Steven Saum posted an articleNow is the Time to Double the Peace Corps! A Letter to the President of the United States from Eleven Former Directors of the AgencyNow 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.
Nicholas Craw (1973–74)
Richard Celeste (1979–81)
Elaine Chao (1991–92)
Carol Bellamy (1993–95)
Mark Gearan (1995–99)
Mark Schneider (1999–2001)
Gaddi Vasquez (2002–06)
Ronald Tschetter (2006–09)
Aaron Williams (2009–12)
Carrie Hessler-Radelet (2014–17)
Josephine (Jody) Olsen (2018–21)
Download a PDF of the letter from Peace Corps Directors to President Biden here.
Jonathan Pearson posted an articleOur May advocacy agenda includes thank you messages, targeted legislative advocacy and media work! see more
Now is a good time to thank representatives who signed on to the House Dear Colleague Letter. And there’s work ahead on bolstering support for the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act — and ensuring a robust budget to provide critical support for Volunteers — particularly when it comes to health and safety.
By Jonathan Pearson
Our National Days of Advocacy in Support of the Peace Corps included more than 90 events and activities in March and April, with more scheduled for May — and more still being planned. Now is a good time to say thank you to Representatives who signed the House Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter.
We still have important work ahead on bolstering support for the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (House Bill 1456), with the possibility of similar legislation being introduced in the Senate this month.
And when President Biden releases a proposed budget for Peace Corps, we’ll need your help to ensure that Peace Corps has the funds to provide critical support for Volunteers — particularly when it comes to health and safety.
So, what’s next? Here’s our May agenda:
Say thank you!
Over the last few weeks we received an outpouring of support from representatives who signed the annual House Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter. If your member signed the letter, join us in thanking them for their support, and encouraging them to continue to champion Peace Corps–related legislation in order to improve and strengthen the Peace Corps. We are awaiting the release of a similar Senate Dear Colleague letter and will need your mobilization when the letter is issued.
More House co-sponsors and Senate legislation?
We still have some very important work to do with the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (House Bill 1456). With 45 confirmed co-sponsors (only three fewer than in the previous Congress), we must continue to encourage our representatives to co-sponsor this bill strengthening Peace Corps funding, programming, and Volunteer support. The proposed funding increases over four years would allow for us to build back a better Peace Corps that is capable of enacting many of the crucial changes that the Peace Corps community has raised as priorities.
May could also be the month when a similar reauthorization bill is introduced in the Senate. We hope that more information will be available soon. Keep an eye out for this anticipated legislation — and join us in supporting it!
Biden budget and media mobilization
President Biden has already provided an overview of his much anticipated Fiscal Year 2022 budget, including a recommended 12 percent increase in our nation's international affairs programs. In the next two weeks, the White House is expected to send a fully detailed budget to Congress, including recommended funding for the Peace Corps.
As the president's budget release will likely garner significant media attention, we want to be prepared to respond to news stories with letters-to-the-editor highlighting the Peace Corps portion of the budget. Can you plan to help us? Write to us at email@example.com to express your willingness to help. Include the city and state where you reside.
Our action center continues to promote other issues through which you can raise your voice with your elected officials. Members of our community who have significant student loan debt can share your experiences with Congress as it debates this issue. You can also raise your Peace Corps community voice to your Senators, who have the House-passed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act before them now.
Jonathan Pearson is Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. Write him.
Orrin Luc posted an articleTwo returned Volunteers in the Midwest reach out to Congress for the first time. see more
This year, for the first time, two returned Volunteers in the Midwest reached out to their members of Congress to talk about Peace Corps. That effort made a difference at a critical moment.
By Jonathan Pearson
From her home in central Illinois, Nikki Overcash had written to her elected representatives in the past, but she had never asked for a meeting or directly engaged with them. She heads up academic services at Illinois College, not far from the state capital, Springfield. This past spring, when National Peace Corps Association put out a call for returned Volunteers to seek meetings with their members of Congress during the National Days of Advocacy, she decided now was the moment.
She reached out to Rep. Rodney Davis, the Republican who represents Illinois’ 13th district, which stretches from the city of Champaign west to the Mississippi River.
“A significant part of who I am today can be attributed to my Peace Corps experience,” Overcash says. Peace Corps service took her to China 2007–09 as an education Volunteer. She forged deep friendships. And more broadly, she says, “Serving allowed me to better understand myself, America, China, and global connections with much more nuance.”
“Serving allowed me to better understand myself, America, China, and global connections with much more nuance.”
Maria Arnaiz is no novice when it comes to meetings with members of Congress. For her, home is northeast Ohio, near Akron. She serves as a legislative and advocacy chair for the Ohio State PTA and, as a board member of three nonprofit organizations, has participated in annual congressional meetings. Peace Corps service took her to the Democratic Republic of Congo 1984–88; she worked as a fisheries extension Volunteer.
When NPCA called on returned Volunteers to arrange meetings with Congress in the spring, she put in a request for a meeting with Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who represents the state’s 18th district and calls Akron home.
Why this year? Part of Arnaiz’s motivation was another, future member of the Peace Corps community. “My son, Emilio Bloch, has been accepted to serve in Rwanda in the maternal and infant health program,” she says. “He was supposed to have left in August 2020.”
But as COVID-19 swept the globe in March 2020, Peace Corps temporarily suspended all programs around the world; Volunteers have yet to return to service overseas. Arnaiz’s son grew up hearing about her experience in the Peace Corps; it’s something he wants to understand firsthand. So, Arnaiz says, “Organizing the congressional meeting and advocating for Peace Corps funding so that Volunteers could return to the field was an obvious way for me to help him get that opportunity.”
Illustration by John S. Dykes
See People as People
What difference could a couple of meetings make? When the annual House of Representatives Peace Corps funding “Dear Colleague” letter was issued in April — a letter requesting $40 million in additional funding for the agency, to ensure financial support for important reforms — a dozen Republicans were among the 156 lawmakers who signed. Representatives Rodney Davis and Anthony Gonzalez were on board. For both, it was a first.
In Illinois, Nikki Overcash worked with Rodney Davis’s district office to arrange one of the first in-person meetings the congressman had held since the pandemic began. During their conversation, Overcash learned that Davis had a friendly relationship with fellow Republican Garret Graves of Louisiana, the lead Republican on both the Peace Corps funding letter and the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1456).
And, as often happens in congressional meetings, mention of the Peace Corps led to a personal connection. One of Davis’s staff members knew another returned Volunteer from Illinois who was now in Washington, D.C., working for the Peace Corps agency.
Arnaiz used materials and talking points provided by NPCA and put together a personalized introductory document, which she sent to Anthony Gonzalez’s office. Arnaiz is also a member of the Northern Ohio RPCVs, an affiliate group of NPCA; she recruited Ann Jankowski, a fellow Gonzalez constituent and returned Volunteer (Guatemala 1988–91), for the meeting. Naturally, Arnaiz’s son Emilio also took part.
“He believes national service, like the Peace Corps, is a way to bridge the divide in our society, an opportunity for people with different backgrounds to work together. He’s a big believer in getting people to see others beyond the caricatures; to see people as people.”
Soon after the meeting began, Representative Gonzalez told us he would support the Peace Corps funding letter because he believes in national service,” Arnaiz says. “He told us a bit of his experience in the Capitol building during January 6th. He was disturbed by the anger and violence. He believes national service, like the Peace Corps, is a way to bridge the divide in our society, an opportunity for people with different backgrounds to work together. He’s a big believer in getting people to see others beyond the caricatures; to see people as people.”
When it comes to arranging meetings with members of Congress, Overcash says that fellow returned Volunteers shouldn’t let limited experience give them pause. “National Peace Corps Association has your back throughout the process! Even if you only have a little time to give, that time will be used fruitfully thanks to the strong support and resources offered by the wonderful team.”
Arnaiz says that while it sounds like a cliché, her advice to other RPCVs is: “Just go ahead and do it. Meeting your representative and advocating for things you believe in is an effective way to be the solution to the problem. Representative Gonzalez, like other political actors I have met, said that a personal story that humanizes the numbers really makes an impact.”
Jonathan Pearson is Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. Get involved in advocacy by dropping him a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
Orrin Luc posted an articlePeace Corps Funding: The House Says It’s Time to Invest in More see more
It has been six years since the Peace Corps received a meaningful increase in its baseline funding. Could this be the year that changes?
By Jonathon Pearson
Illustration by John S. Dykes
In December 2015, President Obama signed an appropriations bill that provided $410 million for the Peace Corps, an increase of about $30 million. Since then, the agency has received a mere $500,000 bump in annual appropriation — one-tenth of 1 percent. Indeed, the Peace Corps community has spent much time in recent years fending off proposed cuts while some needed reforms languished — due, in part, to lack of funding.
In May, the Biden administration put forth its Fiscal Year 2022 budget recommendation: yet another year of flat funding for the Peace Corps. However, thanks to National Peace Corps Association’s advocacy network and congressional champions, the outlook has brightened. In July, the House of Representatives completed work on the State/Foreign Operations spending package, approving a $20 million jump in Peace Corps funding — about 5 percent. That was half the increase promoted by a bipartisan list of 156 House members who earlier in the year submitted their annual “Dear Colleague” letter to House appropriators.
The $430.5 million House funding proposal aligns with this year’s Senate Peace Corps funding letter, with 39 senators on board. This news is promising. However, the Senate has yet to take formal action on its State/Foreign Operations appropriations bill. When senators resume work in mid-September, there is no guarantee they will follow the House’s lead. Experience shows that hearing from citizen advocates makes a difference. And an assessment of what’s ahead for the Peace Corps — relaunching Volunteer programs in scores of countries, with safety and security paramount — means a heavy lift.
Write your senator
Visit NPCA’s Action Center and urge support for no less than $430 million for the Peace Corps as we move toward redeployment of global operations and implementation of key reforms
Jonathan Pearson posted an articleIt's the first step in congressional consideration of Peace Corps funding. And the news is good. see more
On July 28 the House of Representatives approved a $430.5 million Peace Corps budget for 2022 — an increase of 5 percent. It points to the first meaningful increase in funding in six years.
By Jonathan Pearson
(UPDATE – July 28, 2021, 9:00 PM Eastern): On a mostly party-line vote, the House of Representatives approved a Fiscal Year 2022 spending package for the Department of State and other foreign operations. Included in the $62.2 billion State/Foreign Operations bill is a $20 million funding increase for the Peace Corps — nearly 5 percent. The Senate has not yet taken up its version of a State/Foreign Operations spending bill.
(UPDATE – July 1, 2021, 2:00 PM Eastern): The full House Appropriations Committee today approved a $62.2 billion State/Foreign Operations spending package for Fiscal Year 2022 that includes a recommended $20 million funding increase for the Peace Corps — nearly 5 percent.
The package was approved on a 32–25 party line vote. It will next head to the full House of Representatives — at a date yet to be determined — for further debate and voting.
No similar action has been taken yet by the Senate Appropriations Committee in advancing its version of the State/Foreign Operations spending plan for the fiscal year that begins October 1, 2021.
(UPDATE – June 28, 2021, 8:30 PM Eastern): On a voice vote, the House Appropriations Subcommittee for State/Foreign Operations approved a $62.2 billion international affairs budget for Fiscal Year 2022. This represents a 12 percent, $6.7 billion increase over the current fiscal year. Included in this budget is $430.5 million for the Peace Corps, a $20 million increase over current funding. In brief remarks, Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) referenced the Peace Corps as one of several programs that will provide “needed humanitarian assistance” around the world. No amendments to the bill were made, but that could possibly change when the full Appropriations Committee considers this funding package on Thursday morning.
The House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee for State/Foreign Operations had recommended a Fiscal Year 2022 funding package that includes $430.5 million for the Peace Corps.
This recommendation represents a $20 million increase — nearly 5 percent — in funding for the agency for the fiscal year that begins October 1. A subcommittee vote on this recommendation is expected on Monday evening. Should this figure be eventually approved, it would mark the first meaningful funding increase for the agency in six years. That’s good news for the Peace Corps.
“The Peace Corps is on the way back,” says Glenn Blumhorst, President and CEO of National Peace Corps Association, upon learning the news.
“The Peace Corps is on the way back,” said National Peace Corps Association President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst, upon learning the news. “This recommendation by the State/Foreign Operations Subcommittee reinforces congressional support — not only for the robust redeployment of Peace Corps Volunteers — but the importance of providing the agency with funding that will allow for many improvements and reforms that will build a stronger program for the next generation of volunteers. Our community needs to stay engaged to make sure this strong commitment by the subcommittee is advanced.”
Read the subcommittee’s press release on its entire $62 billion spending package for U.S. international affairs programs.
Today’s action was bolstered by the annual Peace Corps funding Dear Colleague letter, a bipartisan action issued earlier this year by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA).
Updated July 1, 2021 at 2 p.m. Return to this post for updates this week on actions and reactions on FY 2022 Peace Corps Funding in the House of Representatives.
Jonathan Pearson is the Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association
Steven Saum posted an articleThis proposal comes up short, if we’re serious about building a better and stronger Peace Corps. see more
The budget proposed today by the White House comes up $40 million short of where it needs to be to implement critical reforms staked out in the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021.
By Jonathan Pearson
President Joe Biden has sent his Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) budget request to Congress. Included in his budget is a request of $ 410.5 million for the Peace Corps. By all measures, to build a better and stronger Peace Corps that can help the United States reengage with the world, this comes up short.
The President’s request represents flat funding — and a maintenance of the same level of support that the Peace Corps has received for the past six years. It stands in stark contrast to bipartisan House legislation introduced in March that would provide $450 million in funding to ensure the implementation of critical reforms.
“We are grateful to the Peace Corps’ congressional champions for setting out a vision of a Peace Corps that is renewed, revitalized, and reformed, buttressed by a budget that meets the goals of the Peace Corps community,” said National Peace Corps Association President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst. “But proposed level funding will not enable us to build a better, stronger, and more inclusive Peace Corps for a changed world.”
Indeed, as the Peace Corps community has underscored time and again, long-needed reforms have not been adequately addressed in part because of a lack of funding.
Congress has shown: This is where we need to be.
The bipartisan support for Peace Corps in Congress includes the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1456) legislation, introduced by Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA), which calls for $450 million to support the Peace Corps in FY 2022. ( Here’s a link you can use to reach out to your lawmaker to ask them co-sponsor this legislation.) Garamendi and Graves also sponsored an annual Peace Corps funding Dear Colleague letter, signed by a bipartisan group of 156 lawmakers, which also urges at least $450 million for the coming fiscal year.
Strong support for the Peace Corps was also reinforced by every living past Peace Corps director who signed this letter to President Biden. That group includes those who served under Republicans and Democrats alike going back to the Nixon administration. A revitalized Peace Corps, they wrote, “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.”
Earlier this spring, on the 60th anniversary of the day that President Kennedy created the Peace Corps by executive order, all living directors also convened for a conversation about the past, present, and future of the Peace Corps. One question they tackled: Given three minutes with President Biden to talk about the Peace Corps, what would they say? They spoke about the value of national and public service in uniting a nation, about the role Volunteers can play in public health efforts around the world, about the return on investment for decades to come — and one shared the perspective of the president of Guinea, who spoke of how the presence of Volunteers in communities is worth far more than millions in foreign assistance alone.
“We have an opportunity to build back better and reengage with the world. And when it comes to Peace Corps, we need to put our money where our mouth is.”
While the budget proposal from the White House is disappointing, we’ll take this moment to note that over the past several years the Peace Corps community has worked closely with champions and members of Congress to sustain the Peace Corps through tough times. And Congress has laid out a clear goal of where we need to be for a better and stronger Peace Corps.
“We will work closely with these champions to ensure that the Peace Corps’ budget is robust for the future,” said Glenn Blumhorst. “We have an opportunity to build back better and reengage with the world. And when it comes to Peace Corps, we need to put our money where our mouth is.”
READ MORE: Key reforms — some of which require robust funding to become reality — are staked out in the community-driven report “Peace Corps Connect to the Future.”
Jonathan Pearson is the Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. Contact email@example.com to find out how you can help.
Meisha Robinson posted an articleThe President’s FY2019 budget was released today and proposes a $396 million budget for Peace Corps. see more
Dear NPCA Community,
The President’s budget for fiscal year 2019 was released today and it proposes a budget of $396 million for the Peace Corps. After already requesting a $12 million cut in fiscal 2018—the deepest from a White House in over 40 years—the 2019 request further reduces Peace Corps' budget by another $2 million. This represents a step in the wrong direction. At a time when supply and demand for Peace Corps Volunteers is robust, when American grassroots diplomacy is urgently needed to strengthen relationships with communities around the world, and when more returned Volunteers are needed in leadership positions in America, the White House has instead chosen to place the agency’s resources, mission and values under stress.
Our Peace Corps is being challenged. We can’t let that happen.
And we won’t let it happen, because in an Ugandan village there is an English class without a teacher. In a Philippine barangay, there is a fisherman eager to learn how to protect the marina he depends on. In communities in Senegal, Mexico, and Ukraine, political leaders and everyday citizens alike are questioning who we are as Americans. Somewhere in any country a community has much more to teach us, than we have to teach them. And all over America, our communities need leaders who are motivated to continue to serve and build coalitions that bring us together instead of divide us.
But before we can get to work on 2019, our focus is still needed on 2018.
Congress is deciding funding for fiscal year 2018 at this very moment, and level funding for the Peace Corps is still in jeopardy. The budget deal Congress approved last week includes dangerous cuts to the international affairs account that the Peace Corps and its partners draw from. The deeper that cut, the less likely the Peace Corps receives level funding. Congress will decide the total funding for the international affairs account as early as Tuesday. This means that Capitol Hill needs to hear from us—now.
Please take action in the following ways:
TODAY: Final decisions are being made that will impact Peace Corps funding in the current (2018) fiscal year. Contact Congress and urge them to fully fund the Peace Corps and the International Affairs Budget.
MARCH: Join or organize events across the country to advocate for the Peace Corps' funding in fiscal year 2019.
ONGOING: Donate to our advocacy program to support our efforts to mobilize the community.
We’ve asked a lot of you over the past year, but the simple truth is that the Peace Corps’ resources, mission and values are being threatened at a time when America and the world need the Peace Corps more than ever. No one knows the impact of the Peace Corps better than you, and that’s why we’re asking for your help. We know we can count on you. Thank you.
President & CEO, National Peace Corps Association