Skip to Main Content

Peace Corps-Rotary Partnership

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    Volunteers Serving in Times of Need see more

    In 2021 Peace Corps Response marks a quarter century since its founding. Some moments that have defined it.

     

    Photo: Community members in a village near Zomba, Malawi, learn to sew reusable sanitary pads for girls. Sheila Matsuda captured the moment as a Response Volunteer in Malawi 2018–19.

     

    Crisis Corps was launched in 1996. At the outset, Volunteers were deployed to respond to natural disasters and assist with relief in the aftermath of violence. Over the years, the program expanded in scope, and Volunteers are now sent to meet a variety of targeted needs in communities around the world. In 2007, the name of the program changed to Peace Corps Response to reflect this shift.

    Here’s a little history — including the program’s origins.

     

     

     

    1992 | Beginnings

    NAMIBIA: Peace Corps approves first short-term assignments. Ten Volunteers already serving elsewhere transfer to Namibia, responding to a prolonged, devastating drought.

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

     

     

    1994 | April

    RWANDA: The president is assassinated, and a campaign of genocide unfolds. Returned Volunteers work with National Peace Corps Association to activate the NPCA Emergency Response Network and deploy RPCVs to support work with refugees. Peace Corps, in conjunction with the International Rescue Committee, also transfers five Volunteers to the Burigi refugee camp, where they serve for five months.

     

    1995 | September

    LESSER ANTILLES bears the brunt of Hurricane Luis. More than 3,000 people are left homeless. Eight RPCVS re-enroll with the Peace Corps, travel to Antigua, and help rebuild homes and provide training on hurricane-resistant construction.

     Photo: NASA

     

     

     

    1996 | June 19

    CRISIS CORPS is officially launched at a Rose Garden ceremony with President Bill Clinton and Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan. The Peace Corps is “based on a simple yet powerful idea: That none of us alone will ever be as strong as we can all be if we’ll all work together,” Clinton says.

     Photo: Peace Corps 

     

     

    1996 | December

    NATIONAL PRESS CLUB: Peace Corps Director Gearan announces plans for a “reserve” of up to 100 Crisis Corps Volunteers; some to travel to Guinea and Ivory Coast to work with Liberian refugees.

     

    1997 | July

    CENTRAL EUROPE hit by devastating floods. RPCVs who served in the Czech Republic return with Crisis Corps to assist relief efforts.

     Photo: Bohumil Blahuš

     

     

     

    1998 | September

    CARIBBEAN countries blasted by Hurricane Georges; more than 300 killed. Crisis Corps and Peace Corps Volunteers in Dominican Republic help with home reconstruction and emergency water and sanitation projects.

     Photo: Debbie Larson / National Weather Service

     

     

    1998 | October

    CENTRAL AMERICA slammed by Hurricane Mitch. Hundreds of RPCVs who served in the region contact the agency to serve; Volunteers already in the region assist, too. Relief efforts in Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. Crisis Corps Volunteers have also served in Chile, following an earthquake, and in Paraguay in the wake of flooding.

     

    2000 | June

    HIV/AIDS CRISIS: Peace Corps Director Mark Schneider calls on RPCVs to consider devoting their time, skills, and experience to serve in Crisis Corps as part of a new HIV/AIDS initiative. Five African countries have requested Volunteers in this capacity.

     Photo Credit: Peace Corps

     

    2001 | April

    BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA: Crisis Corps Volunteers begin assignments in first country where Peace Corps had no prior presence. They assist local municipalities and NGOs, plus international aid organizations.

     

    2002 | January

    MAURITANIA hit by torrential rains, causing severe flooding. Red Crescent of Mauritania requests Crisis Corps assistance to help homeless families.

     Image: Jon Harald Søby

     

     

     

    2002 | February

    AFGHANISTAN: After the swearing-in of new Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez, President George W. Bush announces that a Peace Corps team will travel to Afghanistan to assess how the program could help with reconstruction. It is possible a Crisis Corps team could follow. But Volunteers do not return to Afghanistan.

     Photo: Alejandro Chicheri / World Food Programme

     

     

    2002 | July

    MICRONESIA struck by Typhoon Chataan, most devastating natural disaster in the country’s history. On the island of Chuuk, Crisis Corps Volunteers assist with reforestation and soil stabilization, and begin work with communities on water sanitation facilities.

    Photo: Federated States of Micronesia Department of Foreign Affairs

     

     

    2002 | November

    MALAWI hosts its first Crisis Corps Volunteers, requested by the government and UNICEF to address cholera outbreaks and assist with prevention.

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

     

     

     

    2004 | March

    GHANA: Crisis Corps Volunteers help launch HIV/AIDS education initiative. 

     

    2004 | November

    ZAMBIA: Volunteers funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) work with neighborhood health committees and ministry of health. 

     

     

     

     

    2004 | December

    INDIAN OCEAN: A 9.1 magnitude earthquake generates a tsunami, devastating communities in a number of nations. Scores of RPCVs serve with Crisis Corps in Thailand and Sri Lanka to assist with relief measures.

     Map: Wikimedia Commons

     

     

    2005 | August 

    U.S. GULF COAST, particularly the New Orleans area, bears the brunt of Hurricane Katrina. For the first time, Crisis Corps Volunteers are asked to serve domestically; they partner with FEMA on relief work in hurricane-ravaged areas. While Peace Corps is an international organization, Director Gaddi Vasquez notes, “Today, as many of our fellow Americans are suffering tremendous hardship right here at home, we believe it is imperative to respond.” Volunteers take on 30-day assignments. Projects range from opening a disaster recovery center in the Lower 9th Ward to distributing food and water to displaced families. In total, 272 Volunteers serve 9,323 days and contribute 74,584 hours of service.

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

     

    2005 | October

    CENTRAL AMERICA hit by Hurricane Stan. In Guatemala, Crisis Corps Volunteers assist with reconstruction.

     Photo: NASA

     

     

     

    2007 | October

    TULANE UNIVERSITY: Crisis Corps International Scholars Program launched; it pairs work on a master’s degree with a Crisis Corps assignment.

     

    2007 | November

    PEACE CORPS RESPONSE is the new name for Crisis Corps. Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter says the new name better captures what Volunteers do, addressing critical needs in health, education, and technology — along with serving in disaster situations. 

     Photo: Peace Corps

     

     

    2008 | October

    LIBERIA: Response Volunteers lead the return of the Peace Corps, after an absence of nearly two decades. They work in education to revitalize training, schools, libraries, and more; and in health training. Their swearing-in ceremony is attended by Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter, and U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

    Photo: Peace Corps

     

     

    2010 | January

    HAITI struck by 7.0 magnitude earthquake and scores of aftershocks. Some 250,000 people die;

    1.5 million are left homeless, without access to clean water or food. Many hospitals are destroyed. Response Volunteers serve as part of global relief efforts. 

     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

     

     

    2012 | January

    JAMAICA: Dorothy Burrill, 73, is first Response Volunteer who hasn’t already served in the Peace Corps. Eligibility now open to those with 10 years’ work experience and language skills. 

     

    2012 | March

    GLOBAL HEALTH SERVICE PARTNERSHIP launched in collaboration with PEPFAR and Global Health Service Corps. The goal: address shortages of health professionals by investing in capacity building and support for existing medical and nursing education programs in African nations of Tanzania, Malawi, and Uganda. 

     

    2012 | October

    SOUTH AFRICA: Response Volunteer Meisha Robinson and 12 Peace Corps South Africa Volunteers collaborate with Special Olympics staff and community members to organize the inaugural Special Olympics Africa Unity Cup. Fifteen nations’ soccer teams compete.

     Photo: Special Olympics

     

     

    2013 | November

    THE PHILIPPINES pummeled by Super Typhoon Yolanda, killing thousands. Response Volunteers assist in affected areas.

     

    2014 | September

    COMOROS: Peace Corps announces it is returning, after a decade’s absence, with 10 Response Volunteers leading the way — to teach English and support environmental protection.

     Photo: Peace Corps

     

    2015 | March to April

    MICRONESIA hammered by Typhoon Maysak. Response Volunteers assist with reconstruction.

     

    2015 | December

    PARTNERSHIPS: Peace Corps Response and IBM Corporate Service team up to engage highly skilled professionals to work collaboratively. Response also leverages partnerships with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Rotary International.

     

    2019

    ADVANCING HEALTH PROFESSIONALS program launched in five countries: Eswatini, Liberia, Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda. The program succeeds the Global Health Service Partnership and assigns Volunteers to nonclinical, specialized assignments that enhance the quality of healthcare in resource-limited areas, improving healthcare education and strengthening health systems at a societal level.

    Photo: Peace Corps

     

     

    2020 | March

    GLOBAL: COVID-19 leads Peace Corps to evacuate all Volunteers and Response Volunteers from around the world.

     

    2021 | May

    UNITED STATES: Response Volunteers begin serving with FEMA community vaccination centers to battle the COVID-19 Pandemic.

    Photo: Peace Corps

     

     

  • Helene Dudley posted an article
    Rotarians 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.