Happy Peace Corps Week 2010

This week — March 1st-7th — is Peace Corps Week 2010.

For Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, this is a time to share your experiences in your current community, in fulfillment of the Third Goal of Peace Corps, bringing the world back home:

For people considering Peace Corps service — in the next year or in their “next life” — it’s a prime time to check out a presentation from an RPCV.

Take a look at a new video explaining Peace Corps Week and introducing Peace Corps:

Are you a current, former, or prospective Peace Corps Volunteer? What are you doing for Peace Corps Week?

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Are you a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Hoping to Help Out in Haiti?

UPDATE 1/19/10: Peace Corps Response needs Returned Peace Corps Volunteers [only] who are Kreyol speakers to leave for Haiti within 24-48 hours. Contact pcresponse [at] peacecorps.gov.

Peace Corps has created a questionnaire (not an application) to gauge the current level of interest among Returned Peace Corps Volunteers [only] to assist Haiti via Peace Corps Response (formerly Crisis Corps).

If you are a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer willing and able to volunteer in Haiti, please copy and paste these questions, and fill out your responses, in an email to: pcresponse [at] peacecorps.gov.

Peace Corps Response is the agency’s program that mobilizes former Peace Corps Volunteers to serve in short-term, high-impact volunteer roles. Follow more news about Peace Corps and the Haiti Earthquake on Peace Corps Polyglot, the blog of the National Peace Corps Association, and on the Haiti Disaster Response discussion group for RPCVs.

Peace Corps Response — Haiti Response Questionnaire

Thank you for your interest in assisting Haiti during this time of emergency. To help us gauge the current level of interest among former Peace Corps Volunteers, please fill out this questionnaire. This is NOT an application. Please keep your answers brief (no more than 3 sentences). Please email your completed questionnaire to pcresponse@peacecorps.gov. [NOTE: please only use this form if you are a former Peace Corps Volunteer.]

Name: ______________________________

Country of Service (when you were a Peace Corps Volunteer): ________________________

Telephone: ____________________ Email Address: _______________

1. How soon would you be available to depart on a response assignment?

2. How long would you be able to serve?

3. What languages do you speak and with what proficiency?

4. What technical skills do you possess that would be beneficial in a disaster situation?

5. What prior experience have you had with disaster relief or emergency situations?

6. Peace Corps Response will most likely be sending Volunteers in the next month or so. Given this, are you open to being referred to another government agency or nongovernmental organization for an immediate assignment in Haiti?

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Launch Haiti Relief Discussion Group

Today, the National Peace Corps Association established a discussion group on its social networking site Connected Peace Corps for the Peace Corps Community to ask questions and learn more about disaster relief efforts in the wake of Tuesday’s devastating earthquake near Port au Prince, Haiti.

Peace Corps Volunteers have been stationed in Haiti over the years, but none are currently serving there according to Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams. (Read more about Peace Corps’s history in Haiti — the program seems to have been suspended in 2005.)

The number of members on the Haiti Disaster Relief discussion group has climbed throughout the day and contributors to the chat are sharing endorsements of organizations to support and clearing up rumors circulating on other social media sites. Others are sharing memories of their own experiences in Haiti, or its neighbor the Dominican Republic, or are sharing insights based on natural disasters they’ve been survivors of.

Currently Peace Corps Response (formerly Crisis Corps), the agency’s program that mobilizes former Peace Corps Volunteers to serve in short-term, high-impact volunteer roles, doesn’t show any listings for Haiti – but it’s still early. This Facebook group has been started to get feedback and ideas to Peace Corps and encourage Peace Corps Response to get a group together to serve in Port au Prince.

Incidentally, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Mark Marek works for the Red Cross of Haiti. Here he is on PBS’s Newshour and on NPR.

Reinvigorating Peace Corps

Sprin 2009 cover

The Winter 2009/2010 WorldView Magazine — a quarterly publication of the National Peace Corps Association — came in the mail recently, and explores questions of how to reinvigorate Peace Corps to fulfill its potential.

The issue features results of a survey of 4,500+ Peace Corps community members: applicants, current Volunteers, and Returned Volunteers; how Peace Corps might focus on “strategic” countries and partner with other organizations; how Peace Corps might strengthen the Peace Corps Fellows USA program (in which partner universities offer funding, field experiences, and special consideration for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers); how Peace Corps can better fulfill its third goal of educating people in the United States about the wider world.

A couple articles to highlight:

• An interview with Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams:

Erica Burman, National Peace Corps Association’s communications director, interviewed new Peace Corps Director, and Continue reading

Calling All Applicants! Webinar on Getting into the Peace Corps!

All right, all you prospective Peace Corps applicants I’ve been talking with lately: here is your chance to get expert insider advice on how to ace your Peace Corps application.

Tomorrow, 12/19 at 10 am PST (1 pm EST), Kate Kuykendall — a former Peace Corps Volunteer and recruiter, who is now the Public Affairs Specialist in the Los Angeles Peace Corps regional recruitment office — is sharing her best advice on “Getting into the Peace Corps” via an online webinar.

Here’s the description:

With approximately one in three applicants entering Peace Corps service and the recent 18% increase in applications, applying to become a Peace Corps volunteer is more competitive than ever.

Please join us for a webinar that will suggest ways in which future and current candidates can strengthen their Peace Corps application. A staff member from the L.A. recruitment office will cover general application tips, as well as specific volunteer experiences or language study that will make your application more competitive.

Register here!

Are you attending? What do you want to know about the process?

Senate Approves Funding for Peace Corps and AmeriCorps Programs

Today the Senate  gave final congressional approval to a package of six appropriations bills to fund many government programs for Fiscal Year 2010, including 1.149 billion for the Corporation for National and Community Service, and  $400 million for the Peace Corps.

President Obama is expected to sign the appropriations package into law shortly.

The $400 million appropriation for Peace Corps is larger than Obama’s budget request, and it means that the agency should be able to place higher numbers of Volunteers in the field.

The $1.149 billion appropriation is the largest in the history of the Corporation for National and Community Service — $260 million more than last year. The increased funding will make it possible for the organization to move forward implementing initiatives authorized by April’s Serve America Act. Here’s an excerpt from this afternoon’s announcement:

The budget provides increases for all the Corporation’s programs, including a significant expansion of AmeriCorps, taking the first step towards the Serve America Act goal of 250,000 AmeriCorps members by 2017.  In addition to increasing member positions, the bill funds the first-ever increase in the dollar amount of the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award members earn in return for their service. The $220.9 million for Senior Corps includes increases for all three Senior Corps programs and will support nearly 500,000 older volunteers to meet local needs through service.  The five percent increase for Learn and Serve America will support 1.3 million participants, increase the number of disadvantaged youth participating, and begin a 10-year longitudinal study on the impact of service-learning.

The legislation funds a number of new initiatives, including $50 million for the Social Innovation Fund, which will help solve some of our nation’s most difficult social challenges by investing in promising programs and practices that have demonstrated outcomes. In addition, $4 million was included for the Volunteer Generation Fund to develop and improve volunteer recruitment efforts, $1 million will support a new Nonprofit Capacity Building Program, and $2 million was allocated for a new Summer of Service program to engage middle school students in community-based service-learning projects.  For more information on the Corporation’s Fiscal 2010 budget, click here.

The First Gathering of VISTAs at the White House – 45 Years Ago Today

This past week my friend Rich lent me a copy of a book called Warriors for the Poor by William Crook and Ross Thomas, published in 1968, which tells the story of one of our first national service corps, VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America).

Inspired by the Peace Corps as a way to improve the lives of people in poverty here at home, and initiated several decades after the Civilian Conservation Corps (a public works corps during the Depression years), the VISTA experiment had its share of champions and doubters.

Some doubters didn’t believe U.S. citizens would sign up — but as the numbers of applicants rose throughout the 60s, those doubts were forgotten. Other doubters worried that the corps would be marketed as a glossy panacea to all a community’s woes, and that it would duplicate volunteer efforts on the ground, and that it would unnecessarily bypass a state’s government for approval.

In 1963, still under the Kennedy administration, the first legislation that would have created a National Service Corps or a Domestic Peace Corps barely passed in the Senate, and died in the House Rules Committee.

But in 1964 it finally passed as part of the Johnson administration’s War on Poverty, as a volunteer corps that would help to tackle poverty at the grassroots level, and at the invitation of local communities with the approval of state governors. Last night I read that the first group of VISTAs was received at the White House on Dec. 12, 1964 — exactly 45 years ago today.

Today VISTA is one branch of the AmeriCorps network of service corps overseen by the Corporation for National and Continue reading