Ana Victoria Cruz posted an articleHundreds of members of the Peace Corps community gathered in Austin, TX to collaborate & innovate! see more
What happens when hundreds of members of the Peace Corps community get together to discuss innovation, collaboration, and service? An exhilarating two-and-a-half days of conversation on topics ranging from immigration to social media, economic development to climate change, and everything in between.
"What starts here changes the world." As our co-host, the Heart of Texas Peace Corps Association (HoTPCA), pointed out, this University of Texas at Austin saying applies to the shared Peace Corps experience and inspired attendees to be curious, go beyond expectations, and take what they learned in Austin back to their home communities.
The conference officially kicked off on Thursday, June 20th at the Austin Central Library with live music from RPCVs Kinky Friedman and Doster and Engle.
On Friday, the opening plenary session featured a conversation with Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen and NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst. Afterwards, they signed a Memorandum of Understanding to renew the organizations’ commitments to support the Peace Corps’ mission and continue to implement initiatives that educate the public on Peace Corps programs. “The signing of this memorandum gives returned Peace Corps Volunteers a framework for a lifetime of service,” said Jody Olsen. “I ask every person at this conference to be strong as you talk about your volunteer experiences. You are key to the next generation of Peace Corps Volunteers.”
Following, Kathleen Corey, President of the Women of Peace Corps Legacy, presented Sue Richiedei with the Deborah Harding Women of Achievement award for her outstanding impact on women's lives worldwide. NPCA Board Director Mariko Schmitz then presented the New York City Peace Corps Association (NYCPCA) and Peace Corps Iran Association (PCIA) with the 2019 Loret Miller Ruppe Award for Outstanding Community Service.
Whether you served decades ago or are a recently returned Volunteer, the conference offered tremendous value and networking opportunities. The community content sessions and workshops focused on a variety of topics, including how to use technology to launch a business, innovations in global issues advocacy, transition assistance for recent RPCVs, how to harness market forces for social impact, and ways to work together to create positive political change in era of "America First." As Tom Lightbown (RPCV Niger 1965-1967) pointed out: "We made some new friends, including youngsters fresh out of service, discovered RPCVs with white hair from other countries of service with stories to tell, made some quite important contacts of value to our Guinean friend Ahmadou Baldé, and, overall, had a very positive first experience with Peace Corps Connect."
The energy throughout the conference was palpable, as well as the level of engagement. With interactive sessions such as "Stepping Up - Politics: The Next Level of the Third Goal" and "Be an RPCV Changemaker: Connecting via the Web to Spark Community and Economic Development in Your Peace Corps Site" participants learned strategies on how to be catalysts for change, both at home and abroad.
"The PC Connect Conference was both informative and inspiring. The theme of the conference was “Innovation for Good" and the breakout sessions highlighted many RPCV created programs, companies, and NGOs that contribute to that objective." - Greg Polk (NM RPCV)
During the Affiliate Group Network Annual Meeting, the new Divisional Board Directors were presented and representatives from NPCA Affiliate Groups shared resources and opportunities to help groups thrive.
On Saturday, June 22, NPCA Board Director Katie Long kicked off the Annual General Membership Meeting with a special Peace Corps ukelele rendition of "You Can't Always Get What You Want," while NPCA Treasurer Patrick Fine provided a report on the financial status of the organization, and President Glenn Blumhorst outlined the successes of the past year.
During the Pitch Competition, six entities pleaded their case for a chance to win a $2,500 cash prize. The finalist were:
- Humans of Kiribati for its effort to save the island of Kiribati from rising sea levels
- Peace Corps Kids for promoting a just and inclusive world through multicultural and multiracial storytelling
- Trees for the Future's initiative Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal (BHAG) to break the cycle of poverty and eradicate hunger for 1 million people by planting 500 million trees in 125,000 Forest Gardens by 2025
- Jump Finance's credit model to provide students in developing countries with the capital and mentorship to finish their post-secondary education and launch their careers
- Teachers Training Pact, a programs for teachers who are helping transform students into successful lifelong learners
- Tiny House Coffee, a company created by two Peace Corps Volunteers that works directly with small producer coffee farmers to guarantee them economic stability.
Each finalist was scored based on their demonstrated social impact, innovation, sustainability, leadership, presentation, and clarity of concept. Ultimately, Jump Finance took the top prize.
As NPCA continues to celebrate its 40th anniversary, a special retrospective took a look at our formative years from the view point of the earliest leaders of the organization with Greg Flakus, First President (1986-1989); Margaret Riley, Third President (1983-1986); and Katy Hansen, Fourth President (1986-1989).
Attendees where also treated to a special excerpt from A Towering Task: A Peace Corps Documentary and a conversation with Director Alana DeJoseph who announced the premiere screening of the documentary is slated for September 22 at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.
During the closing plenary, Karen Keefer, NPCA Board Emeritus and Shriver Leadership Circle member, presented Liz Fanning with the 2019 Sargent Shriver Award for Distinguished Humanitarian Service for her tireless efforts to create and expand CorpsAfrica, a nonprofit organization that gives young Africans the opportunity to serve like Peace Corps Volunteers in their own countries.
The conversation then turned to a panel discussion examining the historic exodus from Central America and the humanitarian crisis at the U.S. southern border. Reflecting on the special screening of ABRAZOS earlier in the day, a film by Luis Argueta that shows the transformational journey of a group of U.S. citizen children of undocumented immigrants who travel from Minnesota to Guatemala to meet their grandparents—and in some instances their siblings—for the first time, NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst moderated a panel titled "Beyond Borders" featuring Maria Martin, Director of The Graciasvida Center for Media; John Burnett, Southwest Correspondent for National Public Radio; and Luis Argueta, acclaimed Guatemalan Film Director and Producer. The panelists underscored the need for policy solutions and the opportunities for the Peace Corps community to take action.
"We need to humanize immigrants. The global community needs to fight fiction with truth." - Luis Argueta
After the panel, Ken Lehman, NPCA's Advisory Council Member, presented Luis Argueta with the Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award. Lehman, in nominating Argueta for this award, noted that Argueta “has demonstrated that filmmakers from the developing world can produce world class stories illuminating important issues… [H]is involvement in the entire issue of Latino immigration has humanitarian dimensions, and civic meaning.”
In accepting the award, Argueta said "tell those who are fearful of people who are not like them about your host families" and challenged us to change the immigration narrative "from one of hate to one of love...we need to remember to practice the Golden Rule."
As the conference drew to a close, HoTPCA President Sally Waley announced Seattle as the host city for Peace Corps Connect 2020! She handed the "baton" over to Seattle Area Peace Corps Association (SEAPAX) President Brad Cleveland. The conference will have an emphasis on immigrants and refugees and will be centered around “Cultivating Connections.” While the exact dates are yet to be determined, SEAPAX leaders indicated they are looking for dates in the summer next year. Stay tuned for more information!
An MFA program created for the Peace Corps community see more
The first class of MFA Creative Writing for PCVs and RPCVs at National University begins on April 10, 2017.
This total online graduate degree program will begin with a seminar in Creative Nonfiction. Students write and critique each others' original work in an online workshop-style format. Through presentation and critique of published and student-generated work, students will advance their understanding of the genre's many forms, including memoir, autobiography, nature writing, literary journalism, and the personal essay.
The course is being taught by novelist and nonfiction writer John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962-64). If interested in enrolling in this special MFA program, contact John Coyne at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Frank Montesonti, Lead Faculty at National University at email@example.com.
Across the country the Peace Corps community is speaking up for national service see more
RPCVs in Pennsylvania created signs to encourage Senator Casey to support funding for the Peace Corps!
Big thanks to RPCVs in Maine for meeting with the office of Senator Angus King.
Thank you to the office of Senator Susan Collins for speaking with Peace Corps advocates about the importance of Peace Corps!
Peace Corps supporters advocating in Congresswoman Chellie Pingree’s Portland District Office!
RPCV and Massachusetts Rep Joe Kennedy III speaking at National Days of Action breakfast on the Capitol Hill.
WVRPCVs Scott King and Shauna Steadman meeting at Senator Manchin office in West Virginia!
Thank you Rep Derek Kilmer for meeting with supporters of the Peace Corps!
Advocates Beth Ahlstrom, Jaona Andriatsitohaina (Madagascar Rep), Linda Stingl, and Daniel Jasper at Sen Gary Peters office!
RPCV with Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS)
RPCVs united in the halls of the U.S. Capitol to urge Congress to support Peace Corps funding and health legislation in the coming year.
Thank you to staffers in the office of Louise Slaughter (D-NY)!
Supporters for the Peace Corps meet with the office of Rep. John Delaney (D-MD).
Legislative Assistants supporting Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) met with RPCVs to discuss the FY18 budget for Peace Corps.
Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, discussed the Peace Corps and the importance of stable funding for
our international assistance budget with the 17th Director of the Peace Corps Ron Tschetter and constituent Carley Lovorn.
Thank you to Rep. Sean Maloney (D-NY) for your support of national service.
NPCA is very much appreciative of the efforts by Rep. David E. Price (D-NC) to support national service.
A personal narrative by an RPCV about her service see more
by Terceira Molnar, PCV Indonesia 2014-16, AmeriCorps VISTA 2012-14
One of the most memorable volunteer events I have organized was “Take Your Team to College!” I was working as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for Coaching Corps, a nonprofit that recruited, trained and placed volunteer coaches in low-income areas' after-school sports programs for at-risk youth. The college-student volunteers gave their teams a guided tour of their cafeteria, soccer field, gymnasium, dorms, and most importantly, the registration and financial aid offices. This first-time exposure to the possibility of a higher education for these children felt very special to me, because I was the first child in my family to attend a university. Like these students, I had to seek additional support systems, resources, experiences, and beliefs to even aspire to be where I am. I have learned the importance of human relationships, and that in order to thrive, an individual needs a multi-dimensional supportive environment. This has translated into both a personal and professional journey of finding the strength within to serve others through my AmeriCorps and Peace Corps services.
AmeriCorps began to shape me as a global citizen, because serving in San Diego, California gave me the experience to serve other communities and cultures different from my own. Peace Corps furthered this cultural humility; I served in a village on Java in Indonesia for two years as an English teacher in an Islamic boarding school. Teaching itself was not how I define my Peace Corps experience, but rather my relationships with host families, students, and friends. It was celebrating Idul Adha, the Day of Animal Sacrifice with my host families, even though I was a petrified vegetarian. It was about sitting with one of my students after his dad passed away and sharing how my own father passed away. It was about community. My Peace Corps service did not end when I completed my two years. It followed me back home and it still follows me.
I have had many conversations about my experiences with family members, from a rural city in Wisconsin to my fellow graduate students at New York University in New York City, where I live now, with a Muslim Indonesian woman who houses me and shows the same hospitality that my host families did. I carry that hospitality as my own approach now. I decided to invest in social justice and advocacy for underprivileged communities in our own society by pursuing a Masters in Social Work, because of these unique and diverse experiences in AmeriCorps and Peace Corps.
In February the New York Times reported that the Corporation for National and Community Service and AmeriCorps may be among federal programs being considered for elimination in the Administration's budget. We need your help to make sure that doesn't happen. Call your member of Congress and tell them to protect national service funding.
Ask Congress to protect the federal investment in these programs that mean so much to our citizens and our country.
JM Ascienzo posted an articleThe Hiring Freeze, March Days of Action and More see more
Hiring freezes and the Peace Corps
On Monday President Trump signed an executive order to enact an across-the-board hiring freeze of federal employees, except for military personnel or for positions that meet national security or public health needs. The Office of Management and Budget has since offered guidance on the directive, with more information still trickling out.
In a White House memorandum announcing the freeze, OMB and the Office of Personnel Management are charged with enacting a long-term strategy "to reduce the size of the Federal Government's workforce through attrition."
Peace Corps is working with OPM and OMB to get additional guidance as it relates to the agency.
"I'm confident that the health and safety of Peace Corps Volunteers is the agency's top priority, and am confident that they will not compromise that principle," NPCA President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst said.
Mobilize! March National Days of Action Update
Events are already being planned across the country for NPCA's National Days of Action in support of the Peace Corps from March 3 to 15. Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and supporters of the Peace Corps will be meeting with lawmakers at district offices, holding service days, happy hours and potlucks, all to urge Congress' support of the Peace Corps and Peace Corps values.
Help us meet our goal of 50 events and 500 participants. Find events near you and information on how to organize one today!
Peace Corps Semipostal Stamp
Want to get more private funds to Peace Corps Volunteer- and community-led projects? Ask Congress to support the bipartisan Peace Corps Semipostal Stamp! Congresswoman Barbara Lee's (D-CA) bill already has support from 21 lawmakers, but it needs more. Take two minutes and email Congress.
“The Peace Corps is an American institution which has helped foster global peace and cross-cultural understanding for decades," Congresswoman Lee told NPCA. "The creation of a Peace Corps stamp would be a fitting tribute to this remarkable organization. I encourage my colleagues to cosponsor this bipartisan bill, which would further our shared goal of advancing peace, friendship and sustainable development around the world.”
Want change at the local and national levels? Congress needs to hear from you. Call (202) 224-3121, and you'll be connected with your representatives' offices. Or send an action email. Congress won't know about the issues the Peace Corps community cares about unless we tell them.
Top 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.
How to support PCVs and RPCVs this year see more
By Sandi Giver
Remember the feeling of being in your country of service for the holidays, far away from home and family? For some, our first holiday season back in the States also evokes a similar sense of disorientation. Because of this, RPCVs can help support other members of the Peace Corps community this time of year.
Some individuals returning home might be medically evacuated from their posts, or dealing with post-service illness, injury or trauma. Others may be struggling to find a job or housing. Still others may find that family or friends don’t “get” their service, or ask questions that require much more than a one sentence response. For these recently returned RPCVs, or those in periods of transition and uncertainty, sometimes fellow RPCVs are best suited to offer understanding and support — especially during the holidays. What can you do this year?
5 Tips to help as an RPCV this holiday season:
1. Find new friends to welcome home. Is there an country of service or local affiliate group you can connect with? A Facebook page or other forms of group communication can be a vehicle to reach out to newly returned PCVs to welcome them home. Within your message of welcome, include an offer to connect via phone, email or in person. Face-to-face conversations may make the most impact to connect with others, but using social media might put the word out faster that your door is open.
2. Host a Holiday or New Year’s Event for New RPCVs. Invite others over who need a place to “escape”, eat, watch holiday movies, and feel connected to those who know the Peace Corps experience first-hand. Something simple, flexible, and welcoming.
3. Create a safe space. Some individuals may still be working through challenges and that is okay. Don’t push for details, but if they are offered, listen and be empathetic. If an individual has the need to step away for a minute, let them. Welcome them back and treat them normally.
4. Share diverse holiday stories. How did your community in service celebrate the holidays? Think about what the holidays mean to you and how that fits into your current life situation. Find the commonalities and unique aspects alike.
5. Be you. The fact that you want to support others and are making an effort is tremendous.
At the end of the day, it’s on all of us to remember and welcome RPCVs who may be facing challenges both during holiday season and throughout the year. That’s why one of the initiatives of the NPCA in 2017 is to begin establishing stronger health support networks for members of our community. That’s also why we have started to raise funds to establish an NPCA Benevolent Fund to assist RPCVs in need. If you are able, please consider a financial gift to the NPCA Benevolence Fund so we can reach our goal of $25,000 needed to successfully launch a fund that will be meaningful and sustainable.
Travel with the Peace Corps community! see more
Blog post | Alan Ruiz Terol
There is little to say about the overwhelming and breathtaking beauty of India that hasn’t already been said. The Mexican writer and ambassador Octavio Paz wrote the following about his experience in the country: “Dizziness, horror, stupor, astonishment, joy, enthusiasm, nausea, inescapable attraction. What had attracted me? It was difficult to say: Humankind cannot bear much reality. Yes, the excess of reality had become an unreality, but that unreality had turned suddenly into a balcony from which I peered into—what? Into that which is beyond and still has no name…”
India will be the first Next Step Travel destination in 2017. The trip, February 16 to March 3, will explore the northern part of the country, such as Kolkata, New Delhi, Varanasi and Mumbai.
Next Step Travel is an initiative by the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) to bring together the Peace Corps community for new experiences abroad. The program is unique in that it provides the opportunity to discover (or rediscover) a country with other supporters of the Peace Corps. Moreover, each itinerary incorporates Peace Corps values, such as unparalleled local access, cultural immersion, and time to explore remote areas off the beaten path.
People who have previously joined Next Step Travel trips strongly recommend the program to others. “What I like best about this experience is that it’s a safe way to travel that takes unfair advantage of no one,” says Carolyn C., an RPCV in Honduras who traveled to Guatemala. “It benefits everyone involved and the chosen adventures can be found nowhere else.”
The itinerary in India includes the must-sees of any trip to the country, such as the Taj Mahal — but don’t let the crowds of tourists scare you. The perfect beauty and outstanding monumentality of the building is worth the time. After all, the revered Indian artist and Nobel prize laureate Rabindranath Tagore described it as a “teardrop in the cheek of eternity”.
Travelers will see the sunrise illuminating the snow of Mt. Kanchenjunga from Tiger Hill, an ideal way to experience the immensity of the Himalayas. They will also observe cremation and bathing rituals in the Ganges at dawn, one of the most sacred sites for the Hindus.
The route will also offer original and unique ways to experience even the most mainstream spots. One excursion includes a tour of the back alleys of New Delhi by a young individual who was once living and surviving on the streets, providing insight into the daily lives of homeless children. Travelers will also attend a back-country trip in Rajasthan to experience rural life on the edge of the desert.
The India program is open to anyone, not only Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. In fact, Next Step Travel trips are the perfect opportunity for someone who couldn’t spend two years serving overseas to get a taste of the Peace Corps experience in just two weeks. To learn more about the trip to India and other Next Step Travel programs, click here. (The final registration deadline is November 18, 2016.)
Raisa Siddique posted an articleThe Community Fund: Dancing for Safer Streets in Gagauzia see more
National Peace Corps Association (NPCA), through the Girls Education and Empowerment Fund, provide Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) the opportunity to complete projects in their host communities through small grants. As a private sector partner to the White House on Let Girls Learn, NPCA is proud to help support PCVs through the Peace Corps Partnership Program and Let Girls Learn grants.
Members of the Peace Corps community believe in supporting past and present host communities — not only in immediate necessities such as food, water and shelter, but also through initiatives like the arts. We know that Volunteers' dedication to long-term community building results in lasting relationships and impact.
Aaron Ratz, currently serving in Moldova, is a Volunteer who exemplifies this dedication; he is working to renovate a Soviet-era arts center in Ceadir-Lunga, a city of roughly 20,000.
The community has six coed schools, a vocational college, but only one arts center that serves over 400 children in a given week. As the only forum for children to participate in after-school activities, it offers classes in drawing, musical instruments, dance, singing, costume design, and many more. It is not only beloved, but is also an essential part of the community.
Because the building hasn't been remodeled for more than 30 years, the arts center is in significant disrepair. One of its most popular features, the dance studio, is used by over 75 people per week, but is dilapidated to the point that it's dangerous for children to use. To remodel the space, it will require replacing the floor, refinishing the walls and ceiling, and much more work.
Aaron and his host community have received a Let Girls Learn grant and need your help with the last bit of funding! Please give to the Girls Education and Empowerment fund today to empower girls and support an entire community in Moldova.