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  • Communications Intern posted an article
    From Peace Corps to the house, senate, and more — at the state level see more

    From Peace Corps to the house, senate, and more — at the state level

    By Jake Arce and Jordana Comiter

    New to the New York State Senate: Samra Brouk, who served as a Volunteer in Guatemala. Photo courtesy Samra Brouk.

     

    John Garamendi (D-CA) is currently the sole Returned Peace Corps Volunteer in the U.S. Congress. What about at the state level? After recent elections, here’s where you’ll find a few in state houses, senates, and assemblies — as well as a secretary of state and governor.

     


    ALABAMA

    Arthur Orr (Nepal 1989–91) was reelected to the State Senate in 2018. He has served since 2006 and chairs the $17 billion Senate Budget Committee for Education. With Peace Corps he served in a Himalayan village and established a college scholarship program for girls.

     

     

     

     


    COLORADO

    Jeni Arndt (Morocco 1990–92) was in her third term in the state’s House of Representatives but departs this spring; in April she was elected mayor of Fort Collins with 63 percent of the vote.

     

     

     

      


    HAWAI‘I

    Gene Ward (Malaysia 1965–67; Country Director, East Timor 2005–06) was reelected in November to represent the 17th district in the state’s House of Representatives. Altogether he has served East Honolulu in the House more than 20 years.

     

     

     

     


     MAINE

    Shenna Bellows (Panama 2000–02) was elected by the Legislature to be Maine’s secretary of state—the first woman elected to serve in the role. Served 2016–20 in the State Senate. At her swearing-in in January, she noted that her grandmother, who celebrated her 101st birthday days prior, was born in the year that saw final ratification of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote.

     

     

     


     MARYLAND

    Robbyn Lewis (Niger 1990–91) serves in the Maryland House of Delegates, representing District 46 in Baltimore. A public health professional who has worked with the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere, she sponsored House Bill 28 to help address health concerns in communities of color.

     

     

     


     MASSACHUSETTS

    Jon Santiago (Dominican Republic 2006–08) was reelected to the state’s House of Representatives in November. With Peace Corps he was a community health specialist. Now he is an ER physician at Boston Medical Center, the city’s safety net hospital; and a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve who has deployed overseas. In February he declared his candidacy for mayor of Boston.

     

     

     


     NEW HAMPSHIRE

    Rebecca Perkins Kwoka (Senegal 2004–06) was elected in November to the State Senate. Former council member for the city of Portsmouth, she is the first openly gay woman in the New Hampshire Senate, and is also a wife and mother.

     

     

     

     

     

    Richard AmesRichard Ames (The Philippines 1968–70) was reelected to the state’s House of Representatives. He is vice chair of the Jaffrey Energy Committee and has served in the House since 2012. 

     

     

     

     


     NEW YORK

    Samra Brouk (Guatemala 2009–11) was elected to the State Senate to represent the 55th District in Rochester. The daughter of immigrants, her father fled Ethiopia during its civil war. As a college student, she volunteered with cleanup efforts after Hurricane Katrina; as a Peace Corps Volunteer she worked in health education.

     

     

     


     PENNSYLVANIA

    Tom Wolf (India 1968–70) has served as governor since 2015; he was reelected in 2018. To recover from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, in February Wolf announced a $3 billion “Back to Work PA” plan.

     

     

     

     


     WASHINGTON

    Mary Dye (Thailand 1984–86) won reelection in November to the House of Representatives for the 9th legislative district in southeastern Washington. She was first appointed to the House in 2015.

     

     

     

     


     WISCONSIN

    Sara Rodriguez (Samoa 1997–99) was elected in November as Wisconsin State Representative for Assembly District 13, which includes Brookfield, Elm Grove, Wauwatosa, West Allis, and Milwaukee. She is a registered nurse and healthcare executive, and she has had various leadership positions with public health departments at the local, state and federal level, serving as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer with the CDC.

     

     

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

     

  • Meisha Robinson posted an article
    A record-breaking 180 members signed the Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter. see more

    A record-breaking 180 members of the House of Representatives signed the Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter, encouraging their colleagues to support Peace Corps funding! This bipartisan letter additionally hosts a record 13 signatures from House Republicans (versus nine House Republican signatures last year).

     

    Our advocates have played a vital role in the success of the Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter. Over the last few weeks, many proponents have spent hours organizing and contacting legislators to lobby for support. NPCA is grateful for the dedicated efforts by our community that contributed to the submission of the Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter.

     

    The letter, authored by Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA), Garrett Graves (R-LA), and Joe Kennedy (D-MA), was dispersed to Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) of the House Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Problems requesting a $410 million appropriation for Peace Corps in FY2019.

     

    With this level of funding the agency should be able to sustain the sending of approximately 3,400 new volunteers a year to serve.  As the letter stated, “Today, approximately 7,000 Volunteers serve in 64 countries to train, elevate, and inspire the next generation of global leaders.” These volunteers are fundamental representatives of our nation around the world. Supporting Peace Corps Volunteers is a cost-effective investment to address international issues. From combating infectious disease outbreaks to helping combat poverty through education, Peace Corps volunteers undertake pressing intersectional issues in innovative ways. Further, these volunteers return to the United States with unique skills that enrich their human capital in a competitive workforce.