Ana Victoria Cruz posted an articleAn 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.
Authors Sebastian Junger and Sarah Chayes Headline Peace Corps Connect 2016 see more
Childhood friends and distinguished authors Sebastian Junger and Sarah Chayes traveled to Morocco together when they were 18. While there, they met a couple serving as Peace Corps Volunteers and their lives haven’t been the same since.
On Saturday, September 24, 2016, Mr. Junger and Ms. Chayes will reunite on the plenary stage of the National Peace Corps Association’s (NPCA) Peace Corps Connect conference in Washington, D.C. Author and documentarian Sebastian Junger will join Sarah Chayes (RPCV Morocco), senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, to reflect on their decades of experiences with war, peace and community — and why they think the Peace Corps is needed now more than ever.
In print and documentary form, Mr. Junger has explored firsthand the human experience through war and tragedy in works such as the bestselling Perfect Storm and War, and the Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo. Mr. Junger’s most recent book, Tribe, explores the cohesive community societies gain when they value shared experiences and responsibilities, and what is lost when they don’t.
After several years covering conflict as NPR’s Paris correspondent, including in Kosovo and in Afghanistan, Ms. Chayes put down her microphone to play an active part in rebuilding that wartorn country. Among other initiatives, she launched a manufacturing cooperative where men and women produce fine skincare products from local botanicals. Ms. Chayes later served as special assistant to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen. She is the author most recently of Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security, winner of the LA Times Book Prize.
NPCA will welcome Mr. Junger and Ms. Chayes at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium during the afternoon plenary session of the annual Peace Corps Connect conference. The five day event will explore how, through increased collaboration, attendees and community members can continue to champion Peace Corps ideals. This year’s event also celebrates 55 years of Peace Corps and the limitless potential of the community to continue to create change.
See the full program and register for the conference.
Ana Victoria Cruz posted an articleHundreds of members of the Peace Corps community gathered in Austin, TX to collaborate & innovate! see more
What happens when hundreds of members of the Peace Corps community get together to discuss innovation, collaboration, and service? An exhilarating two-and-a-half days of conversation on topics ranging from immigration to social media, economic development to climate change, and everything in between.
"What starts here changes the world." As our co-host, the Heart of Texas Peace Corps Association (HoTPCA), pointed out, this University of Texas at Austin saying applies to the shared Peace Corps experience and inspired attendees to be curious, go beyond expectations, and take what they learned in Austin back to their home communities.
The conference officially kicked off on Thursday, June 20th at the Austin Central Library with live music from RPCVs Kinky Friedman and Doster and Engle.
On Friday, the opening plenary session featured a conversation with Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen and NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst. Afterwards, they signed a Memorandum of Understanding to renew the organizations’ commitments to support the Peace Corps’ mission and continue to implement initiatives that educate the public on Peace Corps programs. “The signing of this memorandum gives returned Peace Corps Volunteers a framework for a lifetime of service,” said Jody Olsen. “I ask every person at this conference to be strong as you talk about your volunteer experiences. You are key to the next generation of Peace Corps Volunteers.”
Following, Kathleen Corey, President of the Women of Peace Corps Legacy, presented Sue Richiedei with the Deborah Harding Women of Achievement award for her outstanding impact on women's lives worldwide. NPCA Board Director Mariko Schmitz then presented the New York City Peace Corps Association (NYCPCA) and Peace Corps Iran Association (PCIA) with the 2019 Loret Miller Ruppe Award for Outstanding Community Service.
Whether you served decades ago or are a recently returned Volunteer, the conference offered tremendous value and networking opportunities. The community content sessions and workshops focused on a variety of topics, including how to use technology to launch a business, innovations in global issues advocacy, transition assistance for recent RPCVs, how to harness market forces for social impact, and ways to work together to create positive political change in era of "America First." As Tom Lightbown (RPCV Niger 1965-1967) pointed out: "We made some new friends, including youngsters fresh out of service, discovered RPCVs with white hair from other countries of service with stories to tell, made some quite important contacts of value to our Guinean friend Ahmadou Baldé, and, overall, had a very positive first experience with Peace Corps Connect."
The energy throughout the conference was palpable, as well as the level of engagement. With interactive sessions such as "Stepping Up - Politics: The Next Level of the Third Goal" and "Be an RPCV Changemaker: Connecting via the Web to Spark Community and Economic Development in Your Peace Corps Site" participants learned strategies on how to be catalysts for change, both at home and abroad.
"The PC Connect Conference was both informative and inspiring. The theme of the conference was “Innovation for Good" and the breakout sessions highlighted many RPCV created programs, companies, and NGOs that contribute to that objective." - Greg Polk (NM RPCV)
During the Affiliate Group Network Annual Meeting, the new Divisional Board Directors were presented and representatives from NPCA Affiliate Groups shared resources and opportunities to help groups thrive.
On Saturday, June 22, NPCA Board Director Katie Long kicked off the Annual General Membership Meeting with a special Peace Corps ukelele rendition of "You Can't Always Get What You Want," while NPCA Treasurer Patrick Fine provided a report on the financial status of the organization, and President Glenn Blumhorst outlined the successes of the past year.
During the Pitch Competition, six entities pleaded their case for a chance to win a $2,500 cash prize. The finalist were:
- Humans of Kiribati for its effort to save the island of Kiribati from rising sea levels
- Peace Corps Kids for promoting a just and inclusive world through multicultural and multiracial storytelling
- Trees for the Future's initiative Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal (BHAG) to break the cycle of poverty and eradicate hunger for 1 million people by planting 500 million trees in 125,000 Forest Gardens by 2025
- Jump Finance's credit model to provide students in developing countries with the capital and mentorship to finish their post-secondary education and launch their careers
- Teachers Training Pact, a programs for teachers who are helping transform students into successful lifelong learners
- Tiny House Coffee, a company created by two Peace Corps Volunteers that works directly with small producer coffee farmers to guarantee them economic stability.
Each finalist was scored based on their demonstrated social impact, innovation, sustainability, leadership, presentation, and clarity of concept. Ultimately, Jump Finance took the top prize.
As NPCA continues to celebrate its 40th anniversary, a special retrospective took a look at our formative years from the view point of the earliest leaders of the organization with Greg Flakus, First President (1986-1989); Margaret Riley, Third President (1983-1986); and Katy Hansen, Fourth President (1986-1989).
Attendees where also treated to a special excerpt from A Towering Task: A Peace Corps Documentary and a conversation with Director Alana DeJoseph who announced the premiere screening of the documentary is slated for September 22 at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.
During the closing plenary, Karen Keefer, NPCA Board Emeritus and Shriver Leadership Circle member, presented Liz Fanning with the 2019 Sargent Shriver Award for Distinguished Humanitarian Service for her tireless efforts to create and expand CorpsAfrica, a nonprofit organization that gives young Africans the opportunity to serve like Peace Corps Volunteers in their own countries.
The conversation then turned to a panel discussion examining the historic exodus from Central America and the humanitarian crisis at the U.S. southern border. Reflecting on the special screening of ABRAZOS earlier in the day, a film by Luis Argueta that shows the transformational journey of a group of U.S. citizen children of undocumented immigrants who travel from Minnesota to Guatemala to meet their grandparents—and in some instances their siblings—for the first time, NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst moderated a panel titled "Beyond Borders" featuring Maria Martin, Director of The Graciasvida Center for Media; John Burnett, Southwest Correspondent for National Public Radio; and Luis Argueta, acclaimed Guatemalan Film Director and Producer. The panelists underscored the need for policy solutions and the opportunities for the Peace Corps community to take action.
"We need to humanize immigrants. The global community needs to fight fiction with truth." - Luis Argueta
After the panel, Ken Lehman, NPCA's Advisory Council Member, presented Luis Argueta with the Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award. Lehman, in nominating Argueta for this award, noted that Argueta “has demonstrated that filmmakers from the developing world can produce world class stories illuminating important issues… [H]is involvement in the entire issue of Latino immigration has humanitarian dimensions, and civic meaning.”
In accepting the award, Argueta said "tell those who are fearful of people who are not like them about your host families" and challenged us to change the immigration narrative "from one of hate to one of love...we need to remember to practice the Golden Rule."
As the conference drew to a close, HoTPCA President Sally Waley announced Seattle as the host city for Peace Corps Connect 2020! She handed the "baton" over to Seattle Area Peace Corps Association (SEAPAX) President Brad Cleveland. The conference will have an emphasis on immigrants and refugees and will be centered around “Cultivating Connections.” While the exact dates are yet to be determined, SEAPAX leaders indicated they are looking for dates in the summer next year. Stay tuned for more information!
We're Coming to Austin! But our travels won't stop there. see more
What a great gathering of the Peace Corps community last weekend in Austin, Texas during Peace Corps Connect on June 20 - 22.
But our travels didn't stop there
Immediately following the conference, members of NPCA spread out across four states to meet with more RPCVs and former Peace Corps employees in the region.
Visit our events calendar or scroll through our itinerary (below) as a few stops remain in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas.
SUNDAY, JUNE 23
Meetup with NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst
Date: Sunday, June 23, 2019
Time: 6:00 pm
Location: L U C K (Local Urban Craft Kitchen) at Trinity Groves, 3011 Gulden Lane, #112, Dallas, TX 75212
Details: Fresh off the Peace Corps Connect national gathering in Austin, join leaders of the North Texas Peace Corps Association as they welcome NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst to Dallas. Meet Glenn and hear the latest NPCA news, including several exciting big plans for the Peace Corps community. For more details, contact Alexis Kanter at email@example.com.
SAN ANTONIO, TX
Peace Corps Community Dinner
Date: Sunday, June 23, 2019
Time: 6:00 pm
Location: Luna Rosa Restaurant, 2603 SE Military Drive, San Antonio, TX 78223
Details: Join San Antonio RPCVs for a community dinner, meet Will Burriss, NPCA’s Government Relations Officer, and hear the latest updates about the status of Peace Corps funding and other Peace Corps policy initiatives. To help us with our planning, please RSVP for the dinner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK
Peace Corps Advocacy Workshop
Date: Sunday, June 23, 2019
Time: 4:00 pm - 5:15 pm
Location: Headquarters of Feed the Children, 333 North Meridian Avenue, Oklahoma City, OK 73107
Details: Jonathan Pearson, NPCA's Advocacy Director, will conduct an advocacy workshop dealing with key Peace Corps issues before Congress, members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation, and the role RPCVs can play in helping make the Peace Corps the best it can be. All RPCVs across Oklahoma are invited to attend.
Peace Corps Community Dinner
Date: Sunday, June 23, 2019
Time: 5:30 pm
Location: Gopuram, Taste of India Restaurant. 412 South Meridian Avenue, Oklahoma City, OK 73108
Details: If you couldn’t join the advocacy workshop earlier in the day, join us for a community dinner. Along with learning the latest from the NPCA, connect with others and join a conversation about revitalizing an OKC area group and establishing better communication with the Tulsa and Stillwater groups. To help us with our planning, please RSVP for the dinner by contacting Richard at email@example.com.
MONDAY, JUNE 24
Fayetteville Coffee and Conversation with NPCA
Date: Monday, June 24, 2019
Time: Anytime between 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm
Location: U.S. Pizza, 202 W Dickson Street, Fayetteville, AR 72701
Details: Please stop by - even if only for a few minutes to say hello. Meet NPCA Advocacy Director Jonathan Pearson and connect with other members of the Fayetteville Peace Corps community. Hear the latest updates about the status of Peace Corps funding, other Peace Corps policy initiatives, and other big plans of the Peace Corps community. A comprehensive update will be presented between 5:30 pm and 6:00 pm. Jonathan will be at a table in the vicinity of the main entrance to Panera. He'll be wearing a blue Peace Corps baseball cap and will have copies of WorldView magazine, some Peace Corps bumper stickers, and more! For more details, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
TUESDAY, JUNE 25
LITTLE ROCK, AR
Little Rock Coffee and Conversation with NPCA
Date: Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Time: Anytime between 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm
Location: Panera Bread, 314 South University Avenue (Park Avenue Shopping Center), Little Rock, AR 72205
Details: Please stop by - even if only for a few minutes to say hello. Meet NPCA Advocacy Director Jonathan Pearson and connect with other members of the Little Rock Peace Corps community. Hear the latest updates about the status of Peace Corps funding, other Peace Corps policy initiatives, and other big plans of the Peace Corps community. A comprehensive update will be presented between 5:30 pm and 6:00 pm. Jonathan will be at a table in the vicinity of the main entrance to Panera. He'll be wearing a blue Peace Corps baseball cap and will have copies of WorldView magazine, some Peace Corps bumper stickers, and more! For more details, contact email@example.com.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 26
BATON ROUGE, LA
Peace Corps Community Happy Hour and Dinner
Date: Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Time: 6:30 pm
Location: The Rum House, 2112 Perkins Palms Avenue, Baton Rouge, LA 70808
Details: Join the RPCVs of Baton Rouge for a community happy hour and dinner. Meet Will Burriss, NPCA's Government Relations Officer, hear the latest updates about the status of Peace Corps funding, and other Peace Corps policy initiatives. Along with learning the latest from the NPCA, connect with other members of the Baton Rouge Peace Corps community. To help us with our planning, please RSVP for this event by contacting Will at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FORT SMITH, AR
Fort Smith Coffee and Conversation with NPCA
Date: Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Time: Anytime between 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm
Location: Panera Bread, 2917 South 74th Street, Fort Smith, AR 72903
Details: Please stop by - even if only for a few minutes to say hello. Meet NPCA Advocacy Director Jonathan Pearson and connect with other members of the Fort Smith Peace Corps community. Hear the latest updates about the status of Peace Corps funding and other Peace Corps policy initiatives. A comprehensive update will be presented between 5:30 pm and 6:00 pm. Jonathan will be at a table in the vicinity of the main entrance to Panera. He'll be wearing a blue Peace Corps baseball cap and will have copies of WorldView magazine, some Peace Corps bumper stickers, and more! For more details, contact email@example.com.
THURSDAY, JUNE 27
NEW ORLEANS, LA
Peace Corps Community Happy Hour
Date: Thursday, June 27, 2019
Time: 4:00 pm - 7:00 PM
Location: The Upper Quarter, 1000 Bienville Street, New Orleans, LA 70112
Details: Join the RPCVs of New Orleans for an informal community gathering. Meet Will Burriss, NPCA’s Government Relations Officer, hear the latest updates about the status of Peace Corps funding, and other Peace Corps policy initiatives. Along with learning the latest from the NPCA, connect with other members of the New Orleans community. To help us with our planning, please RSVP for the happy hour by contacting Will at William@PeaceCorpsConnect.org.
Congressional District Office Meetings on Peace Corps Issues
Date: Thursday, June 27, 2019
Details: We are seeking RPCV constituents of Congressman Hern and Senator Lankford to join in district office meetings we are seeking on the afternoon of June 27th. Contact Ed Seiders at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested and willing to be a strong voice for the Peace Corps!
Peace Corps Community Dinner
Date: Thursday, June 27, 2019
Time: 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Location: Home of Ed and Stella Seiders, 3152 South Rockford Drive, Tulsa, OK, 74105.
Details: If you couldn’t join the district office meetings earlier in the day, join us for a Tulsa Peace Corps community gathering. Enjoy some delicious Middle Eastern food. Meet NPCA Advocacy Director Jonathan Pearson, hear the latest updates about the status of Peace Corps funding, and other Peace Corps policy initiatives. Discuss the possibilities of re-establishing an NPCA affiliate group in Oklahoma. To help us with our planning, please RSVP for the dinner by contacting Ed Seiders at email@example.com.
FRIDAY, JUNE 28
NEW ORLEANS, LA
Peace Corps Community Coffee Hour
Date: Friday, June 28, 2019
Time: 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Location: Backatown Coffee Parlor, 301 Basin Street, Suite 1, New Orleans, LA 70112
Details: Join the RPCVs of New Orleans for a community gathering. Meet Will Burriss, NPCA’s Government Relations Officer, hear the latest updates about the status of Peace Corps funding, and other Peace Corps policy initiatives. Along with learning the latest from the NPCA, connect with other members of the New Orleans Peace Corps community. To help us with our planning, please RSVP for the coffee hour by contacting Will at William@PeaceCorpsConnect.org.
FORT WORTH, TX
Rep Granger District Office Meeting
Date: Friday, June 28, 2019
Location: Fort Worth district office of Representative Kay Granger - 1701 River Run, Suite 407, Fort Worth, TX 76107
Details: We are seeking RPCV constituents of Congresswoman Granger to join in a district office meeting we are seeking on the afternoon of June 28th. Contact Andy Castelano at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
Fort Worth Happy Hour with NPCA
Date: Friday, June 28, 2019
Time: 7:00 pm
Location: Flying Saucer Draught Emporium, 111 East 3rd Street, Fort Worth, TX 76102
Details: The North Texas Peace Corps Association invites you to start your weekend by stopping by for a Peace Corps community happy hour! Connect with other members of the Fort Worth Peace Corps community. Meet NPCA Advocacy Director Jonathan Pearson, hear the latest updates about the status of Peace Corps funding and other Peace Corps policy initiatives. For more details, contact Andy Castelano email@example.com.
SATURDAY, JUNE 29
Waco Coffee and Conversation with NPCA
Date: Saturday, June 29, 2019
Time: Anytime between 8:00 am and 10:00 am
Location: Panera Bread, 2516 W Loop 340, Waco, TX 76711
Details: Please stop by - even if only for a few minutes to say hello. Meet NPCA Advocacy Director Jonathan Pearson and connect with other members of the Waco Peace Corps community. Hear the latest updates about the status of Peace Corps funding, other Peace Corps policy initiatives, and other big plans of the Peace Corps community. Jonathan will be at a table in the vicinity of the main entrance to Panera. He'll be wearing a blue Peace Corps baseball cap and will have copies of WorldView magazine, some Peace Corps bumper stickers, and more! For more details, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Building a Texas Peace Corps Advocacy Network
Date: Saturday, June 29, 2019
Time: Anytime between 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm
Location: The Brewtorium, 6015 Dillard Circle, Suite A, Austin TX 78752
Details: Didn't get enough "Peace Corps" at Peace Corps Connect? Neither did we! Following a week-long tour through the region and just before departing the Lone Star State, NPCA Advocacy Director will be back in Austin for a session with Heart of Texas Peace Corps Association members and others who want to share their Peace Corps stories and build their advocacy skills with elected representatives. Whether you're a seasoned-citizen lobbyist or just back from your service, stop by to discuss and consider strengthening our Peace Corps advocacy footprint in Austin and beyond! For more details, contact email@example.com.
Contact us for more details about Glenn's upcoming stops during the week of June 30th to Asheville, Greensboro and Charlotte!
Kul Chandra Gautam is the seventh recipient of this award see more
National Peace Corps Association Honors Nepali Diplomat Kul Gautam
Whose Ties to Peace Corps Volunteers Date Back to 1962
Shawnee PA (Friday August 24) -- Kul Chandra Gautam, a native of Nepal who rose from humble beginnings to become a distinguished United Nations diplomat and peace advocate, has received the highest honor bestowed to a global leader by National Peace Corps Association (NPCA).
Gautam, who currently serves as chairman of the board of the international anti-poverty non-profit RESULTS, accepted The Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award at NPCA’s annual Peace Corps Connect conference on Friday August 24 in Shawnee, PA.
The annual award is named for the former U.S. Senator who was instrumental in the formation of the Peace Corps in 1961 as a special assistant to President John F. Kennedy. NPCA is the largest non-profit organization representing Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.
Born in a small village without running water or electricity, Gautam’s ties to the Peace Corps date back to 1962 when he attended a school in Tansen, about a three-day walk from his home. According to his official biography, Gautam, an outstanding student, “became good friends with several U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers who were English language teachers at the school. He learned to play Scrabble with them and surprised them by often beating them – quite a feat for a Nepali 7th or 8th grader.”
Recognizing Gautam’s talents, Peace Corps volunteers encouraged Gautam to seek a college scholarship in the United States. Gautam eventually graduated with degrees from Dartmouth College and Princeton University and then worked for UNICEF over three decades, rising to become Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations in the early 2000s.
After retiring from the UN, Gautam was briefly Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Nepal on International Affairs and the Peace Process. He continues informally to advise his country’s senior political and civil society leadership on the peace process, consolidation of democracy, human rights, and socio-economic development.
"I am thrilled and most grateful for this honor,” said Gautam. “My experience with the Peace Corps has been a source of great inspiration for me from my early student days in Nepal and throughout my long career with the United Nations in the service of the world's poor and disadvantaged, particularly women and children. This prestigious award will further motivate me to continue to dedicate the rest of my life to pursue the core Peace Corps values of service, peace, development, human rights and global human solidarity.”
In describing the award, NPCA CEO Glenn Blumhorst noted: “This award honors an outstanding global leader who grew up in a country where Peace Corps Volunteers served, whose life was influenced by the Peace Corps, and whose career contributed significantly to their nation and the world in ways that reflect shared values in human dignity and economic, social, and political development.”
"Kul Gautam's connections to Peace Corps are extensive and deep, starting with his 7th grade teacher in Nepal in 1962 through his speech at the 55th anniversary of Peace Corps Nepal in 2017,” the NPCA awards selection committee noted. “In the years in between, he dedicated his career to improving lives and working towards peace in all corners of the globe. We are so pleased to honor Kul, who so fully embodies all that the Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award represents."
Gautam was nominated by RPCV Doug Hall of New Hampshire. After serving in the Peace Corps in Nepal in the late 1960s, Hall first met Gautam as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College in 1971.
“I am so happy that NPCA has selected Kul Gautam for this year's Wofford award,” said Hall. “Kul's long career in the UN and subsequent activity back in Nepal exemplify his dedication to global and national leadership and commitment to goals that all Peace Corps Volunteers have shared over the years: international understanding and peace. Throughout his life, he has not been hesitant to praise President Kennedy's vision in establishing the unique institution that is the US Peace Corps."
Besides serving as board chair of RESULTS, Gautam also supports several other international and national organizations, charitable foundations and public private partnerships. He is the author of “Lost in Transition: Rebuilding Nepal from the Maoist mayhem and mega earthquake” published in 2015, and his recently published memoir: “Global Citizen from Gulmi: My journey from the hills of Nepal to the halls of the United Nations”.
Gautam is the winner of several other awards, including the Audrey Hepburn Humanitarian Award conferred by the US Fund for UNICEF in 2008, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Social Justice Award for Lifetime Achievement given by Dartmouth College in 2009. He is donating proceeds from his latest book and the monetary component that accompanies the Harris Wofford award to a UNICEF-assisted girls’ education project in Nepal.
To learn more about NPCA, go to: www.peacecorpsconnect.org
To learn more about Kul Chandra Gautam, go to: www.kulgautam.org
(photo: Kul Gautam accepts the Wofford Global Citizen Award from NPCA President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst)
JM Ascienzo posted an articleOn Capitol Hill, new legislation is introduced to address key RPCV service related health issues see more
Representatives Ted Poe (R-TX) and Sam Farr (D-CA) introduced Peace Corps healthcare legislation earlier today that would provide Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) with service-related conditions greater healthcare, including an increase in worker's compensation benefits and extending the length of time they remain under Peace Corps' care. The bipartisan Sam Farr Peace Corps Enhancement Act (H.R. 6037) also reauthorizes key provisions of the Kate Puzey Act, including the extension of the Office of Victim Advocacy to care for survivors of sexual assault, and the extension of Peace Corps' Sexual Assault Advisory Council to 2023.
Through a press release on his website Rep. Poe said, “Congress took a historic step in passing the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act in 2011, but there is more work to be done to protect our angels abroad...This bill will go even further to both keep volunteers healthy and ensure that those who have experienced sexual assault have the assistance and protection they need. These safeguards are necessary not only to protect current volunteers, but also to ensure more young Americans join the Peace Corps in the future.”
“Since its establishment in 1961, Peace Corps has served as a vehicle for peace, hope and compassion,” said Rep. Farr. “I’m deeply humbled to have Judge Poe, a strong advocate for Peace Corps Volunteers in his own right, name this bill after me and I’m honored to cosponsor it. Expanding, promoting and improving Peace Corps has been a passion of mine since serving in Colombia from 1964-1966 and I look forward to using my remaining few months in Congress to continue this important mission.”
Other provisions in the legislation attempt to strengthen anti-malarial protections for currently serving volunteers, strengthen the number and training requirements for Peace Corps Medical Officers, removes the Peace Corps five-year rule from certain management support positions, and requires further publication requirements for the annual volunteer satisfaction survey.
Several of the key RPCV health provisions in the legislation have been advocated by Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers, an NPCA affiliate group established several years ago to raise more awareness and support for RPCVs facing health challenges stemming from their Peace Corps service.
Health legislation, as well as strong funding for the Peace Corps, will be key issues raised during NPCA's Capitol Hill Advocacy Day on Thursday, September 22.
Follow this link to read a summary of H.R. 6037.
Follow this link to read the legislation.
Follow this link to add your support for Peace Corps funding and health legislation in advance of NPCA's Capitol Hill advocacy day.
Beautiful faces at Peace Corps Connect 2016 see more
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia addressed the Peace Corps community during the presentation of the Deborah Harding Women of Achievement Award ceremony on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016.
Team Michigan en route to tell members of Congress that America and the world need a bigger, better Peace Corps.
Ms. Barbara Busch speaks to the Peace Corps community about the work of the NPCA Ad Hoc Committee in Support of Refugees and Migrants.
Averill Strasser and Beverly Rouse, COO and Executive Director of Water Charity, respectively, with friends planning next steps for impact abroad.
Ambassador Karl Eikenberry with Afghanistan Peace Corps Volunteers (and India RPCV friends)
Sebastian Junger, author of Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging and documentarian of the film Restrepo, speaking with
lifelong friend and colleague Sarah Chayes (RPCV Morocco), author of Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security.
Jesse Bailey, RPCV Morocco; Skido Achulo, Embassy of Ghana; Representative James P. McGovern, D-MA;
David Magnani, RPCV Sierra Leone; and Natalie Hall, RPCV Thailand
Heavy traffic in the exhibit hall at Peace Corps Connect 2016.
The conference included over thirty breakout sessions on peacebuilding, development, global health and more.
On far right: RoseAnn Rotandaro, Founder and Exec. Dir. of The Village Link, with the panelists of
The ABCs of Corporate Classification and Sourcing Funds for Public Interest Ventures
Angene and Jack Wilson, RPCVs Liberia
From left: Harris Wofford, Brigid Andrew, Mr. Ibrahima Sankare, Michele Magera, Alpha Konate and Stacy Rhodes
presenting Mr. Sankare the Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award.
Kathryn Lusk of KaBoom and Phil Lilienthal, President of Global Camps Africa.
Daughters of Loret Miller Ruppe presented the Friends of Liberia, Friends of Guinea, and Friends of Sierra Leone with the
Loret Miller Ruppe Award for Outstanding Community Service for their work with NPCA and the Ebola Relief Fund.
The crowd at the Walk for Peace stretched down city blocks as they marched to Capitol Hill.
Mosche Snowden plays at the U.S. Capitol during the Walk for Peace.
NPCA Board Chair Joby Taylor and friends on the Walk for Peace.
Tom Appel and friends
The Walk for Peace stopped at the White House to remind another leader that the world needs the Peace Corps, and now more than ever.
More photos coming soon!
JM Ascienzo posted an articleRegistered for the September 22nd Capitol Hill Advocacy Day? Here's all the information you need. see more
NPCA's Capitol Hill Advocacy Day
Important Info, Reminders and Agenda
Welcome! If you're reading this it's because you've decided to join nearly 250 Peace Corps community members to champion an improved, expanded Peace Corps on Thursday, September 22. We'll be urging Congress for more funding for Peace Corps and better healthcare for Returned Peace Corps volunteers. Whether you're a seasoned Peace Corps advocate or it's your first time on the Hill, we've got all the info and materials you need to make an impact. See you soon!
— Jonathan and J.M.
Advocacy 101 Webinar, 12:00 Noon EDT, September 18: New to Capitol Hill advocacy or need a refresher course on what to expect? We've got you covered. This 45-minute session will focus on topics ranging from what a congressional office meeting is like to how to prepare for the day. For in-depth discussion on talking points and issues, join us for the in-person orientation (below). Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up for September 18 with the subject line "Advocacy 101 Webinar."
In-Person, 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM, Wednesday, September 21, Lutheran Church of the Reformation, 212 East Capitol St NE, Washington, DC 20003: Registration will begin at 5:30 PM, and our orientation program will begin at 6:00 PM. During the orientation you'll meet others in your state delegations, and we'll go over specifics on our advocacy issues — including recently-introduced health legislation and Peace Corps funding —and answer any questions. The in-person orientation is strongly encouraged.
Capitol Hill Advocacy Day
All Day, Thursday, September 22
Registration, 7:15 AM to 8:00 AM, Lutheran Church of the Reformation, 212 East Capitol St NE, Washington, DC 20003: Continued registration, and meet up with your meeting delegations over coffee/tea and breakfast items.
Kickoff, 8:00 AM to 9:15 AM, Lutheran Church of the Reformation: Remarks by the Peace Corps community's Congressional champs and special guests. Many of you will have meetings starting at 10 AM, though a few groups may have meetings earlier, and will need to leave the kickoff early.
Meetings, throughout the day, House and Senate Office Buildings: Access to your meetings and delegations, talking points and leave-behind materials, and maps of Capitol Hill will be available both in-hand and by mobile app closer to September 22.
Reception and Awards Ceremony, 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM, Hart Senate Office Building, Room 902: Please join us to celebrate the day with your fellow advocates and Hill staff, and to honor Colombia RPCV Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) for his decades of service to the Peace Corps community, and the recipients of NPCA's Sam Farr Congressional Leadership Award, Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY). Beverages and hors d'oeuvres will be served.
Staging Room, 10:30 AM to 4:30 PM: Hart Senate Office Building Room 512 will be our staging area throughout the day. There you can reconnect with team members, write thank you notes and meeting reports, drop off luggage, or take a break! Hart 512 will be staffed throughout the day.
Arriving on September 22 after 10:30 AM?: Go first to Hart Senate Office Building Room 512 — our staging room — to get your meeting materials.
What should I wear? Please dress as you would for an interview — with footwear ready for plenty of walking — or if possible in clothing from your country of service. We'll have NPCA advocacy swag for you, but wear all the Peace Corps pride you want!
Will there be food? There will be coffee/tea and breakfast items at the morning kickoff (7:15 AM to 9:30 AM) and beverages and hors d'oeuvres at the reception and awards ceremony (5:00 PM to 7:00 PM). There are cafeterias and coffee shops in most Senate and House office buildings. Food is allowed to be brought in to all Senate and House office buildings, and we encourage you to carry light snacks or fruit with you.
How do I get there? We recommend accessing Capitol Hill area by the Metro subway, exiting at either Union Station on the red line or Capitol South on the orange, silver and blue lines. These metro stops are about a 10-15 minute walk from the Lutheran Church of the Reformation.
What should I bring? Smiles, good attitudes, and something to take plenty of pictures with!
State Resources! Visit NPCA's State Advocacy Toolkits page for background on your lawmakers, their past support for Peace Corps issues, and Peace Corps' presence in your state.
Advocacy Day Issue Materials: Talking points and leave behinds for 1) Sam Farr Peace Corps Enhancement Act (health bill) and 2) Peace Corps funding. *We will have these printed for you in your registration packets.
New to the Hill? Check out these key guidelines for making any meeting a success.
Want to tweet and post to social media? Please do! Use the hashtags #NPCAHillDay, #PeaceCorps55, #PeaceCorpsNOW, and #RPCVHealth for general advocacy, and #MrPeaceCorps to celebrate Rep. Sam Farr's decades of service to the Peace Corps community.
Questions or Concerns?
They'll all be answered at the in-person orientation on September 21. But for anything pressing or for last minute cancelations, contact Jonathan or J.M. from the advocacy team.
Jonathan Pearson: email@example.com / (202) 293-7728 ext 21
J.M. Ascienzo: firstname.lastname@example.org / (202) 293-7728 ext 24
Peace Corps Connect Conference Registration
Finally, while most of have already done so, there is still time to register for other events during our Peace Corps Connect Conference. See Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and authors Sebastian Junger and Sara Chayes. Check out action oriented workshops and visit our sold out exhibit space. Plan to participate in a Walk for Peace. See old friends, make new ones, and learn more about how to continue to commit to Peace Corps ideals. You can register right here, right now!
The Peace Corps Connect Conference Will Unite Global Leaders, Development Experts, and Academics — And They Happen to be WomenWomen of the World Unite! see more
By co-hosting the 2016 Peace Corps Connect conference, the National Peace Corps Association invited leaders in economic development, environmental sustainability, equality of marginalized populations, global health, and security to speak to an audience of development experts. In addition to their work in these fields, the respective leaders champion women’s rights.
Register now for this important event.
On September 22, Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-TX) and Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) will receive the National Peace Corps Association’s Congressional Leadership Award. They are the Chairwoman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Subcommittee. Congresswoman Granger has also been recognized for her humanitarian efforts in attacking the practice of human trafficking, among other issues. Congresswoman Lowey, former Chair of the Congressional Women's Caucus, is a leader in the fight against domestic violence.
September 23, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will address the Peace Corps community during the presentation of the Deborah Harding Women of Achievement Award ceremony. President Sirleaf, a lifelong advocate for girls and women, is Africa's first democratically elected female Head of State. During her career, she has been a voice for peace and reconciliation, serving on committees investigating conflict in her own country, the Rwandan genocide and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and was selected by UNIFEM to report on the impact and importance of women in peacebuilding. The Deborah Harding Award honors a Peace Corps Volunteer whose contributions have made a significant difference in the lives of women and girls in the world. This inaugural award will celebrate Sara Goodkind, founder of Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) Camps, now implemented in Peace Corps countries worldwide.
The same day Dr. Margee Ensign, President of the American University of Nigeria, will speak about creating opportunities for girls who escaped from Boko Haram, and how each can get the education they deserve. She will speak to the importance of empowering girls and women around the world and how the Peace Corps community, in partnership with the White House Let Girls Learn Initiative, can play a leading role in these efforts.
On September 24, Sarah Chayes, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, will reflect on her decades of experiences with war, peace and community. The Morocco RPCV will be joined a colleague and friend, Sebastian Junger. After several years covering conflicts as NPR’s Paris correspondent, including in Kosovo and in Afghanistan, Ms. Chayes put down her microphone to play an active part in rebuilding that war-torn countries. Ms. Chayes later served as special assistant to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen. She is the author most recently of Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security, winner of the LA Times Book Prize.
Breakout sessions include The Peace Corps Experience: Providing Leadership Opportunities for Women as Volunteers and Beyond and Gender Equity in Environmental Sustainability.
For more information and to register for the event, visit our 2016 Peace Corps Connect page.
Strengthening NPCA support networks will be on the agenda at Peace Corps Connect. see more
We’re used to reading or watching news stories about members of the Peace Corps community. But the article that appeared in March, 2015 in the Boston Globe was not one of continued service, going back to one’s Peace Corps country. The feature story – Boston’s Homeless Rely on Each Other to Survive Record Winter – included an interview with Shawn Grady, a Mali Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) who had fallen on hard times and found himself living in community shelters during one of the region’s severest winters on record.
The story was noticed by members of the Boston Area RPCVs (BARPCV), whose leadership reached out to connect with Shawn. Group leaders who met initially with Shawn described him as a kind, positive individual, who had struggled with readjusting back home. Part of that was due to a serious head injury he sustained during a motorcycle accident during Peace Corps service, which contributed to his present-day challenges.
The story was also picked up by the group Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers, which along with the Boston group reached out to provide support and guidance to Shawn in his efforts to apply for assistance at both the national and state level.
And, it attracted the attention of the NPCA, whose President, Glenn Blumhorst, met with Shawn this past April during a visit with members of the Boston Peace Corps community.
"It was a real pleasure to spend an afternoon meeting Shawn, learning about his Peace Corps experience and gaining more perspective into how the Peace Corps community might be able to provide assistance to him and others in similar predicaments."
There have been some steps forward for Shawn. A caseworker from the homeless shelter who was working with Shawn helped him secure disability funding through the state of Massachusetts and also helped him find an apartment. BARPCV provided Shawn with a grant to cover the security deposit. Along with the grant, “BARPCV lent him our support in the form of friendship and encouragement,” said Christina Donnelly, who is among those members of the group who get together with Shawn from time to time. “With our assistance, Shawn was able to make a smooth transition from shelter back to living in his own place.”
NPCA has invited Shawn to be with us at Peace Corps Connect, and participate in a Friday afternoon session devoted to building a stronger support network for members of our community facing difficult times, from homelessness, to health care and beyond.
“RPCVs in need can be found across the country,” said Blumhorst. “While there are already some great individual examples of RPCVs reaching out to assist a fellow alumni in need, we want to strengthen and expand this network so we can be more pro-active in our community response. We look forward to our Peace Corps Connect session serving as the next step in that development.”
Celebrate our Community’s 55 Years at Peace Corps Connect and at American University’s Peace Corps Community ArchiveArchiving 55 Years of History see more
Alongside the 2016 Peace Corps Connect conference in Washington, D.C., American University Archives and Special Collections is debuting two exhibits highlighting the Peace Corps Community Archive — one on campus and the other online.
The Peace Corps through the Lens of its Volunteers will be on display through the end of the semester on the third floor of the Bender Library. The Peace Corps and Its Volunteers, the online companion exhibit, is permanent.
- Preparing for Abroad
- Service Abroad
- Common Service Projects
- Friendship and Travel
- Witness to History
Representatives from the Archive will be present at the 2016 Peace Corps Connect conference. Attendees can inquire about the digital collection associated with the exhibit, which includes some items that are not featured.
The Peace Corps Community Archive is curated by the American University Library and supported by the National Peace Corps Association. It collects, preserves, and makes available materials that were created and acquired by Volunteers. The archive is also used to support scholarly research and provide educational programs that document the experiences and impact of individuals who served in the Peace Corps.
For more information, please visit the Peace Corps Community Archive website.
To use the collections or make a donation, please contact the American University Archives at email@example.com.
We are getting ready to storm Capitol Hill! The only thing missing is you! see more
Enjoy telling your Peace Corps story? When it comes to impacting the world, the most important people with whom to share your experience are your elected representatives in Congress. They are the ones who play a lead role in deciding the future of the Peace Corps.
As part of Peace Corps Connect, NPCA advocates will be on Capitol Hill in a big way, all day, on September 22, 2016.
You can join in, but you need to register for our Capitol Hill Advocacy Day by Monday, September 5!
By joining us, you will make sure there is a Peace Corps buzz in Capitol Hill offices and hallways that will rekindle the moment when the Peace Corps movement began. For it was on September 22, 1961 that President Kennedy signed into law the original Peace Corps Act, which created the agency and governs its policies to this day.
Now, 55 years later, nearly 200 advocates are already registered for NPCA’s Capitol Hill Advocacy Day. They are coming from 33 states to make the case for strong funding to ensure the Peace Corps’ future, and reform legislation to improve health services for RPCVs with service-related illness or injuries.
Colombia RPCVs Kay and Kevin Dixon of Spokane, Washington are among those coming to Peace Corps Connect and coming in time to be citizen advocates in support of the Peace Corps. Kay says when it comes to her congresswoman, "I never want her to be a position to reply 'no one told me about X, Y or Z.' She must be kept aware of the Peace Corps and that we are active constituents and participate in the voting process in her district."
Nearly one hundred congressional meetings are already scheduled, and many more are on the way! The full extent of our impact is directly related to your participation! We want more RPCVs and former staff from all across the country to personally attest to the power of a strong, vibrant and well-resourced Peace Corps.
Our top fifteen states where we particularly need additional citizen advocates? Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.
You can shape policy and make history. No previous advocacy experience is required. All that is required is that you register today!
On the Front Lines in Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals: Global Industry Experts from the Peace Corps CommunityGuess who's on the front lines in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals? see more
To set the world on a path towards positive change, global leaders agreed on the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015. This agenda includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which set out quantitative objectives across the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of global development — all to be achieved by 2030.
Who are the experts working to surpass these goals? Members of the Peace Corps community.
At the Peace Corps Connect conference September 21-25, 2016, world leaders, senior government officials, academic experts, and authors will meet in Washington, D.C. to discuss the global issues of our time.
The conference will explore tactical-level actions to meet key SDGs, as well as our members' involvement in each. Because attendees represent diverse segments of our global community, they will provide answers to the following significant questions:
- What innovation is required to achieve inclusive economic growth and combat inequality within and among countries?
- What are best practices in improving agricultural productivity, rural development, and access to affordable agriculture finance in active Peace Corps countries?
- How do environmental practitioners, researchers, and policy makers identify and respond to gender considerations within the context of climate change?
- What are best practices to develop funding streams for micro-credit programs?
- What are effective ways to promote equality and empowerment of marginalized populations worldwide, such as girls and women, and LGBTQ, indigenous and minority communities?
- How can the Peace Corps community look at food through the lens of public health in order to improve prenatal nutrition, breastfeeding, and children's nutrition?
- How can people living in conflict-affected communities without positive experience of the “other” learn to cooperate through experiential peacebuilding?
- How can geospatial technologies help address issues of climate change and promote environmental sustainability?
- How can Peace Corps’ extended community increase the tolerance of diverse voices and opposing points of view throughout the world?
- How do we influence domestic and foreign policy to promote healthy, peaceful and inclusive societies?
The event will provide concrete and actionable responses to these questions, and is open to anyone interested in sharpening their development skillsets. To learn more or register for the Peace Corps Connect conference click here.
Nobel Peace Laureate and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Joining Peace Corps Connect ConferenceGuess which of the world's presidents will speak at 2016 Peace Corps Connect see more
The National Peace Corps Association is pleased to announce that Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will be a featured speaker at the Peace Corps Connect conference in Washington, D.C., on September 23-24, 2016. The President will present the inaugural Deborah Harding Women of Achievement Award at Friday morning’s opening plenary. The award is given by the Women of Peace Corps Legacy, a group dedicated to empowering girls and women and celebrating their contributions to communities around the world.
Register now to be a part of this important event.
Meet President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
As a lifelong advocate for girls and women, the world’s first democratically-elected African female head of state, and a personal friend of Deborah Harding, President Johnson Sirleaf’s presentation of this award is uniquely poignant. Born in Liberia in 1938, President Johnson Sirleaf has worked tirelessly and with integrity for the betterment of her country – even serving a 10-year prison sentence for speaking out against corrupt government leadership in 1985.
President Johnson Sirleaf has been a vocal advocate for women’s empowerment, as well as the their crucial role in peacebuilding. Upon her election to the presidency in 2005, she made girls education a priority. Under her leadership, fees to attend primary school were abolished, leading to an 82 percent increase in enrollment. Within three years of her presidency, education programs became the second biggest program in Liberia’s budget.
President Johnson Sirleaf is also responsible for Peace Corps’ return to Liberia, a program she has described as “[impacting] the lives of millions throughout the world by bringing Americans across the ocean, teaching students and training teachers, and making our world a smaller place.”
Presenting the Inaugural Deborah Harding Women of Achievement Award
President Johnson Sirleaf will address the attendees of the Peace Corps Connect conference, and present the Deborah Harding Women of Achievement Award — the first accolade dedicated to honoring female Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) whose service has significantly benefited women and girls around the world. The award is given by the Women of Peace Corps Legacy and is named in honor of Deborah Harding, for her lifetime commitment to the U.S. Peace Corps and women's leadership.
The first recipient of the Women of Achievement Award will be Sara Goodkind, who began the Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) program as a PCV in Romania in 1995. GLOW camps now exist in over 60 countries to empower young women and address their unique social and health needs.
Peace Corps Connect is the Peace Corps community’s annual conference to connect, engage and inspire our community. The 2016 event in Washington D.C. will commemorate 55 years of Peace Corps and the global impact of the Peace Corps community. Register now.
Development Expert, Author, and President of American University of Nigeria: Dr. Margee Ensign to Speak at Peace Corps Connect in Washington D.C.University President "didn't get the fear gene" see more
National Peace Corps Association is proud to announce Dr. Margee Ensign as a featured speaker at Peace Corps Connect in Washington D.C., September 21-25, 2016. Dr. Ensign is president of the American University of Nigeria (AUN), located in Yola, Adamawa, one of the three northeastern Nigerian states still under a state of emergency. She also leads the Adamawa Peace Initiative (API), which has successfully promoted peace in the area through education, empowerment, community development and humanitarian relief work in the region.
Dr. Ensign has worked in Africa for fifteen years and served as an advisor to the governments of Uganda and Rwanda. She is a widely published scholar whose work focuses primarily on the challenges of international development, as well as on the implications of development assistance. She co-authored Rwanda: History and Hope, a book in which she and AUN Trustee and Tulane University Professor Dr. William Bertrand document Rwanda’s rebuilding efforts since 1994. She is also co-editor of Confronting Genocide in Rwanda and author of Doing Good or Doing Well? Japan’s Foreign Aid Program and Images and Behavior of Private Bank Lending to Developing Countries.
The following segment from the article “Escape From Boko Haram” out of Smithsonian Magazine provides a snapshot of Dr. Ensign’s leadership and determination in her role at AUN:
In northern Nigeria, a fearless American educator has created a refuge for young women desperate to evade the terrorist group
By Joshua Hammer; Smithsonian Magazine, September 2015
Shortly before six o’clock in the morning on August 30, 2014, Margee Ensign, president of the American University of Nigeria, met with her security chief in the large house that she occupies on campus, in Yola, near the nation’s eastern border, in Adamawa State. The news was bad. The chief, Lionel Rawlins, had gone to get the half-dozen security guards that Ensign was counting on to help her with a daring rescue mission, but the guards were asleep, or perhaps pretending to be, and couldn’t, or wouldn’t, be roused.
“They were afraid,” Rawlins later recalled.
Running a college doesn’t often entail making split-second decisions about daredevil forays into hostile territory, but as this Saturday dawned for the energetic five-foot California native with a doctorate in international political economy, it was gut-check time.
“The president looked at me and I looked at her, and I knew what she was thinking,” Rawlins said.
“We’re going,” Ensign said.
So they headed north in two Toyota vans, a suddenly meager contingent—Ensign, Rawlins, a driver and one other security guard—dashing down the crumbling two-lane highway through arid scrubland, deeper into remote country terrorized by the ruthless, heavily armed militant group called Boko Haram.
Rawlins, a former U.S. Marine, had contacts with vigilante groups in northern Nigeria, and thought he might be able to summon them if the going got tough. “All the way up there I’m playing war games in my mind,” he remembered.
After three tense hours on the road, expecting to be ambushed by terrorists wielding automatic rifles at any moment, the little convoy rounded a corner and Ensign saw 11 girls and their families and friends waving and yelling at the vehicles approaching in clouds of dust.
The girls had attended a boarding school near Chibok, an obscure provincial town that is now famous because of the attack on the school the previous April. The astonishing crime attracted attention worldwide, including the Twitter campaign #BringBackOurGirls.
On that nightmarish night of the April abduction, 57 of the 276 kidnapped girls were able to jump off the trucks that were spiriting them away, and flee into the bush. They eventually returned to their villages to spend the broiling summer with their families, fearing another kidnapping mission every night. One of those Chibok escapees had a sister at the American University of Nigeria, and it was she who approached Ensign in her campus office, pleading, “What can you do to help?”
Ensign resolved to bring some of the girls who’d escaped to the university, where they could live and complete their secondary schooling before beginning college coursework, all on full scholarship. The girls and their parents warmed to the idea, then risked everything to make the extraordinary roadside rendezvous from their scattered small villages in the bush with the university president herself—an unforgettable encounter. “They were so scared, so skinny,” Ensign said of the girls. “They had no money, no food, and they had all their possessions in little plastic bags.”
As the van engines kept running, Ensign leapt out, greeted the girls and their families and told them “with cool assurance” (Rawlins’ words) that all would be well. (“I didn’t get the fear gene,” Ensign later told me.) Quickly, about 200 locals gathered. Rawlins cast a wary glance at a group of men on the edge of the crowd whom nobody seemed to recognize. “We knew Boko Haram was in the area,” Rawlins said. He turned to Ensign and the others. “We’ve got ten minutes,” he told them. “Kiss everybody goodbye you want to kiss.” Then he began a countdown for the 22 people, girls and parents alike, who would go to Yola. “Five minutes. Three minutes. Two minutes. Get in the vans!”