We are listening, and we stand in solidarity with all who are actively driving efforts for change. see more
Ideas and actions — and the principles that guide us
By Maricarmen Smith-Martinez and Glenn Blumhorst
As Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, current and former staff, host country nationals, family, and friends, we uphold a commitment to creating a better world, one that promotes world peace and friendship. In this spirit, National Peace Corps Association envisions a united and vibrant Peace Corps community. We Stand Against Racial Injustice and affirm our commitment to empathy and justice — around the world, and here at home.
Yet in the midst of national unrest ignited by systemic injustice, a vision of unity and vibrance is not enough. We must take more concrete steps to ensure a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture for all RPCVs and members of our community.
Evidence of racial inequity exists in many forms, and the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed deep systemic problems in our country. Continued violence and police brutality against the Black community has ignited protests from coast to coast — and in scores of other countries. Economic insecurity, impacting tens of millions of Americans, disproportionately impacts people of color. Black Americans are dying at higher rates due to health disparities rooted in a problematic healthcare system. And while the ongoing struggle for racial equity and social justice resonates strongly with core Peace Corps values, Volunteers of color continue to share challenges of racism, bias, and exclusivity, describing experiences during recruitment, in service, and after returning home.
It is humbling to acknowledge shortcomings, and it is difficult to change a system — but we will not succeed if we do not try. Inherent in this effort is the need for change within NPCA itself. Our staff and Board of Directors must consistently reflect the diversity we champion. Our programming must proactively incorporate values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Roadmap for the Future
To that end, the NPCA Board of Directors is charting a course for progress toward a more diverse and inclusive culture within our Board of Directors, our staff, and our Peace Corps community. We are developing a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Framework with cross-cutting priorities across our strategic plan, addressing the need for systemic change not only within our organization but also within Peace Corps, in our membership and Affiliate Group Network, and in our global social impact.
As a starting point, the policy will serve to:
Ensure diversity and inclusion within the NPCA staff and Board.
Ensure training to improve the organization and the workplace, such as training to better understand unconscious bias.
Support efforts to help the Peace Corps be the best it can be and address racism and inequity within the institution.
Support efforts to empower members and affiliate groups to thrive by ensuring opportunity for diversity and inclusion at NPCA events such as Peace Corps Connect; enhancing outreach efforts to RPCVs and affiliate groups of color; and building capacity for the Affiliate Group Network to facilitate conversations about social justice and to mobilize members to take action.
Support efforts to amplify the Peace Corps community’s global social impact by proactively seeking applications for projects that focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion — bolstering work with minority-owned startup enterprises and leveraging our new home at Peace Corps Place in the Truxton Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C., to engage in activities that address systemic racism.
Join Us in this Work
Our board and staff have taken the first steps to demonstrate NPCA’s proactive and deliberate leadership reflected on our new We Stand Together For Change web page. NPCA has also adapted existing tools to contact Congressional representatives, leveraging opportunities for RPCVs to advocate for racial equity and social justice legislation. We facilitated a Group Leaders Discussion: Affiliate Group Stand for Racial Justice. Our staff has formed a DEI Working Group with dedicated hours and budget. And we have more work to undertake together.
We understand that RPCVs are ready to support this cause. We recognize the difficulty of sharing experiences with racism and bias — from decades past or just last week. And we applaud those who are able to speak out and voice their experiences. We also acknowledge the discomfort of approaching conversations about race from a point of privilege. We commend the RPCVs and affiliate groups that have facilitated events, such as the RPCV/W Town Hall for Racial Justice, to not only advance the conversation but also take action.
We are listening, and we stand in solidarity with all who are actively driving efforts for change. On behalf of the NPCA Board and leadership, we seek your feedback, encourage your recommendations, and invite your ideas. And we welcome your shared commitment to this crucial work now — and for the long haul.
Maricarmen Smith-Martinez is Chair of the Board of Directors for National Peace Corps Association. She served as a Volunteer in Costa Rica 2006–08.
Glenn Blumhorst is President and CEO of National Peace Corps Association. He served as a Volunteer in Guatemala 1988–91.
Join us on Monday, June 15 for an hour-long conversation on climate change. see more
We are living in unprecedented times, facing crises of immense scale. Join us June 15 for an important conversation.
As a Peace Corps community, we saw all Volunteers evacuated from around the world in March.
We’re living amidst a global pandemic — with more than 100,000 Americans dead, tens of millions unemployed.
And we’ve seen — once again — the death of unarmed Black men and women at the hands of police, a brutal reminder of a legacy of racial injustice, that has led to protests in towns and cities across the nation and around the world.
Amid all of this, here at home and across the planet, we witness the escalating effects of climate change — hitting poor and marginalized communities particularly hard.
As members of the Peace Corps community, we embrace each of these crises with a sense of purpose, empathy, and understanding — putting skills and experience to work.
As part of our efforts to confront these crises, join us on Monday, June 15 for an hour-long conversation on climate change. Learn how RPCVs are working to address climate change within their communities as well as nationwide and around the world. Learn what our recent research shows about RPCV attitudes and goals in tackling this critical issue. Help us stake out top priorities and bring together RPCV advocates in a way that empowers us to work together as changemakers. When it comes to motivating others in your community to address climate change, your Peace Corps experience can make a difference.
In January 2020 National Peace Corps Association conducted a national survey asking you about the global issues that you care about most — and what actions you might take to address these issues in your community.
More than 3,000 members of the Peace Corps community responded. Nearly two thirds of you said climate change was by far the global issue you cared about most. You also showed strong support for global health, access to clean water, and women’s empowerment and girls education. See the results below.
NPCA conducted four focus groups in May 2020 among 37 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers as another step in its efforts to lay the groundwork for a community-based social action campaign for members of the Peace Corps community.
An ideas summit to ask some big questions about the Peace Corps community in a changed world. see more
We’re convening for an ideas summit to ask some big questions about the Peace Corps community in a changed world.
In the next few weeks, we’re also bringing together members of the Peace Corps community around issues of racial injustice and climate change — to help shape our agenda for the future.
In March 2020, Peace Corps Volunteers were evacuated globally because of a global pandemic still taking its toll. That created an unprecedented and enormous challenge on its own.
We want to help reignite the work of Peace Corps around the world. So how do we do that, and make sure that Peace Corps — and our community — is the best that it can be?
Join us to help answer these questions — and take action.
Amanda Silva posted an articleBecoming a mission partner is more than a financial contribution, it's a continuation of service. see more
By Maricarmen Smith-Martinez (Costa Rica 2006-2008)
As Peace Corps Volunteers, our desire to impact our communities and effect positive change drives us to invest our time, our skills, and our passion. Providing guidance as a community leader, as a mentor, and as a friend, I impacted my community in Costa Rica in many ways. Back at home, the investment continues as the community grows. You can “close the service” of a Volunteer, but you can never take away our passion to serve.
As a Mission Partner of the NPCA, I know that my contributions support our larger Peace Corps community and allow us to increase our impact both at home and abroad. As a Shriver Circle member, I contribute my financial support, providing NPCA with the flexibility to employ it where it’s needed most. As an advocate, I share my Volunteer experience, encouraging Congress to build a bigger, better Peace Corps.
As the Coordinator of the Affiliate Group Network (AGN) on the NPCA Board, I partner with staff to enable our affiliate groups to thrive. Working with AGN leaders at the grassroots level, we identified necessary resources and developed a platform to provide better methods for groups to engage and connect. Our nearly 160 affiliate groups are always looking for tools to engage their membership, expand their reach, and increase their impact. As a result, we launched the Purpose-driven Group webinar series, enabling groups to build their capacity through best-practices on topics such as legal considerations or how to host a Story Slam. The webinar series also provides the opportunity to learn about NPCA benefits like SilkStart, the Community Builder platform that offers comprehensive technology for website and membership database management.
As a proud member of the Peace Corps community, I make an impact by continuing to serve.
Make your impact. Become a Mission Partner of the NPCA.
National Peace Corps Association Operations posted an articleAs we reflect on an amazing 40th anniversary year, we are grateful for our community of supporters. see more
From our 15th annual National Days of Action and our interactive Peace Corps Connect Conference to our continuing and renewed partnerships, this year National Peace Corps Association mobilized the Peace Corps community like never before: we advocated for Peace Corps at all levels, advanced Third Goal efforts, and empowered our affiliate groups to thrive.
As we reflect on an amazing 40th anniversary year, we are grateful for our community of supporters that help us achieve our mission. This giving season, we exceeded our $10,000 Giving Tuesday goal to advance advocacy efforts to protect Peace Corps and received donations from thousands of individuals who contributed to support NPCA affiliate groups, our Community Fund, and our cause-related initiatives.
There is still time to make a year-end gift! Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support NPCA’s work. We truly cannot do what we do without support from people like you!
Thank you in advance for your support.
President & CEO
National Peace Corps Association posted an articleNews from the Peace Corps Community - November 2018. see more
Community News – Achievements of RPCVs
Author: Peter Deekle
Peter Hessler (1996-1998) was one of the eight Missouri Honor Medal recipients in 2018 for his distinguished service in journalism. His life and work in China generated four acclaimed books on that country’s culture.
Scott Coppa (2015-2017) teamed up with friends in Indiana after his Peace Corps service and founded Puente – a nonprofit organization making it easier for volunteer groups to pick a target area to work in and know exactly what that community is lacking, allowing them to preplan their projects.
Malcolm Velasco (2013-2015), a second-year medical student at Mercer University, received a Benjamin H. Kean Travel Fellowship in Tropical Medicine to conduct research in The Gambia in West Africa in summer 2018. He was one of 21 fellows selected this year from medical schools across the country. The Kean Travel Fellowship in Tropical Medicine is awarded annually by the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) to support medical students involved in clinical or research electives in tropical areas.
Matthew (Mateo) Peters (1999-2001), director of the Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center, met on October 10 at the Talbot County Free Library to discuss historical migration trends. ChesMRC strives to break down cultural barriers that arise from differences in language, appearance or ethnic traditions. It has assisted more than 2,000 immigrants and families.
Cymone Wilson (2016-2018) is continuing her in-country service through shipments of books to Jamaican libraries. She now works for Elevate K-12, an education technology company with a mission to make online learning accessible to students, regardless of socioeconomic status. She wants to help recruit more Peace Corps volunteers, especially minorities.
Sometimes the legacy of Peace Corps service inspires action long after that service has ended. Such is the case in a Liberian community of Gbamga where, in October 2018, the Garden School opened, sponsored by the family of an RPCV who served in the 1960s. Stephanie Vickers (1971-1973) said the donors were motivated to sponsor the construction of a local school following a training the U.S.-based group called the Friends of Liberia conducted for Liberian educators in early childhood education.
Beverly Sweet (1978-1983), Wellsville (NY) High School teacher of American History and Government, has been selected by the NYS Organization of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution as the statewide winner of the Outstanding Teacher of American History Award. She received her award on September 22, 2018.
Roy Cole (1975-1979) Last September, Cole, a professor of Geography and Sustainable Planning at GVSU, and his wife, Mary, were finalists in Michigan for the Governor’s Energy Excellence Award. This award honors organizations and individuals statewide for their commitment to responsible energy production and consumption. The Coles were nominated for the “Best Residential Projects” category in acknowledgement of the extensive work they have taken to conserve energy at home.
Kevin Bubriski (1975-1978) is a documentary photographer who recently published a new book, Mustang: In Black and White, inspired by a new collaboration with Sienna Craig (a Dartmouth associate professor) on Nepalese photography, culture and history.
Cornell College (Iowa) presented its Leadership and Service Award to Ken Patterson (1992-1995) in recognition of his global efforts to address extreme poverty and disease. Ken is the director of grassroots advocacy at RESULTS (an international organization working to end poverty across the globe).
Lisa Curtis (2010-2011) is founder of Kuli Kuli Foods, an energy bar, shot, and nutrition powder company made from the local moringa plant. In late summer 2018 the company earned a federal grant from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a foreign aid agency that focuses on helping countries find homegrown economic ways to fight poverty, in part to battle terrorism.
Maggie Fleming (2002-2004) was recognized with the Dr. Kenneth K Bateman Outstanding Alumni Award by Pittsburg State University in October 2018 for her international service. Following her Peace Corps service, she became a senior disaster operations specialist with the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance within the U.S. Agency for International Development and later on took on the role of deputy director of emergency response. Her current primary focus is an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
JM Ascienzo posted an articleThe Hiring Freeze, March Days of Action and More see more
Hiring freezes and the Peace Corps
On Monday President Trump signed an executive order to enact an across-the-board hiring freeze of federal employees, except for military personnel or for positions that meet national security or public health needs. The Office of Management and Budget has since offered guidance on the directive, with more information still trickling out.
In a White House memorandum announcing the freeze, OMB and the Office of Personnel Management are charged with enacting a long-term strategy "to reduce the size of the Federal Government's workforce through attrition."
Peace Corps is working with OPM and OMB to get additional guidance as it relates to the agency.
"I'm confident that the health and safety of Peace Corps Volunteers is the agency's top priority, and am confident that they will not compromise that principle," NPCA President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst said.
Mobilize! March National Days of Action Update
Events are already being planned across the country for NPCA's National Days of Action in support of the Peace Corps from March 3 to 15. Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and supporters of the Peace Corps will be meeting with lawmakers at district offices, holding service days, happy hours and potlucks, all to urge Congress' support of the Peace Corps and Peace Corps values.
Help us meet our goal of 50 events and 500 participants. Find events near you and information on how to organize one today!
Peace Corps Semipostal Stamp
Want to get more private funds to Peace Corps Volunteer- and community-led projects? Ask Congress to support the bipartisan Peace Corps Semipostal Stamp! Congresswoman Barbara Lee's (D-CA) bill already has support from 21 lawmakers, but it needs more. Take two minutes and email Congress.
“The Peace Corps is an American institution which has helped foster global peace and cross-cultural understanding for decades," Congresswoman Lee told NPCA. "The creation of a Peace Corps stamp would be a fitting tribute to this remarkable organization. I encourage my colleagues to cosponsor this bipartisan bill, which would further our shared goal of advancing peace, friendship and sustainable development around the world.”
Want change at the local and national levels? Congress needs to hear from you. Call (202) 224-3121, and you'll be connected with your representatives' offices. Or send an action email. Congress won't know about the issues the Peace Corps community cares about unless we tell them.
Megan Patrick posted an articleRemarkable Ways Affiliate Groups Create Impact see more
by Michelle Laws
Peace Corps Volunteers’ dedication to service doesn’t disappear when they return home. Rather, it becomes enhanced. By joining an NPCA affiliate group, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers address issues like hunger, homelessness, education, and much more in both their local communities and abroad. Here are just a few of the phenomenal activities by our groups this year:
Magnolia State Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
Though small in number, these RPCVs made a mighty impact in Mississippi with their first service project. Working with the Mississippi Food Network, they dedicated their time to gathering supplies for food banks around the state. After becoming an official NPCA affiliate group in 2016, they look forward to expanding their service and outreach projects in 2017.
Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Los Angeles
Every RPCV knows that the holidays can be bittersweet when far from loved ones. To make them a little cheerier for currently serving Volunteers, the group sends out care packages to those who request them. Filled with magazines, hard to find seasoning, and tasty snacks, PCVs around the world receive a little bit of “home away from home” with each package. December 10th, they sent out 42 packages and have 16 waiting to be filled: http://bit.ly/2ghVAFF
Columbia River Peace Corps Association
RPCVs in the Oregon and Washington area provide meals for those affected by homelessness. Every month, they work with the Oregon Food Bank to coordinate over 45 million pounds of food to reach those in need throughout the region. Volunteers repackage and sort donated items so that they can be delivered in an efficient and effective manner.
Cincinnati Area Returned Volunteers
Leading the wave of RPCVs interested in utilizing their unique talents to help incoming refugees, CARV members have been active for the past year assisting Catholic Charities in refugee resettlement. Over 30 members contributed directly to making new Americans welcome by teaching English, providing transportation to appointments, gardening, moving furniture, and helping to organize World Refugee Day festivities. CARV is also currently mentoring a Syrian family of six.
Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington D.C.
In November of this year, ten RPCV/W members gathered to reinforce trail corridors, repair trail structures, and remove invasive plant species on the Holly and Pine Trails in the city’s Rock Creek Park. Following this, another group of ten RPCV/W members distributed 75 plastic bags filled with assorted groceries to at-need residents of a senior living complex in Columbia Heights.
Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of South Florida
This holiday season RPCVSF members are remembering those most in need — children. Through various gift drives, they gathered children’s books in Spanish, English, and French as well as a variety of toys. Group members then delivered all donations to youth in foster care with Educate Tomorrow.
These groups, as well as many others around the country, create positive impact and strengthen their communities through service. They prove that people-to-people conversations, assistance, and outreach bring people together. Those of us at NPCA are proud of the hard work and commitment by RPCVs to Peace Corps ideals after service. It is this dedication that makes our community as vibrant as it is. Thank you for all you do!