Girls? As we celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, I think back on my Peace Corps service. GLOW, “Girls leading our world,” is a Peace Corps program running across the world for more than 20 years, aimed at several different goals, but during my service in Thailand, it focused on gender empowerment and equality. The camp’s purpose was to teach gender, sexual health, and teamwork to all gendered students. I brought a group of students to two GLOW camps during my service. The camp’s impact on my students was generally positive, giving them a space to learn in a different and non-binary way. However, there is a ton of irony in Americans attempting to teach gender and sexual equality. As of March 2021, there are71 bills targeting trans people, and half ban trans girls from participating in sports aligning with their gender. State governments continue to attack reproductive health access for women, while U.S. White women still make $0.79 to the $1.00 that White men make; Hispanic or Latinx women make $0.54. On top of all that, we have a Congresswoman who’d rather preach “binary gender” instead of protecting the most vulnerable with whom her party majority favors. Given that, my suggestion is that before the U.S. preaches gender equality at Peace Corps camps, it takes some time to realize its gaps. In the meantime, Peace Corps should own up to the gaps and work with countries abroad to address problems together. We as Peace Corps Volunteers should be learning from the communities abroad before asserting solutions that are intricate, country-specific, culturally specific, and nonuniform. Have thoughts? Join the conversation using #RPCVLessonLearned.
Peace Corps Week is a celebration of the best of service. It highlights that as Peace Corps volunteers, we were theoretically able to make a difference or, dare even say, change the world. I don’t believe I changed the world, but I think I made intentional relationships and created space for youth to learn. My valuable memories include the community bike ride/trash clean-ups we organized, the groups of students we brought to GLOW camps, most leaving the province for the first time. I cherish the times when I did yoga with the elderly and supported the community’s holiday events. Most of all, I remember when a few of my students cried when I told them that I thought they were smart, beautiful, and community leaders. I cried too. Yet, I have a lot of regrets about my service. I regret the moments that I haggled over $1 in the market, the times when I got frustrated at people on the bus just wanting to practice their English, and the days where I’d rather be in my bedroom than at the community funeral. I regret the money I spent on a Peace Corps dog and trips around Thailand, the pictures I posted on FB of my community events, the moments I complained about the 10-mile bike ride to get peanut butter, and every single minute that I felt sorry for myself during service. I believe that Peace Corps needs significant changes. What change looks like, everything from abolishment to reassessing the goals, is still contentious within the RPCV community. But something that we can each do this week is evaluate how our privilege impacted our service, positively and negatively. The regrets above are rooted in the privilege I held as a PCV and how I was not responsible for using it to benefit the Na-Or community in Thailand. I urge you to think back this week and say them out loud. We aren’t perfect, but our best indication of morality is to no longer hide behind the delusion of absolute altruistic intent as volunteers. Join the conversation by sharing your story. Please leave a comment below or share on social media using #RPCVLessonLearned
Do you want to apply your talents to the growth of a membership organization? Do you want to be part of a community that embodies the spirit of Peace Corps? Do you want to be challenged, learn a ton of stuff, have a lot of fun, and make a significant impact? The Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington D.C. (RPCV/W), a nonprofit organization, is looking for stellar leaders to take on the volunteer role of Vice President on its Board of Directors.
The RPCV/W board has culled a list of organizations and causes to support this Giving Tuesday. Read on for more information!
Do you want to apply your talents to the growth of a membership organization? Do you want to be challenged, learn a ton of stuff, have fun, and make a significant impact? RPCV/W is a nonprofit organization looking for stellar leaders to take on volunteer roles on committees and its 14-person board of directors. This is a great opportunity for someone who wants not just a volunteer activity, but to make a long-term commitment to empowering the RPCV and DC community, supporting returning volunteers, and building a network with volunteers from the last six decades.
Do you want to apply your talents to the growth of a membership organization? Do you want to be part of a community that embodies the spirit of Peace Corps? Do you want to be challenged, learn a ton of stuff, have a lot of fun, and make a significant impact? The Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington D.C. (RPCV/W), a nonprofit organization, is looking for stellar leaders to take on volunteer roles on its Board of Directors. This is a great opportunity for someone who wants not just a volunteer activity, but a long-term opportunity to empower the RPCV community, support returning volunteers, and build a network with volunteers from the last six decades. For the first time in our organization's history, we are holding a special mid-term election for two RPCV/W Board positions, Communications Director and the newly announced Community Engagement Director. Each position is described in greater detail below.
RPCV/W CALL TO ACTION: Fight Against Racism The Board of Directors of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, DC (RPCV/W) is calling on its members to stand up against racial injustice and racism, reaffirm equality, and support African-Americans, Americans of African Descent, and more broadly, people of color in the United States as they fight for basic rights and dignity every second of every day. Police-involved killings, beatings, harassment, and mistreatment, as well as the weaponization of the police against people of color, happen far too often. Just last week, George Floyd was strangled and died at the hands of Minneapolis police. Amy Cooper, a Caucasian woman, harassed Christian Cooper, a Black man, called 911 on him, and put his life at risk because he asked her to follow the rules and leash her dog. Two young HBCU students, Messiah Young and Taniyah Pilgrim, drove home in Atlanta and were stopped by a group of close to 10 officers, their car windows were shattered, they were dragged from their car, they were tased and arrested, simply for driving home from a protest after curfew. These are just a few of the threats people of color are facing in our country on a daily basis.
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I was never a Peace Corps volunteer, but after studying and writing about the agency for six years, there are parts of the Peace Corps experience that feel very familiar. The culmination of those six years of research has just been published in a book called The Death of Idealism. It’s a provocative title—it’s intended to be. The book is actually about rationalism, professionalization, and some of the social forces that emerge within late-stage capitalism.
RPCV/W COVID Community Support In a time where COVID-19 has shut down most of DC and business has taken an important backseat to safety, we created the RPCV/W COVID Community Support Initiative to connect our community members with resources, visibility, and ways to support. If you are able to support or benefit from the businesses below, please reach out to them. We can all use a little bit more love and community during this time.