garamendi

     

    The 2020 congressional elections mark the end of an era for Peace Corps in Congress: Since 1975, at least two returned Volunteers served simultaneously in the halls of Congress. Until now. 

    Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), who served as a Volunteer in Ethiopia 1966–68, was reelected with a relatively comfortable victory, securing 58 percent of the vote in California’s Third District. But he’s the sole RPCV to return.

    Donna Shalala (D-FL), who served as a Volunteer in Iran 1962–64, lost her bid for reelection, one of 14 incumbents to do so.

    Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), who served as a Volunteer in Dominican Republic 2004–06 and in the House since 2012, lost a primary bid for U.S. Senate. His departure marks the end of another era: Since 1947, a Kennedy has had a seat in Congress, with only two brief interruptions. The first, Joe Kennedy’s great-uncle John F. Kennedy, created the Peace Corps by executive order in March 1961.

     

    Garamendi is Updating the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act

    Congressman Garamendi is in the process of updating and reintroducing comprehensive legislation to support and improve the Peace Corps. The legislation is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks. He introduced the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2019 (H.R.3456), with bipartisan support, in the last session of Congress.

    In introducing the bill, Garamendi said, “My wife Patti and I owe so much to our service in the Peace Corps. It inspired a lifetime of service that began in Ethiopia during the late 1960s and continued into state government in California, the Clinton Administration, and now the U.S. Congress. 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 I thank my fellow Peace Corps Caucus co-chairs and Congressional colleagues for their support as original cosponsors.”

    That bill did not come to a vote. Read more about it here.

    The evacuation of all Volunteers from posts around the world in March 2020 has changed the landscape for Peace Corps. And as the community-driven report Peace Corps Connect to the Future stakes out, this is a time to retool and reshape the agency. The report contains recommendations for Congress, the Executive Branch and the agency, as well as the wider Peace Corps community. Garamendi and others have been briefed on those recommendations.

    Here are more legislative updates regarding the Peace Corps community.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Health Force, Resilience Force and Jobs to Fight COVID-19 Act is presented in both houses. see more

    Health Force, Resilience Force and Jobs to Fight COVID-19 Act is presented in both houses. And a Peace Corps Reauthorization Act is in the works.

     

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    As a new Congress settles in to begin its work, already in January new Peace Corps legislation is starting to emerge. And while new pieces of legislation are being developed, it is also likely that legislative initiatives introduced in the previous (116th) Congress will be reintroduced. 

    At National Peace Corps Association we are gearing up for our 17th annual National Days of Advocacy in Support of the Peace Corps. Some of the legislation shown below will be a key part of our citizen lobbying efforts. Sign up to lead a Days of Advocacy virtual activity in your state/region.

    We will update this story with news on emerging Peace Corps–related legislation.

     

    Senate:

    Health Force, Resilience Force and Jobs to Fight COVID-19 Act

    • Lead Sponsor(s): Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and nine others

    • Bill Number: S. 32

    • Copy of Bill/Press Release: Read Senator Gillibrand’s press release here.

    • Bill Summary: Legislation that would invest billions in the nation’s public health jobs and infrastructure and aid the country’s vaccine distribution campaign, and would invest billions in local public health infrastructure to recruit, train, and employ hundreds of thousands of Americans to build public health capacity in underserved communities. Additionally, the Resilience Force would complement the Health Force by bolstering the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) workforce in the whole-of-government effort to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.

    • Peace Corps Connection: Unemployed individuals who served in the Peace Corps would be among those prioritized for hiring under this legislation.

    • Quote From Senator Gillibrand: “Enacting a Health Force as part of robust federal plan would enable us to train hundreds of thousands of public health workers, create jobs in struggling communities, and ensure that every community has the resources to reach every American in need of the vaccine.”

     

     

    House of Representatives:

    Health Force, Resilience Force and Jobs to Fight COVID-19 Act

    • Lead Sponsor(s): Dean Phillips (D-MN), Jason Crow (D-CO), Lauren Underwood (D-IL), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA)

    • Bill Number: TBD

    • Copy of Bill/Press Release: Read the release from Representative Phillips.

    • Bill Summary: Legislation that would invest billions in the nation’s public health jobs and infrastructure and aid the country’s vaccine distribution campaign, and would invest billions in local public health infrastructure to recruit, train, and employ hundreds of thousands of Americans to build public health capacity in underserved communities. Additionally, the Resilience Force would complement the Health Force by bolstering the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) workforce in the whole-of-government effort to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.

    • Peace Corps Connection: Unemployed individuals who served in the Peace Corps would be among those prioritized for hiring under this legislation.

    • Quote from Representative Phillips: “These are unprecedented times that demand thoughtful but expedient action to save lives. Americans deserve a coordinated, fully-funded government response. National service is a time-honored American tradition that is needed as we respond to the coronavirus pandemic.”

     

    Peace Corps Reauthorization Act

    • Lead Sponsor(s): John Garamendi (D-CA)
    • Bill Number: TBD
    • Copy of Bill/Press Release: TBA
    • Bill Summary: RPCV Congressman Garamendi is in the process of updating and reintroducing comprehensive legislation to support and improve the Peace Corps. The legislation is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks.
    • Peace Corps Connection: This bill will focus exclusively on the Peace Corps and Peace Corps community.

     

    Story updated January 26, 2021 at 2 p.m.


    Jonathan Pearson is Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    COVID-19 puts a pause on Peace Corps Capitol Hill visits see more

    Unprecedented times, yes. But history still offers a few pointers.

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    Over many years with National Peace Corps Association, I have navigated the corridors and rooms of Capitol Hill to attend meetings, drop off documents, or prepare event logistics. This includes countless visits to the venerable Russell Senate and Cannon House Office Buildings, constructed in the early 1900s. Walking the hallways in quiet moments at the close of a day, I’ll often reflect on the history of these buildings. On the granite staircases, one can literally feel the sunken impressions worn into the stone by millions of people who have climbed this same path over nearly 120 years. It sparks wonder and humility, thinking of all who have been here before — and the titanic issues that brought them, shaping our nation.

    Sixty years ago, Sargent Shriver and Bill Moyers were part of that history. Their task: convince Congress to appropriate funds and formally establish the Peace Corps, created months earlier through an executive order issued by President John F. Kennedy.

     

    Journeywork: Sargent Shriver, center, arriving in Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar), May 1961. Global meetings led nations to invite the first groups of Volunteers. Legwork in Congress led to the legislation that established the Peace Corps. Photo courtesy Peace Corps

     

    Today, the Peace Corps community must follow in the footsteps of these and many other predecessors. Just as in 1961, Peace Corps’ future is at stake in 2021. As we prepare for this journey, we are fortunate to have history as a guide, including excerpts from the quintessential biography Sarge by Scott Stossel.

    Peace Corps legend has it that between them Moyers and Shriver personally called on every single member of Congress … Shriver and Moyers launched each day with a breakfast on Capitol Hill with several congressmen. Following breakfast they would wander the congressional office buildings, going from appointment to appointment, preaching the gospel of the Peace Corps.

    The coronavirus pandemic, however, will momentarily prevent us from literally following in the footsteps of Shriver and Moyers. Yet it was not merely their physical presence but rather their relentless determination that ultimately carried the day for groundbreaking Peace Corps legislation. And with 21st-century tools at our disposal — email, smartphones, social media, laptops, Zoom conferences — we can and must be equally relentless from our living rooms and kitchen tables.

    “One night I was leaving about seven-thirty and there was Shriver walking up and down the halls looking into the doors. He came in and talked to me. I still didn’t like the program but I was sold on Shriver—I voted for him.” 

    A key to success in advocacy is to build relationships with your lawmakers as a knowledgeable, credible voice for Peace Corps. Our 50 advocacy coordinators around the country and growing number of identified “grasstops” leaders who have direct connections to lawmakers are foundational to our advocacy mobilization. And we must continue to grow these groups across every region of the country.

    One night, Shriver and Moyers were walking the halls and came upon the office of Barry Goldwater, the notoriously conservative senator from Arizona … Moyers told (Shriver) not to bother, that they had no chance of winning over Goldwater. Shriver recalls “I said, ‘Well I’m sure that we’re not going to get him if we never even ask him.’ So we rapped on the door and went in and fortuitously he was there and willing to talk to us. We talked for an hour at which he said, ‘That sounds like a great idea. I’ll vote for it.’”

    I regularly remind advocates that meetings with less supportive lawmakers are the most important of all. Over time, such meetings have yielded numerous instances where personal outreach has resulted in an unexpected victory — or, at the very least, a neutralized opposition to the work Peace Corps does. Consider the summer of 2019, when more than 10,000 messages were sent to Congress in one week to successfully oppose a House amendment that included a one-year elimination of the Peace Corps appropriation. A year later, amid staggering unemployment, enormous economic stimulus efforts and skyrocketing deficits, amendments to the House appropriations bill included no proposed cuts to Peace Corps.

    As August (1961) approached it became apparent that the biggest obstacle to (passing Peace Corps legislation) was not, for the moment, Republicans hostile to foreign assistance but rather the indifference of Arkansas senator William Fulbright, who chaired the all-important Foreign Relations Committee. Fulbright was a Democrat and for the most part friendly to the administration, but he was highly skeptical about the Peace Corps’ potential effectiveness.

    Among both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, Peace Corps has many friends. Nearly 40 percent of Congress signed 2020 letters supporting strong Peace Corps funding. Nevertheless, we are entering a challenging period when many important domestic and international issues will be competing for congressional attention and support. In the 40 years since the first RPCVs began serving in Congress, 2021 will mark the low point with John Garamendi as the only serving RPCV. It is imperative that Peace Corps supporters in Congress increasingly become Peace Corps champions, placing successful redeployment high on their priority list. That said, the Peace Corps has its skeptics who will question parts of its mission. There are fiscal conservatives who will push back on Peace Corps funding. And we continue to live in an age of hyperpartisanship.

    In March (1963) the New York Times columnist James Reston had written … “The Peace Corps … stands above the rest as the only thing new and vigorous that has managed to avoid the pessimism of intractable problems.”

    Just as the Peace Corps was new and invigorating in the early 1960s, the year 2021 presents an unparalleled opportunity to renew the agency, inspire once more the next generation of Volunteers, and recapture the imagination of the general public. Much has changed in the past 60 years, and the need for transformation and improvements within the Peace Corps — as expressed by hundreds of community members during town halls, a global ideas summit, and conversations since — is reflected in the recent report presented to National Peace Corps Association, “Peace Corps Connect to the Future.” A copy is included in the Winter 2021 print edition of WorldView. We have been meeting with members of Congress, the transition team, and the agency to bring these ideas into action.

    This existential moment for Peace Corps will require extraordinary engagement. There remains enormous untapped potential within our own community. We must all seize this moment of renewal and reform. It will not come our way again. 


    Jonathan Pearson is the Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. He served as a Volunteer in Micronesia 1987–89. Ready to step up? Contact advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org.

     

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    Peace Corps Commemorative continues to pay tribute to the Peace Corps legacy. see more

    A concluding moment to the service of Joe Kennedy III in the House: legislation to enable work on the Peace Corps Commemorative to carry forward

    By Jonathan Pearson and Steven Boyd Saum

    Illustration by Edward Rooks

     

    Joseph Kennedy III served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic. After he was elected to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012, one of the first pieces of legislation he introduced and passed focused on Peace Corps: It provided congressional authorization for the creation of a Peace Corps Commemorative in Washington, D.C.

    In September 2020 the design was unanimously approved by the Commission on Fine Arts. But authorization for completing the project was set to expire before ground would be broken. On December 17, 2020, in the closing days of Kennedy’s tenure in the House, he and others secured passage of a time extension that will allow work on the commemorative to continue. Colleague Rob Wittman (R-VA) noted that it is fitting for the legislation to be sponsored by President Kennedy’s grandnephew.

     

    Photo by Drew Altizer Photography. Rendering courtesy Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation

     

    And Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) said the commemorative will serve as a “lasting tribute to the legacy of the Peace Corps.”

    Late on December 20, the Senate unanimously approved the legislation. Sponsors Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) issued a release paying tribute to Volunteers. “For more than 50 years, the Peace Corps has served as a powerful vehicle for Volunteers who wish to use their talents to carry America’s humanitarian values to other parts of the world,” said Portman. “We can ensure the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation can finish this important project and honor those Americans who have donated their time and talent to serving others.”

    President Trump signed the bill into law on January 5.

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    President's Letter for the Winter 2021 Edition of WorldView magazine see more

    An Unprecedented Year. And Insurrection at the Capitol. 

    By Glenn Blumhorst

    Photo: Makeshift Fence Memorials to Capitol Police Officers Brian D. Sicknick and Howard Liebengood. By Elvert Barnes

     

    For so many of us, the year 2020 seemed the challenge of a lifetime. But if anyone was built to persevere through the crises these months presented, it’s Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. Having endured a tumultuous year marked by a global health pandemic, racial disarray and instability, and the first-ever global evacuation of Volunteers, we could use skills we learned and experiences that have shaped us to take on many roles, including working professional, volunteer in communities at home, teacher, caregiver, colleague, and more. And we would turn the page. 

    Then came January 6 — a horrific day for our country. A violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, smashing windows and looting offices. We condemn these acts of violence and chaos in the strongest possible terms. The Peace Corps community is committed to building peace and friendship. When we are sworn in as Volunteers, we take an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. 

    Symbolically and literally, democracy itself was under assault. What do we take from this moment? It’s profoundly clear that the work of building peace needs to start here at home. And as many in the Peace Corps community have observed, the extremists who took part in the attack were not met with the kind of show of force that has met Black protesters. It underscores once more that we need to address racial justice as a root issue in society. 

     

    We must be unequivocal: Violence and hatred have no place in the Peace Corps community.

     

    We stand in solidarity with the public servants who were terrorized by these acts of violence. That includes not just members of Congress but the many staff who work behind the scenes — especially those who are people of color. Dozens of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers serve as congressional staff. Their lives were at risk. Our hearts go out to them. But that is not enough.

    We must be unequivocal: Violence and hatred have no place in the Peace Corps community. Those who took part in these violent acts — and those who incited them — must be held accountable.

    It is reprehensible that among the mob that stormed the Capitol is one man who served in the Peace Corps, Thomas Baranyi, who began basic training in the Marine Corps before being discharged. A CBS affiliate interviewed him; he gave his name and home state of New Jersey. “We tore through the scaffolding and flash-bangs,” he said, and blitzed into the chambers. He described witnessing the death of Ashli Babbitt, shot as she and others tried to breach a barricaded door. He clearly believed actions by the violent extremists were justified.

     

    What We Must Do

    I believe that the Peace Corps community can and will play a pivotal role in the United States reengaging with the world. During months of crisis, we’ve seen many take inspiration from the model of the Peace Corps in looking for solutions to big domestic problems. This moment also underscores once more that, as we undertake the work we do, we must do it with a sense of humility and solidarity — and a sense of what’s at stake. 

     

    I believe that the Peace Corps community can and will play a pivotal role in the United States reengaging with the world.

     

    I want to give a special thanks to those who have given their support to work for the Peace Corps community in recent months. With your time and commitment, we will ensure that the Peace Corps and the values it is meant to nurture can play an important role in the great unfinished task ahead of us.

    When we set out the tasks for the Peace Corps community, Congress, and the Executive Branch in the report “Peace Corps Connect to the Future” — included in this edition of WorldView — we didn’t fully fathom the enormity of the rebuilding ahead. But here we are. To the community-driven recommendations outlined in the report, let us add: To best serve our robust intergenerational and diverse community, we need a Peace Corps Director equal to these times: a committed, well-known leader in international development who plans for innovation and transformation of the Peace Corps as we know it. There must be a strong emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion in recruitment and retention of Volunteers and staff. We must work with members of Congress to pass legislation to expand Peace Corps funding. And the agency must help lead the way alongside others in peace, diplomacy, and foreign affairs.

    This year’s challenges have revealed enduring resilience and purpose for moving forward and staying true to our mission. I remain humbled by this awareness, and I am committed to working towards the transformation we have undertaken.


    Glenn Blumhorst is President & CEO of National Peace Corps Association. He welcomes your comments: president@peacecorpsconnect.org

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol: this terrible moment — and the road ahead see more

    Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol: this terrible moment — and the road ahead

    By Glenn Blumhorst

    Photo: Guarding the chamber door while extremists storm the Capitol. From video shot by Rep. Dan Kildee

     

    Yesterday was a horrific day for our country. A violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, smashing windows and looting offices. They sent members of Congress and their staffs scrambling for their lives, barricading into offices and chambers and huddling beneath chairs. Explosive devices were found. One of the extremists who stormed the building was fatally shot. Three other people have died in other incidents. And on Thursday night an officer with the Capitol Hill police died of injuries he sustained during the assault.

    We condemn these acts of violence and chaos in the strongest possible terms. The Peace Corps community is committed to building peace and friendship. When we are sworn in as Volunteers, we take an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. This was an attempted coup by domestic terrorists.

    Symbolically and literally, democracy itself was under assault. What do we take from this moment? It’s profoundly clear that the work of building peace needs to start here at home. Many in the Peace Corps community have observed this fact as well: These extremists who took part in the attack and paraded through Congress with Confederate flags were treated far differently — and with nothing like the force — that would have met — and has met — Black protesters. It underscores once more that we need to address racial justice as a root issue in our society. 

     

    The terror hits close to home: Dozens of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers serve as congressional staff. Their lives were at risk.

     

    We stand in solidarity with the public servants who were terrorized by these acts of violence. That includes not just members of Congress but the many staff who work behind the scenes — especially those who are people of color. In this respect, the terror hits close to home: Dozens of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers serve as congressional staff. Their lives were at risk. Our hearts go out to them. But that is not enough.

    Amid all the horrors of yesterday, it is reprehensible that among the violent mob that stormed the Capitol is one man who served in the Peace Corps — and later undertook basic training in the Marine Corps before being discharged. A CBS affiliate interviewed him afterward; he gave his name and home state of New Jersey. “We tore through the scaffolding and flashbangs,” he said. “We stormed into the chambers inside.” He described witnessing the death of the woman who was shot — and clearly felt the actions by him and other violent extremists were justified. His identity has been reported to the FBI.

     

    What we must do

    We must be unequivocal: Violence and hatred have no place in the Peace Corps community. Those who took part in these violent acts — and those who incited them — must be held accountable. 

    I sincerely believe that the Peace Corps community can and will play a pivotal role in the U.S. re-engaging with the world. And during these months of crisis, we’ve seen many take inspiration from the model of the Peace Corps in looking for solutions to big domestic problems. This moment also underscores once more that, as we undertake the work we do, we must do it with a sense of humility and solidarity — and a sense of what’s at stake, not just for the Peace Corps, or even for our country. 

    “The rule of law & democratic procedures need to be restored as soon as possible,” wrote the foreign minister of Ukraine — a country that is home to one of the largest Peace Corps programs in the world. “This is important not only for the U.S., but for Ukraine and the entire democratic world as well.”

    I want to give a special thanks to those who have given their support to work for the Peace Corps community in recent months. With your time and effort, and your commitment, we will ensure that the Peace Corps and the values it is meant to nurture can play an important role in the great unfinished task ahead of us.

     

    Story updated January 9, 2021 at 10 a.m. 


    Glenn Blumhorst is President & CEO of National Peace Corps Association. He served as a Volunteer in Guatemala 1988–91. 

  • Ana Victoria Cruz posted an article
    Peace Corps will keep level funding of $410.5 million in 2021. see more

    Level funding for Peace Corps in its Fiscal Year 2021 spending package is just one of several Peace Corps community victories as the 116th Congress moves towards adjournment.

     By Jonathan Pearson

     
     

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

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

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

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

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

     

    Congress Gives Final Passage to Commemorative Time Extension

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

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

    The Senate sponsors of companion legislation, Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) issued a press release after the Senate vote, paying tribute to Peace Corps Volunteers and praising the unanimous bipartisan support for the project. “For more than 50 years, the Peace Corps has served as a powerful vehicle for volunteers who wish to use their talents to carry America’s humanitarian values to other parts of the world,” said Senator Portman. “By reauthorizing this project, we can ensure the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation can finish this important project and honor those Americans who have donated their time and talent to serving others. I am pleased my colleagues in the Senate passed this important legislation so that it will now be sent to the president’s desk." 

     

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


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

     

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

     

    Access for Menstrual Hygiene Products for Volunteers

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

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

     

    Peace Corps Redeployment and Evacuees

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

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

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

    President Trump has indicated that he will veto the NDAA on issues not related to Peace Corps. The president has until December 23 to do so. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated he plans to call the Senate back into session on January 29th for a vote to override a veto should it be issued.
     


    Last Updated December 22, 2020 at 6 AM.

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

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

    By Jonathan Pearson 

     

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

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

     

    Take Action

    Urge your Senator & Representative to Support Peace Corps Funding

     

    Six Reasons to Support Level Peace Corps Funding 

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

    Here are six reasons for starters:
     

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

     

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

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

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

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

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

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

     

    Get on the map!

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

     

     

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

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

     

    Download Virtual District Office Meetings Materials

      

    Download Toolkit

    Organize a Virtual District Office Meeting