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  • Communications Intern 2 posted an article
    Let’s ensure that Congress passes the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in a generation. see more

    Following on big news from the Senate, let’s ensure that Congress passes the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in a generation.
     

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    In these times when division and discord define politics across the nation, recent months tell a different story when it comes to support for the Peace Corps. Democrats and Republicans in both the House and the Senate have come together to bring forth meaningful bipartisan legislation.

    On June 23, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee introduced the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2022 (S. 4466). Led by Chair Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Ranking Member James Risch (R-ID), the bill had six bipartisan co-sponsors out of the gate.

    Additional co-sponsors joined the bill in July and August, and at time of publication they include Ben Cardin (D-MD), Todd Young (R-IN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Rob Portman (R-OH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Chris Coons (D-DE), Gary Peters (D-MI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Susan Collins (R-ME). On July 19, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the bill on a voice vote. It now awaits being taken up by the full Senate. 

     

    “This once-in-a-generation bill implements necessary reforms to make certain the Peace Corps has what is required to meet the needs of its Volunteers around the world.”
    —Senator Robert Menendez, Chair, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

     

    “This once-in-a-generation bill implements necessary reforms to make certain the Peace Corps has what is required to meet the needs of its Volunteers around the world,” said Sen. Menendez in July. “From including necessary student loan reforms to affirming a path to federal government employment for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, this legislation also ensures that the agency better reflects the United States’ rich diversity and talent.”

    As Sen. Risch noted in a release introducing the legislation, “The 2022 Peace Corps Reauthorization bill is a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Peace Corps for the first time in over a decade and to provide necessary reforms to improve the safety and security of Volunteers as they re-enter the field. By reauthorizing the Sexual Assault Advisory Council, mandating security briefings, improving whistleblower protections, and adding a new authority to suspend Peace Corps Volunteers without pay in the event of misbehavior, the Peace Corps will be able to better support Volunteers at home and abroad.”

     

    “The 2022 Peace Corps Reauthorization bill is a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Peace Corps for the first time in over a decade and to provide necessary reforms to improve the safety and security of Volunteers as they re-enter the field. By reauthorizing the Sexual Assault Advisory Council, mandating security briefings, improving whistleblower protections, and adding a new authority to suspend Peace Corps Volunteers without pay in the event of misbehavior, the Peace Corps will be able to better support Volunteers at home and abroad.”
    —Senator James Risch, Ranking Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

     

    The bipartisan legislation also serves as the Senate companion to H.R. 1456, introduced in March 2021 by Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA); it was approved overwhelmingly by the House Foreign Affairs Committee in September 2021. Senate and House leaders will be discussing and strategizing on how to best bring this legislation before their respective chambers for a vote.

     

     

    About the Legislation 

    The House and Senate bills contain a broad range of improvements and reforms for the agency; for current and returned Volunteers; and for the communities where they serve. Both bills further efforts to address the health, safety, security, and well-being of Volunteers. They bolster efforts to strengthen diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. And several long-sought improvements to support RPCVs and honor their service are included. While the bills have many similarities, there are significant differences which will eventually need to be reconciled. 

     

    Key elements that both bills have in common

    Non-Competitive Eligibility: Traditionally, returning Volunteers receive one year of non-competitive eligibility (NCE) for federal employment. Both the House and Senate bills increase this to two years of NCE. 

    Paid Health Insurance: Returning Volunteers currently receive one month of paid health insurance. Both bills would extend that to two months. The Senate bill also ensures Volunteers receive adequate health exams in preparing for service; care during service, including access to mental health professionals; and a path to obtain insurance through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act after service.

    Protecting Volunteers Against Reprisal or Retaliation: Whistleblower protections currently extend to staff. Both bills would provide Volunteers with protections against reprisal or retaliation.

    Medical Education, Guidance, and Menstrual Hygiene: Both bills provide further medical staff education and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control on malaria prophylaxis. They also strengthen access and affordability for menstrual/hygiene products for Volunteers wherever they are serving.

    Returning to Service after Evacuation: Both bills seek to ensure that future Volunteers facing evacuation are afforded expedited opportunities to return to service. 
    Elements found in each bill — but with key differences

    Peace Corps Funding: H.R. 1456 proposes increased funding for the Peace Corps in the coming years, while S. 4466 continues to propose flat funding of $410.5 million for each of the next five years. 

    Disability Pay Rates for RPCVs: Both bills propose a long needed increase in the workers compensation rates for RPCVs who are disabled due to service related injuries or illness. The House bill recommends a compensation increase of roughly $1,000/month, while the Senate bill recommends a roughly $300/month increase.

    Extend the Work of the Sexual Assault Advisory Council: Both bills extend the work of the congressionally mandated Sexual Assault Advisory Council, currently scheduled to expire at the end of 2023. The House bill extends the work through 2025; the Senate bill extends the work through 2027.
     

     

    Provisions found only in House legislation

    Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act: This long-sought House legislation would formally allow the use of the Peace Corps symbol at gravesites and in death notices. 

    Virtual Service Programs: The House bill would formally authorize the agency’s current Virtual Service Pilot program.

    Domestic Service During Emergencies: The House bill would codify circumstances allowing other federal agencies to seek use of Peace Corps Volunteers during domestic emergencies, such as the partnership with FEMA community vaccination centers in 2021 to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic.


    Provisions found only in Senate legislation

    Student Loan Relief: The Senate bill would provide certain student loan relief for RPCVs, including suspension of interest during service and public service credit for Volunteers as part of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program run by the Department of Education. 

    Suspend Agency Employees Without Pay for Misconduct: In response to the tragic killing of Rabia Issa, a mother of three in Tanzania who was struck by a vehicle driven by a Peace Corps employee in 2018, the Senate legislation gives the agency the authority to suspend an employee without pay if they are engaged in serious misconduct which could lead to removal for cause. 

     


    This Is the Moment

    Advocacy efforts by members of the Peace Corps community, including those led by National Peace Corps Association, have been instrumental in making this legislation possible. In the months following the global evacuation of Volunteers in 2020 because of COVID-19, NPCA convened a series of town halls and a global ideas summit to consider how to reimagine, reshape, and retool the Peace Corps for a changed world.

    The resulting community-driven report, “Peace Corps Connect to the Future,” contains scores of recommendations for the agency and executive branch, Congress, and the wider Peace Corps community. Those recommendations range from recruitment and selection to effective programming and placement; from the health and safety of serving Volunteers to the benefits and support for returned Volunteers. The recommendations have shaped new agency initiatives and policies, and they have shaped the House and Senate legislation. In concrete terms, more than 20 recommendations contained in the report would be advanced — directly or indirectly — if a final, strong version of the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act is signed into law. 

    On student loans, a group of returned Volunteers has been instrumental in providing expertise and advice to legislators and their staff. And whistleblower and workers comp issues have long had leadership among RPCVs.

     

    Now is the time for us as a community to make our voices heard. If we do, then we can be confident that just as the Peace Corps is returning to the field, so too will there be a renewed, revitalized, and reshaped Peace Corps for the next generation of Volunteers. 

     

    The past six months have seen the steady, growing, and responsible return of Volunteers to service in communities overseas. By October 2022, the agency projects Volunteers will be serving in 30 countries. By October 2023, Volunteers are expected to be back in most of the 60 pre-pandemic countries of service. 

    The very best way we can say “thank you for your service” to the newest generation of Peace Corps Volunteers is to come together and make sure the strongest possible Peace Corps Reauthorization Act is signed into law this year. And there is reason to be hopeful, as there’s strong bipartisan backing in both chambers of Congress. 

    However, with congressional elections looming, the window for final passage of the legislation is narrowing. Now is the time for us as a community to make our voices heard. If we do, then we can be confident that just as the Peace Corps is returning to the field, so too will there be a renewed, revitalized, and reshaped Peace Corps for the next generation of Volunteers. 

     

    This story appears in the Spring-Summer 2022 print edition of WorldView magazine. 



    Jonathan Pearson is director of advocacy for National Peace Corps Association.

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    Legislation reauthorizes Peace Corps agency for the first time in over 20 years see more

    Senators Robert Menendez, Jim Risch, and colleagues have introduced Senate Bill 4466, the bipartisan Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2022. If passed, this legislation would reauthorize the Peace Corps agency for the first time in over 20 years. Here’s the June 23 release from the U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. Read about the bill, and then ask your senator to co-sponsor this crucial legislation.

     

     

    WASHINGTON –  U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today were joined by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.)Todd Young (R-Ind.)Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) in unveiling new legislation to reauthorize the Peace Corps for the first time in over two decades. Authorizing the appropriation of over $410,000,000 per year, the bipartisan Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2022 (S. 4466) proposes to increase Volunteers’ health care coverage, statutorily raise Volunteers’ readjustment allowance, expedite return-to-service opportunities for those impacted by COVID-19 and future comparable emergencies, and expand the agency’s Sexual Assault Advisory Council.

    “I am incredibly proud to be joined by my colleagues in introducing this long overdue reauthorization of the Peace Corps. By reauthorizing the agency for the first time in over 20 years, we honor and applaud the countless Volunteers over the last six decades who have dedicated themselves to fostering peace, encouraging cultural exchange, and facilitating friendship worldwide,” Chairman Menendez said. “Today’s efforts demonstrate our bipartisan commitment to ensure the Peace Corps is both reflective of the United States’ rich diversity and talent, and that its volunteers and the broader Peace Corps community are fully supported, including through necessary student loan reforms. I look forward to working with my colleagues to hold the Peace Corps accountable and to making sure it can meet the real-time needs of those currently in the field and beyond.”

    “The 2022 Peace Corps Reauthorization bill is a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Peace Corps for the first time in over a decade and to provide necessary reforms to improve the safety and security of volunteers as they re-enter the field,” said Ranking Member Risch. “By reauthorizing the Sexual Assault Advisory Council, mandating security briefings, improving whistleblower protections, and adding a new authority to suspend Peace Corps Volunteers without pay in the event of misbehavior, the Peace Corps will be able to better support Volunteers at home and abroad.”

    “The Peace Corps is one of the most impactful volunteer humanitarian forces in the world, transforming lives and forging international understanding. Its volunteers represent the best qualities of American society and reflect the diversity of the American people,” said Senator Cardin. “The Peace Corps invests time and talent in other countries, and it pays dividends back here in the United States as well. I’m proud of our bipartisan effort to continue support for the Peace Corps and will continue to work to ensure that it has the tools needed to carry out its mission safely and efficiently.”

    “Our Peace Corps volunteers represent American values and serve communities throughout the world in exemplary fashion. This bill helps get them back in the field after the COVID pandemic in a safe and responsible manner,” said Senator Young.

    “Peace Corps volunteers are a key part of America’s diplomacy abroad, serving to support local communities and promote our nation’s values and priorities. Countless projects centered on economic development, education and health care have been made possible by volunteers over the last six decades,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m proud to support the Peace Corps program, which has garnered overwhelming bipartisan support, and I’ll continue to push for funding from Congress to help our volunteers grow and flourish abroad.”

    “The Peace Corps plays an important role in promoting U.S. interests and international peace by sending Americans to volunteers in some of the most underserved areas around the world,” said Senator Portman. “I am pleased to support this bipartisan legislation and I hope that it can rapidly move through committee to the Senate Floor.”

     

    The bipartisan legislation also serves as the Senate companion to H.R. 1456, which is led by Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA), and was approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee in September 2021. Among its key provisions, the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2022:

    • Authorizes $410,500,000 to be appropriated annually for the Peace Corps for fiscal years 2023 through 2027.
    • Sets a statutory minimum of $375 per month for the Peace Corps Volunteer readjustment allowance, which the Peace Corps can exceed.
    • Requires the Peace Corps to establish a safe return to service process for those whose service is interrupted due mandatory evacuations from catastrophic events or global emergencies like COVID-19.
    • Suspends federal student loan interest during the duration of Volunteer service; allows for members of the Peace Corps to receive credit during their time of service under any income based repayment program or the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program run by the Department of Education; ensures the Peace Corps is providing access to mental health professionals for Peace Corps Volunteers.
    • Extends transitory health care coverage for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) from 30 days post-service to 60 days, and provides a path through which RPCVs can obtain healthcare through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; ensures Peace Corps Volunteers receive adequate health care during their service, including health examinations preparatory to their service.
    • Enumerates procedures and policy to protect Volunteers against reprisal and retaliation.
    • Codifies two years of noncompetitive eligibility for RPCVs.
    • Mandates the Council consider and make recommendations to strengthen Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) efforts at the Peace Corps, including through the collection of workforce data; streamlines and diversifies the appointment and selection process for Council members.
    • Expands Peace Corps eligibility to include United States citizens who are nationals of American Samoa.
    • Increases Peace Corps Volunteers’ level of workers compensation from GS 7 step one to GS 7 step five.
    • Extends the Sexual Assault Advisory Council until October 2027 and requires the Council to submit annual reports on their work to Congress. 
       

     

    READ MORE

    Find the text of the bill here.

     

    TAKE ACTION

    Ask your senators to co-sponsor the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2022.

     

    Write your Senators to co-sponsor the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act

    • Joanne Roll The President's budget authorized $430,000, 000 for the Peace Corps fiscal year 2023. That amount was passed by the subcommittee. The Reauthorization Bill described here only recommends a budget... see more The President's budget authorized $430,000, 000 for the Peace Corps fiscal year 2023. That amount was passed by the subcommittee. The Reauthorization Bill described here only recommends a budget of $410,000. Why is the discrepancy and how will it be resolved?
      3 months ago
  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    The deadline is May 18 for them to sign on. see more

    U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Susan Collins circulated the annual Peace Corps funding letter, seeking a $20 million increase in agency funding. Thanks to your efforts, a record number of senators signed this year's letter.

     

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have concluded circulating their annual Peace Corps “Dear Colleague” letter, asking other senators to sign on and ensure robust support for the agency as Volunteers return to service overseas. The letter, addressed to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State & Foreign Operations, calls for increasing Peace Corps funding for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY 2023) from $410.5 million to $430.5 million. 43 senators signed this year's letter, breaking the previous record of 42 signatures in 2020.

    This request is in line with President Biden’s budget request for the fiscal year that begins in October 2022. “This funding will be critical as the Peace Corps resumes operations, improves volunteer security, engages in global health efforts, and broadens outreach to attract new talent,” the senators write.

     

    This funding will be critical as the Peace Corps resumes operations, improves volunteer security, engages in global health efforts, and broadens outreach to attract new talent.”

     

    Read the annual Dear Colleague Peace Corps funding letter, or find the text at the bottom of this post.

    In March 2022, Volunteers began returning to service overseas. At this time, Peace Corps programs are again operating in Zambia, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and Namibia, with more headed overseas in the coming weeks and months. As many as 30 other nations are now in the pipeline to have Volunteers return to service this year. The Peace Corps agency has undertaken critical reforms to ensure a better and stronger Peace Corps for a changed world. But the agency needs funding to make all this possible.

    Last month, in the House of Representatives, Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) circulated a Peace Corps funding letter among colleagues. The House letter (which is now closed), requests $450 million for the Peace Corps in FY 2023, drew strong bipartisan support, garnering signatures of 146 lawmakers.
     

     

    Thank Senators Who Signed This Year's Letter. 

    Now that the letter is closed, write to your senators to express your thanks for signing the letter (or your disappointment if they did not).

     

    Take Action Now

     

     


    Who has signed the letter?

    Here are the senators who signed this year's Feinstein-Collins Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter for Fiscal Year 2023. 

     

    DEADLINE to sign on: 12:00 p.m. Wednesday, May 18, 2022 (This letter is now closed)

    SIGNATURES as of Wednesday, May 18, 12:00 p.m. 43 (A new record for this letter!)

     

    Arizona: Kelly, Sinema

    California: Feinstein (co-author), Padilla

    Colorado: Bennet

    Connecticut: Blumenthal, Murphy

    Delaware: Carper

    Georgia: Warnock

    Hawai'i: Hirono, Schatz

    Illinois: Duckworth, Durbin

    Maine: Collins (co-author), King

    Maryland: Cardin, Van Hollen

    Massachusetts: Markey, Warren

    Michigan: Peters, Stabenow

    Minnesota: Klobuchar, Smith

    Nevada: Cortez Masto, Rosen

    New Hampshire: Hassan, Shaheen

    New Jersey: Booker, Menendez

    New Mexico: Lujan

    New York: Gillibrand

    Ohio: Brown

    Oregon: Merkley, Wyden

    Pennsylvania: Casey

    Rhode Island: Reed, Whitehouse

    Vermont: Sanders

    Virginia: Kaine, Warner

    Washington: Cantwell

    West Virginia: Manchin

    Wisconsin: Baldwin

     


     

    Here’s the text of the Senate Peace Corps funding letter.

    Read it below — or download the PDF.


    May 17, 2022

    The Honorable Chris Coons, Chairman
    Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations
    Washington, D.C. 20510

    The Honorable Lindsey Graham, Ranking Member
    Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations
    Washington, D.C. 20510

     

    Dear Chairman Coons and Ranking Member Graham,

    Strong and consistent bipartisan support has built the Peace Corps into the international face of American volunteerism. Continuing that tradition, we request that you support the Fiscal Year 2023 President’s Budget Request of at least $430.5 million for the Peace Corps.

    The requested amount represents less than a five percent increase over flat funding of approximately $410.5 million for the past seven years. This funding will be critical as the Peace Corps resumes operations, improves volunteer security, engages in global health efforts, and broadens outreach to attract new talent.

    The United States gains immeasurably from the Peace Corps’ mission of international volunteer service. Since the Peace Corps’ inception 61 years ago, more than 241,000 Americans have served in 143 countries and provided more than three billion hours of service to our nation and the world. These ambassadors of goodwill set the conditions for prosperity, self-reliance, and stability in postings around the globe.

    The Peace Corps suspended global operations during the pandemic and evacuated nearly 7,000 volunteers from more than 60 countries. Today, every government that had volunteer programs at the time of the evacuation has asked for volunteers to return.

    The Peace Corps represents a cost-effective way to promote the United States abroad while providing tangible benefit for host communities. It supports the U.S.’s humanitarian mission and shapes the diplomatic and security environment. Peace Corps service also offers international experience to American volunteers, many of whom will become leaders here at home.

    Thank you for considering our request and your enduring support for the Peace Corps.

    Sincerely,

    [Signatures of Senators]

     

     

    Story updated May 18, 2022 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern


    Jonathan Pearson is Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. Write him at advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org.

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    The House has just passed the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in a generation see more

    The House of Representatives has just passed the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in a generation.

     

    Press Release
     

    Washington, D.C. — National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) strongly applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1456). This bill is crucial for the future of the Peace Corps as a new generation of Volunteers returns to service. If it ultimately becomes law, it will be the first full reauthorization of the Peace Corps since 1999. More than 240,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.

    The bill’s lead author is Representative John Garamendi (D-CA), the sole Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) in Congress; his co-author is Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), a longtime Peace Corps champion. Their bipartisan leadership in support of the Peace Corps is a powerful testament to the enduring backing of the American people for volunteer service abroad. The strong bipartisan vote today only affirms this backing.

    NPCA Board of Directors Chair John Lee Evans said upon the passage of the legislation: “This legislation does what many in the Peace Corps community have been demanding for years. It authorizes critical agency funding; increases readjustment allowance for RPCVs; extends transitory health care coverage for RPCVs; provides greater whistleblower protections for RPCVs; increases Non-Competitive Eligibility (NCE) for RPCVs; strengthens DEIA efforts at the Peace Corps; expands Peace Corps eligibility to include U.S. citizens who are American Samoan; provides a modest increase for Peace Corps Volunteers’ level of workers compensation; strengthens and extends the work of the Peace Corps’ Sexual Assault Advisory Council; and authorizes Virtual Service. These are the kinds of visionary reforms that will ensure a strong Peace Corps, one that advances American goals abroad and strengthens our peoples’ connections to the world.”

     

    “These are the kinds of visionary reforms that will ensure a strong Peace Corps, one that advances American goals abroad and strengthens our peoples’ connections to the world.”

         — John Lee Evans, NPCA Board Chair

     

    NPCA Interim President Dan Baker also said: “Today the RPCV community stands united in gratitude for the leadership shown by the Congress in getting this bill one step closer to the President’s desk. Our longtime House champions Rep. John Garamendi and Garret Graves deserve deep applause for their vision in moving this bill forward. I’d also like to thank the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX) for their unwavering support, as well as Vice Chairs Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) for their strong commitment to a reformed and revitalized Peace Corps. This bill, which has companion legislation in the Senate moving forward, will strengthen Americans’ ability to serve around the world and the impact of Peace Corps’ efforts overall.”
     

     

    About National Peace Corps Association

    National Peace Corps Association is the nation’s largest organization dedicated to promoting and advancing the goals of the Peace Corps. NPCA is a mission-driven social impact organization that encourages and celebrates lifelong commitment to Peace Corps ideals. NPCA supports a united and vibrant Peace Corps community—including current and returned Peace Corps Volunteers, current and former staff, host country nationals, family, and friends—in our efforts to create a better world. 


    For more information, contact:

    Steven Boyd Saum, Director of Strategic Communications
        or 
    Joel Rubin, Vice President for Global Policy and Public Affairs

    202-934-1532

    news@peacecorpsconnect.org
    www.PeaceCorpsConnect.org

     September 19, 2022
  • Communications Intern 2 posted an article
    At last, some good news for the Peace Corps community on Public Service Loan Forgiveness see more

    At last, some good news for the Peace Corps community on Public Service Loan Forgiveness

     

    By Katie McSheffrey

     

    Last October, the U.S. Department of Education announced an overhaul of the troubled Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). But that initial overhaul did not include proposals to help Peace Corps Volunteers. National Peace Corps Association has covered this problem in podcasts and in WorldView magazine. Months later, those of us who have been leading the RPCVs for PSLF Relief Facebook group have some good news.

    First, a bit more background. What the Secretary of Education announced in October 2021 was a limited time waiver, through which borrowers may receive credit for past periods of repayment that would not otherwise qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. This waiver expires October 31, 2022. But this waiver did not help the majority of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, whose loans were in economic hardship deferment status during their Peace Corps service. After months, advocacy efforts to fix the problem have now paid off. 

    On April 19, 2022, the Department of Education announced a one-time addendum to the limited time waiver for borrowers under income-driven repayment plans, including those who are pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Included in the addendum is a clarifying point that will greatly benefit many Returned Peace Corps Volunteers: “Months spent in deferment before 2013 will count under the waiver. Additionally, ED will include Economic Hardship Deferment on or after January 1, 2013. These periods of deferment will also be applied to your account in fall 2022.”

    Unfortunately, periods of in-school deferment still do not count. That may affect Volunteers who participated in the Master’s International Program.

    One important deadline to note: This limited time waiver will end on October 31, 2022. To take advantage of the waiver, borrowers must take steps as outlined on the Department of Education website to sign up for Public Service Loan Forgiveness prior to that date.

     

     

    Working on a Permanent Fix

    While this is positive news for returned Volunteers to be included in the time-limited waiver, NPCA and the RPCVs for PSLF Relief group are still working to advocate for permanent, retroactive change to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to ensure all returned Volunteers qualify. We and NPCA will keep the community up-to-date on the latest changes to the PSLF program as the Department of Education continues to update guidance for borrowers.

    On July 6, 2022, the Department of Education proposed new guidelines to expand and improve targeted relief programs for student loans. These would be very beneficial to the Peace Corps community, and we would encourage advocacy work to ensure these new regulations are implemented.

    For those with student loans, here’s something else important to keep in mind: The PSLF Program forgives the remaining balance on direct loans after a borrower has made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer. Borrowers do not need to have their full 120 payments by the waiver deadline, but they do need to be signed up for the program so the Department of Education can verify Peace Corps service records.

    Illustration by Roman Bailey

     

    Legislation Introduced

    New legislation proposes another permanent solution. On June 1, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the Simplifying and Strengthening PSLF Act, to streamline and improve the troubled federal program to help Americans pursuing careers in public service—including firefighters, teachers, Peace Corps Volunteers, police officers, and those working for nonprofits—have their student loan debt forgiven. An identical version of the bill was introduced by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) in the House Education and Labor Committee on July 12. 

    Crucially, the Senate version of the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (see more on that here) also ensures that Volunteers will receive credit for their Peace Corps service in the PSLF program as well as any other loan forgiveness program. 

     

     

    Presidential Action on Loan Forgiveness

    In an announcement that has made headlines, President Biden on August 24  announced plans to forgive student loans for recipients of Pell Grants (up to $20,000) and other federal student loans (up to $10,000) for recipients earning less than $125,000 a year. These actions are separate from ongoing work to provide PSLF relief and other efforts to support Volunteers.

     

     

    Do you have a student loan story?

    Share it with President Biden and your members of Congress through the NPCA Action Center: bit.ly/npca-action-center

     

     

    This story appears in the Spring-Summer 2022 edition of WorldView magazine. Story updated August 28, 2022 at 1 p.m.


    Katie McSheffrey served as a Volunteer in Azerbaijan 2009–11. She is currently the chief of staff in the Office of Human Capital for the Department of the Interior. She previously served as government affairs officer and public service engagement lead with the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service and with Peace Corps Headquarters.

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    NPCA wholeheartedly supports the nomination of Carol Spahn. see more

    Today National Peace Corps Association sent a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee supporting Carol Spahn’s nomination to serve as the 21st Director of the Peace Corps. Here’s what we said. And here’s how you can help ensure a better and stronger Peace Corps for the future.

     

    By Jonathan Pearson

    Photo courtesy Peace Corps

     

    In April President Biden officially nominated Carol Spahn to serve as Director of the Peace Corps. She began serving as acting director in January 2021 and has led the agency through one of the most challenging periods in Peace Corps history. In the weeks ahead, Spahn is expected to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for a confirmation hearing. While we’re waiting for the date of the hearing to be announced, NPCA sent a letter to the committee supporting Spahn’s nomination.

     

    “NPCA has been honored to work with CEO Spahn and her strong leadership team during the past 18 months,” we write. “We have full confidence in her commitment to the continued redeployment of Volunteers to the field in a responsible manner, and are confident that the next generation of Volunteers will experience a better, stronger Peace Corps prepared to meet new global challenges.”

     

    “NPCA has been honored to work with CEO Spahn and her strong leadership team during the past 18 months,” we write. “We have full confidence in her commitment to the continued redeployment of Volunteers to the field in a responsible manner, and are confident that the next generation of Volunteers will experience a better, stronger Peace Corps prepared to meet new global challenges.” 

    Read NPCA’s letter below. Then, write to your Senators and ask them to confirm Carol Spahn to lead the Peace Corps.

     


    June 23, 2022

     

    The Honorable Robert Menendez (D-NJ) 
    Chairman

    Senate Foreign Relations Committee

    423 Dirksen Senate Office Building

    Washington, D.C. 20510-6225

     

    The Honorable James Risch (R-ID)
    Ranking Member

    Senate Foreign Relations Committee

    423 Dirksen Senate Office Building

    Washington, D.C. 20510-6225

     

    Dear Chairman Menendez and Ranking Member Risch,

    We write to express National Peace Corps Association’s (NPCA) wholehearted support of the nomination of Carol Spahn to become the twenty-first Director of the Peace Corps. We urge the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to move swiftly to support this nomination and work for full Senate confirmation of Chief Executive Officer Spahn as soon as possible.

    NPCA has been honored to work with CEO Spahn and her strong leadership team during the past 18 months. This has been an incredibly challenging time of planning for the Peace Corps’ future in the face of a global pandemic. During this time, we have been deeply impressed by CEO Spahn’s leadership and collaboration with the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) community. We have full confidence in her commitment to the continued redeployment of Volunteers to the field (which began this past March) in a responsible manner. We are confident that her leadership, coupled with passage of significant Peace Corps reauthorization legislation before Congress, will ensure that the next generation of Volunteers will experience a better, stronger Peace Corps prepared to meet new global challenges.

    Because of her leadership during arguably the most difficult period in the Peace Corps’ history, we believe President Biden was wise in putting forth this nomination. While our nation — and particularly the world — are not fully free of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is hope that the number of Peace Corps Volunteers returning to service will steadily grow through 2022 and 2023.

    As CEO Spahn noted last fall during a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), the work of these redeployed volunteers will include addressing the pandemic. “The pandemic has set back years of development progress and produced unprecedented challenges. It has also underscored our world’s profound interdependence and shared future. Recovery will require international cooperation not only at the government level, but also at the community level. And that is where the Peace Corps as a trusted community partner will return to service in new and time tested ways.”

    CEO Spahn has also demonstrated robust leadership on key policy and management issues that are as necessary as they are challenging. Her request last fall to the Sexual Assault Advisory Council to review and update recommendations of the past five years, the public posting of that report, and her outreach to the Peace Corps community to share its concerns and proposals proves her strong commitment to the issue. It is this type of transparency, which she is guiding, that will help support survivors and lower the risks of sexual violence.

    Similarly, the Peace Corps is receiving praise for its efforts to advance intercultural competence, diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility within its ranks. During that same HFAC hearing, Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks praised recent agency work in this regard, saying “I understand also that the Peace Corps has instituted this robust program that you've talked about in your opening statement, intercultural competence, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and that you've been leading these efforts. You know, and you probably, from my examination, are ahead of a lot of other agencies”.

    The issues outlined above and many more critical to the Peace Corps community were included in NPCA’s Peace Corps Connect to the Future report (November 2020), which reflected a series of community conversations and town hall meetings with more than 1,000 RPCVs about the future of the Peace Corps. We have been very pleased with the way CEO Spahn has embraced the report and its recommendations, many of which have been implemented over the past year.

    Lastly, as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Romania 1994–96), former Country Director, and Chief of Operations for Peace Corps’ Southern and Eastern Africa region, we at NPCA believe that Carol Spahn possesses the background, dedication, and proven track record to move the Peace Corps forward. We respectfully request that your committee move her nomination swiftly to the full Senate for its consideration and ultimate confirmation.

     

    Sincerely,

    Kim Herman
    Interim President & CEO
    National Peace Corps Association

     

    Jed Meline
    Interim Chair – Board of Directors
    National Peace Corps Association
                                                           

     


    MORE: Read the letter as a PDF here. 

     

    Write Your Senators to Support the Nomination

     

    Jonathan Pearson is the Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. Write him here.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    An update from the RPCVs for PSLF Relief see more

    The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program has also been a focus of concern for members of the Peace Corps community, because returned Volunteers were left out of reforms that were supposed to help them. Now here’s some good news.


    By Katie McSheffrey


    Photo by JessicaRain / Wikimedia Commons

     

    Last October, the U.S. Department of Education announced an overhaul of the troubled Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). But that initial overhaul, did not include proposals to help Peace Corps Volunteers. National Peace Corps Association has covered this in podcasts and WorldView magazine. Months later, those of us who have been leading the RPCVs for PSLF Relief Facebook group have some good news.

    First, a bit more background. In October 2021, the Secretary of Education announced a limited time waiver, through which borrowers may receive credit for past periods of repayment that would not otherwise qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. The limited time waiver expires October 31, 2022. Unfortunately this waiver did not help the majority of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, whose loans were in economic hardship deferment status during their Peace Corps service. But advocacy efforts to fix the problem have now paid off.

     

    The Department of Education has announced a one-time addendum to the limited time waiver for borrowers under income-driven repayment plans, including those who are pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness. The deadline to apply is October 31, 2022.

     

    On April 19, 2022, the Department of Education announced a one-time addendum to the limited time waiver for borrowers under income-driven repayment plans, including those who are pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Included in the one-time addendum is a clarifying point that will greatly benefit many Returned Peace Corps Volunteers: “Months spent in deferment before 2013 will count under the waiver. Additionally, ED will include Economic Hardship Deferment on or after January 1, 2013. These periods of deferment will also be applied to your account in fall 2022.” 

    Unfortunately, periods of in-school deferment still do not count. That may affect Volunteers who participated in the Master’s International Program. 

    One important deadline to note: This limited time waiver will end on October 31, 2022. To take advantage of the waiver, borrowers must take steps as outlined on the Department of Education website to sign up for Public Service Loan Forgiveness prior to that date.

    While this is positive news for returned Volunteers to be included in the time-limited waiver, NPCA and the RPCVs for PSLF Relief Group are still working to advocate for permanent, retroactive change to the PSLF program to ensure all returned Volunteers qualify for this program, regardless of status while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Be sure to keep up-to-date on the latest changes to the PSLF program, as the Department of Education continues to update guidance for borrowers.

    For those with student loans, here’s something else important to keep in mind: The PSLF Program forgives the remaining balance on direct loans after a borrower has made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer. Borrowers do not need to have their full 120 payments by the waiver deadline, but they do need to be signed up for the program so the Department of Education can verify Peace Corps service records. 

    Questions? Please feel free to contact the RPCVs for PSLF Relief group on Facebook.

     

     

    MORE TO THE STORY: 

    READ MORE about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness limited time waiver

    LEGISLATION INTRODUCED: On June 1, 2022, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the Simplifying and Strengthening PSLF Act, to streamline and improve the troubled federal program to help Americans pursuing careers in public service — including firefighters, teachers, Peace Corps Volunteers, police officers, and those working for nonprofits — have their student loan debt forgiven.

    TAKE ACTION: Share your student loan story with lawmakers by writing to President Biden and your members of Congress through NPCA's Action Center.

     

     


    Katie McSheffrey served as a Volunteer in Azerbaijan 2009–11. She is currently the chief of staff in the Office of Human Capital for the Department of the Interior. She previously served as government affairs officer and public service engagement lead with the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service and with Peace Corps Headquarters.

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    Members of Congress followed that with a letter signed by 17 lawmakers. see more

    Rep. John Garamendi joined Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen in sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona asking for returned Volunteers to be included in Public Service Loan Forgiveness Reforms.

     

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    In early March 2022, CNN reported that the U.S. Department of Education has identified 100,000 borrowers eligible for debt cancellation from the beleaguered Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Reforms were announced to the program last October, allowing some borrowers to receive credit toward PSLF for periods of public service that would not have previously qualified. But Returned Peace Corps Volunteers were not listed among those eligible. They still aren’t.

    We covered some of the problems that returned Volunteers are facing in the previous edition of WorldView. So what has happened since?

     

    Illustration by Mark Smith

     

    In December 2021, RPCV Rep. John Garamendi (Ethiopia 1964–66) and Maryland Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen sent a letter, signed by 17 lawmakers, urging U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to include RPCVs in the reforms. “We strongly support your Department’s efforts to reform, strengthen, and expand the Public Student Loan Forgiveness Program,” they wrote. “We simply request that you provide for current and returned Peace Corps volunteers by creating a new waiver or expanding current waivers to allow volunteers to credit their full service overseas towards PSLF or Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness, even if their federal student loans were placed into deferment or forbearance status during their service.”

    In January, the Connecticut Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, an affiliate group of NPCA, sent a letter to Secretary Cardona, who previously served as Connecticut’s education secretary. “It was unfortunate to learn that the October announcement did not include RPCVs as being eligible for the temporary waiver period,” they wrote. “We therefore request that you extend a similar waiver to allow RPCVs who served since 2007 to count their public service overseas towards PSLF credit and repayment, even if the volunteer’s loan was in deferment or forbearance status at the time of their service.”

     

    A version of this story appears in the special 2022 Books Edition of WorldView magazine. Story updated April 30, 2022.


    Jonathan Pearson is the Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. The NPCA Advocacy team will share updates as we have them. If you have a PSLF story to share, contact advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    The deadline for members to sign onto this bipartisan letter is April 22. see more

    In the House of Representatives, today (April 22) is the deadline for a bipartisan letter from the co-chairs of the Peace Corps Caucus seeking a $40 million increase in agency funding. Now is the time to contact your House Rep and ask them to sign this letter. 

     

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    Congressmen John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA), co-chairs of the House Peace Corps Caucus, have begun circulating a Peace Corps funding letter asking other House members to sign on and ensure robust support for the agency as Volunteers return to service overseas. The letter, addressed to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State & Foreign Operations, calls for increasing Peace Corps funding for Fiscal Year 2023 from $410.5 million to $450 million. 

    Read the annual Dear Colleague Peace Corps funding letter, or find the text at the bottom of this post.

    Garamendi served with the Peace Corps in Ethiopia. Together with Graves, in 2021 he introduced the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act — the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in decades. 

    In March 2022, Volunteers began returning to service overseas. They will be returning to dozens of countries in the months ahead. The Peace Corps agency has undertaken critical reforms to ensure a better and stronger Peace Corps for a changed world. But the agency needs funding to make all this possible.
     

     

    Deadline is This Friday, April 22 at 12 Noon EST. Take action now.

    Urge your House Representative to sign the Garamendi-Graves Peace Corps funding letter to support strong funding for Peace Corps in a changed world. Last year, a similar letter was signed by 156 members of the House of Representatives. We need your help to reach or surpass this mark! The current deadline to sign this letter is Friday, April 22, 2022.

     

    Take Action Now

     

     


    Who has signed the letter so far?

    Here are the lawmakers who have signed the Garamendi-Graves Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter for Fiscal Year 2023. 

     

    DEADLINE to sign on: 12 Noon Friday, April 22, 2022

    SIGNATURES as of Friday, April 22, 5:00 PM: 146 (THIS LETTER IS NOW CLOSED)

    SIGNATURES needed to reach our goal: 10

     

    Alabama: Sewell

    American Samoa: Radewagen

    Arizona: Gallego, Grijalva

    California: Barragan, Bass, Bera, Brownley, Carbajal, Cardenas, Chu, Correa, Costa, DeSaulnier, Eshoo, Garamendi (co-author), Huffman, Khanna, Young Kim, LaMalfa, Mike Levin, Lieu, Lofgren, Lowenthal, Matsui, McNerney, Panetta, Scott Peters, Sanchez, Speier, Swalwell, Takano, Mike Thompson, Vargas

    Colorado: Crow, DeGette

    Connecticut: Courtney, Hayes, Himes, Larson

    District of Columbia: Norton

    Florida: Deutch, Soto

    Georgia: Bishop, McBath, Hank Johnson, David Scott, Williams

    Hawai'i: Kahele

    Illinois: Bustos, Casten, Danny Davis, Rodney Davis, Foster, Chuy Garcia, Kelly, Schakowsky, Schneider

    Indiana: Carson

    Iowa: Axne

    Kansas: Davids

    Kentucky: Barr, Yarmuth

    Louisiana: Graves (co-author)

    Maine: Golden, Pingree

    Maryland: Brown, Raskin, Sarbanes

    Massachusetts: Auchincloss, Keating, Lynch, McGovern, Moulton, Neal, Pressley, Trahan

    Michigan: Dingell, Kildee, Levin, Slotkin, Stevens

    Minnesota: Craig, Phillips

    Nevada: Horsford, Titus

    New Hampshire: Kuster

    New Jersey: Andy Kim, Malinowski, Pascrell, Payne, Sherrill, Sires, Van Drew

    New York: Clarke, Delgado, Higgins, Jones, Katko, Carolyn Maloney, Sean Patrick Maloney, Meeks, Morelle, Rice, Suozzi, Tonko, Velazquez

    Northern Marianas: Sablan

    North Carolina: Adams, Butterfield, Manning

    Ohio: Beatty, Shontel Brown

    Oregon: Blumenauer, Bonamici, DeFazio

    Pennsylvania: Boyle, Doyle, Evans, Wild

    Puerto Rico: Gonzalez-Colon

    Rhode Island: Cicilline, Langevin

    Tennessee: Cohen

    Texas: Allred, Castro, Doggett, Escobar, Vicente Gonzalez, E.B. Johnson, Jackson Lee, Veasey

    Vermont: Welch

    Virginia: Beyer, Connolly, Luria, McEachin, Wexton

    Virgin Islands: Plaskett

    Washington: DelBene, Jayapal, Larsen, Schrier, Strickland

    Wisconsin: Kind, Moore

     

     

    Here’s the text of the House Peace Corps funding letter.

    Read it below — or download the PDF.


    April 28, 2022

     

    The Honorable Barbara Lee, Chairwoman
    Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs
    Committee on Appropriations
    U.S. House of Representatives

    The Honorable Hal Rogers, Ranking Member
    Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs
    Committee on Appropriations
    U.S. House of Representatives

     

    Dear Chairwoman Lee and Ranking Member Rogers:

    We respectfully request that you provide $450 million for the Peace Corps in the forthcoming “Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act” for fiscal year 2023. This funding level would allow the Peace Corps to resume in-country Volunteer activities, once safe and prudent to do so, and support the longstanding goal of deploying 10,000 volunteers worldwide. It is also consistent with the authorized funding level in the bipartisan “Peace Corps Reauthorization Act” (H.R.1456) reported favorably by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on September 30, 2021.

    More Americans want to serve than the Peace Corps has the funding to absorb. The ratio of annual applications to available Volunteer positions currently stands at over 4:1. In 2013, retired General Stanley McChrystal called this gap between applicants and national service opportunities like the Peace Corps “democratic energy wasted and a generation of patriotism needlessly squandered.”

    Peace Corps Volunteers serve our country in remote, challenging environments. In recent years, the Peace Corps has taken steps to improve the health and safety of its Volunteers. We believe the Peace Corps needs to do more, including fully implementing the Sam Farr Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018 (Public Law 115-256). Increased funding is necessary to ensure that the Peace Corps can fulfill its commitment to the health and safety of American citizens who choose to serve. In addition, Congress must increase the federal workers’ compensation levels for Volunteers temporarily or permanently disabled because of their service abroad.

    Thank you for your leadership and past efforts to provide the Peace Corps with the resources needed to support the next generation of American leaders who volunteer abroad.

     

    Sincerely,

     

    John Garamendi
    Member of Congress

     

    Garret Graves
    Member of Congress

     

     

    Story updated April 25, 2022 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern


    Jonathan Pearson is Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. Write him at advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    Top priority is passing the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act see more

    On March 3 we kicked off our 18th season of advocacy in support of the Peace Corps. Our key priority: passing the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act. Congressional meetings are being organized, and op-eds are being published. Now is the time to get involved.

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    National Peace Corps Association kicked off National Days of Advocacy in Support of the Peace Corps on March 3. For 18 years, this grassroots effort by the Peace Corps community to work with members of Congress has been one of NPCA’s key contributions to Peace Corps Week (which concluded on March 5, 2022). Moving forward, our key legislative priority this year is passing the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act, which will help ensure a better and stronger Peace Corps to meet the needs of a changed world.

    Last year, as Peace Corps celebrated the 60th anniversary of its founding, it was amid a global pandemic and social distancing. A national crisis saw the U.S. Capitol closed to most visitors. This year, the dangers of COVID-19 are far from over, and our nation remains deeply polarized. After an invasion by Vladimir Putin, Ukraine is fighting a war it did not want and did not start.

    Yet, as Peace Corps posts around the world have increasingly met robust new protocols for health and safety, Volunteers are also soon going to begin returning to service in communities overseas. It is a time of unprecedented challenges and renewed opportunities. And it is a time when the mission of building peace and friendship is more important than ever before. In March and April, your involvement is key.

     

    March 3 Kickoff

    Our Days of Advocacy began with a virtual kickoff on Thursday, March 3. Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, former Peace Corps staff, invited Volunteers, and other supporters came together to hear remarks by Peace Corps champions in Congress including RPCV Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Advocacy leaders discussed the crucial work for improvements and reforms that will ensure that Volunteers are returning to a stronger, better, and well-resourced Peace Corps. Our highest legislative priority is to pass the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act, the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in decades.

    It's not too late to get involved in our National Days of Advocacy. A stronger and better Peace Corps begins with you!

     

    Take Individual Action Right Now

    Visit our NPCA Action Center to write to your members of Congress. Share this link with others. We need every citizen who believes in the importance of the Peace Corps to contact Congress at this consequential moment in Peace Corps history!

     

    Get Involved

    Check out our 2022 Days of Advocacy map to see if any activities are already in the works, including virtual meetings with congressional offices, virtual letter writingadvocacy workshops, and more.

    If there’s no activity already scheduled in your area, fill out this form and help lead one.

     

    Meetings With Congress

    A key component of our 2022 Days of Advocacy will be district office or virtual meetings with congressional offices. This is particularly the case with your senators, where much work remains to advance and pass the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act.

    Here are details on how to plan and carry out effective advocacy meetings. No previous experience is necessary. NPCA advocacy staff and community leaders around the country are ready to assist you.

    We also put together the video below to give you an introduction to advocacy.

     

     

     

    More Resources for Your Meetings with Congress

    Visit our State Resources page for a one-page document about Peace Corps activity in your state and to see profiles of every member of Congress. The document is designed for you to download and share with congressional staff at the end of your office meetings.

    We are currently updating a more in-depth document with a more complete overview of legislative priorities. For right now, you can use the 2021 Fact Sheet.

     

    Priorities: Peace Corps Legislation, Funding, and More

    Our Days of Advocacy Agenda will continue taking shape as developments occur in the weeks and months ahead. We’ll update this page as more information becomes available. 
     

    Comprehensive Peace Corps Legislation in both the Senate and House of Representatives

    Passage of the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act is NPCA’s top legislative priority in 2022.

    In the House of Representatives, returned Volunteer Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) introduced the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1456) in 2021. Last fall, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed this amended version of the legislation by an overwhelming, bipartisan vote of 44 to 4. 

    In the Senate, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez (D-NJ), is expected to introduce similar legislation in March 2022.

    Here is our Peace Corps Reauthorization Act issue brief and talking points.

    Here is a one-page document you can give to your representatives during House meetings.

    Here is a one-page document you can give to your senators during Senate meetings.

     

    Peace Corps Funding in the Senate and House of Representatives

    Unfortunately, and for a seventh consecutive year, Congress approved a Fiscal Year 2022 spending plan that will include flat funding of $410.5 million for the Peace Corps. 

    There is better news as work begins on the Fiscal Year 2023 budget. On March 28th, President Biden submitted his FY 2023 budget to Congress. Included in his budget is a request of $430.5 million for the Peace Corps, a nearly five percent increase in funding.

    As with years past, we anticipate mobilizing our community in the coming weeks to urge lawmakers to sign House and Senate “Dear Colleague” letters supporting robust funding for the Peace Corps in FY 2023. Stay connected to NPCA advocacy for action related to these letters.

    Here is our Peace Corps Funding issue brief and talking points.
     

     

    Peace Corps Director Nomination | Senate Action Only

    On April 6, 2022, President Biden announced his intent to nominate Acting Peace Corps Director Carol Spahn to become the 21st Peace Corps Director. Once officially nominated, Acting Director Spahn will face a confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. If she passes a vote in the committee, her confirmation would go to the full Senate for a final vote.

          Read more here about this nomination, including a supporting statement from NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst.

    If you have upcoming meetings with Senate offices (especially members of the Foreign Relations Committee), please urge swift, strong, and bipartisan confirmation of Carol Spahn as the next Peace Corps Director.

     

     

    Diversity and Inclusion Within the State Department | House of Representatives Action Only

    The Diversity and Inclusion at the Department of State Act (H.R. 4589) was introduced last July by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX). The legislation would create a senior level position of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer to advocate for diversity within the State Department. A Leadership Council would be established and accountable for implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives. H.R. 4589 also changes promotion practices to improve retention and fairness, and creates a mentoring program within the agency.

    Here is our State Department Diversity Act issue brief and talking points.

    Here is a one-page document you can give to your representatives during House meetings.

     

    Story updated April 7, 2022 at 7:00 AM Eastern.


    Jonathan Pearson is the Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    As volunteers return to serve, it's time for the President and Congress to support the Peace Corps see more

    Congress has finally passed a budget for fiscal year 2022. It keeps funding flat for the Peace Corps for the seventh year in a row. To ensure a better and stronger Peace Corps as Volunteers return to the field, and to enable the agency to make needed reforms, Congress needs to provide more funding. 

     

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    Congress has completed its work on a budget for fiscal year 2022, passing a $1.5 trillion spending package. That’s the good news. Unfortunately, for a seventh consecutive year, instead of providing new resources to better meet the needs of a changed world, it keeps Peace Corps’ baseline funding flat at $410.5 million.

    We are nearly six months into the current fiscal year, FY 2022. The House of Representatives passed the spending bill on Wednesday night. The Senate approved the spending package on Thursday night. The spending package now goes to the president for his signature.

    The entire international affairs budget received only a small increase in funding. Final deliberations led to the removal of funds proposed for further resources to address COVID-19 both domestically and globally.

    Read this statement from the US Global Leadership Coalition.

    Read the latest news on congressional action.

     

     

    NPCA Statement: Let’s Ensure that Peace Corps Has Funding to Make Needed Reforms and Meet the Needs of a Changed World

    National Peace Corps Association President Glenn Blumhorst issued this statement on final congressional action on FY 2022 congressional spending, and the upcoming FY 2023 budget:

    Last week, the Peace Corps community was excited to hear news that the first Volunteers are scheduled to return to service in Zambia and the Dominican Republic later this month, with plans well underway for the return of Volunteers to an additional 22 countries in the next few months.

    Today, we are disappointed and quite concerned that for the seventh consecutive year, Congress has approved a federal spending package that will continue flat funding for the Peace Corps' baseline appropriation through Fiscal Year 2022.

    There must not be an eighth consecutive year of flat funding. In the coming weeks, President Biden needs to present Congress with a Fiscal Year 2023 budget request that will support an accelerated return to service for Volunteers, a restoration of some of the purchasing power Peace Corps has been losing due to inflation, and an acknowledgement that a stronger Peace Corps, ready to initiate improvements and reforms to be its best, will have the resources to carry out is mission.

    The Peace Corps needs a raise. The President and Congress need to respond to that need.

     

    Take Action Now: Urge the President to Request Increased Funding to Support the Peace Corps as Volunteers Return to Service Overseas 

    With the conclusion of work on Fiscal Year 2022, attention will quickly shift to the fiscal year that will begin in October 2022. As Congress awaits President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget, take action now to urge the president to request increased funding for the Peace Corps as Volunteers return to the field.

     

    Write President Biden

     


    Jonathan Pearson is Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. Write him at advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    What will Peace Corps’ future hold? It’s up to us. And work is underway. see more

    On March 1 we kicked off a season of advocacy in support of the Peace Corps. And we’re working to transform it for a changed world. On March 1, Rep. John Garamendi introduced comprehensive Peace Corps legislation.

     

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    For 17 years, one of National Peace Corps Association’s key contributions to Peace Corps Week is our National Days of Advocacy. This Peace Corps 60th anniversary year is marked by a global pandemic and social distancing, as well as national crisis that includes a U.S. Capitol closed to visitors. In spite of these unprecedented challenges, our advocacy mobilization carries on. And during the months of March and April, your involvement is needed like never before.

     

    Our March 1 Kickoff

    Our Days of Advocacy kickoff began on March 1 (Peace Corps Day). More than 250 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) former Peace Corps staff and other supporters joined a meeting which featured remarks by Peace Corps champions in Congress including RPCV Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA). Several advocacy leaders shared their planned activities in the coming weeks and many joined individual state/regional breakout meetings to discuss further plans for mobilization.

    It's not too late to get involved in our National Days of Advocacy. In fact, we are just getting started!

     

    Take Individual Action Right Now

    Follow this link to write to your members of Congress. Share this link with others. We need every citizen who believes in the importance of the Peace Corps to contact Congress at this consequential moment in Peace Corps history!

     

    Get Involved

    Check out our 2021 Days of Advocacy map to see if any activities — virtual meetings with congressional offices, virtual letter writing, advocacy workshops, and more — are already in the works. If there’s no activity already scheduled in your area, fill out this form and help lead one!

     

    Virtual Workshop Recording

    If you are new to advocacy, follow this link for details on how to plan and carry out effective virtual advocacy meetings. And, here is a video recording of our March 9th Virtual Advocacy 101 Workshop.

     

     

    More Resources:

    Visit our State Resources page for a one-page document about Peace Corps activity in your state (which you can download and use as a leave behind document for congressional office meetings), and to see profiles of every member of Congress.

    Follow this link for our generic, two page leave behind document that you can share with congressional offices.

     

    Issues: Funding, Peace Corps Legislation, COVID Relief, Jobs

    Our Days of Advocacy Agenda is still taking shape. We’ll update this page as more information becomes available. During March and April 2021, here are some of our key Peace Corps–related advocacy issues:
     

    Peace Corps Funding

    Our advocacy to support strong Peace Corps funding begins now, as Congress begins to work on federal appropriations for Fiscal Year 2022 (which begins October 1, 2021). In the weeks to come, we anticipate intensive mobilization to urge members to sign annual Senate and House Peace Corps Funding “Dear Colleague” letters. Right now, our specific request is that you ask senators and representatives include strong funding for the Peace Corps when they submit their individual requests to their respective Appropriations Committee. The Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (see below) recommends a roughly 10 percent increase in FY 22 funding for Peace Corps — from $410 Million to $450 Million — to support redeployment and key reforms.

    Click here to read our Peace Corps Funding issue brief and talking points.

    Click here to read the House Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague letter.

    Click here for a letter writing action to support the House Dear Colleague letter.
     

    Comprehensive Peace Corps Legislation

    On March 1, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer John Garamendi (D-CA) and Representative Garret Graves (R-LA) introduced the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1456) in the House of Representatives. Read Congressman Garamendi's press release, which includes a link to the legislation and an outline of the many provisions to support, improve, and honor the work of Peace Corps Volunteers and those who have returned.

    At this time there is no companion legislation in the Senate.

    Click here to read our Peace Corps Reauthorization Act issue brief and talking points.

    Click here for a one–page document you can give to your representatives during House meetings. 
     

    COVID Relief and Jobs Legislation

    In both the Senate and the House, identical legislation has been introduced to mobilize resources, confront the COVID-19 pandemic, and prioritize the hiring of RPCVs (among others) in the response. The Health Force, Resilience Force and Jobs To Fight COVID-19 Act of 2021 (Senate Bill 32; House Bill 460) is starting to gain co-sponsors. Thank your members if they are already a co-sponsor. If they are not, ask them to co-sponsor this legislation. Click here to read our issue brief and talking points.

     

    Story updated April 7, 2021 at 5:00 PM Eastern Time. 


     Jonathan Pearson is the Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association.

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    Mark your calendars for March 3, 2022. And watch for news in January. see more

    National Peace Corps Association hopes to host in-person meetings as part of Capitol Hill Advocacy Day on March 3, 2022.

    This is an opportunity to meet with members of Congress and staff. The last in-person meetings were in March 2020, just days before the Capitol shut down. Health and safety concerns mean we can’t yet confirm in-person meetings in 2022, but NPCA hopes to announce definitive plans in January.

    Check back with the NPCA website for updates — or head to our homepage and scroll down to sign up for the NPCA Newsletter.

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders have a conversation on Peace Corps, race, and more. see more

    Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Leading in a Time of Adversity. A conversation convened as Part of Peace Corps Connect 2021.

     

    Image by Shutterstock 

     

    Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) are currently the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in the U.S., but the story of the U.S. AAPI population dates back decades — and is often overlooked. As the community faces an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes and the widening income gap between the wealthiest and poorest, their role in politics and social justice is increasingly important.

    The AAPI story is also complex — 22 million Asian Americans trace their roots to more than 20 countries in East and Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, each with unique histories, cultures, languages, and other characteristics. Their unique perspectives and experiences have also played critical roles in American diplomacy across the globe. 

    For Peace Corps Connect 2021, we brought together three women who have served or are serving as political leaders to talk with returned Volunteer Mary Owen-Thomas. Below are edited excerpts from their conversation on September 23, 2021. Watch the entire conversation here.  

     

    Rep. Grace Meng

    Member, U.S. House of Representatives, representing New York’s sixth district — the first Asian American to represent her state in Congress.

     

     

     

    Julia Chang Bloch

    Former U.S. ambassador to Nepal — the first Asian American to serve as a U.S. ambassador to any country. Founder and president of U.S.-China Education Trust. Peace Corps Volunteer in Malaysia (1964–66).

     

       

     Elaine Chao

    Former Director of the Peace Corps (1991–92). Former Secretary of Labor — the first Asian American to hold a cabinet-level post. Former Secretary of Transportation.

     

     

      

    Moderated by Mary Owen-Thomas

    Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines (2005–06) and secretary of the NPCA Board of Directors.

     

     

     

     

     

    Mary Owen-Thomas: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the fastest growing racial and ethnic group in the United States. This is not a recent story — and it’s often overlooked. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines, and I happen to be Filipino American.

    During my service, people would say, “Oh, we didn’t get a real American.” I used to think, I’m from Detroit! I’m curious if you’ve ever encountered this in your international work.

     

    Julia Chang Bloch: With the Peace Corps, I was sent to Borneo, in Sabah, Malaysia. I was a teacher at a Chinese middle school that had been a prisoner-of-war camp during World War II. The day I arrived on campus, there was a hush in the audience. I don’t speak Cantonese, but I could understand a bit, and I heard: “Why did they send us a Japanese?” I did not know the school had been a prisoner of war camp. They introduced me. I said a few words in English, then a few words in Mandarin. And they said, “Oh, she’s Chinese.”

     

    I heard a little girl say to her father, “You promised me I could meet the American ambassador. I don’t see him.”

     

    In Nepal, where I was ambassador, when I arrived and met the Chinese ambassador, he said, “Ah, China now has two of us.” I said, “There’s a twist, however. I am a Chinese American.” He laughed, and we became friends thereafter. On one of my trips into the western regions, where there were a lot of Peace Corps Volunteers and very poor villages, I was welcomed lavishly by one village. I heard a little girl say to her father, “You promised I could meet the American ambassador. I don’t see him.” He said to her, “There she is.” “Oh, no,” she said. “She is not the American ambassador. She’s Nepali.”

    Those are examples of why AAPI representation in foreign affairs is important. We should look like America, abroad, in our embassies. We can show the world that we are in fact diverse and rich culturally.

     

    Mary Owen-Thomas: Secretary Chao, at the Labor Department you launched the annual Asian Pacific American Federal Career Advancement Summit, and the annual Opportunity Conference. The department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics began reporting the employment data on Asians in America as a distinct category — a first. You ensured that labor law materials were translated into multiple languages, including Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean. Talk about how those came about.

     

    Elaine Chao: Many of us have commented about the lack of diversity in top management, even in the federal government. There seems to be a bamboo ceiling — Asian Americans not breaking into the executive suite. I started the Asian Pacific American Federal Advancement Forum to equip, train, prepare Asian Americans to go into senior ranks of the federal government.

    The Opportunity Conference was for communities of color, people who have traditionally been underserved in the federal government, in the federal procurement areas. Thirdly, in 2003 we finally broke out Asians and Asian American unemployment numbers for the first time. That’s how we know Asian Americans have the lowest unemployment rate. Labor laws are complicated, so we started a process translating labor laws into Asian, East Asian, and South Asian languages, so that people would understand their obligations to protect the workforce.

     

    We are often seen as invisible. In Congress, there are many times I’ll be in a room — and this is bipartisan, unfortunately — where people will be talking about different communities, and they literally leave AAPIs out. We are not mentioned, acknowledged, or recognized.

     

    Grace Meng: I am not a Peace Corps Volunteer, but I am honored to be here. My former legislative director, Helen Beaudreau (Georgia 2004–06, The Philippines 2010–11), is a twice-Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. I am incredibly grateful for all of your service to our country, and literally representing America at every corner of the globe.

    I was born and raised here. This past year and a half has been a wake-up call for our community. Asian Americans have been discriminated against long before — starting with legislation that Congress passed, like the Chinese Exclusion Act, to Japanese American citizens being put in internment camps. We have too often been viewed as outsiders or foreigners.

    I live in Queens, New York, one of the most diverse counties in the country, and still have experiences where people ask where I learned to speak English so well, or where am I really from. When I was elected to the state legislature, some of us were watching the news — a group of people fighting. One colleague turned to me and said, “Well, Grace knows karate, I’m sure she can save us.”

    By the way, I don’t know karate.

    We are often seen as invisible. In Congress, there are many times I’ll be in a room — and this is bipartisan, unfortunately — where people will be talking about different communities, and they literally leave AAPIs out. We are not mentioned, acknowledged, or recognized. I didn’t necessarily come to Congress just to represent the AAPI community. But there are many tables we’re sitting at, where if we did not speak up for the AAPI community, no one else would.

     

    At the root of hate

    Julia Chang Bloch: I believe at the root of this anti-Asian hate is ignorance about the AAPI community. It’s a consequence of the exclusion, erasure, and invisibility of Asian Americans in K–12 school curricula. We need to increase education about the history of anti-Asian racism, as well as contributions of Asian Americans to society. Representative Meng, you should talk about your legislation.

     

    Grace Meng: My first legislation, when I was in the state legislature, was to work on getting Lunar New Year and Eid on public school holidays in New York City. When I was in elementary school, we got off for Rosh Hashanah; don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled to have two days off. But I had to go to school on Lunar New Year. I thought that was incredibly unfair in a city like New York. Ultimately, it changed through our mayor.

    In textbooks, maybe there was a paragraph or two about how Asian Americans fit into our American history. There wasn’t much. One of my goals is to ensure that Asian American students recognize in ways that I didn’t that they are just as American as anyone else. I used to be embarrassed about my parents working in a restaurant, or that they didn’t dress like the other parents.

     

    Data is empowering. We can’t administer government programs without understanding where they go, who receives them, how many resources are devoted to what groups.

     

    Julia Chang Bloch: I wonder about data collection. We’re categorized as AAPI — all lumped together. And data, I believe, is collected that way at the national, state, and local levels. Is there some way to disaggregate this data collection and recognize the differences?

     

    Elaine Chao: A very good question. Data is empowering. We can’t administer government programs without understanding where they go, who receives them, how many resources are devoted to what groups.

    Two obstacles stand in the way. One is resources. Unless there is thinking about how to do this in a systemic, long-term fashion, getting resources is difficult; these are expensive undertakings. Two, there’s sometimes political resistance. Pew Charitable Trust, in 2012, did an excellent job: the first major demographic study on the Asian American population in the United States. But we’re coming up on 10 years. That needs to be revisited.

     

    Role models vs. stereotypes

    Elaine Chao: Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch and Pauline Tsui started the organization Chinese American Women. I remember coming to Washington as a young pup and seeing these fantastic, empowering women. They blazed so many trails. They gave voice to Asian American women.

    I come from a family of six daughters. I credit my parents for empowering their daughters from an early age. They told us that if you work hard, you can do whatever you want to do. We’ve got to offer more inspiration and be more supportive.

     

    Julia Chang Bloch: Pauline Tsui has unfortunately passed away. She had a foundation, which gave us support to establish a series on Asian women trailblazers. Our inaugural program featured Secretary Chao and Representative Judy Chu, because it was about government and service. Our next one is focused on higher education. Our third will be on journalism.

    I want, however, to leave you with this thought. The Page Act of 1875 barred women from China, Japan, and all other Asian countries from entering the United States. Why? Because the thought was they brought prostitution. The stereotyping of Asian women has been insidious and harmful to our achieving positions of authority and leadership. That’s led also to horrible stereotypes that have exoticized and sexualized Asian women. Think about the women who were killed in Atlanta.

     

    That intersection of racism and misogyny that has existed for way too long is something we need to continue to combat.

     

    Grace Meng: There was the automatic assumption, in the beginning, that they were sex workers — these stereotypes were being circulated. I had the opportunity with some of my colleagues to go to Atlanta and meet some of the victims’ families, to hear their stories. That really gave me a wake-up call. I talked about my own upbringing for the first time.

    I remember when my parents, who worked in a restaurant, came to school, and they were dressed like they worked in a restaurant. I was too embarrassed to say hello. Being in Atlanta, talking to those families, made me realize the sacrifices that Asian American women at all levels have faced so that we could have the opportunity to be educated here, to get jobs, to serve our country. And that intersection of racism and misogyny that has existed for way too long is something that we need to continue to combat.

     

    Julia Chang Bloch: We’ve talked about the sexualized, exoticized, and objectified stereotype — the Suzie Wongs and the Madame Butterflys. However, those of us here today, I think would fall into another category: the “dragon lady” stereotype. Any Asian woman of authority is classified as a dragon lady — a derogatory stereotype. Women who are powerful, but also deceitful and manipulating and cruel. Today it’s women who are authoritative and powerful.

     

    Mary Owen-Thomas: Growing up, I was sort of embarrassed of my mom’s thick Filipino accent; she was embarrassed of it, too. I was embarrassed of the food she would send me to school with — rice, mung beans, egg rolls, and fish sauce. And people would ask, “What is that?” Talk about how your self-identity has evolved — and how you view family.

     

    You do not need to have a fancy title to improve the lives of people around you. I became stronger myself and realized that it was my duty, my responsibility, as a daughter of immigrants, to give back to this country and to give back to this community.

     

    Grace Meng: I don’t know if it’s related to being Asian, but I was super shy as a child. And there weren’t a lot of Asians around me. I was the type who would tremble if a teacher called on me; I would try to disappear into the walls. When I meet people who knew me in school, they say, “I cannot believe you’re in politics.”

    What gave me strength was getting involved in the community, seeing as a student in high school, college, and law school that I could help people around me. After law school I started a nonprofit with some friends. We had senior citizens come in with their mail once a week, and we would help them read it. It wasn’t rocket science at all.

    I tell that story to young people, because you do not need to have a fancy title to improve the lives of people around you. I became stronger myself and realized that it was my duty, my responsibility, as a daughter of immigrants, to give back to this country and to give back to this community.

     

    Julia Chang Bloch: At some point, in most Asian American young people’s lives, you ask yourself whether you are Chinese or American — or, Mary, in your case, whether you’re Filipino or American.

    I asked myself that question one year after I arrived in San Francisco from China. I was 10. I entered a forensic contest to speak on being a marginalized citizen. I won the contest, but I didn’t have the answer. At university, I found Chinese student associations I thought would be my answer to my identity. But I did not find myself fitting into the American-born Chinese groups — ABCs — or those fresh off the boat, FOBs. Increasingly, my circle of friends became predominantly white. I perceived the powerlessness of the Chinese in America. I realized that only mainstreaming would make me be able to make a difference in America.

    After graduation, I joined the Peace Corps, to pursue my roots and to make a difference in the world. Teaching English at a Chinese middle school gave me the opportunity to find out once and for all whether I was Chinese or American. I think you know the answer.

    My ambassadorship made me a Chinese American who straddles the East and the West. And having been a Peace Corps Volunteer, I have always believed that it was my obligation to bring China home to America, and vice versa. And that’s what I’ve been doing with the U.S.-China Education Trust since 1998.

    We should say representation matters. Peace Corps matters, too.

     

    WATCH THE ENTIRE CONVERSATION here: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Leading in a Time of Adversity

    These edited remarks appear in the 60th-anniversary edition of WorldView magazine.
    Story updated January 17, 2022.

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    The program you may not know that inspired JFK. And how we change what America looks like abroad. see more

    The past: The program you may not know about that inspired JFK. The future: How we change what America looks like abroad.

     

    Photo: Rep. Karen Bass, who delivered welcoming remarks for the event, part of the Ronald H. Brown Series, on September 14, 2021.

     

    On September 14, 2021, the Constituency for Africa hosted, and National Peace Corps Association sponsored, a series of conversations on “Strategies for Increasing African American Inclusion in the Peace Corps and International Careers.” Part of the annual Ronald H. Brown Series, the event brought together leaders in government, policy, and education, as well as some key members of the Peace Corps community. 

    Constituency for Africa was founded and is led by Melvin Foote, who served as a Volunteer in Eritrea and Ethiopia 1973–76. In hosting the program, he noted how the Peace Corps has played an instrumental role in training members of the U.S. diplomatic community. “Unfortunately, the number of African Americans serving in the Peace Corps has always been extremely low,” he wrote. By organizing this forum, he noted that CFA is attempting to build a community of Black Americans “who served in the Peace Corps in order to have impact on U.S. policies in Africa, in the Caribbean, and elsewhere around the world, and to form a support base for African Americans who are serving, and to encourage other young people to consider going into the Peace Corps.”

    Representative Karen Bass (D-CA), Chair of the House Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, delivered opening remarks. “I have traveled all around Africa, as I know so many of you have,” she said. “And we would love to see the Peace Corps be far more diverse than it is now. Launching this effort now, diversity and inclusion has to be a priority for all of us, including us in Congress. And we have to continue to try and reflect all of society in every facet of our lives … I am working to pass legislation to diversify even further the State Department, and looking not just on an entry level, but on a mid-career level. This effort that you’re doing today is just another aspect of the same struggle. So let me thank you for the work that you’re doing. And of course, Mel Foote as a former Peace Corps alum, and I know his daughter is in the Peace Corps. You’re just continuing a legacy and ensuring the future that the Peace Corps looks like the United States.”

     

    “You’re continuing a legacy and making sure that in the future the Peace Corps looks like the United States.”

    — Karen Bass, Member, U.S. House of Representatives

     


    Read and Explore

    The 2021 Anniversary Edition of WorldView magazine includes some keynote remarks and discussions that were part of the event.

     

    Operation Crossroads Africa and the “Progenitors of the Peace Corps”

    Reverend Dr. Jonathan Weaver | Pastor at Greater Mt. Nebo African Methodist Episcopal Church; Founder and President, Pan African Collective

     

    An Inclusive State Department Is a National Security Imperative

    Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley | Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, U.S. Department of State

     

    Diversity and Global Credibility

    Aaron Williams | Peace Corps Director 2009–12

     

    “First Comes Belonging”

    Remarks and discussion with Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Howard DodsonSia Barbara Kamara, and Hermence Matsotsa-Cross. Discussion moderated by Dr. Anthony Pinder.

     

    Watch the Program

    Remarks were also delivered by Melvin Foote, founder and CEO of Constituency for Africa; Glenn Blumhorst, President and CEO of National Peace Corps Association; Dr. Darlene Grant, Senior Advisor to National Peace Corps Director; and Kimberly Bassett, Secretary of State for Washington, D.C., who welcomed participants on behalf of Mayor Muriel Bowser. Watch the entire event here. 

     


    Learn More

    The Constituency for Africa was founded in 1990 in Washington, D.C., when a group of concerned Africanists, interested citizens, and Africa-focused organizations developed a strategy to build organized support for Africa in the United States. CFA was charged with educating the U.S. public about Africa and U.S. policy on Africa; mobilizing an activist Constituency for Africa; and fostering cooperation among a broad-based coalition of American, African, and international organizations, as well as individuals committed to the progress and empowerment of Africa and African people.

    CFA also founded and sponsors the annual Ronald H. Brown African Affairs Series, which is held in conjunction with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Legislative Week each September. The series honors the late U.S. Commerce Secretary for his exemplary accomplishments in building strategic political, economic, and cultural linkages between the United States and Africa. More than 1,000 concerned individuals and organizational representatives attend each year, in order to gain valuable information and build strategic connections to tackle African and American challenges, issues, and concerns.