Fw: With Thanks to You: NPCA Advocacy Year-in-Review
If you'll scroll down and look for the pictures with this Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill update, you'll find Charlie and me in black guayaberas pictured with Kay Bailey Hutchinson.
--- On Thu, 1/5/12, National Peace Corps Association <jonathan@...> wrote:
From: National Peace Corps Association <jonathan@...>
Subject: With Thanks to You: NPCA Advocacy Year-in-Review
Date: Thursday, January 5, 2012, 3:52 PM
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As an historic year for the Peace Corps community ends, we look back at key advocacy efforts and moments over the last twelve months, with tremendous gratitude and thanks for your contributions and assistance.
Robert Sargent Shriver Jr.
1915 - 2011
Every time we schedule a meeting with a lawmaker, every moment we make a phone call, send an email, sign a petition or participate in a rally, we act in the shadow of Peace Corps' founding director, Sarge Shriver.
Sadly, Sarge passed away on January 18th, at the beginning of the 50th anniversary year of the unique and amazing federal agency for which he was so central.
Fifty years ago, it was Shriver's passion, tenacity and personal touch that made all the difference in winning congressional passage of the Peace Corps Act. The documentary film American Idealist profiles that effort: As Harris Wofford notes in the film, "Sarge...resolved to see every member of Congress personally. Sarge at one point said 'You know, I've seen every member of Congress but one.' And it turned out later that that member of Congress was actually dead!"
Bill Moyers accompanied Shriver on most of those meetings and summed them up this way: "I've never seen anyone focus more intently on the member of Congress sitting right there. He did his homework, he had good research, but he also just relied on looking at that Congressman right in the eye and saying Don't you believe in young people? Don't you believe in American Idealism? Don't you believe that we've got a mission in the world? Sure you do! If you were younger, you'd be signing up for this yourself!"
Many from the Peace Corps community turned out for the memorial service and funeral to offer condolences and respect to this 20th century champion of service. NPCA also collected messages of condolence from the Peace Corps community which were delivered to Tim Shriver and the other Shriver children.
Follow this link to the memorial website for Sarge Shriver. Learn more about his life, read the many tributes, or post your own tribute. Forward the link to others you know who may not be aware of the many contributions Sarge Shriver made to our country and to citizens around the world.
50th Anniversary Capitol Hill Advocacy Day
It was fifty years to the day.
On September 22, 1961, the original Peace Corps Act was signed into law, following approval by the United States Senate and House of Representatives.
On September 22, 2011 an estimated 500 members of the Peace Corps community converged on Capitol Hill to ask their lawmakers to honor the past, present and future of the Peace Corps. NPCA's Capitol Hill Advocacy Day served as the kickoff event during a five-day celebration of Peace Corps' 50th in Washington D.C.
Wearing buttons saying "Ask me why the Peace Corps matters" and armed with briefing materials and personal testimonies, advocates swarmed across the Capitol Hill grounds, holding more than 300 constituent meetings and dozens of other informal meetings in hallways, corridors and congressional offices. The photo above of Texas RPCVs meeting with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is representative of those gatherings. Participants not only connected with their elected leaders, but compared notes and built a camaraderie with fellow advocates from nearly every state in the nation.
Many of the participants turned out the night before for an orientation session to prepare for the historic day. The morning of September 22nd began with a gathering that featured inspirational words from RPCV Congressmen Sam Farr (D-CA) and John Garamendi (D-CA).
The day closed with a reception that included remarks from Representative Farr, fellow RPCV Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA), Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH).
The activity yielded results. More than 60 names were added as co-sponsors to key Peace Corps legislation, constituents had more than 75 face-to-face meetings with lawmakers, and several dozen meetings were held with offices of the members of the large freshman class of the 112th Congress.
The success of the Capitol Hill Advocacy Day could not have been accomplished without tremendous support from many volunteers. Special thanks to those volunteers who provided more than 500 hours of service in the days leading up to and including advocacy day. We were also fortunate to have tremendous leadership from a number of experienced advocates who served as team leaders to help with coordination and logistics throughout the day.
Just as important as the results from the day was the energy and enthusiasm expressed by many of the participants, and the potential for that energy to lead to expanded action in 2012 and beyond.
One participant described the 50th Advocacy Day as "a fantastic way to participate in government in such a direct way to promote a cause I believe in very sincerely."
And - another advocate was even more enthusiastic, saying "it was the highlight of the weekend! (and I say this without the rest of the weekend even happening yet)."
Follow these links for Advocacy Day photos and other photos from the 50th Anniversary Celebration.NPCA's Annual National Day of Action in Support of the Peace Corps
For the seventh consecutive year, our advocacy program organized a Captiol Hill Day of Action in early March to coincide with Peace Corps Week, and to make the case to Congress that strong support for the Peace Corps yields positive, long-lasting dividends both here at home and in dozens of countries abroad.
While designed primarily to provide a single day in which supporters from all around the country can e-mail, phone or fax their lawmakers in a collective show of support, the Day of Action has also been attracting a steady and growing presence on Capitol Hill.
For Guatemala RPCV Mike Wood of Chicago (center above), the Day of Action was an opportunity to discuss Peace Corps issues with not one, but both of his Senators, Republican Mark Kirk (l) and Democrat Richard Durbin (r).
Fifty-one participants representing 17 states and the District of Columbia took part in 105 face-to-face meetings with congressional offices last March. Nearly half of the meetings were constituent meetings, such as a meeting (l) of Maryland RPCVs with Senator Ben Cardin. Advocates also made contacts with nearly twenty members of the large freshman class of the 112th Congress. Advocates made the case for robust Peace Corps funding and began the process of building support for Peace Corps Commemorative legislation.
Follow this link to watch a video about the 2011 Day of Action.
Get ready to take part in the 2012 Day of Action. Thursday, March 1st will be the date we conduct our eighth annual Day of Action. Follow this link to learn more and to get involved!2011 Advocacy on the Home FrontAdvocacy during Peace Corps' 50th anniversary year didn't only occur in the hallways and offices of Capitol Hill.
In August, the NPCA launched its first coordinated initiative to support state and congressional district meetings with members of Congress. The first year results were impressive:
- Advocates in at least 14 states held at least 25 meetings all across the country.
- Advocates in Tennessee and Wisconsin engaged in well coordinated efforts to organize multiple in-state meetings with members of their state congressional delegations.
- Large constituent gatherings were held with lawmakers in Munsonville, New Hampshire (featuring Senator Jeanne Shaheen), Framingham, Massachusetts (featuring Congressman Ed Markey) and Farmington, New Mexico (featuring Congressman Ben Lujan).
District meetings also yielded positive results. In Greensboro, North Carolina, former Guyana Country Director Kumar Lakhavani (pictured above) met with his Congressman, Howard Coble. A few days later, Kumar had a message on his voicemail from the Congressman, informing him that based on their meeting, he decided to co-sponsor both the Kate Puzey Volunteer Protection Act and Peace Corps Commemorative legislation. It was the first time Congressman Coble had signed on to Peace Corps legislation.
After hosting a 50th Anniversary House Party in March, Sharon Bettinelli (Tunisia 73-75) reached out to attendees to coordinate a meeting with the Oakland office of Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Sharon was joined by Roger Olpin (Tunisia 73-75) and Alex Deans (Morocco 08-10). It wasn't long after this meeting that Congresswoman Lee became a co-sponsor of the Kate Puzey Volunteer Protection Act.
Follow this link for a photo album of 2011 August District Advocacy Day meetings. Our thanks to all who helped make this initial effort a success. As we prepare for 2012, we expect to organize a similar initiative next September.
Photo: Nisha Behaire (l, Dominican Republic 99-01) and Gary Lefkowitz (r, India 62-64) teamed up for an August district office meeting with staff of New York Senator Charles Schumer.
Honoring the Past:
Advancing Peace Corps Commemorative Legislation
Our 50th Anniversary advocacy centered on honoring the past, present and future of the Peace Corps.
To honor the past, advocates asked lawmakers to approve legislation that would allow the establishment of a commemorative work near the National Mall to mark the lasting historical significance of the founding of the Peace Corps in 1961 and the ideals that Peace Corps service represents.
For the second consecutive year, RPCV Congressman Sam Farr (above) led efforts in the House of Representatives to pass the legislation (H.R. 854). Congressman Farr's effort was bolstered by the bi-partisan support of 147 fellow lawmakers. At the close of 2011, the House legislation awaits final consideration by the Natural Resources Committee.
There was even more progress in the Senate. For the first time, companion legislation was introduced in the Senate in 2011. Senate Bill 1421 was introduced by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mark Udall (D-CO). By the end of 2011, the growing list of co-sponsors had reached 14, and the legislation received unanimous approval from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The next step for the legislation is consideration on the Senate floor.
As 2012 begins, securing final passage of commemorative legislation will be a top priority of our legislative agenda.
Photo: Ohio Senator Rob Portman (c) with NPCA President Kevin Quigley and NPCA intern and Ohio college student Ty Diringer.
Honoring the Present:
Peace Corps Safety and Security Legislation
While the 50th anniversary provided a forum for many of the accomplishments of the Peace Corps over the years, attention was also given to tragedy: The 2009 murder of a Benin volunteer, sexual assault and other acts of violence, and serious questions regarding the agency's efforts to adequately respond, protect and support some volunteers who had been subjected to various forms of violence.
Members of the Peace Corps community who were directly impacted by these tragedies organized to take action with equal amounts of determined resolve and positive attitude so that the end result would be a stronger and improved Peace Corps program. South Africa RPCV Casey Frazee (above left, with Niger RPCV Karestan Koenen) is the founder of First Response Action, an organization that was formed to mobilize and support individuals who survived sexual assault while serving in the Peace Corps. Two years ago, we featured Casey's initiative in WorldView magazine.
The family of slain Benin volunteer Kate Puzey also formed Kate's Voice, an organization established to make sure future Peace Corps Volunteers are provided with protections and confidentiality when sharing sensitive information.
The issues of physical and sexual assault against volunteers became a focal point in the national media. Congress also intervened, with the House Foreign Affairs Committee holding a hearing in May that received broad attention.
Working with these advocacy groups and with the Peace Corps, Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) introduced the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011. As Peace Corps was already in the process of implementing reforms to address key issues, lawmakers and advocates stated that legislation was needed to ensure that attention and focus would remain in the future, regardless of changes to Peace Corps leadership. In June, NPCA issued a letter expressing support for the legislation while noting some areas for potential improvement.
The Puzey legislation was one of three issues raised by advocates during congressional meetings in August and September. Those meetings helped to bring a nearly 33% increase in the number of congressional co-sponsors.
Speaking to advocates at the September 22nd Capitol Hill Advocacy Day, Senator Isakson (l) reported that Senate action on the Puzey legislation was almost finalized. Four days later, the legislation was unanimously approved by the Senate. Final, unanimous House action on the legislation was approved on November 1st. President Obama signed the Puzey bill into law on November 21st.
Congratulations to First Response Action, Kate's Voice, a bi-partisan group of lawmakers and Peace Corps leadership for working collaboratively to pass this landmark legislation. Congratulations as well to all advocates who took action!
Honor the Future: Provide Strong Funding for the Peace Corps
The success of the Peace Corps requires resources. In an atmosphere of deficit reduction and budget cutting, a strong constituent voice is needed more than ever to promote funding support for the agency. While 2011 saw some reduction in Peace Corps funding, the collective voice of Peace Corps advocates and Capitol Hill champions minimized the impact.
Funding for many federal programs was the focus of a congressional showdown in April. Still at work on finalizing a budget for the 2011 Fiscal Year, lawmakers barely avoided a government shutdown and finalized a spending package that included an 11% reduction in the International Affairs Budget. Within this reduction was a $26 Million reduction (6.5%) in Peace Corps funding. While significant, the cut was much less than a $70 Million cut that had been recommended by the House of Representatives.
As Congress turned to the Fiscal Year 2012 budget, NPCA worked with congressional leaders to support President Obama's original request of $440 Million. Advocates helped secure the signatures of more than 100 members of the House on a Dear Colleague letter supporting the President's Peace Corps funding request.
When the House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee for State and Foreign Operations released its funding recommendations in July, overall discretionary spending was reduced by 18%, but the recommendation for Peace Corps was to hold firm at $375 Million. Subcommittee Chair Kay Granger (R-TX) singled out Peace Corps in part of her remarks. Along with thanking RPCV Congressman Sam Farr for his commitment to the Peace Corps,
Granger said "this subcommittee understands just how important this program is."Following further advocacy by supporters in August and September, the Senate Appropriations Committee made a similar recommendation of level funding for Peace Corps in Fiscal Year 2012. Despite some challenges in the closing days of the year, level funding for Peace Corps was sustained through next September 30th.
National Survey of Peace Corps Community Demonstrates Impact
The Peace Corps is about various forms of impact, both overseas and here at home. As individuals, our community possesses literally tens of thousands of stories and anecdotes that demonstrate the power and meaning of the experience.
Using the 50th anniversary as a backdrop, the NPCA collaborated with Civic Enterprises and Peter D. Hart Research Associates to survey returned Peace Corps volunteers. The purpose? to gain further insight into their reasons for joining Peace Corps, what their experiences were like, how Peace Corps impacted their career choices, how to make international volunteerism more relevant and effective, and more.
Outreach to the community resulted in survey responses from more than 11,000 eligible participants, making it the largest survey ever conducted to assess the impact of Peace Corps over the decades.
The findings from the survey included the following:
- More than eight in ten (82 percent) of RPCVs said their service was very or fairly effective in helping promote a better understanding of Americans in the communities where Volunteers served, with one-third reporting it was very effective.
- 90 percent of those surveyed rated their Peace Corps experience as excellent or very good, while 98 percent said they would recommend the Peace Corps to their child, grandchild or other close family member.
- More than half (55 percent) of all RPCVs reported that they regularly volunteer in their local communities, more than double the national rate for volunteering in the United States.
Follow this link to learn more about the survey.
Honoring RPCV Congressional Leaders
The NPCA honored two RPCV congressional leaders early in 2011 to mark their continued public service and leadership to the Peace Corps community during the 50th anniversary year.
The annual gathering of our Director's Circle included a Capitol Hill briefing which featured one of this year's award recipients. Wisconsin Congressman Tom Petri (Somalia 66-67), the dean of the RPCV Members of Congress, was recognized for his longstanding support of the Peace Corps. Special recognition was given to his assistance in the past two years to advance Peace Corps commemorative legislation.
And then there's Sam Farr (Colombia 64-66). The California Congressman is sometimes referred to as "Mr. Peace Corps" by his colleagues for his steadfast and passionate leadership on all Peace Corps issues. Congressman Farr was similarly honored for his leadership at a special March 1st 50th anniversary House Party held in Washington DC.
Other RPCV lawmakers distinguished themselves in 2011. California Congressman John Garamendi (Ethiopia 66-68) organized an hour-long tribute to Peace Corps service on the House floor on March 1st.
All four current RPCVs in the House collaborated on a special 50th anniversary op-ed that was published in Politico on March 2nd.
Lawmakers were also featured speakers at the Peace Corps exhibit at the 2011 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Congressman Mike Honda (El Salvador 65-67) spent time on the "Peace Porch" to talk about his volunteer experience, Congressman Farr took a turn in the Peace Corps kitchen...Even former Congressman and current U.S. Senate candidate Chris Shays (Fiji 68-70) took time to urge visitors to consider Peace Corps service.
New and Traditional Media
Why does Peace Corps matter to America, to the state where you live, the community you reside? That's one of the key "bringing the world back home" questions we've been increasingly asking you during our encounters.
We love hearing your stories - not just about how you made a difference as a Peace Corps Volunteer, but also how you continue to make a difference as a returned PCV. Those stories are not only interesting and inspiring, they are also effective tools in our advocacy, as they demonstrate the ongoing benefit our nation receives from the Peace Corps community - far beyond two years of service overseas.
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