Peace Corps legislation likely when Congress reconvenes in late April see more
Last week Congress approved legislation calling for $2.2 trillion in emergency stimulus—legislation that included $88 million for Peace Corps. That was the third law passed by Congress to address the coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences.
Now work is well underway on a fourth stimulus package, with more Peace Corps related legislation on the way.
Peace Corps Legislation Announced
On Friday, April 3, Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced legislation that would address several key concerns of the Peace Corps community. Working in consultation with NPCA, the legislation seeks to:
- Address the need to provide some form of unemployment compensation for evacuated Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who are jobless several months from now, having exhausted their initial Close of Service financial support (readjustment and evacuation allowance).
- Further extends health insurance benefits to evacuees.
- Expedite hiring of RPCVs using their Non-Competitive Eligibility for federal job openings.
- Prompt redeployment of Peace Corps Volunteers as soon as practicable and an expedited re-enrollment process for evacuated RPCVs.
“We applaud the bipartisan effort of Senators Murphy, Collins, and Feinstein to introduce this important legislation to address some of the longer-term support needs of evacuees, and to reinforce Peace Corps’ stated goal to redeploy Volunteers around the world as soon as possible,” said Glenn Blumhorst, National Peace Corps Association President and CEO. “While we anticipate the agency is already at work to address some of these concerns, we are so grateful that a number of congressional offices have been reaching out to us, asking how they also can best support Peace Corps and its Volunteers. Legislation such as this sends a strong message that Congress is committed to the return of thousands of Volunteers across our interconnected world, ready to address many of the major global challenges we face.”
This is the first of what are expected to be several legislative initiatives to address concerns and needs of the Peace Corps community.
Senate, House Letters Released
Also this week, Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Representative Dean Phillips issued a bicameral Senate/House letter to the Secretary of Labor asking that evacuated RPCVs and Americorps volunteers be eligible for unemployment benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act (part of the CARES Act, passed last week). A second letter calls upon Peace Corps, Americorps, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide RPCVs with the opportunity to enlist in domestic COVID-19 response efforts.
Read this press release to learn more about these letters.
Final Week for Peace Corps Funding Letter
Finally, we are about to enter the last week of NPCA Action Alert to ask Senators to sign an important Senate letter to support continued strong funding for Peace Corps' annual budget. Twenty-six senators have signed the letter, which has an April 10th deadline. Follow this link to learn more and take action!
Can we surpass last year's record number of signatures on this letter? see more
While action on the annual House Peace Corps funding letter has concluded, opportunities for Senators to sign onto their version of this important letter will continue at least through April 10th. Here's the latest on both letters.
A bipartisan Senate letter asking for robust funding for Peace Corps in fiscal year 2021 is co-authored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME).
Take Action with your Senators**
- If you wish, you can read the Senate letter here.
- Ask your Senator(s) to "sign the Feinstein-Collins Peace Corps funding Dear Colleague letter that is now circulating".
- TAKE ACTION HERE: Write and ask you Senator(s) to sign the letter (or, thank them if they already signed! - see list below).
- Find the phone number of your Senators if you want to contact them by phone.
Deadline to sign on: Friday April 10th.
Signatures as of Thursday, March 26, 5:00 PM: 26 (see list below)
Additional Signatures Needed to Reach Last Year's Record: 15
(** Along with the Peace Corps letter, we encourage you to urge your Senator(s) to also sign a similar letter - being circulated by Senators Todd Young (R-IN) and Richard Durbin (D-IL), requesting strong funding for all international affairs funding, including Peace Corps)
Senators who signed the Feinstein-Collins Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter (List of Current Signers Below)
California: Feinstein (co-author)
Connecticut: Blumenthal, Murphy
Delaware: Carper, Coons
Maine: Collins (co-author), King
Maryland: Cardin, Van Hollen
Michigan: Peters, Stabenow
New Hampshire: Hassan, Shaheen
North Carolina: Tillis
Rhode Island: Reed, Whitehouse
House of Representatives
The co-chairs of the House of Representatives Peace Corps Caucus, RPCVs John Garamendi (D-CA) and Joe Kennedy (D-MA), and Representative Garrett Graves (R-LA) circulated a letter that their colleagues can sign, asking that Peace Corps funding for the fiscal year that begins this coming October (FY 2021) be increased to $450 million.
THIS LETTER IS NOW CLOSED.
Our thanks to all who reached out to their House Reps on this important action.
We await a final update on signers of this letter.
You can read the House letter here.
Lawmakers who Signed the Garamendi - Graves - Kennedy Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter (List of Current Signers Below)
Deadline to sign on: Thursday March 12, 2020 (a final signature count is still pending)
Signatures as of Thursday, March 12, 4:00 PM: 167
Additional Signatures Needed to Surpass Last Year's Record: 15
American Samoa: Radewagan
Arizona: Gallego, Grijalva
California: Barragan, Bass, Bera, Brownley, Carbajal, Chu, Cisneros, Costa, Susan Davis, DeSaulniers, Eshoo, Garamendi (co-author), Harder, Khanna, LaMalfa, Barbara Lee, Mike Levin, Lieu, Lofgren, Lowenthal, Matsui, McNerney, Napolitano, Panetta, Scott Peters, Porter, Rouda, Roybal-Allard, Sanchez, Schiff, Speier, Swalwell, Takano, Vargas, Waters
Colorado: DeGette, Neguse, Perlmutter, Tipton
Connecticut: Courtney, DeLauro, Hayes, Himes, Larson
Delaware: Blunt Rochester
District of Columbia: Norton
Florida: Castor, Deutch, Hastings, Murphy, Shalala
Georgia: Bishop, Hank Johnson, Lewis, David Scott
Illinois: Bustos, Casten, Davis, Foster, Garcia, Kelly, Lipinski, Rush, Schakowsky, Schneider
Iowa: Steve King, Loebsack
Kentucky: Barr, Yarmuth
Louisiana: Graves (co-author)
Maine: Golden, Pingree
Maryland: Brown, Raskin, Ruppersberger, Sarbanes, Trone
Massachusetts: Kennedy (co-author), Keating, Lynch, McGovern, Moulton, Pressley, Trahan
Michigan: Dingell, Kildee, Andy Levin, Slotkin, Tlaib
Minnesota: Craig, Peterson, Phillips
Nevada: Horsford, Lee, Titus
New Hampshire: Kuster, Pappas
New Jersey: Gottheimer, Kim, Malinowski, Pallone, Pascrell Jr., Payne Jr., Sires, Chris Smith, Van Drew
New Mexico: Haaland
New York: Clarke, Delgado, Engel, Espaillat, Higgins, Katko, Sean Patrick Maloney, Meeks, Morelle, Rice, Suozzi, Tonko, Velazquez
North Carolina: Adams, Butterfield
Northern Marianas: Sablan
Oregon: Blumenauer, Bonamici, DeFazio
Pennsylvania: Boyle, Evans, Fitzpatrick, Wild
Puerto Rico: Gonzalez-Colon
Rhode Island: Ciciline
Texas: Allred, Castro, Doggett, Escobar, Vicente Gonzalez, Green, Jackson-Lee, Veasey, Vela
Virginia: Beyer, Connolly, Luria, McEachin, Spanberger, Wexton
Washington: DelBene, Heck, Jayapal, Larsen, Schrier, Adam Smith
Wisconsin: Kind, Moore
With Your Participation - We can Reach This Goal! see more
UPDATE: On Friday afternoon, President Trump signed into law the $2.2 trillion emergency stimulus package passed in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier in the day.
Final approval of the emergency stimulus package means $88 million will be forwarded to Peace Corps to assist with the cost of evacuating 7,300 volunteers from 61 countries and support initial transition assistance.
"This funding reinforces the federal commitment to the Peace Corps, and we are grateful for this action to support the agency and its Volunteers during this difficult time", said National Peace Corps Association president and CEO Glenn Blumhorst. "While this package addresses critical short-term issues, we continue to work with Congress as the evacuated RPCVs will face additional challenges in the coming weeks and months."
NPCA is already in communication with congressional offices to discuss next steps for an anticipated next round of legislation. Congress needs to hear from you. That's why we are asking you to take action now with your members of Congress to press for ongoing support for evacuated Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.
During this extraordinary moment, we require a committed response from the Peace Corps community and the broad, deep reservoir of everyday citizens who believe in the mission and goals of Peace Corps service.
That's why we are issuing a challenge to mobilize and send 100,000 messages to Congress
The final approval of this massive stimulus package is good news for Peace Corps. But our work doesn't end there. Numerous offices are indicating that the bill finalized on Friday—the third stimulus bill passed into law—will not be the last.
Conversations are underway to make sure that future legislation addresses some of the longer term needs evacuees will likely face, including some form of joblessness support, extended health care support where needed, adequate mental health support, possible enhancements to Coverdell Fellowship programs for prospective graduate students, and possible domestic deployment opportunities so skilled Returned Peace Corps Volunteers can help fight the pandemic.
Beyond that, an ongoing mobilization is needed to remind our lawmakers and our fellow citizens that Peace Corps remains open and is preparing to re-deploy as soon as possible.
In the days, weeks, and months ahead, take action!
Want to help coordinate advocacy efforts in your community/region? Contact us! email@example.com.
There is an attentive and caring Peace Corps community that empathizes with you and awaits you see more
Through your personal stories and photos shared by social media over the last few days, an entire Peace Corps community has vicariously lived the shocking reality of 7,000+ serving PCVs evacuating from communities in 60 countries around the world. This traumatic interruption of service is not the way a PCV envisions service to end - with unfinished projects, unsung farewells, unrung COS bells, and unsaid goodbyes.
To the PCV evacuees, my heartfelt sympathy. I share your grief. As you return home, know that there is an empathetic and caring Peace Corps community awaiting you with a collective virtual embrace. We are thousands of returned Peace Corps Volunteers (including many whose service had also been cut short), former staff, host country nationals, family, and friends who care deeply for you.
This unprecedented moment calls for an extraordinary response. Be assured that National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) is committed to providing the substantive support services that our RPCVs deserve. We hear you and are responding. In the coming days, you can expect:
- A collaborative effort forged among the Peace Corps agency, NPCA, and the greater Peace Corps community to support evacuated RPCVs upon your arrival.
- The launch of a comprehensive Global Reentry program designed by NPCA especially for evacuated RPCVs with support tailored to your needs and expectations.
- Rollout of an array of academic and career resources to assist evacuated RPCVs in taking the next step in your professional pathway.
- Connections to an emerging RPCV peer support network and your local RPCV groups to provide emotional, moral, and logistical support.
- Updates on how, through NPCA, we can collectively advocate for the benefits and entitlements evacuated RPCVs deserve, as well as ensure the future of the Peace Corps.
For those of us in the Peace Corps community who are able to provide financial leadership, the Benevolent Fund will enable NPCA to support basic needs and longer-term readjustment of evacuated RPCVs.
This is an amazing and resilient Peace Corps community. Thank you for all you do to serve one another and the world.
NPCA President & CEO
RPCV Guatemala 1988-91
Help NPCA Reach More Returned Volunteers
Your financial support of any size will make a BIG difference.
It is time to Protect Peace Corps - Like Never Before see more
As Congress continues to develop legislation to provide emergency relief related to the coronavirus, it is imperative that the needs of Peace Corps - and its approximately 7,000 evacuated volunteers - are also taken into account.
Your Action is Urgently Needed:
National Peace Corps Association posted this new action which is directed at all Senators and members of the House of Representatives. The action urges financial support for Peace Corps to cover the extraordinary costs associated with the global suspension of programs.
It also urges support to address the many financial, health and other support needs evacuated volunteers are facing as they come home.
Peace Corps has taken an initial step in addressing these needs, announcing that payment of its post-service insurance offering to volunteers will be extended from 30 days to 60 days.
UPDATE: The White House has requested $73 million in additional funding for Peace Corps to assist with costs in bringing volunteers home.
UPDATE: In your letters, include the number of recently serving volunteers from your state.
Go Beyond Your Letters to Congress
The congressional action will allow you to:
- Edit the message and personalize it, speaking to your Peace Corps experience.
- Send a tweet to your lawmakers.
- Reach well beyond the immediate Peace Corps community to ask other family, friends and neighbors to help protect the Peace Corps.
- Craft and submit a local letter to the editor urging support for Peace Corps and its evacuated volunteers.
Thank you so much for taking action as we embark on a new, challenging chapter to protect the Peace Corps and support returned volunteers.
Helene Dudley posted an articleRotarians and RPCVs combine their synergies for the greater good. see more
By: Helene Dudley (Colombia 1968-70, Slovakia 1997-99)
Peace Corps and Rotary have a longstanding history individually as well as together. The two communities have compatible values, compatible interests, and compatible approaches to society’s problems. I am one of thousands of Americans with membership in both. I was introduced to Rotary through my work with The Colombia Project, a micro-loan program started by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs). After receiving several grants and presenting to the Rotary Club of Coconut Grove, Florida it occurred to me that I should become a member. Soon two more RPCVs working with The Colombia Project joined, followed by a loan administrator in Colombia and then a former Peace Corps Korea language teacher – all because the Coconut Grove Rotary Club supported an RPCV micro-loan program. As an RPCV and Rotarian, I am amazed at the synergies that exist between these two groups.
In 2014, Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet, who comes from a family of Rotarians, signed two collaborative agreements with Rotary – for pilot projects in the Philippines, Thailand and Togo and to encourage Rotary Clubs to support the Peace Corps partnership program (PCPP).
Subsequent to those agreements, over 30 Rotary Clubs from hometowns of Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) serving in Costa Rica have partnered with Costa Rica Rotary Clubs in the Give-A-Book literacy project to provide libraries for schools and communities served by PCVs. Rotarians traveled to Costa Rica to personally present books. Upon returning home, PCVs made presentations to the sponsoring Rotary clubs. In addition to the books, the Peace Corps-Rotary alliance in Costa Rica organizes other humanitarian projects such as an eye clinic organized by two PCVs for March 2017 with Rotarian eye doctors participating from Rotary Clubs in Florida, Indiana, and California.
Collaboration with currently serving Volunteers is off to a good start but even better opportunities exist for Rotary-RPCV collaborations like those with the Denver Rotary Club’s cook stove research in Vanuatu, girls’ education in Senegal and the Coal Creek, Colorado Rotary Club’s water projects in Panama. The full potential for collaborations between Rotary and RPCVs through the NPCA remains largely untapped but ultimately should be even more attractive to Rotarians in providing RPCV partners with proven track records.
One Rotary supported RPCV program, The Colombia Project – TCP Global, builds zero overhead, sustainable micro-loan programs in five countries to date. By partnering with organizations already working effectively at the grassroots level, virtually no overhead is required to manage 30-45 open loans.
Just as the Rotary-Peace Corps Partnership invites Rotary Clubs to support PCPP working with PCVs, an expansion of this collaboration into the Peace Corps community could provide financial support for current and future projects vetted through the National Peace Corps Association's Community Fund such as TCP Global micro-loans, Water Charity, The Village Link, and other projects that involve Rotary in some, but not all implementation sites. Rotarian and RPCV hybrids are coming together to create an affiliate group, so be sure to let us know if you are a Rotarian.
In 2017, there are two unique opportunities to strengthen ties between Rotary and the Peace Corps community. RPCV Rotarians are encouraged to visit the Peace Corps booth at the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta, GA this June 2017. All Rotarians and members of the Peace Corps community are also encouraged to attend Peace Corps Connect annual conference in Denver, CO this August 2017.
The Peace Corps Community and the Rotarian Community each do a tremendous amount of good in the world. Since projects can have far greater impact when we collaborate with others, imagine what could be accomplished if the two organizations joined forces.
A legendary figure in the launch of the Peace Corps dies at age 92. see more
He was a student of Gandhi's methods of bringing political change through non-violent direct action. An associate and friend of Martin Luther King Jr. during the early years of the civil rights movement. A key adviser to the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy who facilitated a key meeting between JFK and MLK which eventually led to a critical phone call that is credited with tipping the election to Kennedy.
He was a World War II era veteran. A university president. A United States Senator.
But for tens of thousands of members of the Peace Corps community, Harris Llewellyn Wofford - who died Monday - will always be remembered and revered for his iconic work as one of the architects of the Peace Corps, and his vigorous lifelong commitment to volunteerism and service above self.
"Harris Wofford blessed the world with his never-ending commitment to public service and social justice," said National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) President Glenn Blumhorst. "He truly was a global citizen who embodied Peace Corps values. All who were fortunate enough to have met Harris are mourning his passing, not only because we lost a friend, but also because our nation has lost a man of such high character and goodness".
After JFK's election, Wofford began work in the new administration as a key civil rights adviser, but was later appointed to assist Sargent Shriver in the formation of the Peace Corps. He served as the agency's special representative to Africa and director of operations in Ethiopia.
At gatherings of the Peace Corps community, Wofford would regularly remind audiences of the bold vision and role of the new agency at its inception. He recalled being on the White House lawn with President Kennedy as a new group of volunteers was leaving for their service. According to Wofford, Kennedy said:
"You know this Peace Corps is going to be really serious when we have 100,000 volunteers a year. Because in one decade, we'll have a million Americans who will have had first-hand experience in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Then at last, we'll have an intelligent foreign policy because there will be a big constituency of people who understand the world."
Wofford was a member of NPCA's Advisory Council and a regular at NPCA conferences, leadership summits, and advocacy days. His commitment to service went well beyond Peace Corps. He was Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service (which included AmeriCorps) from 1995 - 2001. He was a leader in the formation of the Building Bridges Coalition in 2006, bringing together non-governmental organizations, businesses and universities committed to expanding overseas service opportunities. Wofford also served on the boards of several volunteer organizations, including America's Promise, Youth Service America, and the Points of Light Foundation.
In our nation's capital, a city that can be consumed by status and titles, "Senator Wofford" was simply known to all as "Harris". His personal modesty belied his mark on history and many global achievements. Those achievements began in the 1940s, when he formed the Student Federalists while in high school. They continued six decades later, when Wofford assisted another presidential candidate at a critical moment: introducing Barack Obama at Philadelphia's National Constitution Center before a pivotal speech on race in America. They endured in 2016, when his opinion piece in The New York Times spoke of the man who became the second love of his life and the importance of marriage equality.
During the 50th anniversary year of Peace Corps in 2011, NPCA recognized Wofford's lifetime of service to our nation and our world by establishing the Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award. The award is given annually to an outstanding global leader who grew up and continues to live in a country where Peace Corps Volunteers serve and whose life was influenced by the Peace Corps.
On Saturday, March 2, 2019, we gathered to remember the remarkable life of Harris Wofford at Howard University in Washington, DC. If you were unable to join us, you can watch the service using the link below.
Volunteers will remain on the job, as close to 50% of agency staff face furloughs. see more
With a political stalemate over funding for a border wall, a partial government shutdown went into effect as of midnight Friday. Peace Corps funding falls under the State/Foreign Operations appropriations bill – one of seven appropriations bills that Congress and the White House have not finalized.
How does the government shutdown effect the Peace Corps?
In its operational plan to address the shutdown, the agency notes that plans do not include closing down volunteer posts around the world. Volunteer operations and overseas staff would remain open and at work, due to safety and security considerations, the complexities and potential costs of shutting down operations, especially if the shutdown turned out to be of a short duration.
As noted in the agency’s plan, “Given the significant tangible and intangible costs that would be incurred in evacuating all Volunteers to their homes of record and the minimal savings in operating costs overseas that would be achieved by doing so, evacuating Volunteers and returning them to their homes of record would only be justified by a much more substantial lapse in appropriations than the agency expects. The agency has, therefore, determined that the Peace Corps is not required during a lapse in appropriated funding to take any action to evacuate Volunteers and return them to their homes of record.”
This does not mean the agency is not impacted. While overseas staff will remain on the job, approximately half of the agency’s workforce is expected to be furloughed. This includes activities and staff “not reasonably necessary for the safety of human life or the protection of property.”
Peace Corps identifies the following programs that would face furlough: Volunteer recruitment, selection and placement and third goal activities, as well as any other activities carried out by the Office of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection, the Office of External Affairs, the Office of Strategic Information, Research and Planning, the Office of Overseas Programming and Training Support, the Executive Secretariat, 3 the Office of Strategic Partnerships, the Office of Innovation, the Office of Third Goal and Returned Volunteer Services, the Chief Compliance Officer and the Office of Civil Rights and Diversity.
Follow this link to see Peace Corps’ complete report to the Office of Management and Budget, regarding its shutdown plans.
Follow this link for more general information on the partial government shutdown, and its potential impacts.
Olsen would become the 20th Peace Corps Director. see more
President Trump has nominated Josephine "Jody" Olsen to become the next Peace Corps Director.
If confirmed by the Senate, Olsen would become the 20th person to lead the agency.
Olsen, who served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tunisia, was Deputy and Acting Director of the agency from 2001 to 2009.
Click here to read the White House announcement on this nomination.
Click here to see the list of all previous Peace Corps Directors.
Visit this post in the coming hours for more updates on this nomination.
RPCVs who served in Lesotho and Moldova are the newest Peace Corps political appointments see more
Transitions can be challenging, but Peace Corps has capitalized on the prolonged leadership transition to continue building a strong and resilient agency. Bottom line: Peace Corps is strong, and Peace Corps Volunteers are still doing great things.
Now ten months into the new administration, the Peace Corps community could reasonably be concerned about the impact of a prolonged leadership transition. But it's reassuring to know that Peace Corps is in good hands and is moving forward, not retreating.
With a focus on the core business of recruiting, placing and caring for highly-qualified Volunteers to advance Peace Corps' mission of world peace and friendship, the agency continues to shore up infrastructure, make progress on opening new posts, and ensure the safety and security of Volunteers in the field. Of note, some 23,000 Volunteer applications were received in fiscal year 2017 - the fourth consecutive year of historically-high applicant numbers, representing the sustained interest by Americans to serve in the Peace Corps.
While a director and deputy director are yet to to be nominated, political appointments continue to be made for key leadership positions in the Peace Corps' offices of general counsel, finance, management and external affairs. New faces at the Peace Corps headquarters include two new political appointments who are Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.
With more than twenty years of work experience in Africa, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Joel Frushone joins the agency as Director of Communications.
Joel's work in combating malaria fits well with the work of hundreds of Peace Corps Volunteers. He served as Global Communications Director for Malaria No More, a Non-Governmental Organization working to raise awareness and political will to eliminate malaria. Joel coordinated communications in the U.S. and Africa, and worked closely with the African Leaders Malaria Alliance.
From 1995 to 1997, Joel served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho, teaching small-scale agriculture production to women and children. Soon after his service, Joel joined World Vision International as its Communications and Advocacy Director in Rwanda and Burundi, and as the Africa Policy Analyst with the U.S. Committee for Refugees.
Joel also worked as a political campaign consultant for clients in the U.S. and abroad. He also served as CEO of Crescent Consultants, which helped clients solve communication challenges and navigate the complexities of bureaucracy, policy, culture and risk across Africa.
As private sector funding helps support many Peace Corps program initiatives, the Office of Gifts and Grants Management is another branch of the agency that helps Peace Corps achieve its mission. Leah Keiff is a recently appointed Program Specialist for the office. A graduate of the University of Virginia, Leah served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Moldolva from 2013 to 2015, working with the Community and Organizational Development Program.
More recently, Leah served as Foundation Director at Generation Opportunity Institute, a nonprofit that focuses on helping young Americans gain knowledge and tools to take control of their financial futures and better their lives and communities.
No word on a new director, as the White House appoints several to Peace Corps leadership posts see more
As the Peace Corps community awaits the nomination of the next Peace Corps Director, a handful of Trump administration appointments to the agency have begun their work at headquarters.
The most recent addition is Chip Wheeler, pictured left, who was recently named Associate Director for Volunteer Recruitment and Selection. Wheeler’s professional career includes ten years as vice president for private sector initiatives at America’s Promise Alliance, the Colin Powell – founded organization dedicated to improving the lives of young people. Most recently, he served as national director for Community Investments in the Office of Corporate Responsibility at Voya Financial.
Many who attended the Peace Corps Connect conference in Denver had the opportunity to meet and hear from Ashley Bell, pictured below, appointed back in July to serve as Peace Corps Associate Director for External Affairs. In his remarks, Bell spoke passionately about the nonprofit that he founded in his home state of Alabama to address criminal justice reform and mentor young at-risk students in his community. One of those young men once asked for support in getting into the Peace Corps. Since submitting that recommendation letter, and ultimately seeing his mentee thrive as a Volunteer, Bell says he has admired Peace Corps' grassroots community approach.
In his new role, he will oversee the offices of communications, strategic partnerships and intergovernmental affairs, gifts and grants management and government relations. Prior to Peace Corps, Bell served as a special advisor in the Public Affairs Bureau of the Department of State, where he developed strategy around the Secretary of State’s domestic engagement agenda.
Bell and Wheeler join Matthew McKinney, no picture available, the first appointee who is serving as Peace Corps’ White House liaison. McKinney has made his first trip abroad, visiting with Peace Corps Volunteers in Armenia and Georgia. Prior to his Peace Corps position, McKinney served as a Special Assistant to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan in the office of appointments.
Administration appointments continue to move at a slower pace. Eight years ago, Aaron Williams had been nominated as Peace Corps Director in early July and was on the job by late August.
Along with reaching out to Peace Corps’ new leadership, NPCA will continue to monitor, provide input and report on progress on the selection of a new director and other agency leadership.
Anne's affiliate posted an articleGlobal Opinions, By Bren Flanigan, Aug 31 see more
Bren Flanigan is a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin, where he serves as a community economic adviser. He is a recent graduate of Washington and Lee University. This commentary does not represent any official view of the Peace Corps.
After surviving nine hours in a non-air-conditioned bus in the hot West African climate, during which the only escape from the jolting ride is a “pee-pee stop,” the last thing I wanted to do was converse in my extremely limited French with my Peace Corps host father. But I was instantly interrogated on the then-ongoing tumultuous 2016 presidential election: “Why do all Americans hate Muslims?”
It’s humbling to find people in Benin following U.S. current affairs with intense interest, when many Americans could never locate Benin on a map. Addressing questions like these gives Peace Corps volunteers the opportunity to shatter the stereotypes about the United States portrayed in television and movies.
These conversations represent the public diplomacy of the Peace Corps. They do not occur behind closed doors or classified offices in Washington, but at a grass-roots level in a community, and it’s not limited to policy discussions. Hosting my landlord, his wife and their three young daughters to try pizza for their first time is a small, but enduring, act of cultural exchange. My guests came in their Sunday best, wearing shimmering matching fabric, to go less than five feet from their front door.
Even though the parents hated the pizza — eating only one or two pieces — they praised my “cooking skills,” rather than offend their host. The girls wiped their plates clean. They later returned the favor, inviting me to dine at their house and offering me the larger of only two pieces of meat.
These small interactions are invaluable to our foreign policy. Playing Whitney Houston’s version of the “Star-Spangled Banner” during July 4th to a group of more than 50 locals — while also sharing a bit of A1 Steak Sauce — made people elated to celebrate our American independence and hear our national anthem for the first time.
There is no such thing as a cultural “ambassador” who can represent the melting pot of the United States, but Peace Corps volunteers are frequently interpreted as direct extensions of American values and principles. That gives the Peace Corps an unrivaled position to promote a positive perception of our country and learn from the citizens of others.
The way to influence societies is not solely through intimidation or economic isolation but also through an integrated cultural exchange, whose effects will endure through political administrations and fluctuating diplomatic relations. No organization does a better job of forging this exchange than the Peace Corps.
In 2016, the Peace Corps published a survey of 21 countries on five continents that studied perceptions of Americans in volunteer communities. More than 60 percent of the 928 host country nationals surveyed reported they had a “much better” or “better” understanding of Americans after having a volunteer, and the trait most frequently used to describe their perceptions of all Americans was “kind.” Even country nationals who worked with volunteers more than five years ago still reported the same level of improved understanding as communities with current volunteers.
Volunteers promote this understanding by entering a society ready to experience everything with their local communities. Living in a family with four wives and close to 20 children forced me to respect a different way of life. Defecating in latrines full of flies and cockroaches, bucket-bathing and sharing the frustration when the electricity or water supply got cut for several hours all taught me to recognize real necessities.
Now, with the largest budget cut for the Peace Corps in more than 40 years proposed by the Trump administration, Congress should not forget that volunteers are immersing themselves and serving in more than 60 countries around the world for modest sums. (My living allowance is less than $10 per day.) For many communities, we are the real American ambassadors, the only ones they will ever meet, and the ones they will remember.
The Peace Corps tells volunteers that it’s the hardest job you’ll ever love. The Peace Corps is hard when it is 100 degrees in my house. The Peace Corps is hard when I cannot move away from the trash can because of the latest bout of food poisoning. But I loved the Peace Corps when my host mother came to my rescue after I woke up with a mouse on my neck. I loved the Peace Corps when my friend spent hours searching food stands for bananas to settle my stomach. I loved the Peace Corps when my French instructor told me she fasted the entire day before my language exam, in the hopes I would attain the results I wanted. These actions of kindness and the knowledge that I have a responsibility to help foster a rapport between the United States and Benin motivate me — and they confirm that President John F. Kennedy’s 56-year-old Peace Corps has a vital purpose in U.S. foreign policy.
With 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.
*Juliana Essen* posted an articleSima Pirooz shares her unique perspective on the value of Peace Corps. see more
by Sima Pirooz, MD, MPH/HAP
Twenty-eight years ago I came to the US as a refugee with my two children, six and nine years old. I was a practicing physician in my home country, Iran. It took us 15 months from one country to another to get to the US. They say you can either have wings or roots. Well, it seems that I had wings since I was born. I lived in many cities from North to South of Iran, I lived in 14 countries and I lived in a few states in the US.
In Jan. 2012 after more than a year waiting for clearance and health scanning, finally I along with fifty-one other volunteers flew from Detroit to Thailand as Peace Corps volunteers. I had a wonderful experience of being an Iranian-American medical missionary in Nepal before and because the agenda of Peace Corps was to bring peace and I thought of us as the ambassadors of peace from America to Thailand, I was so excited to see what good this trip could bring to Thais and to us.
Facing another language and culture was not a problem or new to me at all and because of my lifestyle back in Iran, I had been in the shoes of almost all of the key players throughout the program, so that was not a problem or new to communicate or understand them either. What blew my mind since the first day was the uniqueness of the Peace Corps program: with their threefold goal and agenda, their discipline, their influence, and their footprints on the soil of the host country, their fingerprints on their people’s hearts was undeniable and refreshing.
Being a refugee and an adult immigrant in America twenty eight years ago and going through culture shock and raising my two children as a single mom, I was longing for a program able to incorporate me into my new community through mentorship and use my full potential for the benefit of my family and my society. In Peace Corps when we went through the three months of extensive training for culture, language, government organizations, security, health, vaccinations, and much more, I realized that in 55 years of US government investment and with the help of the host countries, Peace Corps has developed a very mature program that not only can help Americans to understand their host country, but also it can be used for immigrants to the US to understand and incorporate to their new country very fast and efficiently. Peace Corps program gave me a broad and deep understanding of others more than what I had learned in other thirteen countries that I had lived in on my own without any mentor. I have heard the same testimonies from other volunteers, especially from young Americans, whose lives were changed, and after their return, they made a big impact on their communities and even globally.
I was the first Peace Corps Volunteer in my village in Northern Thailand, but after I left, they requested for another volunteer immediately, and I saw him on Facebook with my counterparts. I remembered the first days that I was sent there. People, especially kids, made sure that they walked from the opposite side of the road from me because they didn’t have any contact with Americans before, and what they knew was mixed information from media. They had fear from thinking Americans were arrogant and selfish, plus they were scared and shy to speak English. After a few months, they ran to me, defended me, made sure that I was safe, fed me, treated me like one of their own. Even the kids, who I taught English, sat on my lap in the class and touched the tip of my pointed nose to see why mine was different from theirs and giggled. When they saw that I struggled with their language but still tried to communicate with them, they dared and were not afraid of trying to speak English.
On the 2nd day of March 2017, I came to Washington, D.C. to support the continuation of the Peace Corps budget. On that day I saw a letter from the leaders of the US army who also had seen the peace-making effect of Peace Corps volunteers first hand, and they believed that the result of this program had strengthened the safety of our troops in other countries just by spending less than one percent of International Affairs budget. I personally think it would be a shame to waste 55 years of investment on this valuable program and not to fund it or better yet, expand it.
Megan Patrick posted an articleAn MFA program created for the Peace Corps community see more
The first class of MFA Creative Writing for PCVs and RPCVs at National University begins on April 10, 2017.
This total online graduate degree program will begin with a seminar in Creative Nonfiction. Students write and critique each others' original work in an online workshop-style format. Through presentation and critique of published and student-generated work, students will advance their understanding of the genre's many forms, including memoir, autobiography, nature writing, literary journalism, and the personal essay.
The course is being taught by novelist and nonfiction writer John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962-64). If interested in enrolling in this special MFA program, contact John Coyne at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Frank Montesonti, Lead Faculty at National University at email@example.com.