Volunteers have begun to return to service. Yet millions in Ukraine are now in harm’s way. see more
Volunteers have begun to return to service. Yet millions in Ukraine are now in harm’s way.
By Glenn Blumhorst
This is a hopeful time for the Peace Corps: On March 14, a group of Volunteers arrived in Lusaka, Zambia. Just over a week later, on March 23, Volunteers arrived in the Dominican Republic. They are the first to return to service overseas since March 2020, when Volunteers were evacuated from around the globe because of COVID-19. The contributions of Volunteers serving in Zambia will include partnering with communities to focus on food security and education, along with partnering on efforts to disseminate COVID-19 mitigation information and promote access to vaccinations.
We’re thankful for the Volunteers who are helping lead the way, with the support of the Peace Corps community. And we’re deeply grateful for the work that Peace Corps Zambia staff have continued to do during the pandemic — work emblematic of the commitment Peace Corps staff around the world have shown during this unprecedented time.
Returning to Zambia: Two years after all Peace Corps Volunteers were evacuated from around the world because of COVID-19, in March the first cohort returned to begin service overseas. Photo courtesy U.S. Embassy Lusaka
Invitations are out for Volunteers to return to some 30 countries in 2022. Among those who will be serving are Volunteers who were evacuated in 2020, trainees who never had the chance to serve, and new Volunteers. Crucially, they are all returning as part of an agency that has listened to — and acted on — ideas and recommendations from the Peace Corps community for how to ensure that we’re shaping a Peace Corps that better meets the needs of a changed world. Those recommendations came out of conversations that National Peace Corps Association convened and drew together in the community-driven report “Peace Corps Connect to the Future.” We’re seeing big steps in the Peace Corps being more intentional in fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion; working with a deeper awareness of what makes for ethical storytelling; and better ensuring Volunteer safety and security.
Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, NPCA has shared information and links to other ways you can help. One of the most important: Do not turn away.
At the same time, while we are buoyed by the fact that Volunteers are returning to work around the world building the person-to-person relationships in communities where they serve, we must not diminish the scale of the tragedy we are witnessing in Ukraine. More than 10 million people have fled their homes in the face of an invasion and war they did not provoke and did not want. Across this country and in Europe, thousands of returned Volunteers are working to help Ukrainians in harm’s way.
Thank you to all of you who are doing what you can in this moment of crisis: from the Friends of Moldova working to provide food, shelter, and transportation to refugees — to the RPCV Alliance for Ukraine putting together first-aid kits, leading advocacy efforts to support Ukraine, and so much more. Since the beginning of the war, NPCA has shared information and links to other ways you can help. One of the most important: Do not turn away.
At a time like this it’s important to underscore a truth we know: The mission of building peace and friendship is the work of a lifetime.
That’s a message we need to drive home to Congress right now. With your support, let’s get Congress to pass the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act this year. It’s the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in 20 years. Along with instituting further necessary reforms, it will ensure that as Volunteers return to the field it is with the support of a better and stronger Peace Corps.
President Biden will formally nominate Carol Spahn to lead the Peace Corps at a critical time.
It is becoming increasingly clear that we are entering a new era — one that desperately needs those committed to Peace Corps ideals. With that in mind, I am heartened by the news we received in early April that President Biden intends to nominate Carol Spahn to serve as the 21st Director of the Peace Corps. A returned Volunteer herself (Romania 1994–96), 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.
We have 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 her 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. We are calling on the Senate to swiftly bring forth this nomination for consideration and bipartisan confirmation.
Glenn Blumhorst is president and CEO of National Peace Corps Association. He served as a Volunteer in Guatemala 1988–91. Write him: email@example.com
Communications Intern 2 posted an articleA platform for citizen journalists, volunteers, and those working to help see more
A platform for citizen journalists, volunteers, and those working to deepen understanding of the war and efforts to help refugees.
By Clary Estes
Photo by Clary Estes
The Ukraine Stories newsletter started modestly. In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, so many Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who had served throughout Central and Eastern Europe asked the same question: “What can I do?” For the Ukraine Stories crew, the answer was simple: Tell true stories. Yet this simple answer opened up a complex world of reporting, testimonials, and on the ground volunteering. Since the project’s inception, Ukraine Stories has sought to explain the conflict on a deeper level for those who might not have a background in Eastern Europe policy, history, or current events. We are doing this through deep dives on the region’s history and key figures. We are telling the stories of volunteers who have been working to assist with the refugee crisis. We have given a platform for citizen journalists inside Ukraine to tell their stories. And we have worked on the ground ourselves to help with refugee crisis.
The Ukraine Stories platform also works to realize the Peace Corps’ mission: to promote peace and international solidarity, and pursue solutions to what is one of the world’s most overwhelming problems. We have teamed up with a number of other international partners and RPCV groups to tell stories and show the world what solutions are available in the face of war. Our partnership with the RPCV Alliance for Ukraine and the Friends of Moldova, among others, has been paramount and will continue to be the main focus of our storytelling and reporting.
Food and shelter: Vitalie, right, opened the summer camp he owns in northern Moldova to refugees from Ukraine. Then he slaughtered his one dairy cow to feed them.
Photo by Clary Estes
Holy Cow: A Case Study in Caring
When the Friends of Moldova told us the story of the man who killed his dairy cow to feed scores of refugees in his care, we couldn’t believe it. So we went to meet him ourselves and learn exactly what had happened.
Vitalie bought the summer camp on a hill above the northern city of Bălți in 2019. Dumbrava Albă, as the camp was called, opened at a tough time. Not a year into its operation it had to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the worst of the pandemic seemed behind us in early 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Yet Vitalie found solutions amid hardship; he saw an opportunity to do some good in the face of war. He took in about 100 Ukrainian refugees.
“The first days were tough,” Vitalie says. “There had been no water connection or heating for two years because I had it shut down due to the pandemic. It took me two to three days to get everything turned on.” He also had nothing to feed the refugees. “So I killed my dairy cow, just to make sure everyone was taken care of,” he says. “In normal times, I have enough to feed myself: chickens, milk from the cow, things like that. But we had about 100 people here in the first days and I needed to take care of them.”
For many Moldovan families, cows are not only a source of dairy products for day-to-day consumption, but they can also be a source of income. Families sell milk, cheese, and butter at the local piaţă, or open-air markets. For these families, a cow is worth far more alive than dead.
It wasn’t long before the Friends of Moldova, who were also working in Bălți to set up a distribution center, heard Vitalie’s story. They were able to secure funds to buy a new cow. Within 48 hours, they delivered it to Dumbrava Albă. Vitalie was surprised and deeply grateful.
Sertse in Ukrainian, heart in English. Anya and her daughter fled Mariupol. Seen here: an Easter celebration at the Balti Distribution Center in Moldova, where Anya volunteers.
Photo by Clary Estes
Citizen Journalism: One of Thousands
As a cornerstone of the project, Ukraine Stories is providing Ukrainians who are experiencing the war a platform to tell their stories in their own words. One story, from the southeastern corner of Ukraine, was told by Anya, a mother of two daughters: of their harrowing escape from the besieged city of Mariupol.
War ... We used to hear about war on the news. It was something that happened far away in some foreign country. It was something we were sorry to hear about, but it only seemed like a sad movie. I now understand all of that pain that used to be so far away. War is not just terrible photos of destroyed houses. It’s a profound loss of human life.
On the morning of February 24th, we heard explosions. Our city has been under attack since 2014, but on the morning of the 24th, I decided not to risk the life of my children and leave. I thought then that it would only be for a couple of weeks, but as it has turned out, we are leaving forever.
Before they fled Mariupol, besieged by Russian forces, Anya recounted how she tried to bring some semblance of joy to her children on a special day.
It was my eldest daughter’s ninth birthday, so I ran to the store for sour cream to make a cake. I heard machine-gun fire on my neighbors’ street and more powerful explosions somewhere in the distance. I don’t know why it didn’t scare me at that moment. I was somehow more worried about making a cake for my daughter. I’m a mother, after all.
At five in the morning on her birthday, my children woke up to an explosion nearby. All the glass in the house shattered. A piece of plaster from the ceiling fell right onto the bed where my children were sleeping. They were frightened to tears, but miraculously unharmed. We went down to the basement. I even managed to take some of the cake with me. So we celebrated my eldest daughter’s birthday there.
A few days later it became too unbearable to remain. The explosions were constant. My children learned to distinguish what was an explosion and what wasn’t by the vibration of the earth.
A few days later it became too unbearable to remain. The explosions were constant. My children learned to distinguish what was an explosion and what wasn’t by the vibration of the earth.
Anya and her daughters spent weeks making their way to Moldova — dodging air raids, tanks, and gunfire. But reaching Moldova did not bring an end to her worries.
During our first week in Moldova, I couldn’t eat. I was ashamed to eat while not knowing whether or not my mother had anything to eat in Mariupol … I dreamt of her every night. I dreamed of her because I couldn’t write to her. I dreamt of her because I couldn’t speak to her.
All day, every day, I was on my phone looking for my mother, my grandmother, my friends, my godparents, acquaintances, like a robot ...
Over time, I found news on the internet about who was alive and who was not. It was on a group chat that I found a photo of an old woman whose eyes I recognized. It was my mother!!! Aged and exhausted, but alive!!!
Anya is now volunteering at the Bălți Distribution Center and, like so many others, rebuilding the life she lost in the wake of the invasion.
Deep Dive: Understanding the Invasion
Ukraine Stories would not be possible without Val Stutz, who served as a Volunteer in Moldova 2015–17 and is a 2022–23 Fulbright Fellow in Moldova. He has also worked extensively throughout Ukraine. His “Deep Dive” series has helped readers understand the conflict in Ukraine on a geopolitical and historical level. He has discussed the significance of the southeastern region of Ukraine and Putin’s aspirations to recreate the imperial Novorossiya of Catherine the Great, with territory stretching across Ukraine. He has given background on people like Russian general Aleksandr Dvornikov — who became known as “the Butcher of Syria” — and Dzhokhar Musayevich Dudayev — a key figure in Chechnya’s independence movement — and he has traced how their military and political careers are connected to the current brutal invasion. He has also sought to explain the challenges that refugee students in Moldova face as they navigate another year of online learning or adapt to the educational norms of another country.
More Work to Do
The Ukraine Stories team includes contributors from around the globe: people from Asia, the Americas, and across Europe. Some have served in the Peace Corps, some have not. And our team has continued to expand. While the Russian war against Ukraine shows no sign of ending soon, we are committed to working in whatever ways we can help those in harm’s way — and continue getting stories out of Ukraine and the surrounding region. Whether it is a deep dive or a profile of a person that helps readers understand this horror on a fundamentally human level — or it is shining a spotlight on an organization helping solve the conflict, or a testimonial from someone living through the conflict, we at Ukraine Stories will keep writing, building connections, and seeking to sustain the Peace Corps ideal of international peace.
Read more: ukrainestories.substack.com
Clary Estes is a writer, editor, and photographer. She served as a Volunteer in Moldova 2015–17 and as a Response Volunteer in Georgia in 2019.
Communications Intern 2 posted an articleThe Friends of Moldova is currently spending $20,000 weekly to provide for Ukrainian families. see more
With the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Friends of Moldova has stepped in to provide crucial support to thousands of refugees.
by David Jarmul
Logo by Friends of Moldova
Until this past February, Friends of Moldova was like many “Friends of” groups within the Peace Corps community: a loose organization of returned Volunteers sharing news and supporting small grant programs in the country where they served. Then Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and everything changed.
As millions of Ukrainians fled the fighting, nearly half a million refugees came to Moldova — a small, crescent-shaped country with a population of about 3 million, bordered by Ukraine on the east and Romania on the west. Formerly occupied by the Soviet regime, Moldova itself has dealt with the reality of a breakaway enclave backed by Russian forces since the 1990s.
Within a matter of weeks of Russia’s invasion, most of the refugees who had crossed into Moldova had moved on—but more than 90,000 remained. They needed food, shelter, clothing, and more. And they needed support immediately. The Friends of Moldova raced to help. They supported the work of RPCV David Smith, who still lives in Moldova’s capital, Chişinău, and his local partner to convert their American-style barbecue restaurant, Smokehouse, into a refugee assistance center. Within days, Ukrainians lined up daily to receive free supplies.
Food and shelter: In the city of Bălți, Friends of Moldova responded quickly to help Ukrainian refugees in need. Photo courtesy Friends of Moldova
Local Peace Corps staff and others volunteered at the center. Peace Corps CEO Carol Spahn, who has since been nominated to serve as agency director, flew there from Washington, D.C., to help prepare meals. President of Moldova Maia Sandu and others also came to show their support. The PBS NewsHour and others covered this critical work. During its six weeks of operation, the center served 38,198 Ukrainians, including 7,847 individual or family walk-ins. During its last day alone it served 1,863 people.
Friends of Moldova also provided flexible funding to help Moldova for Peace, a national organization based in Chişinău, get its own operations off the ground. It assisted 175 community centers, nonprofit organizations, and shelters across the country. Funds enabled a team of volunteers to transport hundreds of Ukrainians daily from freezing conditions at the southern border to shelters around the country.
As other organizations ramped up their work in Chişinău, Friends of Moldova pivoted to open a new assistance center and programs in northern Moldova. The group’s president, RPCV Bartosz Gawarecki, left his business in Michigan to oversee the effort there. Other RPCVs joined him. Friends of Moldova members across the United States assisted as well, drawing attention to Moldova’s situation and raising more than $700,000 — an extraordinary outpouring of support. All team members with Friends of Moldova worked for free, serving the country they came to love as Peace Corps Volunteers.
The Friends of Moldova is currently spending $20,000 weekly to provide food and hygiene products to Ukrainian families and individuals across northern Moldova. Since the war began, it has assisted nearly 60,000 refugees. It cannot sustain this life-saving work without more support from fellow RPCVs and others—so it welcomes your support in this crucial work.
Learn more and donate to the Friends of Moldova on social media and at thefriendsofmoldova.com.
David Jarmul served in Moldova 2016–18 with his wife, Champa, whom he met during his initial Peace Corps service in Nepal, where he served 1977–79.
Steven Saum posted an articleHere’s how some of the thousands of Volunteers who have served in Ukraine are trying to help. see more
More than 3,400 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in Ukraine. Here are a few ways they have sought to help the communities they served as Russian rockets fly and bombs fall across the country.
Logo by The RPCV Alliance for Ukraine
By Raisa Alstodt and Natalia Joseph
On February 24, 2022, Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale military assault by Russian forces on Ukraine, including attacks on civilians that have continued against communities across the country. Many of our friends and host family members have fled; many others are staying and fighting to defend their communities. The RPCV Alliance for Ukraine, founded by those of us who have served as Peace Corps Volunteers in Ukraine, rapidly mobilized to assist our Ukrainian friends, family members, colleagues, and communities. We have been advocating, sending donations of money and supplies, engaging mass media, contacting Congress, and directly assisting friends in need of transportation, housing, and money to survive.
One of the critical projects has been the Individual First Aid Kit campaign. Since the beginning of the invasion, our team of RPCVs and Ukrainian partners has delivered more than 4,000 high-grade Individual First Aid Kits to areas within Ukraine where these kits are desperately needed. This effort has continued to grow, and to date we have raised over $160,000 to support it.
To bolster fundraising efforts, we also published Babusya’s Kitchen, a cookbook originally created by Volunteers for fellow Volunteers, bringing together traditional Ukrainian recipes and, in its title, paying tribute to the babusi or grandmothers of Ukraine. Money raised from book sales is being used to fund our Peremoha (“victory”) mini-grants for humanitarian aid in Ukraine. Thanks to support from Page Street Publishing and Versa Press, the cookbook is available in a print edition, and copies are available for purchase through our website.
Photo courtesy RPCV Alliance for Ukraine
In partnership with Welcome.US and Community Sponsorship Hub, for the government’s Uniting for Ukraine program we are bringing together committed and capable hosts in the U.S. with Ukrainian refugees in need. We launched a sponsor matching initiative to help people apply; and we’re educating potential sponsors and informing about sponsor circles where numerous people can support refugees together. As we write this, we have helped some dozen Ukrainian families find U.S. sponsors who can partner in providing housing, basic needs, and personal assistance with navigating life in the U.S. More matches are in the pipeline.
Along with these formal projects, we’ve been collaborating via Facebook to provide Ukraine RPCV crisis response focused on helping Ukrainians evacuate — and ensuring refugees the support they need. One way to provide moral support, in Ukrainian, is with the phrase “Vse bude Ukraina” — Everything will be Ukraine!
Learn more and get involved via social media and at allianceforukraine.org.
Raisa Alstodt served as a Volunteer in the Cherkasy Oblast in Ukraine 2019–20 and serves as NPCA liaison for the RPCV Alliance for Ukraine.
Natalia Joseph served as a Volunteer in Mohyliv, Podilkskyi, Ukraine 2019–20 and serves as secretary for the RPCV Alliance for Ukraine.
More than 10 million people have fled their homes since Ukraine was invaded by Russia in February see more
More than 10 million people have fled their homes since Ukraine was invaded by Russia on February 24.
In March, four million people were already refugees beyond Ukraine’s borders. Two million of them were children.
Not since World War II has the world seen a humanitarian crisis escalate so quickly. The devastation in cities like Kharkiv and Chernihiv and Mariupol is cruel and horrific. Amid this war, members of the Peace Corps community have been rallying to help those in harm’s way.
There is one responsibility we all share: Do not look away.
Leaving home: Two young children and their mother on a train prepare to depart L’viv, Ukraine, for Poland on March 4, 2022. Photo by REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/Alamy
Read more on the Russian invasion of Ukraine:
The War of Aggression Against Ukraine Must Stop: A statement from National Peace Corps Association on the Russian invasion of Ukraine | By Steven Boyd Saum, Jeffrey Janis, and Gretchen Upholt
The Future Is Unwritten | By Steven Boyd Saum
President’s Letter: Time of Hope, Time of Crisis | By Glenn Blumhorst
Story updated May 2, 2022.
Peace Corps Community for Refugees recognized for its work with refugees from Afghanistan see more
What began as an effort by five people to support refugees has grown to a network of 1,200 individuals. And they have led the way in the Peace Corps community in working with refugees during the current Afghanistan crisis.
By NPCA Staff
Peace Corps Community for Refugees is this year’s recipient of the Loret Miller Ruppe Award for Outstanding Community Service. This year’s award recognizes PCC4R for its outstanding advocacy for refugees during the current Afghanistan crisis, as well as its continued resettlement work in Greece and Mexico and its efforts to educate the public on refugee support.
An affiliate group of National Peace Corps Association, Peace Corps Community for Refugees began with five initial members in 2016. It has grown to a network of more than 1,200 members in the Peace Corps community.
They work in three main areas. Through education, they seek to inform others about issues pertaining to refugees through stories and educational resources. Through resettlement support, they connect interested volunteers with NGOs serving refugee communities. Through advocacy, they work on behalf of refugees at the national, state, and local level.
This year’s award was presented on September 23 at Peace Corps Connect, a 60th anniversary conference for the Peace Corps Community. The award was announced by film and television writer Katherine Ruppe, the daughter of Loret Miller Ruppe.
The award was accepted on behalf of Peace Corps Community for Refugees by Barbara Busch, team leader for overseas action for Peace Corps Community for Refugees. As she noted, this year's work has involved important collaboration with NPCA affiliate group Friends of Afghanistan, which has provided leadership in joint advocacy for SIV Afghan evacuation and planning for resettlement support. Barbara Busch reminded audience members that the work in front of them is growing: advocating for Afghans still left behind; the crisis at the border for Haitian asylum seekers; and the looming crisis of climate migrants.
Support Refugees today at pcc4refugees.org
About the Loret Miller Ruppe Award
Named for the 10th Director of the Peace Corps, the annual Loret Miller Ruppe Award for Outstanding Community Service is presented by NPCA to outstanding affiliate groups for projects that promote the Third Goal of Peace Corps or continue to serve host countries, build group spirit and cooperation, and promote service. Eligible projects include those completed within the past two years or ongoing for at least three years. The purpose of the award is to recognize the great work that NPCA’s groups are doing and to generate ideas that other groups may emulate in their communities.
September 23–25, we gather to honor six decades of service & impact. Right now crises need our help. see more
This September, we gather to honor six decades of Peace Corps service in communities around the world. Right now, we need to honor Peace Corps ideals by helping in humanitarian crises.
By Glenn Blumhorst
Photo: A girl from Afghanistan at a UN High Commissioner for Refugees camp in 2002. Photo by Caleb Kenna
As this edition of WorldView magazine was wrapping up in August, we marked World Humanitarian Day — an occasion to advocate for the survival, well-being, and dignity of people affected by crises. A devastating earthquake hit Haiti; thousands were killed and injured. In Afghanistan, after the Taliban’s lightning offensive, the capital of Kabul fell. A chaotic U.S. exit and the collapse of the Afghan military created a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions — and fears about retribution and the horrific treatment of women and girls.
Many of us in the Peace Corps community have deep personal ties to these countries. Volunteers have served in both, in years past. Returned Volunteers, including myself, have worked on development projects in Haiti and Afghanistan. Haitian Americans and Afghan Americans have served as Peace Corps Volunteers. Our first response in moments like this is to ask: What can we do now? How can we provide hands-on help? Where should we raise our voices?
Helping in Haiti
The people of Haiti were already suffering from the pandemic, food insecurity, and political turmoil. We have been in contact with a number of organizations providing help on the ground, such as Partners in Health. At bit.ly/npca-help-refugees we are posting updates on any formal partnerships that come together for the Peace Corps community. A number of RPCVs who served in Haiti and elsewhere have been in touch with offers to help. And we would encourage others to contact us as we seek to strengthen the organizational capacity of our Friends of Haiti affiliate group at this critical time.
Supporting refugees in Afghanistan — and in the U.S.
The Peace Corps Community for Refugees, in partnership with Friends of Afghanistan — both affiliate groups of National Peace Corps Association — is coordinating efforts in the Peace Corps community to support refugees from Afghanistan who are being resettled in some 30 cities across the United States. PCC4Refugees is mobilizing RPCVs to assist local resettlement agencies and ensure the many individuals and their families who put their lives at risk by supporting U.S. efforts in Afghanistan are received with welcome, safe transportation, access to housing, and other necessities.
A girl from Afghanistan at a UN High Commissioner for Refugees camp in 2002, not long after the Taliban were removed from power. Now that they have returned, what will happen to women and girls? Photo by Caleb Kenna
Don Drach serves as a board member with PCC4Refugees; he was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia 1971–73. As Don points out, since 2002, Afghan families have risked their lives to assist the U.S. military, diplomats, and other government employees, by serving as translators, interpreters, and more. Yet, as he and others have noted, “As the U.S. armed forces rapidly withdrew from Afghanistan, thousands of Afghan allies and their families are being targeted and suffering retaliatory attacks from the Taliban for their affiliation with the U.S.”
By most estimates, more than 70,000 lives are at stake. Only a fraction of those individuals were able to obtain permission to travel to the U.S. under the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, which provides a legal pathway to safety for individuals who worked with U.S. personnel. The U.S. needs to follow through on its commitment to all those who helped. But even coming to the U.S. on an SIV is not the end of the journey for those who make it. That is where the Peace Corps community can absolutely step in — with helping refugees resettle and adjust to life in the U.S.
“We stand ready to work with our partner refugee resettlement agencies to place these refugees in homes across America,” says Terry Dougherty, part of the leadership of Friends of Afghanistan. “Because that’s what we do as Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.”
“We stand ready to work with our partner refugee resettlement agencies to place these refugees in homes across America,” says Terry Dougherty, part of the leadership of Friends of Afghanistan. “Because that’s what we do as Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.” For Dougherty, this is a profoundly personal connection; he served as a Volunteer in Afghanistan 1972–75, teaching in a provincial school and at Kabul Higher Teacher’s College. And after 2004, he began hosting high school students from Afghanistan and working with refugees.
At bit.ly/npca-help-refugees you’ll find contact information for Local Liaison Coordinator Anneke Valk and updates on where help is needed most. Also find out more and get involved at pcc4refugees.org.
Work of a lifetime
From September 23 to 25 we host Peace Corps Connect 2021, our 60th anniversary virtual conference. “Mobilizing for a Lifetime of Service and Impact” is the theme. And it couldn’t be more fitting. This is a moment when we need to act on these values that sustain us. We’ll tackle some of the most pressing issues we face, from climate change, migration, and refugees to equity, diversity, and inclusion — and the safety and security of Volunteers as they return to the field.
As the tragedies of recent weeks have underscored, the mission of building peace and friendship, and people with a lifetime commitment to Peace Corps ideals — these are things the world desperately needs.
Glenn Blumhorst is the President and CEO of National Peace Corps Association. He welcomes your comments: firstname.lastname@example.org
Right Now, We Need to Honor Peace Corps Ideals by Helping in Humanitarian Crises in Afghanistan and HaitiWe need to honor Peace Corps ideals by helping in humanitarian crises. see more
Here is what we’re doing to bolster efforts by the Peace Corps community.
By Glenn Blumhorst
It should strike us with no small significance that today, August 19, is World Humanitarian Day — a day to advocate for the survival, well-being, and dignity of people affected by crises. In just the past week, a devastating earthquake hit Haiti; thousands have been killed and injured. In Afghanistan, on Sunday the capital of Kabul fell to the Taliban. A chaotic U.S. exit and collapse of the Afghan military has created a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions — and fears of retribution and horrific treatment of women and girls under a new regime.
Many of us in the Peace Corps community have deep personal ties to these countries. Volunteers served in both in years past. Many RPCVs, including myself, have worked on development projects in Haiti and Afghanistan. Our first response in moments like this is to ask: What can we do now? How can we provide hands-on help? And where should we raise our voices?
Helping in Haiti
The people of Haiti were already suffering from the pandemic, food insecurity, and political turmoil after the assassination of the president. We are in contact with a number of organizations providing help on the ground, such as Partners in Health, and will keep you updated on any formal partnerships that come together for the Peace Corps community. RPCVs who served in Haiti are encouraged to contact us as we seek to strengthen the organizational capacity of our Friends of Haiti affiliate group.
Helping Refugees from Afghanistan
The Peace Corps Community for Refugees (PCC4Refugees), in partnership with Friends of Afghanistan — both affiliate groups of National Peace Corps Association — is coordinating efforts in the Peace Corps community to support refugees from Afghanistan being resettled across the United States. PCC4Refugees is mobilizing RPCVs to assist local resettlement agencies and ensure our allies are received with welcome, safe transportation, access to housing, and other necessities. PCC4Refugees can connect you with opportunities in the 30 U.S. cities designated as resettlement locations. Contact Local Liaison Coordinator Anneke Valk. Read more here, and visit pcc4refugees.org to get involved.
Since 2002, Afghan families have risked their lives to assist the U.S. military, diplomats, and other government employees, serving as translators, interpreters, cultural liaisons, and more. However, as the U.S. armed forces rapidly withdraw from Afghanistan, thousands of Afghan allies and their families are being targeted and suffering retaliatory attacks from the Taliban for their affiliation with the U.S.
In response to the continuing violence towards Afghan allies, the Biden Administration is expected to evacuate 2,500 individuals to the U.S. before September 11, 2021, through the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program which provides a legal pathway to safety for individuals who worked with U.S. forces and personnel. These Afghan Allies/SIVs have begun arriving at Fort Lee, Virginia and will continue to be relocated to 30 different cities across the U.S. over the next six weeks.
The cities are:
Albany, Atlanta, Austin, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, D.C. Metro Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Durham, Elizabeth, Fort Worth, Houston, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Louisville, Modesto, Oakland, Omaha, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, Raleigh, Rochester, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, Seattle, St. Louis, Tampa.
Story updated August 19, 2021, at 7:00 PM.
Glenn Blumhorst is President and CEO of National Peace Corps Association.
National Peace Corps Association Operations posted an articleBringing the Private Sector and the Peace Corps Community Together see more
NPCA, in partnership with Northeastern University's Cultural Agility Leadership Lab (CALL), has created new opportunities for returned Peace Corps volunteers, while bringing private sector expertise to strengthen the capacity of local humanitarian development organizations in Thailand and other countries. The partnership matches RPCVs with skills-based corporate volunteers from Cigna, a global health service company, to deliver technical assistance to local NGOs, while also enhancing the cultural agility of the corporate volunteers.
For the past three years, Cigna has sent its rising leaders to Indonesia and Thailand through CALL to learn from and understand more on the health care needs of the Indonesian and Thai people. Cigna and CALL interact with health care at many levels including the villages, government, and private hospitals, as well as healthcare NGOs throughout the country. This year, the ITLP program worked in Chiang Mai with various NGOs under the umbrella of the Raks Thai Foundation, focusing on health populations including HIV/AIDS, drug-user groups, refugee and migratory groups, and youth development groups.
Joel Saldana (RPCV Thailand 2012-2014), a second year RPCV participant in the program, shared his thoughts. "It's been a great opportunity to work with Americans from the corporate world who are trying to learn about Thai people. It's most fulfilling to have the 'aha' moments when you have that meaningful exchange through food, smiles, or a simple greeting," Joel is one of three RPCVs who accompanied nine Cigna skills-based volunteers on their short-term assignments in Thailand. RPCVs serve as cultural coaches and also provide technical guidance and support to the work undertaken.
Joel observed that "Cigna is putting their money where their commitments are—in developing a workforce that is ready to take on global challenges, is culturally agile, and is attempting to understand a little part of the world." Cigna participants work with their assigned NGOs to help scale their success in program management, operations, or project solutions. In a very short time frame, they learn how to work with Thai people, understand the organizations needs, and assist with their challenges.
NPCA envisions expanding the program to eventually field over 100 corporate volunteers in multiple countries, particularly linking them to NGOs where PCVs or RPCVs are involved. Forthcoming projects will field RPCVs and corporate volunteers from Johnson & Johnson on short-term assignments in Peru, Mexico and Guatemala.
For more information, please contact our International Programs division: CALLCoordinator@PeaceCorpsConnect.org.
Alan Ruiz Terol posted an articleThe Cincinnati Area Returned Volunteers are supporting six refugees. see more
By Alan Ruiz Terol
A journey ended when Bana, Adnan and their four children arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio. They had fled war in their home country, Syria, and were granted asylum by the U.S. government. Now they faced a new challenge; how to start a new life in a new country?
The Cincinnati Area Returned Volunteers (CARV) have been mentoring the family since mid-September. The foremost priority was to find a job for Adnan, the father. He is a shoemaker and also has sewing skills—and yet, he was willing to do any work that did not require English. Thanks to great networking, CARV was able to find him a position in his chosen field.
“We help them achieve self-sufficiency,” says Susan Robinson, a member of the group. “We know how important it is for people to do things for themselves.”
CARV members have been visiting the family weekly to tutor the children and help the mom with English. They found several Arabic speakers to help with the translation and have taken the family members to multiple doctor appointments. They have also shared outings to the park and enjoyed pumpkin carving for Halloween. Recently, six CARV members and their family and friends invited Bana and Adnan's family for their first Thanksgiving dinner in America.
Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio is the volunteer agency responsible for refugee resettlement in the area. They provide housing, medical screening, English and employment lessons and case management. CARV members have been helping them for the past year. Eventually, the agency gave CARV a greater responsibility and asked them to mentor a Syrian family. “They were aware that we had a strong RPCV group and that we would be able to work as a team,” Robinson says.
The CARV group serves as an example of how RPCVs can help refugees integrate to American society. According to Robinson, there are many ways people can help refugees. “I would encourage people to meet volags (Voluntary Agencies) working in their area,” she says.
A new NPCA affiliate group, the Peace Corps Community for the Support of Refugees, is working to connect members of our community who are willing to help with local agencies resettling refugees across the nation. Please contact them if you're interested in making a difference.
The names of the Syrian family have been changed in order to protect their privacy.
Megan Patrick posted an articleTop 10 events in 2016 for the Peace Corps community. see more
The Peace Corps community experienced a tremendous year — one that closes an era and presents an open future. Together in 2016, we reinforced our connection and shared experience; we advocated for the right to serve; we created positive impact both domestically and abroad. In the 55th year of America's greatest institution, Peace Corps Volunteers expanded programs into new countries, while Returned Peace Corps Volunteers united to meet new global challenges in affiliate groups. The following list reflects closure, new beginnings, and our community's diverse acts toward Peace Corps values in 2016:
- NPCA published the final print Peace Corps Community Directory, and provided an online platform for all PCVs, RPCVs and Peace Corps staff to connect with individuals and affiliate groups.
- Peace Corps announced historical new programs in Myanmar and Vietnam.
- With firm conviction that RPCVs have the cross-cultural skills, adaptability, and commitment to make a significant contribution in the global humanitarian effort, Peace Corps Community for the Support of Refugees became an official NPCA affiliate group.
- With the retirement of Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA) and the defeat of Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA), just two RPCVs are left in Congress, the lowest level of representation in almost 40 years.
- Peace Corps unveiled a new look to engage the next generation of service-minded Americans.
- In one day, over 230 individuals arrived on Capitol Hill to tell Congress that America and the world need a bigger, better Peace Corps. *To read more about NPCA's 2016 advocacy wins click here.
- The community celebrated the 55th anniversary of the Peace Corps in Washington, D.C. Sept 21-25, 2016.
- NPCA transformed into a mission-driven organization with the global impact of the Community Fund.
- Carrie Hessler-Radelet served her final year as the 19th Director of the Peace Corps. **Share your memories and photos here in gratitude for her service.
- Donald Trump became President-elect of the United States. A 115th Congress and a Trump Administration present a new political landscape.
Navigating the future for the Peace Corps depends on all of us. With your support and engagement, we will continue shaping history together in 2017.