Calls for Accountability in the Peace Corps Community

Dear Members of the RPCV/W Community,

We are writing today to address allegations of incidents of sexism and microaggressions at the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) and to call for accountability. Their CEO, Glenn Blumhorst, has been accused of sexism and leading a toxic and unsafe working environment in 2018 through this publicly available lawsuit, and more recently by several former NPCA staff and RPCVs who published their experiences in an open letter to the community. Moreover, members of the RPCV/W board have heard from several Washington-area RPCVs about their experiences with Glenn Blumhorst and NPCA, which have been described as “extremely unwelcoming, belittling, and gaslighting” and do not align with the values of RPCV/W or the Peace Corps.  

NPCA and Mr. Blumhorst are highly visible representatives of the RPCV and PCV community on Capitol Hill through their advocacy work, stakeholder meetings, and speaking engagements. These complaints indicate that NPCA operates a negative work culture, limits employee development, and harms female-identifying employees. Ongoing negative work culture hurts the effectiveness and productivity of staff. Given the visibility of NPCA, which directly or indirectly represents 230,000 RPCVs, bias within the organization hurts the legacy and legitimacy of RPCVs and the Peace Corps. NPCA should be an advocate and example of gender equity in the workplace.

In response to the recent allegations, the NPCA Board has posted a statement on their website calling the numerous claims “unfounded” and reframes the narrative to discredit the victims as people who “raised [these allegations] again in an attempt to damage the reputation of NPCA and its employees.” It is well known that women whistleblowers, particularly women of color, are less protected and retaliated against at greater levels. Often, their concerns about discrimination, harassment, and toxic workplace cultures are discredited, and they are forced to leave their workplaces. After examining documentation of the various reports, there are evident trends that are a cause for concern.

In the spirit of transparency, we acknowledge that RPCV/W is a member of the NPCA Affiliate Group Network. We have partnered with NPCA (whose headquarters is located in Washington, DC) on programs and events for decades. RPCV/W does not condone or tolerate discrimination of any nature – whether through microaggressions, subtle acts of exclusion, or blatant abuses. We have a responsibility to interrogate our privileges and use our power to make RPCV and PCV spaces increasingly safe, inclusive, and supportive for everyone. We, as the RPCV/W Board, are serious about listening to the voices of the members of our community, which means trusting people who have the courage to speak up and say something is wrong.

How RPCV/W responds to these accusations against NPCA sets a standard for acceptable behavior in our community. We live in a world where women’s rights, LGBTQIA2s+ rights, and human rights are constantly being targeted. We must work together to make changes in our own community and stand up against threats to the wellbeing and safety of all. 

To that end, the RPCV/W Board of Directors demands:

  1. The NPCA Board of Directors consider the limitations of the law and go a step further to create their own policies that include anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-discriminatory protections. 
  2. The NPCA and the NPCA Board create a policy that provides whistleblower protections. 
  3. The NPCA and the NPCA Board listen to, amplify, and support members of our community who have the courage to speak out against mistreatment within our community. 
  4. The RPCV and PCV community disrupt exclusion and bias when they see it.
  5. The RPCV and PCV community review the open letter, the response to the NPCA statement from the former NPCA staff, and take action to call for accountability. 

A statement is nothing without action, and the RPCV/W Board will continue to address issues raised by community members by: 

  1. Expanding and updating our Facebook Protocol, initially developed in 2021, to create a brave and anti-discriminatory, anti-racist, and anti-sexist online space in our Facebook group. These “community guidelines” will be adhered to in all spaces that RPCV/W members convene, including online member events, in-person member events, Board Meetings, and all other formal and informal communications. We will share a draft of these guidelines with the community for feedback and vote on the final policies as a Board. 
  2. Launching a renewed campaign to educate ourselves and dismantle harmful systems as individuals and organizations by sharing information and engaging with members about topics such as microaggressions, power dynamics, white fragility, white saviorism, and more. 
  3. Continue leading our committee that focuses on Addressing Critical Gaps in DEI in the RPCV Community. If you would like to join, please email Kat Freeman, RPCV/W Vice President, [email protected] 
  4. Hosting a workshop on Fostering a Culture of Gender Inclusivity in Nonprofit Spaces on June 9th, 2022, at 12:00pm ET. Register here.
  5. RPCV/W is re-evaluating its relationship with NPCA until these issues are addressed. 

If you need support or would like to report experiences of exclusion and bias from the NPCA or Glenn Blumhorst, please reach out to RPCV/W or complete this form connected to the open letter and RPCV Allies Website. All responses will be confidential. 

Thank you very much for working with us to make this community a safer and more inclusive space. 

Jenna Smith, RPCV/W President and the RPCV/W Board of Directors