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  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Under her leadership, Volunteers have worked with FEMA and have begun to return to service overseas see more

    Carol Spahn has led the agency during a challenging time in Peace Corps history. On Wednesday, President Biden announced that he intends to nominate her to serve as the 21st Director of the Peace Corps.

     

    By Jonathan Pearson

    Photo from Peace Corps video

     

    In a release issued by the White House on April 6, President Biden announced that he intends to nominate Carol Spahn to serve as Director of the Peace Corps. She began serving as acting director in January 2021 and has led the agency for the past 14 months, one of the most challenging periods in Peace Corps history. Just weeks ago the first Volunteers began returning to service overseas in Zambia and the Dominican Republic, and Volunteers are expected to return to more than 20 countries in the months ahead.
     

    “We congratulate Carol Spahn for her pending nomination as Peace Corps Director, and applaud President Biden for his choice,” said National Peace Corps Association President & CEO Glenn Blumhorst. 

    “We congratulate Carol Spahn for her pending nomination as Peace Corps Director, and applaud President Biden for his choice,” said National Peace Corps Association President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst. “NPCA has been honored to work with Carol and her strong leadership team over the past year on collaborative efforts to navigate this difficult period of planning for the Peace Corps’ new future. We have full confidence in Carol’s commitment to return Volunteers to the field in a responsible manner, and offer the next generation of Volunteers a better, stronger Peace Corps ready to meet the global challenges we confront. The continuity of this work is key, and we urge the Senate to swiftly bring forth this nomination for consideration and bipartisan confirmation.”

    Prior to serving as acting director, Spahn served as chief of operations in the Africa Region covering Eastern and Southern Africa, and before that, served a five-year term as country director of Peace Corps Malawi. Her Peace Corps roots extend back to her service as a small business advisor in Romania 1994–96. She has more than 25 years of experience in international development, business, health, and women’s empowerment including work with Women for Women International — which supports female survivors of war — and Accordia Global Health Foundation — which helps fight infectious disease in Africa.

     

    Leading the Agency at a Challenging Time — and Ensuring It Can Meet the Needs of a Changed World  

    Last year, under Spahn’s leadership, the agency created a domestic service initiative for only the second time in Peace Corps’ history, working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support vaccination campaigns across the United States. The Peace Corps also continued to expand the Virtual Service Pilot, a program launched in late 2020 to match returned Volunteers with partner organizations around the world.

    During the past year, some of the agency’s longstanding shortcomings were also brought into focus. One pair of articles by USA Today delved into how the agency has not adequately addressed sexual assault of Volunteers — a problem going back years. After the first of those articles appeared in May 2021, Spahn ordered a five-year review by the independent Sexual Assault Advisory Council. Shortly after that report was completed, it was made public by the agency in fall 2021. Drawing on recommendations that report provided, in March 2022 the agency released a briefing paper and roadmap for how to better address sexual assault reduction and response. 

    In December 2021 and January 2022, USA Today also published a pair of articles on the highly disturbing killing in 2019 of Rabia Issa, a mother of three in Tanzania who was struck by a car driven by a Peace Corps official. Both the actions of that staff member and the agency’s response sent shock waves throughout the Peace Corps community. Carol Spahn spoke to Peace Corps staff about this tragedy during a global town hall meeting in January. From staff and the wider Peace Corps community the agency has heard calls for greater transparency going forward — and that the agency live up to its ideals.

    Spahn has said on multiple occasions that the pandemic has underscored just how vital the mission of the Peace Corps is. “The pandemic has set back years of development progress and produced unprecedented challenges,” she said last October at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. “It has also underscored our world’s profound interdependence and shared future. Recovery will require international cooperation not only at the government level, but also at the community level. And that is where the Peace Corps as a trusted community partner will return to service in new and time tested ways.”

     

    “Intercultural competence, diversity, equity, inclusion is at the core of who we are as an agency and what we do. Our approach encourages deep humility and builds transferable skills as our staff and Volunteers partner at a grassroots level with people from 64 different countries.” 
          —Carol Spahn


    Spahn also told the committee that during the suspension of Volunteer service overseas the agency has redoubled its commitment bolster support systems for Volunteers and, crucially, to ensure that a focus on intercultural competence, diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (ICDEINA) within Peace Corps is a top priority. “Intercultural competence, diversity, equity, inclusion is at the core of who we are as an agency and what we do,” Spahn said. “Our approach encourages deep humility and builds transferable skills as our staff and Volunteers partner at a grassroots level with people from 64 different countries.”

    At those hearings, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks praised Spahn and her leadership team for their work to advance ICDEINA within the agency. And, he noted, his examination shows that the Peace Corps is ahead of many other federal agencies in this regard.

    In March 2022, as part of Peace Corps Week — marking the March 1 anniversary of President Kennedy’s executive order establishing the Peace Corps in 1961 — the agency hosted a community forum and announced the first countries to which Volunteers would begin returning to service in 2022. The forum also highlighted further details on ICDEINA plans, including additional staffing to address key issues, expanded training for worldwide staff and future Volunteers, reforms to reduce economic barriers to service, and more.

     

    Next Step: Senate Foreign Relations Committee

    After President Biden formally nominates Spahn, she will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for a confirmation hearing. The Peace Corps director is the last major Biden administration nominee within the jurisdiction of the Foreign Relations Committee to come before that body.

    Should Spahn receive approval from the committee, her nomination will go to the full Senate for a final confirmation vote.

     

    Here is President Biden’s official nomination announcement.

     

    Story updated April 7 at 19:30 Eastern. 


    Jonathan Pearson is Advocacy Director for National Peace Corps Association

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Now is the time to build back the Peace Corps better than before. see more

    All former living directors of the Peace Corps have joined together to send a ringing message to President Biden: Now is the time. Build Peace Corps back better than before — and over the next five years, put 10,000 Volunteers in the field.

    Below is the full text of the letter.  Download a PDF of the letter here.

     


    April 26, 2021

    President Joseph R. Biden
    The White House

    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

    Washington, DC 20500

     

    Dear President Biden,

    We write to you today as a bipartisan, unified group of former directors of the Peace Corps to express our full support for a revitalized Peace Corps, one that advances our nation’s critical foreign policy goal of world peace through international cooperation and service. We believe that now is the right time for the Peace Corps to build back better than it ever was before.

    We therefore call on you and your administration to commit to raising the number of Peace Corps Volunteers in the field to a sustained level of 15,000 over the next decade, beginning by increasing the agency’s annual budget to $600 million by FY 2025. This funding level would support our five-year goal of 10,000 volunteers, consistent with bipartisan reauthorization legislation currently advancing in both chambers of Congress. Your support for this long overdue goal would galvanize the American peoples’ spirit of service and international engagement that the Peace Corps represents. Previous presidents, both Democrats and Republicans, have endorsed doubling the size of the Peace Corps. Now is the time to fulfill that promise.

    As you are aware, more than 240,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps over the past 60 years, cumulatively serving in 142 countries and providing well over three billion hours of service to our nation and the world. Yet due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, there are currently no Peace Corps Volunteers serving abroad today. Such a situation does untold damage to our strong community-based worldwide presence and the United States’ image abroad. We must send our volunteers back to the field as soon as possible, and we believe you will have strong backing to do so. There is overwhelming support from all host countries for the return of volunteers. They see the history of volunteers joining in public health campaigns to eradicate smallpox, polio, and measles as evidence that the Peace Corps can play a vital role in confronting today’s pandemic as well as the long-lasting consequences of COVID-19 in our partner nations.

     

    There is overwhelming support from all host countries for the return of volunteers. They see the history of volunteers joining in public health campaigns to eradicate smallpox, polio, and measles as evidence that the Peace Corps can play a vital role in confronting today’s pandemic as well as the long-lasting consequences of COVID-19 in our partner nations.

     

    Throughout our decades of bipartisan leadership of the Peace Corps, we benefitted from deep bipartisan congressional support for the agency. We served both Republican and Democratic presidents and understood, as you do, that the Peace Corps is an American innovation, not a partisan one. When Americans volunteer abroad, they are not seen as Democrats or Republicans; they are seen as Americans.

    That is why we are encouraged by renewed bipartisan leadership in Congress to maintain that bipartisan tradition for the Peace Corps. New legislation, the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021 (H.R. 1456), which has been introduced by Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA), will advance the policy goals we seek. We call on you to fully support this legislation, as well as the anticipated Senate companion legislation, so that it can be quickly sent to your desk for your signature into law.

     

    This bill is visionary. It creates a clear blueprint for the agency’s future, one that we all share, to ramp up volunteer numbers to meet the tremendous challenges faced by our international partners while facilitating the American peoples’ reengagement with the world.

     

    This bill is visionary. It creates a clear blueprint for the agency’s future, one that we all share, to ramp up volunteer numbers to meet the tremendous challenges faced by our international partners while facilitating the American peoples’ reengagement with the world. Critical reforms are included in the bill that reflect the longstanding requests of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer community. These include enhancements to the provision of health care, with special attention to women’s health and safety; mental health care; readjustment allowance; volunteer security; whistleblower protections; and post-service hiring opportunities.

    The bill’s provisions demonstrate that Congress is listening to the Peace Corps community, which provided significant input into the bill, ensuring a better experience for the volunteer, agency, and host country. Your support for the bill’s vision and policy prescriptions will show the Peace Corps community that you, too, understand their needs and support their hopes for a renewed Peace Corps.

    In closing: Now is the time, under your leadership, to take a bold stroke to renew the original promise of the Peace Corps expressed in 1960 by President John F. Kennedy when he called upon young Americans to dedicate themselves to the cause of peace and friendship. We honor that vision and the vigorous support that all his successors have provided. We hope that in the days ahead, you, given your longstanding support for the Peace Corps, will join them in advocating for a reimagined, reshaped, and retooled Peace Corps for a changed world.

     

    Sincerely,

    Nicholas Craw (1973–74) 
    Nixon Administration

    Richard Celeste (1979–81) 
    Carter Administration

    Elaine Chao (1991–92) 
    Bush Administration

    Carol Bellamy (1993–95)
    Clinton Administration

    Mark Gearan (1995–99)
    Clinton Administration

    Mark Schneider (1999–2001)
    Clinton Administration

    Gaddi Vasquez (2002–06)
    Bush Administration

    Ronald Tschetter (2006–09)
    Bush Administration

    Aaron Williams (2009–12)
    Obama Administration

    Carrie Hessler-Radelet (2014–17)
    Obama Administration

    Josephine (Jody) Olsen (2018–21)
    Trump Administration


    Download a PDF of the letter from Peace Corps Directors to President Biden here.

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    NPCA wholeheartedly supports the nomination of Carol Spahn. see more

    Today National Peace Corps Association sent a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee supporting Carol Spahn’s nomination to serve as the 21st Director of the Peace Corps. Here’s what we said. And here’s how you can help ensure a better and stronger Peace Corps for the future.

     

    By Jonathan Pearson

    Photo courtesy Peace Corps

     

    In April President Biden officially nominated Carol Spahn to serve as Director of the Peace Corps. She began serving as acting director in January 2021 and has led the agency through one of the most challenging periods in Peace Corps history. In the weeks ahead, Spahn is expected to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for a confirmation hearing. While we’re waiting for the date of the hearing to be announced, NPCA sent a letter to the committee supporting Spahn’s nomination.

     

    “NPCA has been honored to work with CEO Spahn and her strong leadership team during the past 18 months,” we write. “We have full confidence in her commitment to the continued redeployment of Volunteers to the field in a responsible manner, and are confident that the next generation of Volunteers will experience a better, stronger Peace Corps prepared to meet new global challenges.”

     

    “NPCA has been honored to work with CEO Spahn and her strong leadership team during the past 18 months,” we write. “We have full confidence in her commitment to the continued redeployment of Volunteers to the field in a responsible manner, and are confident that the next generation of Volunteers will experience a better, stronger Peace Corps prepared to meet new global challenges.” 

    Read NPCA’s letter below. Then, write to your Senators and ask them to confirm Carol Spahn to lead the Peace Corps.

     


    June 23, 2022

     

    The Honorable Robert Menendez (D-NJ) 
    Chairman

    Senate Foreign Relations Committee

    423 Dirksen Senate Office Building

    Washington, D.C. 20510-6225

     

    The Honorable James Risch (R-ID)
    Ranking Member

    Senate Foreign Relations Committee

    423 Dirksen Senate Office Building

    Washington, D.C. 20510-6225

     

    Dear Chairman Menendez and Ranking Member Risch,

    We write to express National Peace Corps Association’s (NPCA) wholehearted support of the nomination of Carol Spahn to become the twenty-first Director of the Peace Corps. We urge the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to move swiftly to support this nomination and work for full Senate confirmation of Chief Executive Officer Spahn as soon as possible.

    NPCA has been honored to work with CEO Spahn and her strong leadership team during the past 18 months. This has been an incredibly challenging time of planning for the Peace Corps’ future in the face of a global pandemic. During this time, we have been deeply impressed by CEO Spahn’s leadership and collaboration with the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) community. We have full confidence in her commitment to the continued redeployment of Volunteers to the field (which began this past March) in a responsible manner. We are confident that her leadership, coupled with passage of significant Peace Corps reauthorization legislation before Congress, will ensure that the next generation of Volunteers will experience a better, stronger Peace Corps prepared to meet new global challenges.

    Because of her leadership during arguably the most difficult period in the Peace Corps’ history, we believe President Biden was wise in putting forth this nomination. While our nation — and particularly the world — are not fully free of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is hope that the number of Peace Corps Volunteers returning to service will steadily grow through 2022 and 2023.

    As CEO Spahn noted last fall during a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), the work of these redeployed volunteers will include addressing the pandemic. “The pandemic has set back years of development progress and produced unprecedented challenges. It has also underscored our world’s profound interdependence and shared future. Recovery will require international cooperation not only at the government level, but also at the community level. And that is where the Peace Corps as a trusted community partner will return to service in new and time tested ways.”

    CEO Spahn has also demonstrated robust leadership on key policy and management issues that are as necessary as they are challenging. Her request last fall to the Sexual Assault Advisory Council to review and update recommendations of the past five years, the public posting of that report, and her outreach to the Peace Corps community to share its concerns and proposals proves her strong commitment to the issue. It is this type of transparency, which she is guiding, that will help support survivors and lower the risks of sexual violence.

    Similarly, the Peace Corps is receiving praise for its efforts to advance intercultural competence, diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility within its ranks. During that same HFAC hearing, Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks praised recent agency work in this regard, saying “I understand also that the Peace Corps has instituted this robust program that you've talked about in your opening statement, intercultural competence, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and that you've been leading these efforts. You know, and you probably, from my examination, are ahead of a lot of other agencies”.

    The issues outlined above and many more critical to the Peace Corps community were included in NPCA’s Peace Corps Connect to the Future report (November 2020), which reflected a series of community conversations and town hall meetings with more than 1,000 RPCVs about the future of the Peace Corps. We have been very pleased with the way CEO Spahn has embraced the report and its recommendations, many of which have been implemented over the past year.

    Lastly, as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Romania 1994–96), former Country Director, and Chief of Operations for Peace Corps’ Southern and Eastern Africa region, we at NPCA believe that Carol Spahn possesses the background, dedication, and proven track record to move the Peace Corps forward. We respectfully request that your committee move her nomination swiftly to the full Senate for its consideration and ultimate confirmation.

     

    Sincerely,

    Kim Herman
    Interim President & CEO
    National Peace Corps Association

     

    Jed Meline
    Interim Chair – Board of Directors
    National Peace Corps Association
                                                           

     


    MORE: Read the letter as a PDF here. 

     

    Write Your Senators to Support the Nomination

     

    Jonathan Pearson is the Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. Write him here.

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    Top priority is passing the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act see more

    On March 3 we kicked off our 18th season of advocacy in support of the Peace Corps. Our key priority: passing the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act. Congressional meetings are being organized, and op-eds are being published. Now is the time to get involved.

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    National Peace Corps Association kicked off National Days of Advocacy in Support of the Peace Corps on March 3. For 18 years, this grassroots effort by the Peace Corps community to work with members of Congress has been one of NPCA’s key contributions to Peace Corps Week (which concluded on March 5, 2022). Moving forward, our key legislative priority this year is passing the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act, which will help ensure a better and stronger Peace Corps to meet the needs of a changed world.

    Last year, as Peace Corps celebrated the 60th anniversary of its founding, it was amid a global pandemic and social distancing. A national crisis saw the U.S. Capitol closed to most visitors. This year, the dangers of COVID-19 are far from over, and our nation remains deeply polarized. After an invasion by Vladimir Putin, Ukraine is fighting a war it did not want and did not start.

    Yet, as Peace Corps posts around the world have increasingly met robust new protocols for health and safety, Volunteers are also soon going to begin returning to service in communities overseas. It is a time of unprecedented challenges and renewed opportunities. And it is a time when the mission of building peace and friendship is more important than ever before. In March and April, your involvement is key.

     

    March 3 Kickoff

    Our Days of Advocacy began with a virtual kickoff on Thursday, March 3. Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, former Peace Corps staff, invited Volunteers, and other supporters came together to hear remarks by Peace Corps champions in Congress including RPCV Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Advocacy leaders discussed the crucial work for improvements and reforms that will ensure that Volunteers are returning to a stronger, better, and well-resourced Peace Corps. Our highest legislative priority is to pass the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act, the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in decades.

    It's not too late to get involved in our National Days of Advocacy. A stronger and better Peace Corps begins with you!

     

    Take Individual Action Right Now

    Visit our NPCA Action Center to write to your members of Congress. Share this link with others. We need every citizen who believes in the importance of the Peace Corps to contact Congress at this consequential moment in Peace Corps history!

     

    Get Involved

    Check out our 2022 Days of Advocacy map to see if any activities are already in the works, including virtual meetings with congressional offices, virtual letter writingadvocacy workshops, and more.

    If there’s no activity already scheduled in your area, fill out this form and help lead one.

     

    Meetings With Congress

    A key component of our 2022 Days of Advocacy will be district office or virtual meetings with congressional offices. This is particularly the case with your senators, where much work remains to advance and pass the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act.

    Here are details on how to plan and carry out effective advocacy meetings. No previous experience is necessary. NPCA advocacy staff and community leaders around the country are ready to assist you.

    We also put together the video below to give you an introduction to advocacy.

     

     

     

    More Resources for Your Meetings with Congress

    Visit our State Resources page for a one-page document about Peace Corps activity in your state and to see profiles of every member of Congress. The document is designed for you to download and share with congressional staff at the end of your office meetings.

    We are currently updating a more in-depth document with a more complete overview of legislative priorities. For right now, you can use the 2021 Fact Sheet.

     

    Priorities: Peace Corps Legislation, Funding, and More

    Our Days of Advocacy Agenda will continue taking shape as developments occur in the weeks and months ahead. We’ll update this page as more information becomes available. 
     

    Comprehensive Peace Corps Legislation in both the Senate and House of Representatives

    Passage of the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act is NPCA’s top legislative priority in 2022.

    In the House of Representatives, returned Volunteer Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) introduced the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1456) in 2021. Last fall, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed this amended version of the legislation by an overwhelming, bipartisan vote of 44 to 4. 

    In the Senate, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez (D-NJ), is expected to introduce similar legislation in March 2022.

    Here is our Peace Corps Reauthorization Act issue brief and talking points.

    Here is a one-page document you can give to your representatives during House meetings.

    Here is a one-page document you can give to your senators during Senate meetings.

     

    Peace Corps Funding in the Senate and House of Representatives

    Unfortunately, and for a seventh consecutive year, Congress approved a Fiscal Year 2022 spending plan that will include flat funding of $410.5 million for the Peace Corps. 

    There is better news as work begins on the Fiscal Year 2023 budget. On March 28th, President Biden submitted his FY 2023 budget to Congress. Included in his budget is a request of $430.5 million for the Peace Corps, a nearly five percent increase in funding.

    As with years past, we anticipate mobilizing our community in the coming weeks to urge lawmakers to sign House and Senate “Dear Colleague” letters supporting robust funding for the Peace Corps in FY 2023. Stay connected to NPCA advocacy for action related to these letters.

    Here is our Peace Corps Funding issue brief and talking points.
     

     

    Peace Corps Director Nomination | Senate Action Only

    On April 6, 2022, President Biden announced his intent to nominate Acting Peace Corps Director Carol Spahn to become the 21st Peace Corps Director. Once officially nominated, Acting Director Spahn will face a confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. If she passes a vote in the committee, her confirmation would go to the full Senate for a final vote.

          Read more here about this nomination, including a supporting statement from NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst.

    If you have upcoming meetings with Senate offices (especially members of the Foreign Relations Committee), please urge swift, strong, and bipartisan confirmation of Carol Spahn as the next Peace Corps Director.

     

     

    Diversity and Inclusion Within the State Department | House of Representatives Action Only

    The Diversity and Inclusion at the Department of State Act (H.R. 4589) was introduced last July by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX). The legislation would create a senior level position of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer to advocate for diversity within the State Department. A Leadership Council would be established and accountable for implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives. H.R. 4589 also changes promotion practices to improve retention and fairness, and creates a mentoring program within the agency.

    Here is our State Department Diversity Act issue brief and talking points.

    Here is a one-page document you can give to your representatives during House meetings.

     

    Story updated April 7, 2022 at 7:00 AM Eastern.


    Jonathan Pearson is the Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    As volunteers return to serve, it's time for the President and Congress to support the Peace Corps see more

    Congress has finally passed a budget for fiscal year 2022. It keeps funding flat for the Peace Corps for the seventh year in a row. To ensure a better and stronger Peace Corps as Volunteers return to the field, and to enable the agency to make needed reforms, Congress needs to provide more funding. 

     

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    Congress has completed its work on a budget for fiscal year 2022, passing a $1.5 trillion spending package. That’s the good news. Unfortunately, for a seventh consecutive year, instead of providing new resources to better meet the needs of a changed world, it keeps Peace Corps’ baseline funding flat at $410.5 million.

    We are nearly six months into the current fiscal year, FY 2022. The House of Representatives passed the spending bill on Wednesday night. The Senate approved the spending package on Thursday night. The spending package now goes to the president for his signature.

    The entire international affairs budget received only a small increase in funding. Final deliberations led to the removal of funds proposed for further resources to address COVID-19 both domestically and globally.

    Read this statement from the US Global Leadership Coalition.

    Read the latest news on congressional action.

     

     

    NPCA Statement: Let’s Ensure that Peace Corps Has Funding to Make Needed Reforms and Meet the Needs of a Changed World

    National Peace Corps Association President Glenn Blumhorst issued this statement on final congressional action on FY 2022 congressional spending, and the upcoming FY 2023 budget:

    Last week, the Peace Corps community was excited to hear news that the first Volunteers are scheduled to return to service in Zambia and the Dominican Republic later this month, with plans well underway for the return of Volunteers to an additional 22 countries in the next few months.

    Today, we are disappointed and quite concerned that for the seventh consecutive year, Congress has approved a federal spending package that will continue flat funding for the Peace Corps' baseline appropriation through Fiscal Year 2022.

    There must not be an eighth consecutive year of flat funding. In the coming weeks, President Biden needs to present Congress with a Fiscal Year 2023 budget request that will support an accelerated return to service for Volunteers, a restoration of some of the purchasing power Peace Corps has been losing due to inflation, and an acknowledgement that a stronger Peace Corps, ready to initiate improvements and reforms to be its best, will have the resources to carry out is mission.

    The Peace Corps needs a raise. The President and Congress need to respond to that need.

     

    Take Action Now: Urge the President to Request Increased Funding to Support the Peace Corps as Volunteers Return to Service Overseas 

    With the conclusion of work on Fiscal Year 2022, attention will quickly shift to the fiscal year that will begin in October 2022. As Congress awaits President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget, take action now to urge the president to request increased funding for the Peace Corps as Volunteers return to the field.

     

    Write President Biden

     


    Jonathan Pearson is Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. Write him at advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org.

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    Suggestions to the President by eleven former Peace Corps directors see more

    Here’s what eleven former Peace Corps directors would say.

     

    To mark the 60th anniversary of the Peace Corps on March 1, University of Wisconsin-Madison hosted a conversation with 11 former Peace Corps directors. Topics ranged across the decades, with a focus on this unprecedented moment — pandemic that led to global evacuation — and an eye toward what Peace Corps can and should do for a changed world.

    The conversation was moderated by Donna Shalala, former secretary of health and human services and former member of Congress. Shalala served as a Volunteer in Iran 1962–64, when Sargent Shriver was Peace Corps Director. “He came out to visit us. One of the things I remember, other than he was a charismatic character and we had a lot of fun with him, is that he stuck us with the hotel bill. Thirty years later I presented him with that bill — and his wife made him pay it.”

    In all seriousness, she noted that amid a time of rancorous political divide, if she had three minutes with the president to talk about the Peace Corps, she would drive home this point: “The Peace Corps has always been bipartisan. It has always had the support of both parties. Some of the most significant budget increases were during a Republican presidency.”

    Bolstering support for Peace Corps is something that earns support on both sides of the aisle.            

     —Steven Boyd Saum

     

     

     


     

    I’d tell the president: Get them back out there as quickly as you can. Number two, use it as a base to build a national service program for the entire United States. And number three, hire everybody who’s a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer for your administration.

    —Carol Bellamy
    Director 1993–95

     


    The Time Is Now!


     

    My first request would be to double the size of the program, because we clearly have always had the demand, way more than we could ever fill … Peace Corps has remained strong and a very durable brand throughout multiple challenges, multiple crises, multiple attempts to defund the agency, people who tried to submerge it in another agency … It has survived and prospered.

    —Nicholas Craw
    Director 1973–74


     

    DOUBLE IT! We’ve come to appreciate the importance of public health, both at home and globally, in a much more immediate way. Can we declare a decade committed to global public health, in which the Peace Corps plays a role overseas — and then brings that role home? The public health system here can use great strengthening, and it could become part of a comprehensive national service program.

    —Richard Celeste
    Director 1979–81

     


    part of 60



     

    For a while I was with the Pan American Health Organization, and people told me that Peace Corps Volunteers in Latin America, in Africa, and in countries in other parts of the world, were key in the smallpox eradication program, and Volunteers worked on polio eradication. Looking forward, it seems to me that would be the kind of challenge Volunteers would respond to. COVID is not going away quickly. Peace Corps Volunteers can help, through their ability to bring technology to bear on health communication in countries around the world.

    —Mark Schneider
    Director 1999–2001  

     

     

    I am a big proponent of universal national service. I would tell the president that we have a blueprint, which is ready to go, for expansion of national service. Now is the time. We need something that created the greatest generation, that brought people together from Tulsa to New York, from Brooklyn to Fresno — and national service can do it. As we look for ways to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, national service would be an ideal platform to expand opportunities for young people around the country.

    —Aaron Williams
    Director 2009–12

     


    middle of 60


     

    I’d try to add an initiative that was dear to my heart: the 50-plus initiative, and talk about the fact that the Peace Corps is not only for young people; it’s for those who have had successful careers, and now have years of experience that they have the ability to share with people around the world. I think it would be impactful on the president to hear some of those stories.

    —Ron Tschetter
    Director 2006–09

     

     

    The most important point is the proven track record, success, and value of the Peace Corps — to set the foundation to have a discussion about the ultimate objective, which is to grow and expand the Peace Corps. The domestic dividend is the one aspect that I tried to emphasize, particularly, both to the president and on the Hill; the return on that investment far, far exceeds the boundaries or the time of service in country.

    —Gaddi Vasquez
    Director 2002–06

     


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    My conversations with Sargent Shriver confirmed to me the whole ethos of the Peace Corps was innovation — and making the Volunteer the North Star. Which led me to think through ways that we could contemporize the Peace Corps and make it right for the times. I used to think the domestic dividend was one of the more underreported or unobserved strengths of the Peace Corps. 

    We know the good work that happens in some of the most desperate places across the planet — what that means to those communities and villages, certainly the Volunteers. We now know the impact on American lives when they return is the brilliance of the Third Goal of the Peace Corps. We’re at a point in our history where the importance of national and community service cannot be more important. It’s what unites us. Volunteers would say that it crosses the boundaries of difference. 

    We’re at a point in our history where the importance of national and community service cannot be more important. It’s what unites us.

    As we celebrate this 60th anniversary of the Peace Corps, a major accomplishment in the next ten years can be to enhance the threads of service. We know the demand is there. The interesting question for me now is: What will the next ten, 15, 20 years bring in innovation? During my time, we thought of ways to use short-term assignments, initially Crisis Corps, which became Peace Corps Response. Every director here had a moment where they could build upon that history through innovation, respond to needs. 

    America’s young people — and those not so young — are looking for ways to make a difference. As to the future of the Peace Corps, we’re going to need everyone’s support to make sure the funding is ample. This anniversary is so joyful — but the 70th will be even more so when the Peace Corps will have been doubled.

    —Mark Gearan
    Director 1995–99


     

    Many people don’t really understand what Peace Corps does. So I would share a story that conveys what Peace Corps is really about — a story told me by Alpha Condé [first democratically elected president in Guinea], who early in my tenure as director came to visit with President Obama to celebrate democracy in West Africa. He asked to see me; he had a short period of time in Washington, D.C. I went to his hotel, and we had a very formal meeting and exchanged gifts.

    He had to meet with President Obama in just a minute. I jumped up to leave — and he reached for my arm and he said, “Please sit down, because now that we’ve dispensed with the formalities, I want to speak to you from my heart. I want to tell you how Peace Corps has transformed my life — but even more important, how it has changed the lives of my people. 

    “There was a Peace Corps Volunteer who lived next door to me — the first person who believed I had a future outside the boundaries of my village. His late-night tutoring helped me to pass my national exams. He helped me navigate the journey through university application, financial forms, etc. I would not be president today if not for his support and encouragement. 

    “But more important, the impact your Volunteers have had on my people: During my campaign for presidency, I visited over 300 villages in Guinea. I went to villages in the far east of my country, where Ebola started. My campaign staff wouldn’t go there — and there were Peace Corps Volunteers. I went to the villages in the north where civil servants refused to be posted — and there were Peace Corps Volunteers. I went to small villages in the center of my country; they are visited occasionally by NGOs, which do great work. But at the end of the day, they get back in their SUVs and go back to Conakry, where they live. Your Peace Corps Volunteers stay. 

     

    Alpha Condé, the first democratically elected president of Guinea, said: “Your being there validates my people in a way that sending them money or building them a school could never accomplish. In all honesty, your being there validates my people more than millions of dollars in foreign assistance.”

     

    “By your presence, you tell my people that Americans care, that my people are important, that you’re willing to give us your most precious asset — your sons and daughters — and that they are willing to leave everything that is dear to them to travel thousands of miles from home to learn our language, eat our food, learn about our culture, and work on our priorities. Your being there validates my people in a way that sending them money or building them a school could never accomplish. In all honesty, your being there validates my people more than millions of dollars in foreign assistance. 

    “My people are so proud to show their culture and their language. They’re so proud to work together with your Volunteers to create a better world together, who give them a hand up and not a handout. And that makes a difference.”

    I’d share that story. In this world that has become so divided, presidents need to know about those interpersonal connections. Unless people really understand that, they don’t see a benefit in the Peace Corps. We need to be able to communicate the importance of Peace Corps in a way that is profoundly personal. When I was director, there were more than ten presidents on the continent of Africa alone who said they got their start with a Peace Corps Volunteer. That’s extraordinary.

    —Carrie Hessler-Radelet
    Director 2014–17


     


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    I was sometimes asked by Volunteers, when I was director, what is their real impact? I assured them that I had the great privilege of seeing the continuum of work from one Volunteer to another — work that’s built upon one another.

    —Elaine Chao
    Director 1991–92

     

    What you’re all illustrating is the one-on-one, the humbleness; you learn the language, you learn the community, you are with a family. One example that several of you were involved in: Peace Corps going back to Indonesia. There was a lot of mistrust, and a tiny program — maybe ten Volunteers. We came, we worked, bit by bit by bit. I was able to go back to Indonesia about 15 months ago for a meeting with the Ministry of Education and the other agencies that have come together for Peace Corps in Indonesia. They said, “We want to say to you now, ten years later — we want to open up the next section for the country. We want to bring in 30, 40, 50, 60 more Volunteers. We trust you. We respect you, because you honor and respect us as individuals working in communities.”

    —Jody Olsen
    Director 2018–21

     

    • Tonya Wagner As a volunteer in El Salvador and Indonesia and working with the ministry of Health nothing in my life has ever been more rewarding than hands on field experience on the grassroots level.
      1 year ago