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

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

    By Bethany Leech

     

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

     

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

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

     

    Vanuatu | Chelsea Bajek

    Home: Rochester, New York / Arlington, Virginia

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

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

     

     

     

    Benin | Cristal Ouedraogo | FUNDED!

    Home: Montgomery County, Maryland

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

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

     

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

    Moldova | Alyssa Gurkas

    Home: Westfield, New Jersey

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

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

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

     

    Colombia | Elyse Magen | FUNDED!

    Home: San Francisco, California

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

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

     

     

    Tanzania | Katherine Patterson | FUNDED!

    Home: Washington, D.C.

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

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

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

     


     

    Colombia | Joshua Concannon

    Home: Kansas City, Missouri

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

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

     

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


    Bethany Leech is International Programs Coordinator for NPCA. She served in 
Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) 2011–13.
     

    This story was first published in WorldView magazine’s Summer 2020 issue. Read the entire magazine for free now in the WorldView app. Here’s how:

    STEP 1 - Create an account: Click here and create a login name and password. Use the code DIGITAL2020 to get it free.

    STEP 2 - Get the app: For viewing the magazine on a phone or tablet, go to the App Store/Google Play and search for “WorldView magazine” and download the app. Or view the magazine on a laptop/desktop here.

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

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    We’ve got some learning and some work to do. see more

    We’ve got some learning and some work to do.



    That’s true for the Peace Corps community. For this nation. For this planet.

    We’re facing hard questions and grappling with systemic injustices that have been centuries in the making. We envision a vibrant and united community, here at home and around the world.

    What we do know: Working together as partners is essential. Rok Locksley is the Volunteer who took this photo in the Philippines. He supported Nibarie Nicolas in work developing sustainable projects for communities and protecting marine areas. They quickly learned to paddle together, learned new ways of seeing.

     

    Our work is just starting.

     Support Volunteers back in the States and their ongoing work around the globe.

    Give Now

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    After town halls and the summit, where do we go from here? see more

    We thank you for your continued support and acknowledge the need for change. Closing remarks for Peace Corps Connect to the Future.

     

    Thank you, Glenn. And thank you, Dr. Frederick, for your support. We look forward to continued engagement with you and with Howard University. 

    Fellow RPCVs and friends, on behalf of the National Peace Corps Association Board of Directors and as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Costa Rica from 2006 to 2008, I'm so grateful for the opportunity to engage with you today. Thank you for your passion for service, for your dedication and time, for your bold ideas to build a better future for the Peace Corps. As Volunteers, we lived and worked in communities across the globe to promote world peace and friendship. We answered the call to serve because we imagined a better world. And we're here today because we believe in a better future. As a community, we recognize that Peace Corps has its flaws. Within NPCA, we likewise acknowledge our own shortcomings. In embracing the need for change, we take time to reflect upon our history across our community within ourselves. 

    Watch: Maricarmen Smith-Martinez’s closing remarks for Peace Corps Connect to the Future

     

    We are here because, for the first time since 1961, there are no Peace Corps Volunteers in the field. The global evacuation triggered by COVID-19 resulted in an unprecedented disruption of service for thousands of our PCVs, and many are eager to redeploy but face an uncertain environment. 

    We're here because racism is a systemic issue, and our community is not immune. The struggle for racial justice is embedded in the history of the Peace Corps, present in the early days of our founders, and demonstrated in the Volunteer experience today. We are here because we recognize these challenges and we champion your ideas to reimagine the future of the Peace Corps. With the social impact approach, NPCA works not only for our community, we are driven by you and the priorities you bring to focus.

     

    So that leaves us with a big question. Where do we go from here?

    To convey that I'm inspired by the ideas of this summit and the eight town halls proceeding it does not do justice to the hope I feel and the optimism I hold for our future. We've heard about ways to create a more inclusive community, one that recognizes racial justice is a critical component to ensuring diversity. We've heard about revamping Peace Corps policies, about establishing an exchange program with the countries we serve, about evaluating RPCV support, and about measuring our collective global impact. We have heard the ideas of our future. The NPCA staff is small but mighty — and I express my heartfelt appreciation and gratitude for our dedicated, courageous team that raised the bar these past few weeks, working tirelessly to create a space to listen, to learn, and to forge a path for the future. 

    Yet we cannot go alone. Working together with you, with Peace Corps, and with RPCVs across the nation and around the globe, we must now convert these ideas into actions, develop the strategies and the programs that will enable us to fulfill our vision of a united and vibrant Peace Corps community. So we do not ask you to stay tuned for more information, we invite you to sing the song with us, and we offer several instruments to enable your support. 

     

    • First and foremost, engage with us. If you have not already, join NPCA to learn more about the next steps that will develop from these big ideas.
       
    • Second, donate. We could not undertake any of the work we do without your generous support. Your financial leadership allows us to develop new initiatives like the Global Reentry Program we heard about today. Your contributions allow us to continue critical engagement for advocacy efforts, expand our support for the affiliate group network, and further the unfinished business of RPCVs and communities around the world. Contribute to the Community Fund Projects, become a Mission Partner, or join our Shriver Leadership Circle. Your support in any amount will help fund the ideas discussed today and ensure they become part of our reality. 

    • Next, connect with the Affiliate Group Network. As past president of Atlanta Area RPCVs, I understand firsthand the challenges affiliate groups face with community outreach. More than 180 affiliate groups are eager to reach you — from regional and country of service groups to workplace affinity groups that support RPCV recruitment and professional growth in the workplace, to the increasing number of cause-driven groups championing issues like environmental action, social justice, and refugee support — that are joining this network. Search the affiliate group directory on the NPCA website. And if you don't find what you're looking for, contact us to learn about starting a new group. 

    • And finally, amplify our voice. We number over 230,000 RPCVs and Peace Corps staff, yet many in our community remain on the fringes. As we work to create a more inclusive environment, we need your help to reach our fellow volunteers, and shape a space that welcomes everyone. We know that we can go further together and we must unite as we never have before to realize our full potential.

     

    On behalf of the entire NPCA team, thank you so much for being here today. Thank you for your commitment and your dedication.

    I'll take one note in an immediate call to action. As Glenn noted earlier, we will have a survey to collect your feedback on the summit and the actions we will undertake in the days to come. Please take a moment to share your thoughts with us and inform our continued improvement. We are honored to walk with you on this journey as we connect Peace Corps to the Future. Thank you.


    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. 

  • Kemi Tignor posted an article
    Because we’re not just an association, we’re a force for good. see more

    Four reasons to support the NPCA community this #GivingTuesday

    Because we're not just an association, we're a force for good.

    #1 | You will help the Peace Corps be the best it can be
     

    Your gifts support NPCA’s successful advocacy work. Invest in NPCA’s ongoing and necessary advocacy to improve and expand the Peace Corps!

    #2 | You will help build community
     

    NPCA directly invests your support in programming that connects, engages, and builds the capacity of members and groups to live by their Peace Corps ideals, individually and collectively.

    #3 | You will advance cross-cultural understanding and harmony
     

    NPCA is the voice of the Peace Corps community, a community that represents the best of American values -- values that are worthy of maintaining. NPCA is a community of people who value reasonable and warm cross-cultural relations, and our work to foster harmony cross-culturally overseas and at home is significantly important.

    #4 | You will help amplify the Peace Corps community’s global social impact
     

    NPCA builds the capabilities, capital, and community to increase our collective global social impact. Gifts to NPCA help support members like Camillia Freeland-Taylor. While a PCV in Zambia, Camillia helped her Peace Corps village build a classroom, funded by NPCA through Peace Corps Partnership Program. As an RPCV, she returned to Zambia with a grant from NPCA’s Community Fund to add on a teachers’ quarters. Now, the NPCA/Water Charity partnership is working with her to drill a bore-hole well at the school so children have access to water.

    Support NPCA this giving Tuesday because we are stronger together, and together we are building a more peaceful and prosperous world!

     

    DONATE

     

  • JM Ascienzo posted an article
    Shriver Circle Members Support A Bigger, Better Peace Corps see more

    by Angene and Jack Wilson (Liberia 1962-64)

     

    As Shriver Circle Members, we find great purpose in financially supporting the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA). This $1000 level of membership is especially important to us as it contributes to NPCA's advocacy efforts, including this past September's Capitol Hill Advocacy Day. 

    We've met several times with our members of Congress or their aides over the years — and it does make a difference. 

    Highlights of these meetings include persuading our own Republican member of Congress to join the Peace Corps caucus, as well as talking at length to a top aide of Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) during NPCA's 2015 "snowstorm" Day of Action. During the 2016 Capitol Hill Advocacy Day, Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) legislative aide said he would suggest that Senator Paul arrange to visit a Peace Corps Volunteer while on his annual trip to a Central American country to perform eye surgery.  We feel as though our advocacy has had an impact on these legislators. We see the value in continuing to be Shriver Circle Members because we continue to see the value in advocating for a bigger, better Peace Corps. 

    From first-of-the-month-dinners with the central Kentucky Peace Corps community, as well as our interviews with RPCVs from 50 different countries for our book Voices from the Peace Corps (University Press of Kentucky, 2011), we have gotten to know Volunteers from all decades, even current applicants. We know that the Peace Corps experience has been and remains special.  Because of that, we want to ensure that the opportunity of profound learning and meaningful service is offered to future generations, because it creates citizens of the world.  

    Become a Shriver Circle Member today. Only through your generous financial contributions can NPCA continue connecting the community, advocating for the Peace Corps, and creating impact.