Innovating for Good in Austin

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) Peace Corps Connect Conference in Austin, Texas. This year’s theme was “Innovation for Good.” I definitely got a sense of this as I seized this wonderful opportunity to meet Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) from across the country. The two-day agenda was packed with impressive speakers and panels, shared dinners and interesting volunteer opportunities. 

On the first night of the event, the local RPCV affinity group, the Heart of Texas Peace Corps Association (HoTPCA), hosted us at the beautiful Austin Public Library in downtown Austin. It was wonderful to meet representatives from another city’s RPCV group, and more than anything, I enjoyed their unmistakable tie-dye t-shirts. 

Sessions included conversations with U.S. Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen and NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst. Speakers discussed current events in the context of the Peace Corps, including issues like tapping returned volunteers to become leaders in their communities, how best to engage returned volunteer affiliate groups like HoTPCA and RPCV/W, and using resources like technology to empower currently serving volunteers.

I enjoyed learning from RPCVs from all over the country, who had a wide range in their years of service and years returned since service! Below, an RPCV from Colorado is pictured explaining how Peace Corps values align with those of US-based community organizations like rotary clubs. 

On the final day, I had the chance to give back to the local community in Austin. HoTPCA arranged this excellent event for us in partnership with the organization Flo Code. Flo Code provides menstrual care products to individuals that are homeless in Texas. Together we packaged 500 menstrual kits that Flo Code would deliver! This event certainly embodied the spirit of Peace Corps and sparked some ideas for me to bring back to our Community Service program at RPCV/W.

Next year's Peace Corps Connect Conference will be held in Seattle, Washington and the RPCV affiliate group there will play an active role in hosting the event. After the excellent experiences I had at this year’s conference, I am truly looking forward to reconnecting with the motivated RPCVs I had the chance to meet, collaborating with affiliate groups across the country, and continuing to learn from them as we design activities for RPCV/W members. 

RPCV/W Professional Development Director Clarke Birrell ([email protected]) attended this event on our behalf. He's happy to answer any questions about the event or the information he shared in this post.