The NPCA and its local affiliate groups, such as RPCV-NJ – advocate on behalf of the Peace Corps. Our local members attend trainings, visit members of Congress, and share information. Our local advocacy coordinator is Rowland Bennett – you can reach him at email@example.com .
On February 28, the National Peace Corps Association organized the annual Day of Action, where Returned Peace Corps Volunteers from across the nation come to Washington to advocate for Peace Corps priorities with our Senators and Representatives in Congress. Pictured above: Left to right Susan Stine, Barbara Kelly, Tamra Kljan (Sen. Menendez’ foreign relations committee staff member), Claire Kelly, and Rowland Bennett.
Our New Jersey delegation included 7 people: Ridge Applegate and his son Jesse, Rowland Bennett, Barbara Kelly, Claire Kelly (who had just returned from her 2 years in Cameroon), Barbara Lences, and Susan Stine (who left the following week to start her Peace Corps assignment in the Dominican Republic).
We met with the staff of Senators Menendez and Lautenberg and Representatives Andrews, Holt, Lautenberg and Garrett. In addition, we met with some non-New Jersey legislators since there were no RPCVs from their states present:
Senators Nelson (FL) and Udall (NM) and Representative Warloski (IN). We did not meet personally with any of the legislators – the fiscal cliff was looming
and they were all busy. But often meeting with the staff is the best way to
influence the legislator’s position, so the meetings were worthwhile.
We discussed three key Peace Corps priorities and asked for support:
1. Continued strong funding for Peace Corps
2. Passage of legislation authorizing the Peace Corps Commemorative just off the Mall
3. Increased support for RPCVs who have suffered illness/injury during their
Unfortunately we could not press for specific commitments because Washington was in such a state of flux/uncertainty, but we did receive bi-partisan expressions of support. Several legislators said that if the budget process gets beyond the mandatory across the board cuts to a point where Congress can have more discretion in making cuts that they felt other areas should be cut before Peace Corps. In addition, Rep. Sam Farr from California (who is a RPCV and one of the key Peace Corps champions in Congress) made an interesting suggestion in his talk to us during the morning’s “kick off” meeting that Congress should require other government agencies that have development funds in their budget (USAID, DOD) to allocate a certain percentage to projects run by Peace Corps since Peace Corps has gotten better, more lasting results in building local capacity than they have done. We made a point of mentioning this in our meetings with legislators.
All in all, it was a worthwhile and interesting day.