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RPCVs Refugees

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    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. 

     

    Girl from Afghanistan at UN Refugee Camp

    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: president@peacecorpsconnect.org

     September 13, 2021
  • Alan Ruiz Terol posted an article
    The 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 article
    What you can do in your local area to help refugees see more

    by Colleen Conroy

    The National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) has announced its newest Affiliate group, Peace Corps Community in Support of Refugees.  This NPCA Affiliate is promoting opportunities for returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) to volunteer their time and their talents in three major areas of refugee resettlement:

    • Support for US-based refugee resettlement;
    • Direct assistance of refugees overseas;
    • Advocacy on behalf of the national, state, and local levels.

    With respect to the first bullet, the original NPCA Refugee Subcommittee determined that it would be efficient to offer RPCVs the opportunities to collaborate  in resettlement programs that are currently being implemented though the nine National Affiliate Agencies, as mandated by the State Department  (refer below for the list of the nine agencies).  The discussions to date between the National Affiliate Agencies and the NPCA Subcommittee have been extremely positive and enthusiastic.  Many of the National Affiliate Agency staff members are RPCVs and thus, are well aware of the experience and cultural awareness that RPCVs could offer the refugee population and they strongly believe that RPCVs can play a major role in refugee resettlement both in immediate and long-term activities.  The RPCVs’ assignment would depend upon the needs and focus of the collaborating National Affiliate Agency.  For example, in some cases, RPCVs might be asked to assist in isolated events, such as welcoming newly arriving refugees at the airport and/or in organizing a welcome dinner for refugee families. In other situations, RPCVs might have the opportunity for more comprehensive involvement with the refugee family, helping them settle into their new homes and new communities.

    By way of example, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and NPCA have recently formed a partnership to engage RPCVs in US-based refugee resettlement efforts that extend beyond the initial 3 month resettlement period.  For RPCVs who live in the communities where HIAS is resettling refugees, RPCVs would work with one newly arrived refugee household (a  family or a group of roommates) for about a year, helping the family settle into a new  community, a new home, learn a new language, help the children enter school, and work with the parents to help them find employment.  In these situations, the HIAS RPCVs would function as both mentors and friends to these new families.  In preparation for the RPCVs collaboration, HIAS has prepared guide materials to help the RPCVs assume their multiple roles. 

    The NPCA Subcommittee is currently discussing similar partnerships with United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, U.S Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and other National Affiliate Agencies and envisions the  the initiation of  these partnerships in refugee resettlement in early in January 2017 and continuing throughout the year.  As these partnerships are being developed, RPCVs and local groups are encouraged to contact the local affiliate of the resettlement agency directly.  A map and list of these affiliates can be found on our web page.  Indeed, many RPCVs and local groups are already doing this.

    National Affiliate Agencies

    Church World Service (CWS);

    Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS)

    Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC)

    Hebrew Immigrant and Aid Society (HIAS)

    International Rescue Committee (IRC)

    Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS)

    U.S, Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)

    United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

    World Relief (WR)

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    Only with your financial support, NPCA can strengthen our community's response to the refugee crisis. Give here. 

     

  • Megan Patrick posted an article
    RPCVs respond to the refugee crisis. see more

    By Valerie Kurka

     

    Approximately 220,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps guided by a mission of world peace and friendship. Through experiences in communities around the world, Peace Corps Volunteers develop cross-cultural skills, language skills, adaptability, and expertise. We had a unique opportunity to learn what it means to be part of a community -- to do something together, with others in mind. We also understand what it means to be part of a global community -- to know how actions in one place can impact people in another place. And we used our abilities, awareness, and privilege for positive change.

    More than 65 million people have been forced from their homes as refugees, asylees, and displaced people, which is more than any time since the Second World War. These are people – ordinary people – impacted by circumstances out of their control. Nations and communities are directly affected today by insecurity and instability as result of this crisis. Both domestically and abroad, who better to serve these displaced populations and contribute positively to this crisis than the Peace Corps Community?

    Returned Peace Corps Volunteers continue to promote Peace Corps values of public service, community development, cross-cultural understanding, and diversity and inclusion. We are driven by empathy, compassion, and knowledge. Currently, RPCVs in 161 NPCA affiliate groups unite around geography, countries of service, workplaces, and topical interests. RPCVs are already serving refugees as individuals or through NPCA affiliate groups and many RPCVs want to do more. There are numerous ways to band together, learn from each other, and achieve together. The Peace Corps community has the ability to make a positive difference in the refugee crisis. We can, and I believe we will.

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    NPCA functions to support affiliate groups and the important work of each — including the Peace Corps Community in Support of Refugees. With your support, NPCA can strengthen the organizational infrastructure required to connect the Peace Corps community.