Steven Saum posted an articleWe celebrate return of Volunteers to service. And pay tribute to a leader at NPCA. see more
As we celebrate Volunteers returning to service in dozens of countries, we pay tribute to a leader here at NPCA who made a difference at a critical time for the Peace Corps community.
By Dan Baker
At left: El Paso, 2019 — Glenn Blumhorst assists migrants at the border.
Just as the Winter 2023 edition of WorldView went press, Carol Spahn was sworn in as Director of the Peace Corps. I was delighted to be there as RPCV Rep. John Garamendi delivered the oath of office. This is an exciting and important moment. The Peace Corps community has spent nearly three years seeking to maintain and restore Volunteer programs across the world. There have been enormous obstacles, and the Peace Corps has emerged from the pandemic with a renewed clarity of purpose, better Volunteer services, and an undeniable sense of urgency that it hasn’t seen since its inception. And at the beginning of 2023, the return to service continues to gain strength and momentum, thanks to the hard work of hundreds of local Peace Corps staff, agency leaders, health and safety professionals, recruiters, and all of those who make these programs possible. We especially celebrate Volunteers boldly leading the way into the new Peace Corps.
The pandemic forced National Peace Corps Association, like many organizations, to pivot in unforeseeable ways. The past few years have arguably been the most important in the history of this community-driven organization. NPCA itself looks much different than it did even one year ago. One of the key changes we must acknowledge was the departure last year of NPCA’s longest-serving president and CEO, Glenn Blumhorst.
We celebrate Glenn’s important new role with the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation, which will establish a commemorative just steps from the Capitol. At the same time, many at NPCA will greatly miss his leadership of the organization. I find it fitting to honor his tenure at NPCA in this edition of WorldView by sharing some of his Peace Corps story — and a few of his most important achievements.
Glenn launched his career with the Peace Corps, serving as an agriculture extension Volunteer in Guatemala 1988–91, supporting 18 rural Mayan Indian communities in the central highlands. Those who know his skills and dedication to service would not be surprised to know how successful he was as a Volunteer, working to increase household incomes, build an elementary school, and bring electricity to a remote village of 40 families. That work led him to nearly two decades of increasing leadership roles with the international development organization ACDI/VOCA. Then, in 2013, following a national search by NPCA, Glenn was brought on to serve as its president and CEO.
Community partners: In the highlands of Guatemala, from left, Manuel Alvarado, Tiburcio Alvarado, Carmelina Alvarado Gonzales, and Volunteer Glenn Blumhorst. Photo courtesy Glenn Blumhorst
Glenn soon set to work transforming NPCA: guiding the organization from struggling alumni association to a dynamic community-driven social impact enterprise. That new vision was informed in large part by Glenn’s “listening tours” across the country — meeting with NPCA affiliate group leaders, donors, and individual members to better understand their priorities. His travels took him to meet with members of the Peace Corps community in all 50 states — at potluck dinners and annual meetings, community service projects and RPCV reunions — to listen and share experiences and, together, plan for the future.
Glenn restored and strengthened NPCA’s financial health by adopting a new business model: moving away from a dues-paying membership to opening membership to all. NPCA invited community members to invest in and support causes they care about, and NPCA provided avenues for voluntary financial contributions. That quadrupled annual revenues, enabled us to triple our staff and grow programs, and exponentially increased member engagement in NPCA’s mission. RPCV affiliate groups grew as well, from 130 to 185 under Glenn’s leadership, with many focusing explicitly on specific social impact causes.
Glenn helped modernize NPCA’s advocacy program and grew constituent outreach. That fed successful efforts to increase Peace Corps’ federal appropriations by $30 million — and it helped fend off attempts to slash the agency’s budget (even defund it!) as well thwart an ill-advised attempt to fold the Peace Corps into the State Department. Along the way, Glenn ensured NPCA never lost sight of important reforms needed within the agency to improve Volunteer safety, security, healthcare, and post-service benefits. A milestone in that work: The Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act, signed into law in 2018, which improved the provisioning of healthcare for Volunteers, program oversight, and how the agency handles sexual assault allegations.
Living Peace Corps Ideals
The lack of services for returning Volunteers is something Glenn understood. He worked with NPCA to put in place — well before COVID-19 hit — the framework for the Global Reentry Program. That program was launched immediately when the global evacuation of Volunteers was announced in March 2020. (I stepped down from the NPCA Board to join the staff as director of the program.) The long-term vision is to provide a bridge between Volunteers’ service and a lifetime of Peace Corps ideals.
Amid the turmoil of the pandemic’s early days, NPCA also successfully lobbied for $88 million in additional support for Volunteers; and NPCA worked to get the U.S. Department of Labor to issue guidelines that evacuated Volunteers were eligible for help under the Pandemic Assistance Program.
Global partnership: In 2015 with Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama, Glenn Blumhorst marks the launch of the Let Girls Learn initiative. Photo by Pete Souza/The White House
In summer 2020, harnessing the experience, commitment, and innovative ideas of the Peace Corps community, NPCA convened a series of national town halls and a global ideas summit under the title Peace Corps Connect to the Future. A community-driven report from the summit contained over 220 recommendations to Congress, the Peace Corps agency and executive branch, and the Peace Corps community. It has served as a vital roadmap for many reforms and improvements that began being implemented by Peace Corps leadership prior to the return of Volunteers to service. It’s fair to say this community-driven effort also laid the groundwork for some of the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation proposals in a generation.
These are just a few of the initiatives Glenn led NPCA to tackle. There is the launch of the Community Fund to support community projects by Volunteers, returned Volunteers — and, beginning in 2020, evacuated Volunteers — in the U.S. and globally. There is the Benevolent Fund, to support RPCVs experiencing acute hardship. And in the future, there will be Peace Corps Place, envisioned as a hub for the Peace Corps community in the Truxton Circle neighborhood in Washington, D.C.
Glenn has begun leading a multimillion-dollar capital campaign to underwrite design and construction of the Peace Corps Commemorative. It will honor the creation of the Peace Corps in 1961 and those aspects of the American character exemplified by Peace Corps service. We are deeply grateful to Glenn for his past, present, and future service to Peace Corps ideals, and we look forward to celebrating this commemorative together when it is completed.
As a part of all that NPCA has accomplished under Glenn’s leadership, we have seen tremendous growth in how NPCA tells its stories. The past three years this work has been led by Director of Strategic Communications and Editor of WorldView Steven Saum. With thought and care, the WorldView team has crafted a magazine of powerful stories and images. Those efforts have earned top national awards the past two years. Behind the scenes, Steven also orchestrated NPCA’s social media presence, newsletters, and other publications — notably the “Peace Corps Connect to the Future” report. We are sorry to announce that this will be Steven’s last edition of WorldView magazine as he moves into a new role in California.
Interim successors for Glenn and Steven are in place, but we will stand on their shoulders as we move into the next chapters of support for a united and vibrant Peace Corps community. Please keep in touch, and stay connected online and through our email newsletters. And watch for more important Peace Corps news in upcoming editions of WorldView.
Dan Baker is President and CEO of National Peace Corps Association. He served as a Volunteer in Bolivia 1999–2002 and Timor-Leste 2002–03, and with Peace Corps staff in Washington, D.C., Costa Rica, and Ethiopia. Write him.
Amanda Silva posted an articleMission Partners are the reason why girls like mine continue to be empowered. see more
By Amanda Silva (Indonesia 2013-2015)
Two years ago, I was preparing for the first girls and boys empowerment camp in my district in Indonesia. Today, I'm stateside helping Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) get more funding for their own primary and secondary projects in water and sanitation or girls education and empowerment.
I made the decision in June 2016 to become a Mission Partner at the Shriver Circle level ($1,000) because I remember how much that camp affected 1) the sixty students who participated, 2) the twelve counselors who mentored, and 3) the Indonesian committee who empowered them all through their hard work and facilitation. As the Community Fund and Partnerships Coordinator at National Peace Corps Association (NPCA), I'm faced with the task of sifting through grant proposals from PCVs or emails from RPCVs returning to their host communities to build upon past projects. All the donations given to Water and Sanitation or Girls Education and Empowerment directly benefit host country communities. The more Mission Partners can contribute funds, the more projects can be completed.
I'm proud to be a Mission Partner, so that I can enable other PCVs to empower students just like mine.
Jonathan Pearson posted an articleWith global girls education in the news, read about development efforts past, present and future. see more
The Peace Corps has a long and proud history of advancing opportunities for girls and women around the world, especially through education. That has also been an important component of National Peace Corps Association, many of our affiliate groups and other strategic partners.
Earlier this week, news reports cast the ongoing commitment into some doubt, especially in its current form. CNN, citing internal agency communications it obtained, reported that while work on these programs would continue, they would no longer be done under the "Let Girls Learn" (LGL) initiative launched two years ago by former First Lady Michelle Obama. Soon after these reports began circulating, the White House, State Department and USAID (another key partner in the initiative) indicated there would be no changes. "There have been no changes to the #LetGirlsLearn program," read a State Department tweet. "We are committed to empowering women and girls around the world."
Addressing a Critical Need
The need to support girls' and women's education and empowerment has been a global concern for many years. Today, an estimated 62 million girls around the world are not in school. Half of them are adolescents. Countries with more girls in secondary school tend to have lower maternal mortality rates, lower infant mortality rates, lower rates of HIV/AIDS and better child nutrition. Too often, a girl who could change her world for the better is locked out of that future by the circumstances of her birth or the customs of her community.
Launched in March 2015, and championed by the First Lady, Let Girls Learn was established with a goal of amplifying existing programs while also investing in new efforts to expand educational opportunities for girls, including in areas of conflict and crisis. In its 2015 - 2016 progress report, the agency noted that "The Peace Corps Let Girls Learn program builds on the Peace Corps' 55 years of experience of working with girls and communities." The report notes that "over 300 Peace Corps staff members, nearly 5,000 Volunteers and over 1,800 counterparts have participated in Peace Corps Let Girls Learn training events."
The Peace Corps Community in Action
The progress report also highlighted the efforts of National Peace Corps Association. "[NPCA] on its own initiative...played a critical role in working with the greater returned Peace Corps Volunteer community, which has actively supported the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Program." A $200,000 partnership pledge with the RPCV-founded non-governmental organization Water Charity was part of the $2.5 million in private funds pledged to the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund as of September 30, 2016. The Atlanta Area RPCVs were highlighted in the report as one of many NPCA affiliate groups and individuals that organized or supported Let Girls Learn. Meanwhile, many country-of-service groups have longstanding girls education programs that date years before the launch of LGL.
"The development community has long known that investing in girls and women yields the highest returns," said NPCA President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst. "Because of this, we are heartened by the administration statements re-emphasizing its commitment to empowering women and girls around the world." At the same time, Blumhorst noted that such a commitment includes the need to fully fund the Peace Corps, providing no less than stable funding of $410 million, when President Trump releases his full budget later this month.
Give to NPCA's Community Fund Girls' Empowerment and Education Campaign and ensure that these projects continue to be funded.
Raisa Siddique posted an articleThe Community Fund: Dancing for Safer Streets in Gagauzia see more
National Peace Corps Association (NPCA), through the Girls Education and Empowerment Fund, provide Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) the opportunity to complete projects in their host communities through small grants. As a private sector partner to the White House on Let Girls Learn, NPCA is proud to help support PCVs through the Peace Corps Partnership Program and Let Girls Learn grants.
Members of the Peace Corps community believe in supporting past and present host communities — not only in immediate necessities such as food, water and shelter, but also through initiatives like the arts. We know that Volunteers' dedication to long-term community building results in lasting relationships and impact.
Aaron Ratz, currently serving in Moldova, is a Volunteer who exemplifies this dedication; he is working to renovate a Soviet-era arts center in Ceadir-Lunga, a city of roughly 20,000.
The community has six coed schools, a vocational college, but only one arts center that serves over 400 children in a given week. As the only forum for children to participate in after-school activities, it offers classes in drawing, musical instruments, dance, singing, costume design, and many more. It is not only beloved, but is also an essential part of the community.
Because the building hasn't been remodeled for more than 30 years, the arts center is in significant disrepair. One of its most popular features, the dance studio, is used by over 75 people per week, but is dilapidated to the point that it's dangerous for children to use. To remodel the space, it will require replacing the floor, refinishing the walls and ceiling, and much more work.
Aaron and his host community have received a Let Girls Learn grant and need your help with the last bit of funding! Please give to the Girls Education and Empowerment fund today to empower girls and support an entire community in Moldova.
Megan Patrick posted an articleSupporting Girls' Education Globally see more
Blog post | Alan Ruiz Terol
98 Million adolescent girls are denied educational opportunities worldwide, according to UNESCO. The World Bank also reports that they continue to lag substantially behind boys in secondary school completion rates.
To address this crisis, the White House announced on October 11, 2016 more than 5 million dollars in private donations will go towards the Let Girls Learn program, aimed at improving education for girls in the developing world. These funds include $200,000 from the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) in partnership with key partner, Water Charity.
Let Girls Learn has not only received significant support from NPCA, but also from its affiliate groups. Last year, 53 groups gave a combined $123,000 to Peace Corps Volunteers projects, of which nearly $15,000 were aimed exclusively at Let Girls Learn initiatives.
To further support the cause, this week the White House released an eight-page fact sheet outlining the national security benefits of promoting adolescent girls’ education overseas, making the case for the need to maintain the program under the next administration. Secondly, the film We Will Rise: Michelle Obama’s Mission to Educate Girls Around the World premiered October 12, 2016 on CNN. The movie focuses on a group of girls from Liberia and Morocco, a number of which are connected to Peace Corps programs, overcoming incredible odds to achieve their educations.