peace corps

  • Communications Intern 2 posted an article
    Unprecedented times, so we’ve set aside the standard playbook for WorldView magazine. see more

    The evacuation of Peace Corps Volunteers serving around the globe is unprecedented. So is the way our nation is coming to terms with the truth that Black Lives Matter.

     

    By Steven Boyd Saum

    For most Peace Corps Volunteers, the news broke on the Ides of March: due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, every single one of them would be coming home. In its 59-year history, Peace Corps had never undertaken a global evacuation. But then, in so many ways, these are unprecedented times.

    In one sense, we feel the precariousness of institutions that we want to sustain — and face the truth of those in desperate need of reform. And since the killing of George Floyd on Memorial Day, protests have swept across this nation and scores of others. We grasp the real possibility of dismantling systemic racism — descendant of that original sin of Black slavery, infused in the founding of America.

    Unprecedented times.

    So for this edition of WorldView, we’ve set aside the standard playbook. We’ve expanded the print magazine so that we can address at least a little better the enormity of this moment. And we’re bringing you a tale in three parts.
     

    Nepal farewell: Training to become Volunteers, Rachel Ramsey (facing camera) and Elyse Paré had to evacuate instead. Photo by Eddie De La Fuente

     

    Evacuation

    Volunteers were yanked from their communities — sometimes with less than an hour’s notice. They want the world to know what they left behind — in terms of people and places and relationships where they were serving. More important, they want others to understand their unfinished business — as Volunteers working alongside colleagues as part of the audacious Peace Corps mission. We bring your stories from every region where Peace Corps was serving in the beginning of 2020 — from Volunteers and counterparts, country directors and families. Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen also recounts how she reached the agonizing decision to recall all Volunteers.

    As for the evacuation: It did not come with one fell swoop. First there was China — where COVID-19 began to spread in January. Then Mongolia — where Volunteers were evacuated before the virus had even begun to hit. And, as countries around the world began to shutter airports and lock down travel, the options for Peace Corps diminished by the day — or the hour.

    Volunteers returned to a country grappling with pandemic and an economy suffering a meltdown. Most had no job waiting or a clear game plan. Uncertainty and heartbreak they had in spades. This is the hand they were dealt. So how do they play it?

     

     

    Global Reentry

    Evacuated Volunteers needed help landing on their feet. National Peace Corps Association rolled out a program to assist. Staff worked with members of Congress to provide essential support for evacuated Volunteers when it comes to health insurance, unemployment compensation, and other assistance. And NPCA ramped up a new way to provide grant funding for projects that Volunteers had to put on hold when they left.

    The Peace Corps community sprang into action in many ways — and we bring you stories from some of the ways they have helped. That includes evacuated Volunteers helping one another — and their communities in the United States in a time of crisis.

    That national crisis took on a new dimension with Black Lives Matter protests. We’ve seen many returned Volunteers raising their voices against racism and for justice. We bring you those stories, too, very much with the sense of: This is the moment we are in now.

     


    A Reckoning: and What Next?

    We convened a series of town hall meetings July 8–16 and a global summit on July 18 to ask some big questions — not only about the future of Peace Corps, but how we live out values of equity and justice here at home and in the work we do around the world. To help spark debate, in this edition Lex Rieffel reframes the structure of the whole Peace Corps endeavor and poses some striking possibilities for a post-pandemic world. We hope you’ll join the conversation in virtual person, and as we carry ideas forward in the months and years to come.

     


    Steven Boyd Saum is the editor of WorldView and directs communications for National Peace Corps Association. He served as a Volunteer in Ukraine 1994–96.

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    Address by the Director of the Peace Corps to Peace Corps Connect to the Future see more

    Address by the Director of the Peace Corps to the July 2020 global ideas summit: Peace Corps Connect to the Future

    By Jody Olsen

     

    On July 18, 2020, National Peace Corps Association hosted Peace Corps Connect to the Future, a global ideas summit. NPCA invited Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen to speak. She was introduced by Glenn Blumhorst, President and CEO of National Peace Corps Association. Her remarks come a week after Peace Corps signed a historic agreement for launching a program with Viet Nam in 2022. And they come as the COVID-19 pandemic makes the future for all international work uncertain.

    Here is a transcript and video of the introduction and her remarks.


    Introduction

     

    Glenn Blumhorst: I just want to say today, it's just such an honor and a privilege to have Director Olsen with us. I know she has a busy schedule, she has a lot going on. And she's very busy trying to get Volunteers back into the field as soon as possible — as soon as the conditions permit. But she's been really in tune with the community, I would say, attentive to the needs and expectations of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who were evacuated, and she has certainly paid attention to what's going on in our community and in our country. 

    So it's really a pleasure for me to introduce her today. She's going to share a few words with us. The 20th, director of the Peace Corps, Jody Olsen, who was sworn in in March 2018, started her service with the Peace Corps community as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tunisia in 1966 to 68. She has held multiple leadership positions at the Peace Corps, including headquarters and in the field. She was once the Acting Director of the Peace Corps, the Deputy Director, she has been a chief of staff. She has been a regional director, and she has been a country director in Togo. But let me say: Those are certainly strong credentials for somebody to be the current Peace Corps Director. 

    I know Jody personally, and I know her very well, and her values and her commitments. And I have to say, there's no better person for the job right now than Jody Olsen. I know that Jody cares deeply about the Peace Corps itself, about Peace Corps Volunteers. And when it came to make the evacuation — or the decision to evacuate the Volunteers, and evacuate the Volunteers, I trusted Jody. I knew that she was doing what she felt was in the best interest of the agency and the Peace Corps Volunteers themselves. They all arrived home safe and sound. And their lives interrupted back home weren't the same, but she handled that situation like no one of us would ever would have wanted to have to had to do. I'm so grateful for having her at the helm of the Peace Corps itself. And I'm very grateful for her two decades of service to the Peace Corps community. So I'm proud and honored and privileged to introduce my colleague and friend, and our esteemed Director of the Peace Corps. Dr. Josephine "Jody" Olsen.

     

     

    Peace Corps Today

     

    Watch: Jody Olsen’s remarks at Peace Corps Connect to the Future

     

    Jody Olsen: It's a real pleasure to be here, even virtually, thank you all so much. A special thank you to Glenn, a longtime friend, colleague, and a person I admire, as well as everyone at the National Peace Corps Association. Thank you, thank you for all you do. Thank you for all your support — everything that you do.

    I also want to note, at this moment, as we just took a moment of silence — that many years ago, I was lucky enough to hear Nelson Mandela speak and even shake his hand. I didn't want to do anything with my hand for quite a while afterward. I was so proud of that moment. But what I remember from that moment was his entire speech was about hope, was about the future, and about what can be accomplished. He never appeared angry. He always appeared strong and hopeful that entire evening. And knowing his background, I carried that, and I have tried to carry that with me ever since.

    When I was in college, I happened to be standing on Constitution Avenue, as people moved forward for the March on Washington in August 1963, which included Congressman Lewis — very young at that time. That march, that afternoon, so affected me. And as I've had the pleasure of reading and seeing and hearing and understanding Congressman Lewis's journey, his leadership that he has given this country, I too, feel very sad at this moment and want to make sure that I honor a national icon and national leader for all of us.

    I want to begin — oh, first, I do want to thank Katie Long! That was so wonderful, what you sang, and I might just say, Katie, that you probably said better than I'm going to say — a lot of what I'm feeling right at the moment. And I'm hoping that the future and the excitement you had, that reference to the future that you, Glenn, also had, that I can continue to carry that with me as I speak for a few minutes this afternoon. I want to thank NPCA, the board, the staff, and members, for all you do to support the Peace Corps mission and goals, and the incredible support you give Peace Corps and your fellow RPCVs during this very challenging time. You note, as you see, the title is Peace Corps Today. Now there's a reason for this title. I want to say "Peace Corps Future," "Peace Corps Going Forward," because this is about the future. And I'm going to be talking about our plans for returning to our global presence. But I have to refer to them as our global future plans exist today: Saturday, July 18. Why do I give a date for this? Even as we're largely in charge of our process for returning, we're not in charge of the virus. It dictates the time. It dictates the place. And in this global pandemic, our time, its time, its place — changes every day.

     

    Even as we're largely in charge of our process for returning, we're not in charge of the virus. It dictates the time. It dictates the place.

     

    So when you listen, we're hoping this is what we can be over this coming year. But this is as of Saturday, July 18th. To the recently evacuated Returned Volunteers who may be here today, and I know that several of you are, I am here for you. We're here for you. As I have talked with many of you, I know that I can't fully appreciate what you have been going through in having to leave your communities with almost no notice, to a return that you hadn't planned. As I have said before, that fateful day, March 15th, just four and a half months ago — that decision to evacuate all Volunteers was the most difficult decision I have ever made in my life. And I think you can understand in that, I have been part of Peace Corps, Peace Corps has been part of me — for now over 54 years. I'm grateful for your service. And we are grateful to NPCA and all the affiliate groups, and all of our partners in service, who have stepped up and supported and continue to support our Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. The Peace Corps mission is still as relevant today as it was 59 years ago.

    The idea of Peace Corps — that idea that Volunteers could serve their country for the cause of peace by living and working in other countries — struck a chord with thousands in the early ’60s. And I confess —myself included — 1964 was when I first heard about Peace Corps. And that enthusiasm continues today. We must work together to ensure that the mission continues into the future, that Volunteers return to the field when safely possible. While the mission remains relevant today, the world has changed. We've already been talking about that. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only highlighted racial and social economic inequities in our countries — in our country — but in countries abroad as well, including all current Peace Corps countries of service. The pandemic has also highlighted global interconnectedness, and with it an increased need for people who can effectively and sensitively navigate cross-cultural difference to build joy and equitable systems and sustainable peace.

    This need speaks directly to our continued relevance, and why we must return to our countries of service as soon as it is safe to do so. We take these few months, this few months of pause in our in-field service, as an opportunity to build into our plans, a strong, self-aware, and equitable environment for all staff and Volunteers. Peace Corps' focused goal, which is fully supported by Congress — let me say that again, which is fully supported by Congress — is to return to a full global presence as soon as we possibly can.

    Much uncertainty remains here at home and abroad about when and where we will be able to begin reestablishing our operations overseas. Still a question. I repeat: We don't control the disease or its course, but we do control our process to getting overseas. We have some of the brightest and most committed people on our team working hard to plan for reentry to the field that is strong and sustainable, while assuring the wellbeing of Volunteers, staff, and communities. We have developed a comprehensive, two-part process whereby posts work alongside offices at Peace Corps Headquarters to plan for reentry and to prepare to receive Volunteers. Our host country staff are in place in our 61 countries with critical responsibilities towards our return. Our return begins with an external review process, which assesses a wide range of external factors, both domestic and international, including medical, security, administrative, and logistical criteria that must be just right for us to consider a reentry to a specific country.

     

    The pandemic has also highlighted global interconnectedness, and with it an increased need for people who can effectively and sensitively navigate cross-cultural difference to build joy and equitable systems and sustainable peace.

     

    When a country meets these external review criteria, Peace Corps notifies Congress — an important step — that we are initiating a planning for reentry process, and this triggers the internal review. Our internal review is an exhaustive process by which a post prepares for every part of supporting Peace Corps Volunteers, staff, and communities. It involves everything from our host families to our counterparts, to transportation in country, to precautions in the workplace, and to know how to treat a COVID case if it should arise. There are a multitude of checks and balances in this system because we cannot risk anyone.

    The Office of Safety and Security, Health Services, Global Operations, and Regions will each thoroughly review and approve each post's individual plans. The Peace Corps is already working in close partnership with our host country governments, local communities, and in-country stakeholders to ensure that the timing of our return is safe and according to each country's local conditions and requirements. And no two countries are similar.

    Multiple mitigation measures will assure that we're respectful of our host country's management of the pandemic, including testing for all Volunteers prior to departure — and a 14-day mandatory quarantine once they arrive. All posts will have an emergency response plan, with detailed guidance on responding to any COVID-19 emergencies that arise. Posts are very eager to welcome Volunteers again for service. We hear this every day. And they are fully engaged in this detailed planning process. We will provide reorientation and training on how to operate in a different environment. And there will be more training and preparation for Volunteers and for staff to manage the different challenges of service during COVID-19. Until the pandemic is fully under control, we must operate in a different manner than we have before. And Glenn alluded to that earlier. And the challenges of Volunteer service are going to differ.

    This is about assuring our host governments that we are keeping Volunteers and their host families, counterparts, and communities healthy and safe. As you can guess, a lot of uncertainty remains. We face returning to countries where life, public education, health, agriculture, and food processing, distribution, and other systems and people have been impacted by COVID-19. In addition, and most importantly, people all over the world have been observing, and even participating in racial justice and equity protests, particularly those in the United States. We are navigating a world that is in transition. Simultaneously, each of us as individuals — and so much within myself — we are transitioning in our own personal connection to the issues of race, social justice, and inequality. Given this time to focus and to grow, we will return to our posts with renewed eyes, renewed clarity of what to serve means, and renewed expectations of ourselves. The agency is responding. We are responding. We're taking steps. We're building into and making central to our return to operations a workforce that is representative of the diversity of America by uncovering and removing barriers to equal opportunity for multiple groups, including Black invitees, Volunteers, and employees.

     

    We are navigating a world that is in transition. Simultaneously, each of us as individuals — and so much within myself — we are transitioning in our own personal connection to the issues of race, social justice, and inequality.

     

    These efforts to date have included, but are not limited to, intentional holding of very difficult dialogues throughout the agency globally. Dialogues that are continuing almost daily today and will continue going forward. We have projects that reduce work and service barriers for both staff and Volunteers. We're assessing and strengthening diversity recruitment and strengthening diversity pipelines through new and expanded partnerships, many of which are already coming forward and with which were already engaged. A new agency-wide taskforce on diversity and inclusion in the agency will track our internal progress toward equity and diversity as we return to service, enhancing communication about non-competitive eligibility in the federal government as an opportunity to leverage U.S. government efforts to increase diversity across all federal agencies.

    Our taskforce on diversity and inclusion has been charged with leveraging the agency data and all recommendations received to date — from the field, from staff, and I know for many of you as RPCVs — so that we craft and subsequently implement concrete and meaningful strategies for change.

    As we face this uncertain world, one thing that is not uncertain is our relevance today. The Peace Corps mission of world peace and friendship has never been more important. And Peace Corps has never been more relevant than it is today.

    This begins with how we partner with our countries wherever we serve, and how we earn their trust in returning to service safely — safely for our Volunteers, safely for our staff, and safely for the host country residents and our host country counterparts. As we move towards our 60th anniversary, which begins in October, and navigate these uncertainties, we also pause to celebrate all our Volunteers who have contributed over these past 59 years — and to celebrate the new opportunities and service that lie ahead for all of us.

    Just this last week, we signed the implementing agreement between the Peace Corps and the Ministry of Education and Training of Viet Nam to officially established the Peace Corps program in English education in Viet Nam. This has been many years in the making, and a joyful moment for so many people. This historic moment, which also coincided with the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States of America and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. Viet Nam will be our 143rd country to host Peace Corps Volunteers since the agency was founded. And as I was in Viet Nam in December, I appreciated their excitement. And in fact, it was three of the English teachers that I was spending time with when I talked about Volunteers living with host families — three of the teachers raised their hands and said: "Can I be a host mom? Can I be a host mom?" And I thought whichever country wherever we are, wherever we're going to be, "Can I be a host mom?" — that's what friendship is. That's what families are. The next step in partnership and in cross-cultural exchange and capacity building. This next step will benefit the people of both countries for generations and further demonstrate our relevance today. We are a global organization that can have a significant impact on global challenges. Addressing these global challenges starts with maintaining our focus on getting Volunteers back into the field. That is who we are. However, as I've noted, we're not going back to the field the same as we were before. We're going to go back better. For 59 1/2 years, Peace Corps sought assurances from countries where we serve, that our Volunteers will be safe. We must now be prepared to assure the same countries that we have taken the steps necessary for everyone to be safe.

    More than ever before, we and our country counterparts, we and our country leaders in each of our countries, are true partners. Returning better also relies on implementing the improvements that I have highlighted with respect to how we recruit, train, and support the Volunteers that represent us. Peace Corps Volunteers should represent the best of all of us in all our diversity — that best represents us as Americans. Going back — and how we go back — is so important, not just to the countries where we serve, but it is important to the entire world. Because the entire world is watching us. They're waiting. They want to see. We're going back.

     

    We will be humble. We will be better. And we will be stronger for what we have been through together.

     

    As we go back, we will be humble. We will be humble. We will be better. And we will be stronger for what we have been through together. The Peace Corps mission of world peace and friendship is as relevant today as it was in 1961, as I said before. We must work together to ensure that the mission continues into the future, that Volunteers returned to the field when safely possible, and that we take this pause and in the field service as an opportunity to build into our plans a stronger and more equitable environment for all staff and Volunteers. So what is our call to action? What is it for all of us — for me, the agency, our countries, our posts, returning Volunteers — what is it? Our continued relevance and ability to carry our mission only holds true as long as we are able to continually grow and challenge ourselves to set the standard for community development.

    Challenge our action. Our continued relevance requires that we become increasingly diverse and inclusive. But our work doesn't stop there. A diverse and inclusive community requires nurturing learning, and requires us to face challenges by participation in these very difficult dialogues: that we must evolve our models of service, our training and support, to meet these challenges. Ultimately, the people we serve in more than 61 countries abroad at deserve and expect nothing less. There are no easy answers. Boy, I can say — there are no easy answers! And the process will be neither quick nor simple. But I truly believe that our Returned Peace Corps Volunteer community, our incredible staff, and the Peace Corps family — we are all up to this challenge. We are staying strong — and we stay a leader in our mission of world peace and friendship.

    I'm here for you all. I'm here for Peace Corps. I'm here for the mission. I am here for going back: better, stronger, more diverse, more equitable. So we can be proud for our next 60 years as we begin our 60th year. Thank you all. Thank you for your support. Thank you for your help. And thank you for being strong. I'll turn it back to Glenn.


    Read more: “Our Peace Corps Evacuation Journey,” chronicling what Olsen calls the toughest decision she ever made — to evacuate all Peace Corps Volunteers globally in March 2020. The essay appears in the Summer 2020 edition of WorldView magazine.

  • Communications Intern 2 posted an article
    Remarks from the July 2018 global ideas summit: Peace Corps Connect to the Future see more

    A host country perspective from Nepal. Remarks from the July 2020 global ideas summit: Peace Corps Connect to the Future.

    By Kul Chandra Gautam

     

    On July 18, 2020, National Peace Corps Association hosted  Peace Corps Connect to the Future, a global ideas summit. NPCA invited three winners of the Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award to share their perspectives. Here are remarks delivered by Kul Chandra Gautam — diplomat, public policy expert, and peace advocate — and former Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF. 

     

    I want to thank National Peace Corps Association for this opportunity to share my views on the future of the Peace Corps from the perspective of a host country, in my case, Nepal. 

    I have had five-decade long and happy association with the Peace Corps, since I was a 7th-grade student in the hills of Nepal. My wonderful Peace Corps teachers were instrumental in helping transform my life. And the 4,000+ Peace Corps Volunteers who have served in Nepal have contributed immensely to my country’s development. 

    I feel sad that because of the COVID pandemic the Peace Corps had to temporarily withdraw its Volunteers from all countries, including Nepal. 

    Today I join my fellow panelists from Guatemala and Kenya to address some weighty questions about the future of the Peace Corps from our perspective as global citizens, and that of our home countries.  

     

    Watch: Kul Chandra Gautam’s remarks at Peace Corps Connect to the Future
     

    I deeply appreciate the soul-searching motivation for our reflection at this time of historic convulsion in the U.S., triggered by not only the COVID crisis but also the Black Lives Matter movement, and other crises facing America and the world. 

    Recent events have made all of us introspect deeply about combating systemic racism, and more broadly, promoting social justice, and ending the long legacy of racial, ethnic, religious, and gender-based disparities.

    We find these phenomena not just in America, but in all countries where the Peace Corps serve.

    Let me try to address these issues in a historic and holistic perspective. 

    During the past century, the United States has been the world’s greatest super-power. There have been three major sources of America’s super power status in the world — its economic prosperity, its military strength and its cultural vibrancy.

    America has been the richest country in the world for nearly two centuries. The U.S. has only 4 percent of the world’s population, but 15 percent of the world’s GDP, and 30 percent of the world’s billionaires.

    But we also find in America grotesque inequality, and great poverty in the midst of plenty.

    It is the only rich country in the world without universal health coverage. In terms of people’s health & well-being, the U.S. is no longer a world leader. 

     

    The fact that the U.S. has more cases and deaths from COVID-19 than any other country in the world is a telling example of how America’s vast wealth fails to protect its people’s health.

     

    The fact that the U.S. has more cases and deaths from COVID-19 than any other country in the world is a telling example of how America’s vast wealth fails to protect its people’s health.

    America’s military strength has also been unparalleled in recent history. 

    Currently, the U.S. spends more than $700 billion annually on defense. That is close to 40 percent of the world’s military spending. 

    But this is increasingly becoming a burden without proportionate benefits for America. The trillions of dollars America spends on its military is increasingly becoming counter-productive. Instead of winning friends, America’s military might is turning people into enemies and even terrorists. 

    Look at what the trillions in military spending have produced in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, the Arab world, and even in Latin America — a wave of anti-Americanism. 

    I believe it is time now to reorient the American economy, drastically reduce military spending, and redirect it to end poverty, to reduce inequality, to provide health care and quality education for all, and to protect the earth from the climate crisis. 

    This is where America’s third strength comes into play. 

    America’s educational, scientific, and cultural vibrancy have earned the U.S. tremendous soft power in the world. 

    Forty percent of the world’s Nobel Prize winners have been Americans. More than 50 percent of the world’s Nobel laureates were trained in America. And 60 of the world’s 100 best universities are in America. The American scientific, technological, and cultural innovations have enveloped the whole world.

    That is what gives America a positive soft power for the good of the world.

    I consider the Peace Corps as one element of that benevolent American soft power.

    I dare say that the less than half a billion dollars that America spends annually on the Peace Corps touches more ordinary people’s hearts, and helps nurture peace and friendship in the world than the many billions the U.S. spends on military aid to developing countries. 

    I recall that was precisely the vision of President John F Kennedy when he established the Peace Corps.  

    Kennedy envisioned the Peace Corps as an opportunity for young Americans to better understand the challenges of living in a developing country, to impart their knowledge and skills, and to help overcome poverty and underdevelopment.

    Those are precisely the building blocks for peace and prosperity.  

    It is that spirit of solidarity and empathy that makes America, or Nepal, or any other country truly great. 

    To paraphrase the late Senator Teddy Kennedy, to make America Great Again: “It is better to send in the Peace Corps than the Marine Corps.” 

    I so wish that President Trump had been a Peace Corps volunteer. If he had the Peace Corps experience, he would have tried to make “America Great Again” by responding to the greatest challenges of our times — the COVID-19 pandemic, systemic racism, global poverty, and the climate crisis — in a completely different manner. 

     

    Our increasingly interconnected world demands global solidarity, not charity, to solve global problems that transcend national borders like the specter of war, terrorism, racism, climate change, and pandemics like COVID-19.

     

    Let me now reflect on two questions that the NPCA asked us:

    • How can the Peace Corps be a true partner with host countries in the new post-COVID world?
    • And how must the Peace Corps change to be relevant for the 21st century?

    Well, even before COVID-19 invaded and destabilized the world, we already had a universally agreed global agenda called the Sustainable Development Goals. Those goals, with dozens of specific and time-bound targets to be achieved by 2030, include ending extreme poverty, promoting prosperity with equity, protecting the environment and safeguarding people’s human rights.

    They were endorsed by all countries of the world, including the United States, at the United Nations in 2015. The SDGs comprise a non-partisan agenda, so all of us can support them whether you are a Republican or Democrat or neither. 

    The Peace Corps Volunteers already promote these goals in their work as teachers, health promoters, agriculture extension workers, and a variety of other vocations. 

    What is needed now is to refine the skills of the Peace Corps Volunteers to ensure that their services are provided to truly empower local people and communities. 

    Like all other institutions are doing at this time, the Peace Corps too would benefit from an organizational soul searching to root out any trace of racism, gender discrimination, or a colonial mentality that may occasionally and inadvertently influence its work and mission.  

    I honestly believe that the Peace Corps can help transform the multiple crises facing the U.S. and the world into opportunity for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  

    I know from my own personal experience and observation that Peace Corps Volunteers can make a transformational impact on the lives of many ordinary people, and future leaders of host countries.

     

    More than any other group of Americans, I believe that Returned Peace Corps Volunteers can instill a sense of a more enlightened America as part of, not apart from, a more just, peaceful and prosperous world. 

     

    Our increasingly interconnected world demands global solidarity, not charity, to solve global problems that transcend national borders like the specter of war, terrorism, racism, climate change, and pandemics like COVID-19.

    I sincerely believe that the Peace Corps can be a great organization dedicated to promote such global solidarity at the people to people level.

    Let us remember that solidarity, unlike charity, is a two-way street. The Peace Corps experience is just as important for the education and enlightenment of the Peace Corps Volunteers as it is for them to help their host communities. 

    More than any other group of Americans, I believe that Returned Peace Corps Volunteers can instill a sense of a more enlightened America as part of, not apart from, a more just, peaceful and prosperous world. 

    So, I hope and count on the Peace Corps to survive and thrive, and help build an enlightened post-COVID America and the world.

    Thank you.   

     


    Kul Chandra Gautam is the 2018 recipient of the Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award. He is a diplomat, public policy expert, peace advocate, and former Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF. 

  • Communications Intern 2 posted an article
    A letter from the President of the National Peace Corps Association see more

    By Glenn Blumhorst

     

    DO YOU REMEMBER WHERE YOU WERE when you heard the news? That the U.S. Peace Corps had made the difficult and unprecedented decision to suspend programs indefinitely, evacuating 7,300 volunteers serving in more than 60 countries due to coronavirus, and informing them that their service had ended. That more than 100,000 Americans had died from COVID-19.

    That more than 40 million had applied for unemployment. That George Floyd had died after a policeman in Minneapolis pressed a knee on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. But George Floyd’s name is only one of a terrible litany of Black men, women, and children who have died at the hands of police.

    Our nation is reeling. How could it not be?

     

    HERE AT HOME, the toll of coronavirus has hit Black and Brown communities particularly hard. So have job losses. In a time of global pandemic, we’re faced once more with a brutal truth articulated years ago by Sargent Shriver, who founded the Peace Corps: “We must also treat the disease of racism itself.”

    How do we do that? Fundamentally, those of us in the Peace Corps community embark on service as Volunteers to promote world peace and understanding. This is our world, right here. One where empathy and justice must guide us — as we head out into the world, as we bring it back home. Our commitment to that doesn’t stop at the border. As National Peace Corps Association Board Director Corey Griffin has often put it, “By living out Peace Corps values here at home, we’ll have a better society, one that honors and celebrates our differences.”

    Systemic racism is an issue much bigger than our community. But we need to do what we can. Because both within the Peace Corps community and outside of it, Black Lives Matter. We have a moral obligation to use our stature as a community — and the credible voice, when it comes to speaking for peace and understanding — to lead by example in proactively fighting against unjust and unequal treatment of people of color.

    Evidence of racial inequity exists in many forms. 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 coast to coast — and internationally. 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. That is true of Volunteers who served decades ago — and those who just evacuated.

    As part of a vibrant and engaged community, we’ve listened to and been inspired by voices calling on Peace Corps to do and be better. We know that we at NPCA need to hold ourselves accountable as well. We’ve heard questions from RPCVs wanting to know historical data: How many Black Volunteers have served? More than that, we’ve heard from Black Volunteers asking: Will you stand with us? Will you support us? Will you lead to help make the changes we need to make?

     

    We’ve heard from Black Volunteers asking: Will you stand with us? Will you support us? Will you lead to help make the changes we need to make?

     

    We must. We are. And we will. For those of you who receive our email newsletter, you’ve already seen the statements and action plans NPCA leadership has put in place. We’ve launched a digital hub for news, events, stories, and resources focused on racial justice in the Peace Corps community. In June we co-sponsored a panel on “A Moment to Lean In: Courageous Conversations on Racial Equity in International Service.” But this is only the beginning of the work we have before us.

    We’ve already heard from some Volunteers who served across the decades that they are heartened to see that we are grappling with the fact that the agency and our community need to take a stand against systemic racism. It’s long overdue. They note that the sense of cause and purpose that comes with this effort is what inspired them to join the Peace Corps in the first place. Motivated by equity and justice, this kind of commitment can and does change lives and communities, institutions and systems.

     

    Transformation

    BACK IN MARCH, when Peace Corps brought Volunteers home, the agency’s top priority was ensuring Volunteers’ safety and security. But many returning volunteers felt like they had been fired and left with no benefits and little support as they arrived home.

    To its credit, over the past several months the agency focused squarely on the complex process of seeking to ensure that the evacuated Volunteers had some safety net. Meanwhile, the broader Peace Corps community, which includes some 250,000 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers over the past 59 years, rallied to welcome and support the evacuated Volunteers. NPCA ramped up a number of programs to help.

    Having left my rural Missouri home to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala from 1988 to 1991, I felt a visceral connection with the 169 volunteers preparing to leave Guatemala. I spoke with them on video chat. They shared personal stories and photos on social media, trying to come to grips with what it means to be evacuated from the schools and host families and wider communities they were part of. As they said their goodbyes, I imagined many of them pledged to return. One day they will — as Volunteers once more, or as their life journeys wind back there in years to come.

    But some big questions loom. One role that Volunteers play time and again, in building their relationships with communities, is helping those communities better understand the diversity and complexity of the United States and its people. How well will this country be living up to its ideals when Volunteers do return?

     

    I often say that we seek to make Peace Corps be the best that it can be. That includes bearing witness to inequity in our work around the world — and bringing that understanding back home. 

     

    THIS MOMENT on the eve of the 60th anniversary of Peace Corps, must be transformed: from a sad chapter in our history to an unparalleled opportunity to shape a Peace Corps around the world’s changing needs. And, crucially, to shape a Peace Corps community that truly reflects our nation as it should be.

    With that in mind, this summer we have hosted a series of events: Peace Corps Connect to the Future. We convened a series of eight town hall meetings on topics ranging from diversity, equity, and inclusion to Peace Corps policies for a changed world. Then, to bring together ideas from all the town halls, we hosted a half-day summit on July 18. Here’s a video of the entire summit. Building on that, we’ll be shaping policy recommendations and an action plan for the Peace Corps community. Those will carry us into the months and years ahead.

    Peace Corps’ underlying mission — to promote world peace and friendship — is as vital today as it was when the program began nearly 60 years ago. But as the past few months have made painfully clear, the importance of that work here at home is more critical than ever. I often say that we seek to make Peace Corps be the best that it can be. That includes bearing witness to inequity in our work around the world — and bringing that understanding back home.

    Curtis Valentine, an education policy expert, served as a Volunteer in South Africa from 2001 to 2003 — the only African American man in his cohort. His own intimidating encounters with U.S. police as a young man are documented alongside those of 99 other Black men in the book The Presumption of Guilt. A few weeks ago he was talking with WorldView editor Steven Saum. “Everyone who has served has a story about an injustice,” Valentine said, “whether it be racial, whether it be gender, whether it be socioeconomic, religious … something as Volunteers we saw and said: ‘This is unacceptable.’ I think we are uniquely qualified and prepared to respond in our own country because of our experience around the world. And in many ways, we have an obligation to do so. This is our time.”

     


    Glenn Blumhorst is President & CEO of National Peace Corps Association. He welcomes your comments: president@peacecorpsconnect.org.

    The original version of this essay appeared in the Summer 2020 print edition of WorldView, published in July.

  • Communications Intern 2 posted an article
    The Director of Peace Corps chronicles the events that led to an unprecedented global evacuation see more

    The Director of the Peace Corps chronicles the events that led to an unprecedented global evacuation of Volunteers. And the hardest decision she’s had to make in her life.

     

    By Jody Olsen

     

    I will always remember 2 p.m. on March 15, 2020, as the moment I made the most difficult decision of my life. I had just received a call from Patrick Young, the Peace Corps’ Director of International Operations, who himself had spent the previous 24 hours in phone conversations with almost every one of our country directors around the world. Each told him of impending host-country decisions to close borders, cancel all international flights, and restrict internal movement. The consensus among country directors, he told me, was that we should evacuate all Volunteers. I wasn’t surprised. The writing was on the wall, and I made the decision immediately. It was the right choice, but it brought me to tears.

    Besides being a national and global treasure — one that I have helped protect and honor — the Peace Corps has also been my touchstone for 54 years, a central part of my life since I began service as a Volunteer in Tunisia in 1966. I feel personally linked not only to the agency itself, but also to the trainees, Volunteers, and staff around the world. The decision to evacuate unfolded over only two months, and the story is one that will always be a major part of Peace Corps history.

     

    Lead up to evacuation

    On January 29, 2020, every Volunteer in China was told to pack their bags and be on a plane to Bangkok within 24 hours. The novel coronavirus was spreading in China but, at the time, we thought Volunteers would simply wait until the virus cleared and then return. But Chinese schools closed, and the news of the virus began to sound alarming. It became clear that the country was locking down for longer than initially anticipated. Rather than wait to return to China, the evacuated Volunteers headed home to the United States. At the time, we did not know this was merely the first step of what, only six weeks later, would become an unprecedented global evacuation of 6,898 Volunteers from all 61 current Peace Corps host countries.

    In the meantime, we formed an agency-wide COVID-19 working group and began restricting international travel to virus “hot spots” to reduce risk of exposure. We sent guidance to every post that outlined the medical, security, and logistical requirements in case the virus spread beyond China. Each post began preparations, just in case.

     

    None of us could have foreseen how the evacuation would play out, and none of us will be quite the same again.

     

    January 30, the day after we evacuated China, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency. We still believed the virus could be contained, even as we prepared for further evacuation. By February 9, we had reviewed all potential evacuation plans. Shortly thereafter, we suspended all non-emergency international Volunteer travel.

    February brought increasingly constricted movement both within and between countries, and our concerns grew accordingly. However, though evacuation plans were in place, we felt confident Volunteers could stay in their host countries and continue serving.

    Then, in late February, even without any active COVID-19 cases, Mongolia closed schools and imposed local and international travel restrictions. We knew that if travel restrictions continued to tighten in Mongolia and surrounding countries, the Peace Corps would not be able to evacuate any Volunteers who needed life-saving medical care or be able to assist Volunteers in the event of safety and security incidents or family emergencies. We began evacuating Volunteers from Mongolia on February 28. By this time, global fears of COVID-19 were growing each day. One after another, travel restrictions began — first ripples, then waves, and finally, a tsunami of countries scrambled to close transportation options, borders, and limit internal movement. First, countries in Asia and Europe began restricting flights in and out, limiting in-country travel options, requiring incoming travelers to be quarantined, and shutting schools and other counterpart organizations where Volunteers work. The world as we’d known it was closing down.

    By the second week in March, we planned Volunteer departures from several other countries including Albania and Montenegro, Georgia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Moldova, the Philippines, and Timor-Leste. We wanted to remain in countries where we could — we were determined. However, moment-by-moment the landscape changed. Host countries in Africa and the Americas began restricting travel and our means of ensuring Volunteer safety became more and more limited.

     

    Ana Santos was serving as a Volunteer in Rwanda from September 2018 until she was evacuated in March 2020. 
    Photo courtesy Ana Santos

    Evacuation

    The effects of COVID-19 weren’t confined to foreign shores, and on March 13, Washington, D.C. — like many areas around the U.S. — issued a “stay-at-home” order. Peace Corps headquarters began its own social distancing plan, with all United States–based staff transiting to work from home, a state we remain in as of this writing. With all that had been happening, the decision I made during that 2 p.m. phone call on March 15 was not unexpected. It was, however, heartbreaking.

    The next day, March 16, we began evacuating all trainees and Volunteers from posts around the world. In short, we evacuated everyone in every Peace Corps country that hadn’t already been evacuated, sending Volunteers and trainees to their homes-of-record (HOR) and temporarily suspending the operations of all Peace Corps posts. The process took the next eight days. We raced against time as travel choices narrowed by the hour. We engaged charter flights, and then backup charter flights when commercial flights canceled. Ethiopian Airlines rearranged flights, added flights, and held flights for evacuated Volunteers in Africa. Finally, on March 25, 6,892 Volunteers and trainees were evacuated safely to the United States.

    Peace Corps has always relied on community — and the evacuation process was no different. We leaned on ambassadors; embassy staff; taxis; bank employees; guest houses; hotels; restaurants; host-country counterparts and families, and local and national officials to work in concert, work quickly, and work hard. The graciousness in their assistance affirmed to me their love for the Peace Corps. Peace Corps staff in-country — country directors; medical officers; program and training and administrative staff; drivers — worked around the clock, at times without sleep, to ensure Volunteers could leave posts safely, quickly, and with a dignity reflective of the service they had given.

    In each country, departure procedures and timing ranged from a few hours to a couple days. Some Volunteers completed a Close of Service conference and physicals, some did not have the time. Most countries provided some kind of ceremonial closure, such as ringing a bell, even if on an airport tarmac as Volunteers climbed aboard planes, that honored each Volunteer and trainee’s time of service.

    Every Volunteer returned to the United States and self-quarantined for 14 days. Everyone was safe.

    Though we were each working virtually from makeshift home offices, Peace Corps headquarters staff became one family of action. We worked seamlessly together even while apart. As core evacuation staff worked tirelessly, others assisted. Recruitment staff supported duty officers, management staff supported travel, regional staff supported country staff, and everyone supported the medical unit.

     

    Return

    This worldwide evacuation was unprecedented, and a total disruption of a two-year, life-changing commitment of service Volunteers and trainees made — yet under trying circumstances each acted with honor, dignity, selflessness, and courage. None of us could have foreseen how the evacuation would play out, and none of us will be quite the same again. However, we shall return. We are doing country-by-country assessments that include examining safety and security and health factors. Peace Corps posts remain operational and we’ve maintained a strong staff presence in each country. Staff continues to communicate with government ministries and community partners. With everyone’s safety in mind, we are preparing to continue our global presence as soon as it is safe to do so, and we want as many evacuated Volunteers as possible to be there with us. We will continue to build on 59 years of Peace Corps legacy to remain the treasure built by Volunteers and envisioned by President Kennedy.

    Throughout these difficult and unusual times, our dedication to our core mission never wavers. The Peace Corps remains a leader in global development, world peace, and friendship. It remains a life-altering experience for Volunteers and the global communities in which they serve. My service in Tunisia changed my life and I pledge to all returned Volunteers and all future Volunteers that we will return. Countries around the world are readying for us, and I pledge to them, and to you, that we will return. The world needs us now.  

     


    Jody Olsen is the 20th Director of the Peace Corps. She served as a Volunteer in Tunisia (1966–68) and has served as Country Director of Togo, held leadership positions within the agency, and as visiting professor at University of Maryland-Baltimore School of Social Work and Director of the University’s Center for Global Education Initiatives.

  • Ana Victoria Cruz posted an article
    Share your story—whether it’s video, pictures, text. This is just a beginning. see more

    On March 15 more than 7,300 Peace Corps Volunteers were told they needed to leave the communities they had called home—an unprecedented global evacuation. They were uprooted from the lives and work they had come to know, sometimes without the opportunity to even say goodbye. They are returning to a country in crisis.

    National Peace Corps Association is working to ensure they have the resources they need during these uncertain and difficult times. We also want to make sure the world hears their stories.

    We are gathering here first-person videos and stories, as well as interviews with evacuated Volunteers from around the world.

    We invite you to participate, too. We want to share your story—whether it’s video, pictures, text, or you’d like to talk to one of our writers. This is just a beginning.

     

    Stories


    Daniel Lang
    Mongolia
    Home: Originally the Midwest — now North Las Vegas, Nevada

    English Education and Community Development Volunteer

    “To me, Peace Corps wasn’t just about teaching languages. It was about promoting equity.”

    Learn More

     

    Meg Holladay
    Ghana
    Home: Amherst, Massachusetts

    Peace Corps Health Extension Volunteer

    “Peace Corps work is so powerful because it’s work we do together with our communities, based on their priorities. It’s work that can become sustainable as we share knowledge and learn together.”

    Learn More

     

    Danielle Shulkin
    Panama

    Home: Sharon, Massachusetts

    Teaching English, Leadership, and Life Skills (TELLS) Volunteer helping teachers improve their skills and develop new teaching methodologies. She had one hour to pack before evacuating. Now she is a contact tracer with Partners In Health.

    "I'm still hoping to go back to Panama one way or another, mostly because I feel very indebted to the whole country and I really want to pay that back...I can only hope that we have the opportunity to do that moving forward."

    Learn More

     

    Chelsea Bajek
    Vanuatu

    Home: Rochester, New York by way of Arlington, Virginia

    Community health Volunteer in a rural community, focusing on water, sanitation, and nutrition.

    “Even though I am back in the United States, I continue to work with the women’s group on this project, believing it could provide real change for these women.”

    Learn More

     

    Charles Castillo
    Namibia
    Home: Medford, New Jersey

    Teaching information communication technology and art classes to deaf students in northern Namibia.

    “I would also like for Peace Corps Volunteers to help empower deaf and hard-of-hearing people to let them know that they are just as capable as hearing people in achieving their dreams, and to not let anything hold them back.”

    Learn More

     

    Elyse Magen
    Colombia
    Home: San Francisco, California
    Working on economic empowerment of women in Colombia — helping women who harvest cacao and turn that into chocolate products*

    “These women [entrepreneurs] have been fighting really hard … a lot of people telling them they can’t.”

    Learn More

     

    *Through NPCA's Community Fund, Elyse's project was fully funded!

     

    Danielle Montecalvo
    Madagascar
    Home: Rochester, New York
    Post-secondary English educator at the University of Mahajanga

    “I left behind the most extraordinary community … If it is not possible to personally reinstate or return to Metangula, I hope that Peace Corps is able to reinstate its programs in Mozambique so that Metangula will receive another volunteer in the future.”

    Learn More

     

    Kevin Lawson
    Ukraine
    Home: Greensboro, North Carolina

    Youth Development Volunteer in Apostolove, Dnipropetrovs'ka oblast

    “Ukrainians and I are asking the same question: When will I come back? And more important: When will Peace Corps come back?”

    Learn More

     

    Jim Damico
    Nepal
    Home: Kansas City, Missouri

    Three-time Peace Corps Volunteer teaching English — and had hoped to extend to three years of service in Nepal. Previously served in Thailand and Mongolia.

    “I left students behind — many that were lower level students that most teachers had written off. … Many of them have begun to be excited about learning … I want to return as soon as possible.”

    Learn More

     

    Stacie Scott
    Mozambique
    Home: Louisville, Kentucky

    Serving as a community health services promoter

    “I left behind the most extraordinary community … If it is not possible to personally reinstate or return to Metangula, I hope that Peace Corps is able to reinstate its programs in Mozambique so that Metangula will receive another volunteer in the future.”

    Learn More

     

    Ryan Blackwell
    Togo
    Home: Greater Washington, DC Area

    Serving as an English teaching and gender education Volunteer

    “We need to get the Peace Corps opened up again as soon as possible. … [They’re] doing incredible work, especially supporting girls’ education.”

    Learn More

     

    Sierra Drummond
    Thailand
    Home: Thousand Oaks, California

    Working as part of Teaching Empowerment for Student Success (TESS) program, teaching alongside a Thai teacher.

    “Peace Corps really provides an outlet for creating a global community, and I think there always be a need for that.”

    Learn More

     

    Lucy Baker
    Mongolia
    Home: San Francisco, California

    Working as a Public Health Education Volunteer

    “Mongolia loves Peace Corps! … I really hope that—in enough time—Peace Corps will send Volunteers back and be able to continue the work going on in the country.”

     Learn More

     

    Benjamin Rietmann
    Dominican Republic
    Home: Condon, Oregon

    Working with dairy farmers on economic development and entrepreneurship.

    “Much of what I was doing seemed like it would soon have promising results.” 

    Learn More

     

    Jae Cho
    Kyrgyz Republic
    Home: Gloucester, Virginia

    Teaching English as a foreign language in a school in a small village. Unfinished business: building a resource center for learning English to help students, faculty, and staff.

    “I hope everyone stays safe, and I will be back as soon as possible.”

    Learn More

     


    Steven Boyd Saum served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine 1994–96 and is the editor of WorldView magazine. Reach him at worldview@peacecorpsconnect.org.

  • Time and again, volunteers learn the importance of resilience and flexibility in the face of crisis. see more

    On Saturday, March 21, 2020, the Chicago Tribune published an OpEd by NPCA president and CEO Glenn Blumhorst. In the article, Glenn urges Congress to include Peace Corps in its appropriations to cover evacuation costs and the eventual rehiring and redeployment of many of the current volunteers who wish to return to their countries once the crisis is over.

    In addition, he details the type of immediate assistance evacuated volunteers will need, including:

     • Adequate coverage for physical and mental health

     • Support in finding work in their U.S. communities here so they can apply their special skill sets to help their communities overcome this pandemic

     • Appropriate exceptions to current policies related to student loans, graduate school, unemployment eligibility and federal hiring.

     

    Read the Article

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Lessons learned from the pandemic and global evacuation. see more

    Lessons learned from the pandemic and global evacuation. And answers from a country director who found himself asking: Why is Peace Corps really necessary?

    By Mark S. Hannafin

    Photo: Volunteers hosting a summer camp in North Macedonia

     

    I wanted to be a Peace Corps Country Director for some obvious reasons. I had a fond memory of my own volunteer experience and a desire to see a wider part of the world and experience it with my family. I wanted to work with Americans of all backgrounds and support them in their service, and to be around committed local staff and partners who see the benefit of having a volunteer in their community and cultivating strong relationships. We wanted to serve overseas for a few years and then come back home and continue to serve in other ways. I didn’t want to wait for “retirement” to be a country director. I wouldn’t be able to relate, I thought. And I might be too late.

    And that’s the other reason I became a country director: I wasn’t sure Peace Corps was going to be around much longer. The world has become globalized, many people are being lifted out of poverty, rapid communications technologies have shrunk the time and space of relationships, and the United States’ standing in the world is arguably in question. Maybe Peace Corps had run its course. Maybe the goals and vision were not relevant anymore.

     

    Maybe Peace Corps had run its course. Maybe the goals and vision were not relevant anymore.

     

    In March, we evacuated 103 Volunteers from North Macedonia as part of the global evacuation that sent home almost 7,500 Volunteers from all 61 Peace Corps countries. They flew out on the last commercial flight to leave Skopje. After tearful goodbyes, the staff and I returned to our Skopje homes and our new telework reality, forced curfews, masks, and social distancing. The stark existential questioning began for real. How could we support Volunteers coming back in this scenario? Would anyone want them back? Were my thoughts of Peace Corps’ demise prophetic for reasons I never would have thought — but clearly are related to a changing world?

    In September, I left Peace Corps as I had planned back in January. We are now home and going through our own readjustment. With some daylight between the evacuation and now, I have reflected on the fact that the global pandemic has shed light on reasons why Peace Corps is more relevant than ever, and in fact, may give it a new breath of life. Here are some thoughts of what Peace Corps brings to us and to the world.

     

    Ability to Overcome Uncertainty

    A lot has been said about Volunteers’ ability to bounce back and be resilient. Whether this is taught in trainings or reinforced during service or is just a part of a person’s DNA is still up for debate. Regardless of how it manifests itself, resilience is closely related to being able to deal with uncertainty. Uncertainty stems from taking something for granted and then one day realizing its gone or changed or fragile. Some people experience more uncertainty in their lives than others and learn how to move past it.

    But what of the countries and communities in which the Volunteers serve? Many of the countries where Peace Corps Volunteers serve have gone through epic periods of uncertainty and upheaval, maybe through natural disasters, conflict and political instability, or wholesale changes in systems and the way society is organized. While they may not like uncertainty, these communities live it everyday.

    The United States is built on a narrative of predictability in our everyday life. Speaking in general terms, we expect services to run, the trash to be picked up, the trains to run on time, due process to afford justice and equitable treatment under the law. Schools to open on time. Minimum healthcare to be provided.

    The Volunteers have learned in part from their communities abroad how to handle uncertainty. They come home and begin new lives, seeking jobs, volunteering in their communities and looking at grad school opportunities. The first time the bus doesn’t arrive on time or your doctor isn’t available for a call may not be as devastating to a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer as others. This is what every generation of returned Volunteers go through. This is not just resilience; this is a learned ability to be comfortable with uncertainty. One that comes with living it every day in service and drawing on the experience of their host country.

     

    Empathy and Self-Awareness

    Peace Corps is a learning organization arranged around continual training for Volunteers in technical, cultural, and language capabilities. North Macedonia, like many posts, has embarked on a 27-month continuum for learning predating arrival in country. The intercultural, diversity, equity and inclusion (ICDEI) portion of the training has expanded tremendously in the last few years. I’ve reflected on what would be a metric of success for these ICDEI trainings. What if Volunteers emerged from service more self-aware and empathetic? Would they be better listeners? These are critical traits in the success of leadership. How would this impact their lives and the lives of others they would come into contact with in the future?

     

    Humility and the End of U.S. Exceptionalism

    Peace Corps is predicated on three goals, the first one being of extending help overseas in technical areas to countries that request it. As the pandemic has shown, United States leadership in response to the global crisis is less than what the world expected. Peace Corps, and development by extension, is founded on a notion of exceptionalism.

     

    As the pandemic has shown, United States leadership in response to the global crisis is less than what the world expected.

     

    Many of our Volunteers reported their Macedonian counterparts expressed deep concern for their return home and how the U.S. was facing COVID-19. There is a humility check and balance system inherent in the second and third Peace Corps goals, which creates the longstanding people to people bonds that make the agency so unique. It establishes parity between the community and the Volunteer.

    COVID has laid bare how the first goal can be reciprocal, learning from cultures which are historically rich and diverse. As the world grows closer and is linked by pandemics and other negative and beneficial effects of globalization, the time for reciprocity in development is ripe. Humility is the way to achieve that. Humility allows you to learn from others and be open to new ideas.

     

    Relationships and National Security

    I believe Peace Corps, at its core, is about national security, for our country and for the world. Not everyone agrees with this premise, including those who founded the agency almost 60 years ago. Volunteers showcase sincere values which represent the core of American life. The evacuated Volunteers from North Macedonia anecdotally spent thousands of hours speaking, chatting, zooming with their friends, families, students, and counterparts in the past seven months. I still chat with my students from 25 years ago in the Kyrgyz Republic. A large portion of the 800 Volunteers who served in North Macedonia periodically return to visit and stay in touch — and effectively become bi-cultural.

    Some 230,000 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers may have similar long-lasting relationships. Peace Corps plays the long game. How can this be measured in terms of bringing our countries together? How do these relationships help in times of uncertainty and upheaval?

     

    Volunteers evacuated from North Macedonia set out to help communities in the U.S. amid the pandemic, founding Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Serving at Home

     

    I've also seen how the reaction to the pandemic era is leading Peace Corps to re-orient itself into a university model based on the very people to people model it has perfected in the field. Recruitment needs to be direct and intentional, directed at specific groups, colleges, associations, and targeting the diversity of America. Posts should be allowed to recruit into pockets of America directly where they think people will want to come to their country.

    Peace Corps can follow up personally with someone who visits their website or social media posting and forge relationships. Peace Corps training doesn’t need to start with entry into the country; once someone applies and commits you are part of the new class already honing skills in self-awareness, empathy, humility, and coping with uncertainty. For those who enter service, they are supported through a two-year curriculum in language, culture, and technical skills. Afterwards, they are naturally connected to their peers and friends in country – but also with a Peace Corps alumni system that offers Coverdell Fellowships for life, response corps opportunities, and that encourages RPCVs to continually remain in contact with their host country. From the U.S., which arguably still maintains the finest higher education system in the world, the Peace Corps university ecosystem builds a post-graduate entry into a life of service leadership in whatever career a returned Volunteer pursues.

     

    Imagine a cohort of future leaders versed in self-awareness, humility, and empathy. Imagine those leaders being comfortable with uncertainty and willing to take on intelligent risks.

     

    COVID’s black swan moment has opened up ways to change and push forward the idea that is Peace Corps, not fold it up. Imagine a cohort of future leaders versed in self-awareness, humility, and empathy. Imagine those leaders being comfortable with uncertainty and willing to take on intelligent risks. Imagine people in all walks of life poised to address inequities who are open to listening and learning from experiences unlike their own.

    It should not be a question of whether the end goal of Peace Corps is still worthwhile. It was a “towering” task to begin with. It’s a matter of being honest with ourselves and seeing plainly how we and the world all benefit by maintaining Peace Corps as an educational, lived experience — and as a learning institution, changing to meet the moment. I’m more confident today that Peace Corps will endure and evolve than I was seven months ago — or even five years ago when I applied to be a Country Director. All the signals are in place to make this work, to reflect on what we have done, and learn from our shared experiences.

     


    Mark Hannafin served as Peace Corps Country Director in North Macedonia from February 2016 to September 2020. He was part of the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers to serve in Kyrgyzstan, 1993–95. The opinions in this piece are his own and do not reflect Peace Corps policy. 

     

    READ MORE: How Volunteers evacuated from North Macedonia in March 2020 because of the pandemic came home to start Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Serving at Home — to help their communities in the United States in time of crisis.

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    Community news highlighting achievements of RPCVs. see more

    Achievements of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Across the country — and around the world

    By Peter Deekle (Iran 1968–1970)




    Angell Kim (far right) served in the northern coast of Colombia as a Peace Corps Volunteer in education and community development from 2016- 2018. Picture courtesy of Peace Corps. 


    BULGARIA

    Jerramy Dear-Ruel is a candidate for Montana’s House District 6 in 2020. He is a former Peace Corps Volunteer, detention officer, anf law enforcement park ranger. Jeremy is also the founding executive director of Sparrow’s Nest of Northwest Montana, a nonprofit dedicated to helping homeless high school students.

     

     

    COLOMBIA

    Angell Kim (2016-2018) was selected as a 2020 Donald M. Payne International Development Fellow and upon receiving her master's degree, she will serve as a U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID) Foreign Service Officer with a commitment of five years.

     
     

    CZECH REPUBLIC

    Maria Patrizio is a candidate for the Orange County (NY) Family Court judge position in 2020. She has twenty years of service exclusively with the Legal Aid Society of Orange County and is now a supervising attorney. She was a teacher during her Peace Corps service.

     

     

    ECUADOR

    Trent Blare (2005-2008) has become the newest researcher and assistant professor at Tropical Research and Education Center (TREC) of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).  In his new role at TREC he will facilitate policy development at the local and state level to promote agriculture sustainability that can also preserve natural resources.

      

    Juan David Ospina (2010-2012), a public health advocate and Army Combat Medic veteran, is running for state representative for Connecticut’s 145th district, representing Stamford.

     

     

     

    GUATEMALA

    Madelynn Hirneise (2011-2012) is the CEO of Families Forward. The nonprofit, formed in 1984, helps at-risk and homeless families to regain economic independence and find a stable home for their children, among other services.


     

    KENYA

    Dan Weinberg (1968-1970), a former Montana State Senator, donated a personal collection of art books to the Montana Museum of Art and Culture at the University of Montana in 2018. The museum hosted a new exhibition of his art books in September 2020, lasting into December 2020. The art books were published by the New York-based Vincent FitzGerald & Co., honoring the lifelong work of his friend Vincent FitzGerald, a fellow RPCV.

      

    MALAWI

    Jack Allison (1967-1970) was honored with The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest award the Governor of North Carolina can bestow on a civilian. He has recently published a memoir (January 2019) entitled The Warm Heart of Africa, documenting his Peace Corps experience as a health clinic Volunteer and unexpected pop star in the country. During his service he wrote a jingle encouraging the use of peanut butter in children's diets for protein. The tune became the number one hit song on Malawi's single radio station for three years.

     

    MEXICO

    Merle Parise (2007-2009), a Newcastle (ME) farmer and forestry consultant, is the Republican candidate for Maine House District 90 in 2020.

     

     

    MONGOLIA

    Anne Tulkin (2003-2005) is the founder and director of Accessible College, providing support for students with physical disabilities and health conditions and their families to ensure a successful transition to and through higher education. In September 2020 Accessible College and The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation have announced their new partnership.

     

    MOROCCO 

    Mark Apel (1982-1986) pictured second from left, has been volunteering in his original Peace Corps assigned country of service. He returned to Morocco in 2017 and 2018 as a Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer with the High Atlas Foundation, which he continues in 2020 virtually.

     
     

    TURKMENISTAN

    Peter Rengstorf (2010-2012) became the Senior Customer Success Agent at Meister (Seattle) in August 2020. Prior to his current appointment, he was Customer Success Manager at Raken Inc.

     

      


    Please share your news with us! Email Peter Deekle.

  • Ana Victoria Cruz posted an article
    Community news highlighting achievements of RPCVs. see more

    Achievements of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Across the country — and around the world

    By Peter Deekle (Iran 1968–1970)

     

    BURKINA FASO

    Tyler E. Lloyd (20122014) is an environmental protection specialist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and author of a memoir, Service Disrupted: My Peace Corps Story (August 2017). Tyler hosts My Peace Corps Story podcast, aiming to tell some of the many diverse and rich stories of Peace Corps Volunteers in their own words. The podcast is temporarily suspended, to be resumed later in 2020.

     

    Yoruba Mitchell is a community health educator with Doctors without Borders, teaching people how to prevent malaria, cholera,  Zika, and Ebola. Since early 2020, she has been addressing community readiness in the face of COVID-19.

     

     

    CAMBODIA

    Darlene Grant (20092011; Mongolia 20122015; Kosovo 20152019) was appointed in August 2020 as the Senior Advisor to the Director of the Peace Corps. She will work to increase and champion a diverse staff and Volunteer corps, aiming at increased inclusiveness, removing barriers for underrepresented groups, and creating a more just and equitable Peace Corps. During her career in higher education administration, she was named 2006 Social Worker of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

     

    CAMEROON

    Kristen Walker (20132015) is a biologist at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the Agriculture Research Service (ARS), where she investigates the genomics of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) and works to create a toolkit of immune reagents for swine. 

     

     

    CHILE

    John Tapogna (19951997) is President of ECONorthwest, a consulting firm based in the Pacific Northwest specializing in economics, finance, and planning. Since his arrival in 1997, he has built consulting practices in education, healthcare, human service, and tax policy.

     

     

    CONGO

    James Ross (19751977) published Hunting Teddy Roosevelt (Regal House Press) in July 2020, a fictional account of Roosevelt’s 1909 African safari. Ross’s short fiction has appeared in various print and online publications including The South Dakota Review, Santa Clara Review, Whiskey Island Magazine, Phantasmagoria, The Distiller, Lost River Lit Mag, and Embark.

     
     

    THE GAMBIA

    Ashley Garrison has received the 2020 Young Forester Leadership Award from the Colorado-Wyoming Society of American Foresters. The award recognizes outstanding leadership by a young forestry professional. She is pursuing a Master of Natural Resource Stewardship degree from Colorado State University.

     

     

    GUATEMALA

    Imani Lucas (20012003) has been appointed regional program manager for Region One at the California Complete Count – Census 2020. Lucas has been director of the Safe Neighborhoods Health Education Council since 2015.

     

     

    HONDURAS

    Amy Pressman (19871989) was appointed to the OpenGov board in August, 2020. Amy is the co-founder of Medallia, which makes software for businesses to measure and improve the customer experience in real time.

     
     


    KENYA

    Nancy Stearns Bercaw (19881989) is the new Senior Director of Communications and Marketing at Johnston Community College’s in North Carolina. She has written for publications around the world including The New York Times, Huffington Post, Korea Herald, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, CBS 48 HOURS, MariaShriver.com, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a 17-time All-American swimmer, National Champion, and Olympic Trials qualifier.  
     


    KYRGYZSTAN

    Scott Frederick (20032005) has been elected as one of 15 new shareholders for the law firm of Baker Donelson. He recently worked in Washington, D.C. for USAID.

     

     

    MALI

    Paul Dragon has been appointed to the Vermont Adult Learning Board of Trustees. Over the past 15 years, he has worked at the Agency of Human Services, including as the Deputy Secretary for the Agency, the Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, and most recently as the Director for Field Services.

     

     

    MOROCCO

    Stacey Ann Ferguson (20052007) has been selected as the new administrative and business services officer at Cape Cod National Seashore. Since 2018, she served the National Park Service as business manager for the deputy director for management and administration in Washington, D.C. She was a staff member at the Peace Corps in Washington for more than eight years.

     
     

    PARAGUAY

    Chris Heppe has been appointed Bureau of Land Management (BLM) central California district manager. He most recently served as the assistant field manager for the BLM Arcata Field Office, overseeing a variety of natural and cultural resource programs.    

     
     

    Besem Obenson (19921993) has been recognized as one of three “Hometown Heroes” by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) as part of its annual World Humanitarian Day (August 2020). She heads the UNHCR office in Medellin, Colombia, where she helps Venezuelan refugees. 

     
     


    PERU

    Greg Emerson (Morocco 2003; Peru 20032006) has been appointed Senior Director of Product at The Atlantic following several editorial positions. He oversees the end-to-end story experience for the magazine. He was transferred to Peru within months of Peace Corps service in Morocco following the U.S. invasion of Iraq.   

     

     

    RUSSIA

    Jonathan Slaght (19992002) has published Owls of the Eastern Ice (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux), a memoir of his work with Blakiston’s fish owls in Russia’s far east. He is the Russia and Northeast Asia Coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Society, working for both the Asia and the Arctic Beringia Regional Programs. He earned a Ph.D. in Wildlife Conservation from the University of Minnesota in 2011, and this year received an Early Career Alumni Award from the University.   

     

     

    SLOVAK REPUBLIC

    Kim Warren (19941995) was appointed as the new Associate Dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion at The School of Social Welfare at The University of Kansas in July 2020. Kim is a specialist in U.S. women’s history, has held the positions of director of undergraduate studies and director of graduate studies in two departments, and has been a faculty fellow in the Center for Teaching Excellence.  

     
     

    TANZANIA

    Donald Wright became the 19th U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania in April 2020. Prior to being named Ambassador, he served as the acting Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. He also directed the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the Office of Research Integrity, and the Office of Occupational Medicine. In addition, he served as the Executive Director of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition. 

     

     

    THAILAND

    Alan Abramowitz (19901992) has been reappointed as executive director of the Florida Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office for another three-year term. The Guardian ad Litem Program represents abused, abandoned, and neglected children in Florida’s dependency system. Abramowitz has been the program’s executive director since 2010. 

     

     

    UZBEKISTAN

    Jessica Jackson Shortall (20002001) is a founding board member of The 19th, a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom by and for women that launched in August 2020, reporting on gender, politics, and policy issues.

     
     


    Please share your news with us! Email Peter Deekle.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Organize and mobilize virtual district meetings over the next seven weeks. see more

    How can you help? Meet with your national legislators now – virtually.

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    We are entering a period where the future of the Peace Corps is on the line. The next 18 to 36 months will be crucial to the survival of the agency. Why? Peace Corps must have the necessary resources to redeploy as soon as practicable, with expedited applications for recent evacuees.

    Returned Peace Corps Volunteers are the most influential voices when it comes to speaking up for Peace Corps. And efforts to ensure Peace Corps’ future are ramping up now. It begins with virtual district office meetings.

    First up: On Tuesday, August 25 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, RPCVs will virtually meet with Republican Congressman and Co-Chair of the House Peace Corps Caucus Garrett Graves. This personal outreach lets legislators know how important Peace Corps is to you — and you can help them understand the impact and value of Peace Corps service to communities back home.

     

    Get on the map!

    Check out our growing map of emerging meetings. If a meeting in your area is in the works, reach out and sign up. If no meeting appears in your area, follow this link to get started — and contact advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org to tell us where you want to organize a meeting. 

     

     

    What if I’ve never participated in an advocacy meeting before? 

    No problem! While past experience helps, passion and preparation can more than make up for that. If you are new to organizing or participating in advocacy meetings with Congressional offices, contact us if you want a review of some of the basics. We have also laid out six easy steps you can follow here

     

    Download Virtual District Office Meetings Materials

      

    Download Toolkit

    Organize a Virtual District Office Meeting

  • Ana Victoria Cruz posted an article
    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.

     

    Learn More & Register

  • House legislation includes proposals for RPCV evacuees to continue service. see more

    New Peace Corps legislation continues to emerge to help evacuated Volunteers, this time in the House of Representatives. On April 30, Representatives Dean Phillips (D-MN) and Don Young (R-AK) announced the “Utilizing and Supporting Evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers Act,” which addresses several issues to support present and future needs of evacuated Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. The legislation is also supported by Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), and Jennifer Wexton (D-VA).

    In a press release issued by Representative Phillips, National Peace Corps Association President Glenn Blumhorst notes that “At the heart of this legislation are initiatives to engage these volunteers in what they do best — opportunities to continue serving others, both here at home to contain and overcome the pandemic, and overseas as soon as conditions permit Peace Corps to redeploy.”

    ​​​The Phillips-Young legislation would:

    • Extend the opportunity for evacuated RPCVs to continue to purchase health insurance through Peace Corps beyond the current three months.
    • Instruct the Corporation for National and Community Service to expedite opportunities through which evacuated RPCVs can be assigned to programs aimed at combating the COVID-19 pandemic here at home.
    • Expedite opportunities for evacuated RPCVs to return to Peace Corps service once it is practicable for the agency to begin redeploying volunteers overseas.

    In light of the many lives being lost during the pandemic, the legislation also includes language of the no-cost, bi-partisan “Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act,” legislation that would allow the Peace Corps logo to be included on grave markers or in death notices.

     

    “At the heart of this legislation are initiatives to engage these volunteers in what they do best — opportunities to continue serving others, both here at home to contain and overcome the pandemic, and overseas as soon as conditions permit Peace Corps to redeploy.”
       — Glenn Blumhorst, President & CEO, National Peace Corps Association

     

    2020 Progress: Efforts to Help Evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers

    National Peace Corps Association has been working with Congress on a variety of Peace Corps initiatives. The announcement of the Phillips-Young House legislation is the latest in a long string of positive steps to support Peace Corps and recent evacuees.

    • Evacuee Unemployment Compensation Confirmed (April 28): The U.S. Labor Department issued guidelines which confirmed evacuated RPCVs are eligible for unemployment under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act. Read more here.
       
    • National Health Corps Letter (April 21): In a letter to House leadership, Representatives Ami Bera (D-CA), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Bill Foster (D-IL) propose the creation of a National Health Corps to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically referencing evacuated RPCVs as a resource. Read more here.
       
    • Markey Legislation (April 13): Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) announced legislation that seeks to mobilize U.S. citizens — especially evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers — to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more here.
       
    • Record Senate Funding Letter (April 10): A record 42 Senators signed the annual Peace Corps funding Dear Colleague letter. Led by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the letter requests robust funding for Peace Corps in Fiscal Year 2021, which begins October 1. Read more here.
       
    • Murphy Legislation (April 3): Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) announced legislation to address unemployment and health care benefits for Peace Corps evacuees, expand service opportunities, and promote the return of Peace Corps programs overseas. Read more here.
       
    • Bi-Cameral Letters (April 2): Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Congressman Dean Phillips (D-MN) led joint Senate/House letters on the need for evacuees to have jobless protections and the need for evacuees to have opportunities to utilize their skills to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more here.
       
    • Peace Corps Stimulus (March 27): Congress passed and President Trump signed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package to respond to the pandemic. Included in that package was $88 million to cover the evacuation of 7,300 volunteers and provide initial readjustment support for the evacuees. Read more here.
       
    • House Peace Corps Funding Letter (March 13): A bi-partisan group of 167 lawmakers signed a House Peace Corps funding letter requesting $450 million for Peace Corps in fiscal year 2021. The letter was issued by leaders of the Peace Corps Caucus RPCVs John Garamendi (D-CA) and Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA), and Representative Garrett Graves (R-LA). Read more here.
       
    • Capitol Hill Advocacy Day (March 5): More than 200 members of the Peace Corps community conducted more than 220 meetings on Capitol Hill during NPCA’s 16th annual National Days of Action in Support of the Peace Corps. We were joined by 35 Peace Corps Volunteers from China, evacuated five weeks earlier, to speak to the importance of their work. See photo album here.
       
    • Former Directors Support Independence (January 7): NPCA issued a letter authored and signed by ten former Peace Corps directors opposing Senate legislation to place Peace Corps under the authority of the State Department. Read more here.

     


     Support our Efforts

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    Story Updated 01 May 2020 11 a.m.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    This is the fourth time President Trump is proposing Peace Corps cuts. see more

    President Trump proposed a $9.3 million cut in baseline funding for the Peace Corps for Fiscal Year 2021. His proposal—sent to Congress this week—would provide $401.2 million for the agency, down from the current $410.5 million budget. 

    The request marks only the second time in the nearly 60-year history of the Peace Corps in which a president has proposed cutting agency funding for four consecutive years. In the previous three years, Congress responded by restoring the proposed cuts. However, the end result has been five consecutive years of flat funding for the agency.

    In its budget justification report to Congress, Peace Corps says the budget will allow the agency "to continue supporting more than 6,700 Volunteers and trainees serving in 61 countries". However, that number is approximately eight percent below the 7,334 volunteers and trainees reported during the agency's annual census, conducted on September 30, 2019.

    "In this period of growing prosperity, it is a shame that Peace Corps funding remains flat for five consecutive years,” said National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst. “Now, the Administration once again proposes cuts that will further reduce Peace Corps' ability to meet the demand for volunteers around the world. We expect Congress will reject this budget cut and we hope Congress will find a way to give Peace Corps a raise in Fiscal Year 2021."

    While Peace Corps' proposed budget represents a two percent reduction in funding, a much deeper 22 percent cut is proposed for the entire International Affairs Budget. The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition issued this statement in response to those cuts.

    As has been the case in each of the past three years, the White House has proposed the elimination of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which includes various domestic service programs including Americorps and Senior Corps. Voices for National Service issued this statement in response to the proposed elimination of CNCS.

    Necessary funding for Peace Corps will be a primary point of focus during NPCA’s upcoming National Days of Action in Support of the Peace Corps. Contact Community Engagement Associate Arianna Richard at arianna@peacecorpsconnect to find out more about organizing an advocacy event in your area during March or April.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Ten former Peace Corps Directors oppose Senate legislation see more

    A bi-partisan group of ten former Peace Corps directors are unified in their opposition to Senate legislation that would place Peace Corps operations under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of State, ending the agency’s independent status.

    “The independence of the Peace Corps has been carefully protected by Presidents, Secretaries of State, and Congress for the past 58 years,” said the letter addressed to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and signed by ten former directors. “Part of the reason (for this independence) is to ensure that Volunteers would not be confused with those carrying out day-to-day U.S. foreign and security policies. Turning the Peace Corps into a bureau of the Department of State would void that independence.”

    The letter also references the 1961 statement of then Secretary of State Dean Rusk, who outlined the importance of Peace Corps independence at its inception: “The Peace Corps is not an instrument of foreign policy because to make it so would rob it of its contribution to foreign policy.”
     

    Read the Full Letter


    Last July, Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) introduced the "Peace Corps Mission Accountability Act" (S.2320), which proposes Peace Corps be made a subordinate agency within the Department of State, with the Peace Corps budget being incorporated into the State Department. The bill also calls for the removal of Volunteers currently serving in China and states that "the Peace Corps shall not operate in any country that is hostile to the national security interests of the United States, as determined by the Secretary of State."

    As part of NPCA's upcoming National Days of Action, advocates will meet with lawmakers to take action on this legislation. Register here if you plan to join us for our March 5th Capitol Hill advocacy day or register here if you can organize a solidarity event in your community during March or April.

    Have questions? We're here to help. Email advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org.