Communications Intern posted an articleLessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic see more
On the nature of a virus. On community. And on systems — how they function and how they break.
By Steven Boyd Saum
Illustration by Maria Carluccio
The toll of the COVID-19 pandemic hit a sobering milestone in the United States last spring when we marked the death of 100,000 Americans. By September, that number had doubled. The year 2020 concluded with some 350,000 dead in the United States alone, and 1.82 million lives lost worldwide.
The pandemic has driven home some crucial lessons — if we pay attention. Not lessons we wanted to learn. But many of them are hard truths we need in order to face a changed world. Lessons about the nature of a virus, yes, but also about community: how we give of ourselves in times of need, how we listen or how we fail to hear. Lessons about systems: how they function and how they break.
In the stories we have put together here are a few lessons for the time of coronavirus from across the Peace Corps community. From an epidemiologist in Los Angeles, whose research has kept her connected with the Democratic Republic of the Congo for years: recognition that the oft-praised but far less supported Third Goal of the Peace Corps — which speaks of bringing understanding of the world back home to the United States — is not touchy-feely stuff by a long shot. It’s a matter of life and death.
Bringing understanding of the world back home to the United States is not touchy-feely stuff by a long shot. It’s a matter of life and death.
From a registered nurse in Washington, D.C., who found her calling in public health while serving as a Volunteer in Guatemala — and in spring 2020 moved away from her family, including a pre-school-aged daughter, to shield loved ones from possible infection while she tried to save the lives of patients infected with the virus: Know what this means.
From a returned Volunteer who can see the hills of Tijuana from her house and manages a free medical clinic: a lesson in taking part in the trials of the Pfizer vaccine.
And across the country, lessons in gratitude and what endures: How the work we do, in solidarity and seeking understanding, echoes across continents and decades. In this case, how service by some 2,000 Volunteers in South Korea in support of education and healthcare years ago translates into the long work of building peace and friendship — and in 2020 brought of hundreds of COVID-19 Survivor Boxes to those Volunteers, to honor and thank them for empowering people in a time of hardship.
To a cohort of returned Volunteers — some of whom were evacuated from service around the world in March because of the pandemic — now working as contact tracers in Seattle and King County, Washington: messages of admiration and encouragement from Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Peter Kilmarx of the National Institutes of Health.
Steven Boyd Saum is the editor of WorldView magazine.
Amanda Silva posted an articleBecoming a mission partner is more than a financial contribution, it's a continuation of service. see more
By Maricarmen Smith-Martinez (Costa Rica 2006-2008)
As Peace Corps Volunteers, our desire to impact our communities and effect positive change drives us to invest our time, our skills, and our passion. Providing guidance as a community leader, as a mentor, and as a friend, I impacted my community in Costa Rica in many ways. Back at home, the investment continues as the community grows. You can “close the service” of a Volunteer, but you can never take away our passion to serve.
As a Mission Partner of the NPCA, I know that my contributions support our larger Peace Corps community and allow us to increase our impact both at home and abroad. As a Shriver Circle member, I contribute my financial support, providing NPCA with the flexibility to employ it where it’s needed most. As an advocate, I share my Volunteer experience, encouraging Congress to build a bigger, better Peace Corps.
As the Coordinator of the Affiliate Group Network (AGN) on the NPCA Board, I partner with staff to enable our affiliate groups to thrive. Working with AGN leaders at the grassroots level, we identified necessary resources and developed a platform to provide better methods for groups to engage and connect. Our nearly 160 affiliate groups are always looking for tools to engage their membership, expand their reach, and increase their impact. As a result, we launched the Purpose-driven Group webinar series, enabling groups to build their capacity through best-practices on topics such as legal considerations or how to host a Story Slam. The webinar series also provides the opportunity to learn about NPCA benefits like SilkStart, the Community Builder platform that offers comprehensive technology for website and membership database management.
As a proud member of the Peace Corps community, I make an impact by continuing to serve.
Make your impact. Become a Mission Partner of the NPCA.
David Miron posted an articleBernadette and David Miron are long term champions of the Peace Corps community. see more
By Bernadette & David Miron (Colombia 1963-1965)
As Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, we feel bound by the 3rd Goal “to promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.” This 55th anniversary of the Peace Corps afforded us an opportunity to act, in a larger way, on our pledge. The result was the "Third Goal International Film Festival Celebrating 55 Years of the Peace Corps."
Bernadette thought that organizing and producing the festival could rejuvenate the First Coast Returned Peace Corps Volunteer group’s membership, especially by involving younger members. But most of all, she said, a festival could “push back against the times we live in where the ‘other’ is seen as the enemy; when we are encouraged to build walls between countries, keep the Muslims out, live in fear of the ‘other’. We wanted the festival activities to display the humanity of the ‘other.’" A 22-person First Coast committee organized a menu, selected films, chose a venue and raised funds. Their budget was over $5,000, including a $500 donation from NPCA.
The contributions of our larger Peace Corps Community often go without notice, but our collective impact is great. We value NPCA, and as Shriver Circle members, we contribute financially to help further the mission. As attendees at past Peace Corps Connect conferences in Nashville & Berkeley, we were nurtured by the legacy of 10 Years of RPCV Film Festivals in Columbia, Missouri and San Francisco. As advocates for the Peace Corps, we work hard with our Representatives. This year, we not only lost Congressman Sam Farr, RPCV Colombia, but Congressman Ander Crenshaw, our local Representative for the Jacksonville area, and Co-Chair with Congressman Farr and others of the Congressional Peace Corps Caucus. So we start again. Wish us luck, Peace Corps needs us all.
Pictured above from left to right is Rosemary Calhoon Takacs (RPCV Paraguay, Peace Corps Response Guatemala), Bernadette Miron, Scott McLucas, Underwriter of the Festival, and Ethiopian dancer, Mimi Kasha, at the “Third Goal International Film Festival Celebrating 55 Years of the Peace Corps."