Steven Saum posted an articleRecognition for members of the Peace Corps community see more
Honors from the University of California, the Republic of Mali, Dartmouth College, and Bucknell University
By NPCA Staff
Maureen Orth | Colombia 1964–66
Maureen Orth received a 2021 Campanile Excellence in Achievement Award from the Cal Alumni Association, in partnership with the University of California, Berkeley Foundation, for pushing boundaries whenever possible. She is an award-winning journalist, bestselling author, and founder of the Marina Orth Foundation, which supports education in Colombia.
Melvin Foote | Ethiopia 1973–75
Melvin Foote received special recognition from the president of Mali this year: He is to be honored with the Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mali — the Knight of the Order of Mali, for a foreign national. Foote is the founder and CEO of the Constituency for Africa. As Mali’s ambassador to the U.S. wrote to Foote: “Your significant and long-standing contributions of time, energy, and leadership to promote relations between the Republic of Mali and the United States of America have been recognized and appreciated.”
Peter Kilmarx | Democratic Republic of the Congo 1984–86
Peter Kilmarx was recognized with the 2021 Daniel Webster Award for Distinguished Public Service by the Dartmouth Club of Washington, D.C., for his work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Public Health Service, and Peace Corps. Kilmarx serves as deputy director at Fogarty
International Center at the National Institutes of Health.
Ruth Kauffman | Sierra Leone 1985–87
Ruth Kauffman received Bucknell University’s 2020 Service to Humanity Award in recognition of her 30-year career in international women’s health and midwifery. She has served in eight countries through Doctors Without Borders. In 2016, she partnered with colleagues to open a cross-border birth center providing services to women in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. “Ensuring that women in diverse communities have equitable access to safe, natural birth is essential to improving reproductive health worldwide,” she says.
Orrin Luc posted an articleIt’s heartbreaking for communities and Volunteers alike when they need to be evacuated. see more
Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali (2011–12) | Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Mali (2015) and Sierra Leone (2016)
As told to Emi Krishnamurthy
Photo: “Saying goodbye again is not the easiest thing in the world,” writes Marcy Pursell. “The man on the left, Hassan, was born on the night of my arrival. The man on the right, Bashiro, is my amazing neighbor, Hassan's father and my host father.” Photo by Marcy Pursell
After graduating college in 2011, I went to Bambougou, Mali, for a two-year Peace Corps service as an education and literacy specialist. Around 11 months in, there was a coup, and we were evacuated. I was heartbroken.
When I returned to the U.S., I worked with AmeriCorps for a year, with Habitat for Humanity of Omaha. I was still serving, but this time in the States. After I earned my master’s degree, the Peace Corps was reopening in Mali with Peace Corps Response.
With Response, you hit the ground running; things move at a faster pace. The first time I went, I looked for others to guide me. The second time, I was that person for others — a little older, a little wiser. I arrived in Zanzoni, Mali, in February.
Girls pumping water in Mali, where Marcy Pursell returned to serve as a Response Volunteer. Photo by Marcy Pursell
My counterpart and host mother, Awa Coulibaly, was older and had grandchildren; she made me one of her daughters. She walked me home every day to make sure I got there safe and sound. Her family became my family, and I truly felt part of the community. In November, I learned we were being evacuated — again. I was devastated. Telling Awa was even harder. In my experience, Malians don’t really cry and don’t like it when you cry, but I was a mess. The morning I left, Awa came to say goodbye. She was quiet, trying not to show her emotions.
I still wasn’t done with the Peace Corps. They were sending Response Volunteers back to Sierra Leone, after Ebola. So I went, to finally complete my service. Working at the Peace Corps, which I did for four years, was my dream job. The mission is so simple — build world peace and friendship—but so good. Now I work for USAID on Power Africa, an initiative to get energy and electricity to communities. When families don’t have a solar panel or a lightbulb, kids can’t do homework. These things we take for granted here mean so much to people in other places. Getting electricity to a community means one person — focused on learning English because they want to be something when they grow up — can achieve their dream.
Last year, thousands of Volunteers were evacuated because of the pandemic. When that happened, my heart broke. I’ve been there — twice.
Last year, thousands of Volunteers were evacuated because of the pandemic. When that happened, my heart broke. I’ve been there — twice. People plan and put their lives on hold. One day, when things settle down, we’ll be able to go back and continue that relationship of world peace and friendship. There’s always going to be so much room and need for that to grow.
This is part of a series of stories from Crisis Corps and Peace Corps Response Volunteers and staff who have served in the past 25 years.
Jonathan Pearson posted an articleDo NPCA advocates make a difference? You need to read about these two first timers to Capitol Hill. see more
Many among the estimated 230 National Peace Corps Association advocates who participated in our Peace Corps 55th Anniversary advocacy day had no previous experience in the world of Capitol Hill citizen-lobbying. Among them were our October Advocates of the Month, the Ashland, Oregon husband and wife team of Asifa Kanji and David Drury.
For David and Asifa, their Peace Corps experiences were recent and extensive, serving first as 27-month Volunteers in Mali from 2011 - 12 and later signing on as Peace Corps Response Volunteers in both Ghana and South Africa.
Capitol Hill? That was another story.
The couple didn't know exactly what to expect when they signed up to take part. "As first-timers, Asifa and I were a little nervous about it all", said David. "How are you supposed to act around a Senator or Congressperson? What do you say? We didn't want to be an embarrassment to Peace Corps."
That, they were not! And, as Asifa noted, "Whoever would have thought (advocating on the Hill) would be the highlight of my Peace Corps Connect experience."
David and Asifa studied the NPCA briefing papers the night before, and gathered at a church on the morning of advocacy day, joining four other Oregonians who also had little or no advocacy experience. With this in mind, NPCA bolstered the group by connecting them with Pat Wand, a former NPCA Board member and long-time Capitol Hill advocate who had previously lived in Oregon. The first stop was a constituent coffee where the group had a few minutes meeting junior Senator Jeff Merkley, followed by additional time with his staff to make the case for increased Peace Corps funding and better health care support for Volunteers and RPCVs with service-related illnesses or injuries.
Wand got the group started with both of the group's Senate meetings. But then it was time for Team Oregon to split up and meet with their respective members of the House of Representatives. "Oh my, we are on our own!" thought Asifa. "Suddenly, it was my turn to speak to my Republican representative."
In this case, the meeting (pictured above) was with Congressman Greg Walden, a key member of the House Republican leadership. Asifa shared her story of being an immigrant to this country, and how her decision to become a U.S. citizen was very much due to her desire to serve in the Peace Corps. "I have to tell you, I have never been so proud to say I was an American as when I was in the Peace Corps."
Upon sharing she was originally from Tanzania, Congressman Walden noted he had recently visited that country on a congressional delegation (CODEL) with RPCV Congressman and Peace Corps champion Sam Farr. He pulled out his i-phone, shared photos and talked about his CODEL trip.
With a strong connection made, David and Asifa got to the business at hand. As Asifa recalls, "After that it wasn't hard to look him in the eye and with a big smile ask him to co-sponsor H.R. 6037 (Peace Corps health legislation). My husband, who knew that Rep. Walden had worked hard to improve the medical services military vets get, was quick to add that PCVs have served their country too and deserve better care for medical conditions related to their service. The congressman was on board. Wow."
Congressman Walden became one of the first co-sponsors of the legislation. and there is no doubt it was due to the efforts of Asifa and David! The meeting had more than a passing impact, as RPCV Congressman John Garamendi shared the story of being approached later that day on the House floor by Congressman Walden, who wanted to tell him about the meeting with his RPCV constituents.
David was generous in his praise of the NPCA for a successful first-time advocacy experience. "We couldn't have done it without the fantastic support provided by the NPCA staff and advocacy volunteers...The NPCA staff did all the heavy lifting, setting up appointments, providing briefing sheets, and heading up each state delegation with an experienced person who showed us how it should be done. They worked their tushes off* to make us look good. And once you've done it, you see how satisfying and fun advocacy can be."
We are very proud of our advocates of the month for their highly significant and successful participation on Capitol Hill.
NPCA can continue congressional outreach only with your support. Donate now to the Community Fund to advocate for a bigger, better Peace Corps.