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  • Communications Intern 2 posted an article
    Let’s ensure that Congress passes the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in a generation. see more

    Following on big news from the Senate, let’s ensure that Congress passes the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in a generation.
     

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    In these times when division and discord define politics across the nation, recent months tell a different story when it comes to support for the Peace Corps. Democrats and Republicans in both the House and the Senate have come together to bring forth meaningful bipartisan legislation.

    On June 23, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee introduced the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2022 (S. 4466). Led by Chair Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Ranking Member James Risch (R-ID), the bill had six bipartisan co-sponsors out of the gate.

    Additional co-sponsors joined the bill in July and August, and at time of publication they include Ben Cardin (D-MD), Todd Young (R-IN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Rob Portman (R-OH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Chris Coons (D-DE), Gary Peters (D-MI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Susan Collins (R-ME). On July 19, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the bill on a voice vote. It now awaits being taken up by the full Senate. 

     

    “This once-in-a-generation bill implements necessary reforms to make certain the Peace Corps has what is required to meet the needs of its Volunteers around the world.”
    —Senator Robert Menendez, Chair, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

     

    “This once-in-a-generation bill implements necessary reforms to make certain the Peace Corps has what is required to meet the needs of its Volunteers around the world,” said Sen. Menendez in July. “From including necessary student loan reforms to affirming a path to federal government employment for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, this legislation also ensures that the agency better reflects the United States’ rich diversity and talent.”

    As Sen. Risch noted in a release introducing the legislation, “The 2022 Peace Corps Reauthorization bill is a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Peace Corps for the first time in over a decade and to provide necessary reforms to improve the safety and security of Volunteers as they re-enter the field. By reauthorizing the Sexual Assault Advisory Council, mandating security briefings, improving whistleblower protections, and adding a new authority to suspend Peace Corps Volunteers without pay in the event of misbehavior, the Peace Corps will be able to better support Volunteers at home and abroad.”

     

    “The 2022 Peace Corps Reauthorization bill is a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Peace Corps for the first time in over a decade and to provide necessary reforms to improve the safety and security of Volunteers as they re-enter the field. By reauthorizing the Sexual Assault Advisory Council, mandating security briefings, improving whistleblower protections, and adding a new authority to suspend Peace Corps Volunteers without pay in the event of misbehavior, the Peace Corps will be able to better support Volunteers at home and abroad.”
    —Senator James Risch, Ranking Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

     

    The bipartisan legislation also serves as the Senate companion to H.R. 1456, introduced in March 2021 by Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA); it was approved overwhelmingly by the House Foreign Affairs Committee in September 2021. Senate and House leaders will be discussing and strategizing on how to best bring this legislation before their respective chambers for a vote.

     

     

    About the Legislation 

    The House and Senate bills contain a broad range of improvements and reforms for the agency; for current and returned Volunteers; and for the communities where they serve. Both bills further efforts to address the health, safety, security, and well-being of Volunteers. They bolster efforts to strengthen diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. And several long-sought improvements to support RPCVs and honor their service are included. While the bills have many similarities, there are significant differences which will eventually need to be reconciled. 

     

    Key elements that both bills have in common

    Non-Competitive Eligibility: Traditionally, returning Volunteers receive one year of non-competitive eligibility (NCE) for federal employment. Both the House and Senate bills increase this to two years of NCE. 

    Paid Health Insurance: Returning Volunteers currently receive one month of paid health insurance. Both bills would extend that to two months. The Senate bill also ensures Volunteers receive adequate health exams in preparing for service; care during service, including access to mental health professionals; and a path to obtain insurance through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act after service.

    Protecting Volunteers Against Reprisal or Retaliation: Whistleblower protections currently extend to staff. Both bills would provide Volunteers with protections against reprisal or retaliation.

    Medical Education, Guidance, and Menstrual Hygiene: Both bills provide further medical staff education and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control on malaria prophylaxis. They also strengthen access and affordability for menstrual/hygiene products for Volunteers wherever they are serving.

    Returning to Service after Evacuation: Both bills seek to ensure that future Volunteers facing evacuation are afforded expedited opportunities to return to service. 
    Elements found in each bill — but with key differences

    Peace Corps Funding: H.R. 1456 proposes increased funding for the Peace Corps in the coming years, while S. 4466 continues to propose flat funding of $410.5 million for each of the next five years. 

    Disability Pay Rates for RPCVs: Both bills propose a long needed increase in the workers compensation rates for RPCVs who are disabled due to service related injuries or illness. The House bill recommends a compensation increase of roughly $1,000/month, while the Senate bill recommends a roughly $300/month increase.

    Extend the Work of the Sexual Assault Advisory Council: Both bills extend the work of the congressionally mandated Sexual Assault Advisory Council, currently scheduled to expire at the end of 2023. The House bill extends the work through 2025; the Senate bill extends the work through 2027.
     

     

    Provisions found only in House legislation

    Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act: This long-sought House legislation would formally allow the use of the Peace Corps symbol at gravesites and in death notices. 

    Virtual Service Programs: The House bill would formally authorize the agency’s current Virtual Service Pilot program.

    Domestic Service During Emergencies: The House bill would codify circumstances allowing other federal agencies to seek use of Peace Corps Volunteers during domestic emergencies, such as the partnership with FEMA community vaccination centers in 2021 to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic.


    Provisions found only in Senate legislation

    Student Loan Relief: The Senate bill would provide certain student loan relief for RPCVs, including suspension of interest during service and public service credit for Volunteers as part of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program run by the Department of Education. 

    Suspend Agency Employees Without Pay for Misconduct: In response to the tragic killing of Rabia Issa, a mother of three in Tanzania who was struck by a vehicle driven by a Peace Corps employee in 2018, the Senate legislation gives the agency the authority to suspend an employee without pay if they are engaged in serious misconduct which could lead to removal for cause. 

     


    This Is the Moment

    Advocacy efforts by members of the Peace Corps community, including those led by National Peace Corps Association, have been instrumental in making this legislation possible. In the months following the global evacuation of Volunteers in 2020 because of COVID-19, NPCA convened a series of town halls and a global ideas summit to consider how to reimagine, reshape, and retool the Peace Corps for a changed world.

    The resulting community-driven report, “Peace Corps Connect to the Future,” contains scores of recommendations for the agency and executive branch, Congress, and the wider Peace Corps community. Those recommendations range from recruitment and selection to effective programming and placement; from the health and safety of serving Volunteers to the benefits and support for returned Volunteers. The recommendations have shaped new agency initiatives and policies, and they have shaped the House and Senate legislation. In concrete terms, more than 20 recommendations contained in the report would be advanced — directly or indirectly — if a final, strong version of the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act is signed into law. 

    On student loans, a group of returned Volunteers has been instrumental in providing expertise and advice to legislators and their staff. And whistleblower and workers comp issues have long had leadership among RPCVs.

     

    Now is the time for us as a community to make our voices heard. If we do, then we can be confident that just as the Peace Corps is returning to the field, so too will there be a renewed, revitalized, and reshaped Peace Corps for the next generation of Volunteers. 

     

    The past six months have seen the steady, growing, and responsible return of Volunteers to service in communities overseas. By October 2022, the agency projects Volunteers will be serving in 30 countries. By October 2023, Volunteers are expected to be back in most of the 60 pre-pandemic countries of service. 

    The very best way we can say “thank you for your service” to the newest generation of Peace Corps Volunteers is to come together and make sure the strongest possible Peace Corps Reauthorization Act is signed into law this year. And there is reason to be hopeful, as there’s strong bipartisan backing in both chambers of Congress. 

    However, with congressional elections looming, the window for final passage of the legislation is narrowing. Now is the time for us as a community to make our voices heard. If we do, then we can be confident that just as the Peace Corps is returning to the field, so too will there be a renewed, revitalized, and reshaped Peace Corps for the next generation of Volunteers. 

     

    This story appears in the Spring-Summer 2022 print edition of WorldView magazine. 



    Jonathan Pearson is director of advocacy for National Peace Corps Association.

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    The Peace Corps Reauthorization Act now moves forward. see more

    The Peace Corps Reauthorization Act now moves forward. It would bring critical reforms to better protect Volunteers and put Peace Corps on the path toward a budget to bolster the number of Volunteers around the world. Though when it comes to health insurance and the Volunteer readjustment allowance, today’s changes provide a little less support.

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    The Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1456), bipartisan legislation introduced by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Representative John Garamendi (D-CA) and fellow Representative Garret Graves (R-LA), cleared its first significant hurdle on September 30th, when the House Foreign Affairs Committee moved the bill out of committee with a favorable vote.

    The committee advanced the bill with a strong bipartisan showing in a vote of 44 to 4. Eighteen Republicans joined all committee Democrats in supporting the legislation, which will next go to the House Education and Labor Committee for review and then to the House floor for further consideration.

    In bringing the legislation to the committee today, Garamendi noted that in communities across the globe, Volunteers have served in education, agriculture, and public health programs. “Peace Corps Volunteers are the face of America in these communities, building trust and goodwill,” he said. And the legislation would provide additional federal funding and resources “to advance the Peace Corps’ mission around the world and better support current, returning, and former Peace Corps Volunteers.”

     

     

    Committee Approves Amended Version of Legislation

    While the  Garamendi-Graves legislation was approved, it came in the form of a substitute amendment presented by Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-NY), which contained significant additions and other substantive changes in the bill’s original language. ( Read the original legislation here. And see the full amendment here.)

     

    “This bill helps realize President John F. Kennedy’s vision of Americans ready to serve their nation in new and innovative ways.”
    — Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY)

     

    In opening debate on the measure, Chairman Meeks said, “This bill helps realize President John F. Kennedy’s vision of Americans ready to serve their nation in new and innovative ways.” Meeks also spoke to the effort by the committee to engage various stakeholders in crafting the legislation, including National Peace Corps Association.

    The lead Republican filling in for Ranking Member Michael McCaul (who represents Texas and was attending to a family health matter) was Ann Wagner (R-MO), who also expressed support for the legislation. “Many members of this committee represent Peace Corps Volunteers,” Wagner said. “We are grateful for their service and we honor the many sacrifices they make in leaving behind their friends and their families to make the world a better place.”

     

    “H.R. 1456 makes long overdue changes and updates to one of America’s best diplomatic and humanitarian programs.”
    — Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY)

     

    Wagner was joined by fellow committee member Andy Barr (R-KY) in expressing support for the bill. “H.R. 1456 makes long overdue changes and updates to one of America’s best diplomatic and humanitarian programs,” Barr said. Barr also praised the robust work of the leaders of the Kentucky Peace Corps Association, an NPCA affiliate group of returned Volunteers. Barr singled out the impact of Jack and Angene Wilson, who both served in Liberia in the 1960s, and Will and Amy Glasscock, who both served in Indonesia within the past decade. “I am personally very much indebted to the Glasscocks and the Wilsons in particular for their engagement with my office and their advocacy for the Peace Corps,” Barr said. “They are really terrific ambassadors for our United States as they promote the Peace Corps and its mission.”

    In a  press release issued October 4, Rep. Garamendi thanked Chairman Meeks and members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee for passing this critically important legislation with strong bipartisan support — and he noted the powerful impact that serving as a Volunteer in Ethiopia had for him and his wife, Patti Garamendi, who also served in the Peace Corps.

     

    “Congress has not reauthorized the Peace Corps in over 20 years. It is vital for the ‘Peace Corps Reauthorization Act’ to become law so the Peace Corps can redeploy Volunteers worldwide once safe and prudent to do so and realize President Kennedy’s vision of generations of young Americans ready to serve their nation and make the world a better place.”
    —Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA)

     

    “Congress has not reauthorized the Peace Corps in over 20 years,” Garamendi noted. “It is vital for the ‘Peace Corps Reauthorization Act’ to become law so the Peace Corps can redeploy Volunteers worldwide once safe and prudent to do so and realize President Kennedy’s vision of generations of young Americans ready to serve their nation and make the world a better place … I will continue to work tirelessly until the ‘Peace Corps Reauthorization Act’ is on President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.”

     

     

    Sexual assault is a central concern — as it needs to be.

    Along with high praise and the importance of the Peace Corps, today’s debate also brought renewed focus to the deep concerns about Volunteers who have been victims of sexual assault.

    While lawmakers noted important reforms are included in the legislation, committee members cited recent journalistic investigations and Peace Corps Inspector General reports as far back as 2013 indicating that sexual assault in the agency remains as a serious problem — and that more needs to be done

    Citing the April 22, 2021 in-depth investigative story in USA Today on sexual assault within the Peace Corps, Rep. Wagner said, “Tragically, one out of every three Volunteers who finished service in 2019 reported experiencing a sexual assault; Volunteers have also reported a hesitancy to describe these cases to the Peace Corps due to fear of retaliation or criticism. This is devastating.”

     

    “Tragically, one out of every three Volunteers who finished service in 2019 reported experiencing a sexual assault; Volunteers have also reported a hesitancy to describe these cases to the Peace Corps due to fear of retaliation or criticism. This is devastating.”
    — Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO)

     

    An amendment introduced by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) proposed withholding agency funding outlined in the legislation until the Peace Corps satisfied all recommendations made by the agency Inspector General to further address sexual assault mitigation strategies. Noting that no Volunteers are currently serving overseas, Perry said, “If we are going to do it, now is the time.”

    The Perry amendment was defeated by a vote of 26 to 21 along party lines. In opposing the amendment, Chairman Meeks noted the amendment was issued 10 minutes before the start of the committee meeting. He said staff reached out to the Office of the Inspector General for Peace Corps, which said in part that interruptions in funding could interfere with the agency’s ability to satisfy all IG recommendations. Meeks also cited reforms in the amended bill — such as language to protect Volunteers from reprisals or retaliation, and the extension of the Sexual Assault Advisory Council to continue its work through 2025 — as examples of reforms that further address Volunteer safety and security.

    The committee’s very necessary focus on addressing sexual assault in the Peace Corps comes just days after National Peace Corps Association hosted a global conference for the Peace Corps community that included a panel tackling safety and security for Volunteers 10 years after the passage of the Kate Puzey Volunteer Protection Act. A key takeaway in that panel discussion, too: Peace Corps needs to do better — but there is never a time when the agency can check off a box and say the work is done.

     


    A better and stronger Peace Corps

    Following Thursday’s committee action, National Peace Corps Association released this statement from President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst:

    “This is a very good day for the Peace Corps and its future. While we are continuing to review and consider some of the alterations made to the original version of the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act, all of the foundational elements of this landmark legislation remain. We want to thank Chairman Meeks, Ranking Member McCaul, Representative Wagner, committee staff, and all members of the committee who voted in favor of H.R. 1456 and took this first, critical step toward passing this legislation. From protecting whistleblowers to providing Peace Corps the robust funding it needs to help our country re-engage with the world, these are important reforms. 

     

    “To our community and other friends of the Peace Corps, make no mistake. Today’s action was a significant step, but it is only one step in a lengthy process to pass this legislation in both chambers of Congress and send the bill to the president for his signature. Every individual who believes in a stronger and better and well-resourced Peace Corps needs to help us pass H.R. 1456.”
    —Glenn Blumhorst, NPCA President & CEO

     

    “We are most grateful to our RPCV friend, Representative John Garamendi, his bipartisan counterpart Garret Graves, and their hardworking staff for their months-long dedication and determination in which they consulted, collaborated, and created this comprehensive Peace Corps legislation. Representative Garamendi has often noted that he wants his legislation to be about and for the Peace Corps Volunteer. In so many important ways related to health and safety, Volunteer and RPCV support, strengthened reporting guidelines and professional resources, and respecting and honoring Peace Corps service, this legislation advances those causes. It supports those Volunteers forced home prematurely by the pandemic who want to return to their service as soon as possible, and also supports the next wave of Peace Corps Volunteer recruits who anxiously await word on their opportunity to serve our nation.

    “To our community and other friends of the Peace Corps, make no mistake. Today’s action was a significant step, but it is only one step in a lengthy process to pass this legislation in both chambers of Congress and send the bill to the president for his signature. Every individual who believes in a stronger and better and well-resourced Peace Corps needs to help us pass H.R. 1456.”

     

     

    What has changed in the bill?

    The Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021 was originally introduced in March. Today, items from the original bill that were altered include the following:

    Recommended Peace Corps Appropriations: While the amendment retains language supporting regular, annual calls for increased funding for the Peace Corps reaching $550 million through Fiscal Year 2024, the new language drops the recommended target of $600 million in funding by Fiscal Year 2025.

    Volunteer Readjustment Allowance: The amendment would set the current Volunteer readjustment allowance ($375/month) as the statutory minimum allowance for Volunteers going forward. It removes the proposal to mandate raising that minimum to $417, retaining the agency’s authority to determine when the allowance should be increased.

    Post-Service Health Coverage for Returned Volunteers: The traditional period in which the Peace Corps pays for post-service health insurance for returning Volunteers would be increased from 30 days to 60 days under the amendment. That’s one month less than the 90 days proposed in the original Garamendi-Graves bill.

    Protection of Peace Corps Volunteers Against Reprisals or Retaliation: Language in the Garamendi-Graves legislation pertaining to whistleblower protection has been amended so that it now outlines recommended procedures and policies to protect Volunteers from acts of reprisal or retaliation.

     

     

    What has not changed in the bill?

    Items from the original bill that were unchanged include the following:

    Workers Compensation Increase: The Meeks amendment retains language calling for an increase in the rate of compensation for RPCVs who come home and are unable to work due to service related illness or injury. This provision is a primary reason why the legislation will next be considered by the House Education and Labor Committee.

    GAO Reporting on Mental Health: The amendment retains language requesting a report by the Government Accountability Office on the status and possible improvements related to mental health services provided to RPCVs upon coming home from service. Better mental health support is one of the community-driven recommendations NPCA provides in the report “Peace Corps Connect to the Future.”

    Menstrual Equity Act: The amendment continues to include text of H.R. 1467, the Menstrual Equity in the Peace Corps Act, legislation introduced by Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY). This legislation requires the Peace Corps to ensure access to menstrual products for Volunteers who require them, either by increasing stipends or providing the products for affected Volunteers.

    Anti-Malarial Drugs: The amendment retains language stating that the Peace Corps shall consult with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on recommendations in prescribing malaria prophylaxis, and that the agency shall address training of medical personnel in malaria countries on side effects of such medications.

    Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act: The amendment continues to include text of H.R. 4188, the Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act, legislation introduced by Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA). This would confirm that an allowable use of the Peace Corps name, official seal, and emblem would include its use at gravesites or in death notices.

     


    What’s been added to the bill?

    Items that were added to the original bill include the following:

    Increased Duration for Non-Competitive Eligibility (NCE): The amendment retains language in the Garamendi-Graves bill that would protect the full NCE benefit for new Volunteers should they be unable to work due to illness or injury upon returning home, or if there is a federal government shutdown or hiring freeze. The amendment would also extend the general length of NCE from one year to two years.

    Extension of Sexual Assault Advisory Council: The Kate Puzey Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 created  the Peace Corps’ Sexual Assault Advisory Council. In 2018, the Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act extended the work of of the council through 2023. The Meeks amendment would extend the work of the council through 2025.

    Peace Corps Service Deployments in the U.S.: Given the emergency deployment of Peace Corps Volunteers in response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the service by Volunteers to assist the Federal Emergency Management Agency with COVID relief in 2021, the Meeks amendment would codify into law the allowance of future Volunteer deployment in the U.S. at the request of another federal agency.

    Expanded Language on Virtual Service Opportunities: The amendment expands language regarding virtual volunteer opportunities and incorporates it into the Peace Corps Act. It notes that this expands opportunities to recruit individuals who face barriers to serving physically in a country outside the U.S.

    Additional Reporting Requirements: Along with the reporting requirements already outlined in the Garamendi-Graves legislation, the amendment includes additional reporting requirements on Peace Corps guidelines and standards used to evaluate the mental health of Peace Corps applicants prior to service. It calls for more detailed information on the number of evacuations due to medical or mental health circumstances, and associated costs. 

     

    READ MORE: Text of the full amended version of H.R. 1456 approved by the Foreign Affairs Committee on September 30, 2021. 

    YOU MIGHT ALSO BE INTERESTED IN: Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings and NPCA President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst: “After the fall of Afghanistan, we need the rise the Peace Corps.” Guest essay in The Hill on September 30, 2021.

     

    Story published Sept. 30, 2021. Updated October 6, 2021 to include press release by John Garamendi.


    Jonathan Pearson is the Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. If you’d like to get involved in advocating for H.R. 1456, email him:  advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org

     September 30, 2021
  • Steven Saum posted an article
    A bipartisan show of support for the most comprehensive Peace Corps legislation in a generation see more

    In a bipartisan show of support, ten former Peace Corps Directors who have served under Republican and Democratic administrations alike call on the Senate to pass the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act. The most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in a generation, it would bring important reforms and support for Volunteers as the agency seeks to meet the needs of a changed world.

     

    Press Release

     

    Today, 10 former Peace Corps Directors who served in both Republican and Democratic administrations sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), calling on them to pass the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (S. 4466). 

    These bipartisan former Peace Corps Directors specifically asked the Senate to move the legislation, co-authored by Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Ranking Member James Risch (R-ID), either as an amendment to the pending National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 (NDAA) or independently. 

    The letter was also shared with key senators who have a decision-making role in this process. They are Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chair, Foreign Relations Committee; Senator James Risch (D-ID), Ranking Member, Foreign Relations Committee; Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee; Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Ranking Member, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee; Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Chair, Armed Services Committee; Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member, Armed Services Committee; Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chair, Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee; and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member, Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. 

    The legislation has already unanimously passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Its House of Representatives companion legislation (H.R. 1456), authored by Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA), passed the full House on September 19 with a strong bipartisan vote of 290–115. The Senate legislation currently has 15 co-sponsors, including six Republicans, and if the legislation becomes law, it will be the first full reauthorization of the Peace Corps since 1999. 

    The former Directors wrote this letter now, as amendments to be considered for the FY23 NDAA are currently being vetted, with floor votes likely to occur after the midterm elections.

    This is the time for this critical legislation to become law, so that the Peace Corps can remain a strong force for U.S. global leadership and strengthen connections with the world. The former directors unanimously called on the Senate to meet the moment and pass this legislation during this Congress.

    The legislation will provide multiple reforms and improvements to the Peace Corps, including: 

    • Authorizing agency funding through 2027.
    • Increasing readjustment allowance to $375 minimum/month.
    • Suspending federal student loan interest during the duration of service.
    • Extending transitory health care coverage for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to two months.
    • Providing greater whistleblower protections.
    • Codifying two years of non-competitive eligibility (NCE) for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.
    • Strengthening DEIA efforts at the Peace Corps.
    • Expanding Peace Corps eligibility to include U.S. citizens who are American Samoan.
    • Increasing Peace Corps Volunteers’ level of workers compensation.
    • Strengthening and extending the Peace Corps’ Sexual Assault Advisory Council.

     

     


    Text of the Letter from Ten Former Peace Corps Directors to Senate Leadership

    View a PDF of the letter here.

     

     

    October 3, 2022


    The Honorable Chuck Schumer (D-NY)             
    Majority Leader                                                                      
    United States Senate                                              
     

    The Honorable Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
    Minority Leader
    United States Senate
     

    Dear Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell: 

    We write to you as a bipartisan, unified group of former Peace Corps Directors to express our full support for the swift passage of the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (S. 4466). We believe that now, with Volunteers returning to the field for the first time in two years, after being withdrawn due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that the Peace Corps return with a renewed sense of purpose. That is what passage of this legislation will do. 

    If passed, this would be the first full reauthorization of the agency since 1999. It has been more than two decades since full reauthorization. Multiple reforms included in this bill are long overdue and urgently needed — both to solidify this core instrument of American soft power, and to ensure that the agency has the tools to meet the needs of a changed world. 

    Fortunately, this Congress is well positioned to pass this legislation and move it to President Biden’s desk for his signature. The companion version in the House, H.R. 1456, passed on September 19 in a strong bipartisan vote under suspension of the Rules. That bill was co-authored by Reps. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA), with the former being the sole Returned Peace Corps Volunteer currently serving in Congress. 

    In the Senate, the bill is jointly authored by the leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and James Risch (R-ID). It has already been unanimously passed out of committee on a voice vote and currently has six Republican and nine Democratic cosponsors. It is a well-crafted bill that reflects strong bipartisan input and ideas. 

    It is this demonstration of strong bipartisan support that gives us hope that the bill can be passed this Congressional session. Doing so would be a testament to America’s enduring bipartisan commitment to those who serve abroad on behalf of our country. As you both know, the Peace Corps was founded in 1961 with a vision of promoting American values and expertise around the world — and to then bringing back home to our communities deeper global understanding through lessons learned by our Volunteers. 

    More than 240,000 of our fellow citizens have answered the call to serve as Peace Corps Volunteers, advancing our nation’s security during turbulent times overseas. We therefore ask that you do all that you can to ensure that the Senate version of the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act moves forward, either as part of an existing legislative vehicle, such as the National Defense Authorization Act, or independently. With this act’s passage, we can move one step closer to having the type of Peace Corps that the American people deserve and that will ensure we work together effectively with partner nations around the world. 

     

    Sincerely, 

     

    Carol Bellamy (1993–95) Clinton Administration 

    Richard Celeste (1979–81) Carter Administration 

    Nicholas Craw (1973–74) Nixon Administration 

    Mark Gearan (1995–99) Clinton Administration 

    Carrie Hessler-Radelet (2014–17) Obama Administration 

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

    Mark Schneider (1999–2001) Clinton Administration 

    Ronald Tschetter (2006–09) George W. Bush Administration 

    Gaddi Vasquez (2002–06) George W. Bush Administration 

    Aaron Williams (2009–12) Obama Administration 

      


    READ MORE

    View a PDF of the the letter from former Peace Corps Directors to Senate Leadership.

    Read a summary and analysis of the Senate and House legislation.

     


    For more information, contact:

     

    Joel Rubin, Vice President for Global Policy and Public Affairs

      or

    Steven Boyd Saum, Director of Strategic Communications
     
    202-934-1532

    news@peacecorpsconnect.org
    www.PeaceCorpsConnect.org

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    The House has just passed the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in a generation see more

    The House of Representatives has just passed the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in a generation.

     

    Press Release
     

    Washington, D.C. — National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) strongly applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1456). This bill is crucial for the future of the Peace Corps as a new generation of Volunteers returns to service. If it ultimately becomes law, it will be the first full reauthorization of the Peace Corps since 1999. More than 240,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.

    The bill’s lead author is Representative John Garamendi (D-CA), the sole Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) in Congress; his co-author is Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), a longtime Peace Corps champion. Their bipartisan leadership in support of the Peace Corps is a powerful testament to the enduring backing of the American people for volunteer service abroad. The strong bipartisan vote today only affirms this backing.

    NPCA Board of Directors Chair John Lee Evans said upon the passage of the legislation: “This legislation does what many in the Peace Corps community have been demanding for years. It authorizes critical agency funding; increases readjustment allowance for RPCVs; extends transitory health care coverage for RPCVs; provides greater whistleblower protections for RPCVs; increases Non-Competitive Eligibility (NCE) for RPCVs; strengthens DEIA efforts at the Peace Corps; expands Peace Corps eligibility to include U.S. citizens who are American Samoan; provides a modest increase for Peace Corps Volunteers’ level of workers compensation; strengthens and extends the work of the Peace Corps’ Sexual Assault Advisory Council; and authorizes Virtual Service. These are the kinds of visionary reforms that will ensure a strong Peace Corps, one that advances American goals abroad and strengthens our peoples’ connections to the world.”

     

    “These are the kinds of visionary reforms that will ensure a strong Peace Corps, one that advances American goals abroad and strengthens our peoples’ connections to the world.”

         — John Lee Evans, NPCA Board Chair

     

    NPCA Interim President Dan Baker also said: “Today the RPCV community stands united in gratitude for the leadership shown by the Congress in getting this bill one step closer to the President’s desk. Our longtime House champions Rep. John Garamendi and Garret Graves deserve deep applause for their vision in moving this bill forward. I’d also like to thank the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX) for their unwavering support, as well as Vice Chairs Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) for their strong commitment to a reformed and revitalized Peace Corps. This bill, which has companion legislation in the Senate moving forward, will strengthen Americans’ ability to serve around the world and the impact of Peace Corps’ efforts overall.”
     

     

    About National Peace Corps Association

    National Peace Corps Association is the nation’s largest organization dedicated to promoting and advancing the goals of the Peace Corps. NPCA is a mission-driven social impact organization that encourages and celebrates lifelong commitment to Peace Corps ideals. NPCA supports a united and vibrant Peace Corps community—including current and returned Peace Corps Volunteers, current and former staff, host country nationals, family, and friends—in our efforts to create a better world. 


    For more information, contact:

    Steven Boyd Saum, Director of Strategic Communications
        or 
    Joel Rubin, Vice President for Global Policy and Public Affairs

    202-934-1532

    news@peacecorpsconnect.org
    www.PeaceCorpsConnect.org

     September 19, 2022
  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    Members of Congress followed that with a letter signed by 17 lawmakers. see more

    Rep. John Garamendi joined Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen in sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona asking for returned Volunteers to be included in Public Service Loan Forgiveness Reforms.

     

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    In early March 2022, CNN reported that the U.S. Department of Education has identified 100,000 borrowers eligible for debt cancellation from the beleaguered Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Reforms were announced to the program last October, allowing some borrowers to receive credit toward PSLF for periods of public service that would not have previously qualified. But Returned Peace Corps Volunteers were not listed among those eligible. They still aren’t.

    We covered some of the problems that returned Volunteers are facing in the previous edition of WorldView. So what has happened since?

     

    Illustration by Mark Smith

     

    In December 2021, RPCV Rep. John Garamendi (Ethiopia 1964–66) and Maryland Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen sent a letter, signed by 17 lawmakers, urging U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to include RPCVs in the reforms. “We strongly support your Department’s efforts to reform, strengthen, and expand the Public Student Loan Forgiveness Program,” they wrote. “We simply request that you provide for current and returned Peace Corps volunteers by creating a new waiver or expanding current waivers to allow volunteers to credit their full service overseas towards PSLF or Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness, even if their federal student loans were placed into deferment or forbearance status during their service.”

    In January, the Connecticut Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, an affiliate group of NPCA, sent a letter to Secretary Cardona, who previously served as Connecticut’s education secretary. “It was unfortunate to learn that the October announcement did not include RPCVs as being eligible for the temporary waiver period,” they wrote. “We therefore request that you extend a similar waiver to allow RPCVs who served since 2007 to count their public service overseas towards PSLF credit and repayment, even if the volunteer’s loan was in deferment or forbearance status at the time of their service.”

     

    A version of this story appears in the special 2022 Books Edition of WorldView magazine. Story updated April 30, 2022.


    Jonathan Pearson is the Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. The NPCA Advocacy team will share updates as we have them. If you have a PSLF story to share, contact advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    The deadline for members to sign onto this bipartisan letter is April 22. see more

    In the House of Representatives, today (April 22) is the deadline for a bipartisan letter from the co-chairs of the Peace Corps Caucus seeking a $40 million increase in agency funding. Now is the time to contact your House Rep and ask them to sign this letter. 

     

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    Congressmen John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA), co-chairs of the House Peace Corps Caucus, have begun circulating a Peace Corps funding letter asking other House members to sign on and ensure robust support for the agency as Volunteers return to service overseas. The letter, addressed to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State & Foreign Operations, calls for increasing Peace Corps funding for Fiscal Year 2023 from $410.5 million to $450 million. 

    Read the annual Dear Colleague Peace Corps funding letter, or find the text at the bottom of this post.

    Garamendi served with the Peace Corps in Ethiopia. Together with Graves, in 2021 he introduced the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act — the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in decades. 

    In March 2022, Volunteers began returning to service overseas. They will be returning to dozens of countries in the months ahead. The Peace Corps agency has undertaken critical reforms to ensure a better and stronger Peace Corps for a changed world. But the agency needs funding to make all this possible.
     

     

    Deadline is This Friday, April 22 at 12 Noon EST. Take action now.

    Urge your House Representative to sign the Garamendi-Graves Peace Corps funding letter to support strong funding for Peace Corps in a changed world. Last year, a similar letter was signed by 156 members of the House of Representatives. We need your help to reach or surpass this mark! The current deadline to sign this letter is Friday, April 22, 2022.

     

    Take Action Now

     

     


    Who has signed the letter so far?

    Here are the lawmakers who have signed the Garamendi-Graves Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter for Fiscal Year 2023. 

     

    DEADLINE to sign on: 12 Noon Friday, April 22, 2022

    SIGNATURES as of Friday, April 22, 5:00 PM: 146 (THIS LETTER IS NOW CLOSED)

    SIGNATURES needed to reach our goal: 10

     

    Alabama: Sewell

    American Samoa: Radewagen

    Arizona: Gallego, Grijalva

    California: Barragan, Bass, Bera, Brownley, Carbajal, Cardenas, Chu, Correa, Costa, DeSaulnier, Eshoo, Garamendi (co-author), Huffman, Khanna, Young Kim, LaMalfa, Mike Levin, Lieu, Lofgren, Lowenthal, Matsui, McNerney, Panetta, Scott Peters, Sanchez, Speier, Swalwell, Takano, Mike Thompson, Vargas

    Colorado: Crow, DeGette

    Connecticut: Courtney, Hayes, Himes, Larson

    District of Columbia: Norton

    Florida: Deutch, Soto

    Georgia: Bishop, McBath, Hank Johnson, David Scott, Williams

    Hawai'i: Kahele

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

    Indiana: Carson

    Iowa: Axne

    Kansas: Davids

    Kentucky: Barr, Yarmuth

    Louisiana: Graves (co-author)

    Maine: Golden, Pingree

    Maryland: Brown, Raskin, Sarbanes

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

    Michigan: Dingell, Kildee, Levin, Slotkin, Stevens

    Minnesota: Craig, Phillips

    Nevada: Horsford, Titus

    New Hampshire: Kuster

    New Jersey: Andy Kim, Malinowski, Pascrell, Payne, Sherrill, Sires, Van Drew

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

    Northern Marianas: Sablan

    North Carolina: Adams, Butterfield, Manning

    Ohio: Beatty, Shontel Brown

    Oregon: Blumenauer, Bonamici, DeFazio

    Pennsylvania: Boyle, Doyle, Evans, Wild

    Puerto Rico: Gonzalez-Colon

    Rhode Island: Cicilline, Langevin

    Tennessee: Cohen

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

    Vermont: Welch

    Virginia: Beyer, Connolly, Luria, McEachin, Wexton

    Virgin Islands: Plaskett

    Washington: DelBene, Jayapal, Larsen, Schrier, Strickland

    Wisconsin: Kind, Moore

     

     

    Here’s the text of the House Peace Corps funding letter.

    Read it below — or download the PDF.


    April 28, 2022

     

    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:

    We respectfully request that you provide $450 million for the Peace Corps in the forthcoming “Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act” for fiscal year 2023. This funding level 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 10,000 volunteers worldwide. It is also consistent with the authorized funding level in the bipartisan “Peace Corps Reauthorization Act” (H.R.1456) reported favorably by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on September 30, 2021.

    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. In 2013, retired General Stanley McChrystal called this gap between applicants and national service opportunities like the Peace Corps “democratic energy wasted and a generation of patriotism needlessly squandered.”

    Peace Corps Volunteers serve our country in remote, challenging environments. In recent years, the Peace Corps has taken steps to improve the health and safety of its Volunteers. We believe the Peace Corps needs to do more, including fully implementing the Sam Farr Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018 (Public Law 115-256). Increased funding is necessary to ensure that the Peace Corps can fulfill its commitment to the health and safety of American citizens who choose to serve. In addition, Congress must increase the federal workers’ compensation levels for Volunteers temporarily or permanently disabled because of their service abroad.

    Thank you for your leadership and past efforts to provide the Peace Corps with the resources needed to support the next generation of American leaders who volunteer abroad.

     

    Sincerely,

     

    John Garamendi
    Member of Congress

     

    Garret Graves
    Member of Congress

     

     

    Story updated April 25, 2022 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern


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

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    Top priority is passing the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act see more

    On March 3 we kicked off our 18th season of advocacy in support of the Peace Corps. Our key priority: passing the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act. Congressional meetings are being organized, and op-eds are being published. Now is the time to get involved.

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    National Peace Corps Association kicked off National Days of Advocacy in Support of the Peace Corps on March 3. For 18 years, this grassroots effort by the Peace Corps community to work with members of Congress has been one of NPCA’s key contributions to Peace Corps Week (which concluded on March 5, 2022). Moving forward, our key legislative priority this year is passing the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act, which will help ensure a better and stronger Peace Corps to meet the needs of a changed world.

    Last year, as Peace Corps celebrated the 60th anniversary of its founding, it was amid a global pandemic and social distancing. A national crisis saw the U.S. Capitol closed to most visitors. This year, the dangers of COVID-19 are far from over, and our nation remains deeply polarized. After an invasion by Vladimir Putin, Ukraine is fighting a war it did not want and did not start.

    Yet, as Peace Corps posts around the world have increasingly met robust new protocols for health and safety, Volunteers are also soon going to begin returning to service in communities overseas. It is a time of unprecedented challenges and renewed opportunities. And it is a time when the mission of building peace and friendship is more important than ever before. In March and April, your involvement is key.

     

    March 3 Kickoff

    Our Days of Advocacy began with a virtual kickoff on Thursday, March 3. Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, former Peace Corps staff, invited Volunteers, and other supporters came together to hear remarks by Peace Corps champions in Congress including RPCV Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Advocacy leaders discussed the crucial work for improvements and reforms that will ensure that Volunteers are returning to a stronger, better, and well-resourced Peace Corps. Our highest legislative priority is to pass the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act, the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in decades.

    It's not too late to get involved in our National Days of Advocacy. A stronger and better Peace Corps begins with you!

     

    Take Individual Action Right Now

    Visit our NPCA Action Center 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 2022 Days of Advocacy map to see if any activities are already in the works, including virtual meetings with congressional offices, virtual letter writingadvocacy workshops, and more.

    If there’s no activity already scheduled in your area, fill out this form and help lead one.

     

    Meetings With Congress

    A key component of our 2022 Days of Advocacy will be district office or virtual meetings with congressional offices. This is particularly the case with your senators, where much work remains to advance and pass the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act.

    Here are details on how to plan and carry out effective advocacy meetings. No previous experience is necessary. NPCA advocacy staff and community leaders around the country are ready to assist you.

    We also put together the video below to give you an introduction to advocacy.

     

     

     

    More Resources for Your Meetings with Congress

    Visit our State Resources page for a one-page document about Peace Corps activity in your state and to see profiles of every member of Congress. The document is designed for you to download and share with congressional staff at the end of your office meetings.

    We are currently updating a more in-depth document with a more complete overview of legislative priorities. For right now, you can use the 2021 Fact Sheet.

     

    Priorities: Peace Corps Legislation, Funding, and More

    Our Days of Advocacy Agenda will continue taking shape as developments occur in the weeks and months ahead. We’ll update this page as more information becomes available. 
     

    Comprehensive Peace Corps Legislation in both the Senate and House of Representatives

    Passage of the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act is NPCA’s top legislative priority in 2022.

    In the House of Representatives, returned Volunteer Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) introduced the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1456) in 2021. Last fall, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed this amended version of the legislation by an overwhelming, bipartisan vote of 44 to 4. 

    In the Senate, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez (D-NJ), is expected to introduce similar legislation in March 2022.

    Here is our Peace Corps Reauthorization Act issue brief and talking points.

    Here is a one-page document you can give to your representatives during House meetings.

    Here is a one-page document you can give to your senators during Senate meetings.

     

    Peace Corps Funding in the Senate and House of Representatives

    Unfortunately, and for a seventh consecutive year, Congress approved a Fiscal Year 2022 spending plan that will include flat funding of $410.5 million for the Peace Corps. 

    There is better news as work begins on the Fiscal Year 2023 budget. On March 28th, President Biden submitted his FY 2023 budget to Congress. Included in his budget is a request of $430.5 million for the Peace Corps, a nearly five percent increase in funding.

    As with years past, we anticipate mobilizing our community in the coming weeks to urge lawmakers to sign House and Senate “Dear Colleague” letters supporting robust funding for the Peace Corps in FY 2023. Stay connected to NPCA advocacy for action related to these letters.

    Here is our Peace Corps Funding issue brief and talking points.
     

     

    Peace Corps Director Nomination | Senate Action Only

    On April 6, 2022, President Biden announced his intent to nominate Acting Peace Corps Director Carol Spahn to become the 21st Peace Corps Director. Once officially nominated, Acting Director Spahn will face a confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. If she passes a vote in the committee, her confirmation would go to the full Senate for a final vote.

          Read more here about this nomination, including a supporting statement from NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst.

    If you have upcoming meetings with Senate offices (especially members of the Foreign Relations Committee), please urge swift, strong, and bipartisan confirmation of Carol Spahn as the next Peace Corps Director.

     

     

    Diversity and Inclusion Within the State Department | House of Representatives Action Only

    The Diversity and Inclusion at the Department of State Act (H.R. 4589) was introduced last July by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX). The legislation would create a senior level position of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer to advocate for diversity within the State Department. A Leadership Council would be established and accountable for implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives. H.R. 4589 also changes promotion practices to improve retention and fairness, and creates a mentoring program within the agency.

    Here is our State Department Diversity Act issue brief and talking points.

    Here is a one-page document you can give to your representatives during House meetings.

     

    Story updated April 7, 2022 at 7:00 AM Eastern.


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

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    A momentous anniversary. And we are coming together to commemorate, celebrate, and act! see more

    This year we mark 60 years since President John F. Kennedy signed the legislation creating the Peace Corps. Celebrate the moment in the morning. Take part in special advocacy programs throughout the day. And stay tuned for special news and commemorations from Capitol Hill.

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    PHOTO: President John F. Kennedy signs the Peace Corps Act on September 22, 1961. Courtesy JFK Presidential Library and Museum

     

    LISTEN on Spotify to the converation with Bill Josephson, Bill Moyers, Joe Kennedy III, and Marieme Foote from September 22, 2021. 


    As you prepare to join National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) for the 60th anniversary Peace Corps Connect conference September 23–25, we also invite you to take part in a special commemoration on September 22 — the anniversary of the signing of the Peace Corps Act.

    While plans are being finalized, here is the programming you can expect, with individual links to register for each event throughout the day.

     

    SEPTEMBER 22, 2021 | SCHEDULE 

    Events and timing subject to change. 

     

    Mark the Moment

    9:30 AM – 10:30 AM (Eastern)

    September 22, 1961 at 9:45 AM. That was the moment when President John F. Kennedy signed congressional legislation that formally established the Peace Corps. Join NPCA to celebrate this moment. Former Congressman Joseph Kennedy III, and Peace Corps pioneers Bill Josephson and Bill Moyers are scheduled to join us. Register here.

    UPDATE: LISTEN on Spotify to the converation from September 22, 2021.

     

    Social Media Mobilization

    1:30 PM – 2:30 PM (Eastern)

    Have a Twitter account? Are you a regular on Facebook or Instagram? Got connections that run far and wide on LinkedIn? Make plans to be part of a nationwide social media mobilization to amplify the importance of the Peace Corps at this historic 60th anniversary moment. While activity is likely and encouraged throughout the day, you can also plan to stop by anytime during an hour-long zoom gathering to say hello to others, hear the latest from NPCA leaders and citizen advocates, and celebrate 60 years of the Peace Corps! Whether you stop by the virtual gathering or not, help amplify Peace Corps through social media: Register here and we’ll keep you in the loop.

     

    Honor Those Who Have Served | In-Person Wreath Laying at John F. Kennedy Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery

    4:00 PM – 5:30 PM (Eastern)

    Northern Virginia Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (NOVARPCV) host a wreath-laying ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Speakers include Peace Corps Director Carol Spahn; former Congressman and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Sam Farr;  returned Volunteer Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA); and NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst, who will speak on the legacy of the Peace Corps to honor President John F. Kennedy. Following speeches, attendees will walk together to the grave site of President John F. Kennedy, where a wreath and flowers will be placed. This is an in-person event. Learn more and register here.

     

    Learn the Ropes: How to Become a Citizen Advocate

    8:00 PM – 9:00 PM (Eastern)

    If you’re interested in becoming a citizen advocate but aren’t sure how — or if you’re just wading in — this is the most important hour of the day. We need to substantially build our ranks to score significant victories in Congress in this key moment in Peace Corps’ history. Don't think you alone will make a difference? In this program, you’ll hear from NPCA advocates who absolutely have bringing on board legislators who have never supported Peace Corps in the past. Don't think lawmakers listen to what you say? We will hear from RPCV Capitol Hill staff on that topic. Not sure if you can make a difference? Hear some success stories from RPCV advocates. Interested in other issues? Meet members of RPCV special interest affiliate groups on how they bring their Peace Corps voice to the conversation.  

    (UPDATE) We are happy to announce this program will begin with remarks from RPCV Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA), with an appeal to our community to help pass his Peace Corps Reauthorization Act legislation! Register here.

     

    60th Anniversary Live ... from Capitol Hill?

    Times TBD  

    We will be monitoring Capitol Hill for possible Peace Corps-related actions and news on or about September 22 — related to advancing the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act, support for Peace Corps funding, or commemorating the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Peace Corps Act. Register here to be notified about any key Peace Corps developments that will be broadcast live from Capitol Hill.

     

    LISTEN on Spotify to the converation from September 22, 2021.

     

    Story updated December 22, 2021 at 1:30 PM.


    Jonathan Pearson is 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.”

     

     

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

    —Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former president of Liberia 

     

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

     

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

     

     

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

    —Francisco Santos Calderón, Colombian Ambassador to the United States

     

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

     

     

     

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

              

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

     

     

    Washington Post Opinion:

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

     

     

    Through the Decades: 60 Years of Peace Corps Photos

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

     

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

     


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

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

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

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

    By Jonathan Pearson

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

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

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

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

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

    Thank Your Member of Congress

     


    SIGNATURES

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

     

    Alabama: Sewell

    Alaska: Young

    American Samoa: Radewagan

    Arizona: Gallego, Grijalva

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

    Colorado: Crow, DeGette, Neguse

    Connecticut: Courtney, Hayes, Himes, Larson

    Delaware: Blunt Rochester

    District of Columbia: Norton

    Florida: Deutch, Lawson, Soto, Wilson

    Georgia: Bishop, Hank Johnson, McBath, David Scott

    Hawaii: Kahele

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

    Indiana: Carson

    Iowa: Axne

    Kansas: Davids

    Kentucky: Barr, Yarmuth

    Louisiana: Graves (co-author)

    Maine: Golden, Pingree

    Maryland: Brown, Raskin, Sarbanes

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

    Michigan: Dingell, Kildee, Slotkin

    Minnesota: Craig, Phillips

    Missouri: Cleaver

    Nevada: Horsford, Titus

    New Hampshire: Kuster

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

    New Mexico: Leger Fernandez

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

    North Carolina: Adams, Manning

    Northern Marianas: Sablan

    Ohio: Beatty, Anthony Gonzalez

    Oregon: Blumenauer, Bonamici, DeFazio

    Pennsylvania: Boyle, Evans, Fitzpatrick, Wild

    Puerto Rico: Gonzalez-Colon

    Rhode Island: Cicilline, Langevin

    Tennessee: Cohen

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

    Vermont: Welch

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

    Virgin Islands: Plaskett

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

    Wisconsin: Kind, Moore

     

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

     


    Here’s the Text from the Letter

    Read it below — or download the PDF.

     

    April 28, 2021

     

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

    Committee on Appropriations

    U.S. House of Representatives

    The Honorable Hal Rogers, Ranking Member

    Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs

    Committee on Appropriations

    U.S. House of Representatives

     

    Dear Chairwoman Lee and Ranking Member Rogers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

    Sincerely,

     

    John Garamendi
    Member of Congress

     

    Garret Graves
    Member of Congress

     


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

  • 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.

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Longtime Chicago Bears leader, his service in Peace Corps in Ethiopia changed how he saw the world. see more

    Longtime Chicago Bears leader, his service in Peace Corps in Ethiopia changed how he saw the world.

    By Jonathan Pearson and Steven Boyd Saum

    Photo courtesy the Chicago Bears


    Michael McCaskey was the grandson of the legendary George “Papa Bear” Halas and inherited the mantle of leading the Chicago Bears football team for nearly 30 years. He was president and CEO of the Bears 1983–89 and then chairman of the board 1999–2011. The team won their first (and so far only) Super Bowl in 1985. Peers voted McCaskey NFL Executive of the Year.

    He was born in 1943. He earned degrees in philosophy and psychology at Yale, and in 1965 he began two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia, teaching science and English in Fiche, a town on the edge of the Rift Valley.

     

    Fiche, 1965: Ethiopian students with teacher Michael McCaskey. Photo courtesy the Chicago Bears

     

    “My students were astounding,” he said. “My days as a teacher in Ethiopia changed my perspective on the rest of the world, for which I am very grateful.”

    He earned a Ph.D. in business from Case Western Reserve in 1972 and taught at UCLA and Harvard Business School. And yet, wrote fellow Ethiopia RPCV John Coyne, he “never really left Ethiopia. He never forgot the people, his students or the country’s ancient greatness.”

     

    “My students were astounding,” he said. “My days as a teacher in Ethiopia changed my perspective on the rest of the world, for which I am very grateful.”

     

    While head of the Bears, McCaskey began supporting and advising the Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago. “In 1999, during the long-running war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Mike returned to Africa with four other former Peace Corps volunteers,” Coyne wrote for the Chicago Tribune. “Their mission was to promote peace by talking to the leaders of both countries.” U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, a fellow RPCV, was part of the delegation; he recounted the moment when the foreign minister of Ethiopia welcomed his old Peace Corps teacher—Mike McCaskey. The mission did not end conflict, but when peace was signed in 2000, the RPCVs were invited for the signing ceremony in Algiers.

     

    Returning to Ethiopia: Michael McCaskey, left, meets with medical staff. Photo courtesy John Coyne

     

    In 2005, McCaskey co-founded the Bears’ charitable organization, which has given over $21 million to some 100 organizations in Chicagoland to support education, youth athletics, medicine, and health awareness. After McCaskey retired, he devoted time to greater work with Ethiopia: supporting health care, leadership training, and education. Fiche, the village where he taught, is now home to a university; he worked with it to develop a program combining technology and student-directed learning. He died on May 16. 

    “Although Mike is gone,” Coyne writes, “his work, now named The Fiche Project, continues.”

  • 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.