Yesterday Peace Corps unveiled a new name for what has for many years been known as Crisis Corps. According to the Peace Corps' press release, Peace Corps Response "better reflects the work of this important department and allows it to broaden its five programming areas to include projects that do not necessarily rise to the level of a crisis. Peace Corps Response also better captures the diverse backgrounds and skills that Volunteers bring to the program." They've created a new landing page with video where people can get more information.
For those of you who may not be familiar with the particulars of this program, Peace Corps Response/Crisis Corps is a way for returned Peace Corps volunteers to serve short-term assignments in projects related to disaster response, humanitarian assistance, disaster preparedness and mitigation, post-conflict reconstruction and HIV/AIDS activities, among others. Since 1996, Peace Corps has fielded over 1,000 volunteers in more than 40 countries, including 74 Volunteers who helped communities rebuild in Sri Lanka and Thailand after the tsunami in 2004, and 272 Volunteers who served along the Gulf coast following Hurricane Katrina.
John Coyne of PeaceCorpsWriters is rather miffed at the change, seeing it through a political lens as the co-option of a program inaugurated by former Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan. But even his take Peace Corps' announcement isn't the whole story--because the program actually got its start with the National Peace Corps Association.
In 1994, NPCA organized a group of RPCVs with the requisite language and technical skills to respond to the genocide in Rwanda. Some worked with NGOs, some with the U.N. and others provided training for human rights monitors. Based on the value of this initiative, NPCA established an Emergency Response Network (ERN) of RPCVs willing to respond to crises wherever and whenever they might be needed. Incoming Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan learned about the success of the ERN and he asked then- NPCA President Chic Dambach if he could use the idea to create something like it within Peace Corps. The result was Crisis Corps.
NPCA has continued to support Crisis Corps. Last year, when the tsunami and hurricane disasters struck, NPCA put out a call to the Peace Corps community on behalf of Crisis Corps. As a result, Crisis Corps received unprecedented numbers of applications from RPCVs wishing to volunteer again. We’re proud of our community... and NPCA's ongoing engagement with Crisis Corps. And we''ll continue our support for the new Peace Corps Response...whatever it is called.
But we thought you should know the rest of the story.