"On the March 2nd 2010 Peace Corps National Day of Action 50 volunteer advocates stormed Capitol Hill** to meet with their representatives and urge support for robust Peace Corps funding for 2011 and Peace Corps’s 50th anniversary. We were among these eager roaming advocates: Nancy Stills (Kenya 03-05 & Peace Corps Response Volunteer Antigua and Barbuda 2008), and Antoine McGrath, a 2011 hopeful.
Jonathan Pearson, the National Peace Corps Association Advocacy Coordinator prepared us well with an intense schedule of meetings and all the legislative information we needed, including the annual Senate and House Peace Corps funding “Dear Colleague” letter urging fellow members of Congress to sign. He told us that our personal stories and passion were equally, if not more important than knowing the right thing to say and would have the most lasting effect on the people we met.
Jonathan could not have been more right. Our day was packed with House and Senate meetings in which Nancy shared her volunteer experiences and what the future of Peace Corps means to our changing world and U.S. relations. Antoine shared his application hopes and how their support can make service for him – and thousands of others - possible. The policy advisors and staff that we met expressed sincere respect for Peace Corps service and genuine affection for the Volunteers that serve. Staffers and guests to our meetings shared their own stories of friends and colleagues in the Peace Corps, their own application considerations, and, in one case, their time as a Peace Corps Volunteer. At the very least, everyone had a friend in the Peace Corps.
By the end of the day we felt that together we had made a positive difference. Along with the other Volunteers we ran into in the Congressional and Senate halls racing to their meetings, this was certainly true. The following day we heard that a Congressman who had never signed in the past, signed the House “Dear Colleague” letter. Since our day on the Hill, we’re told dozens of Senators and Representatives signed in support of 2011 Peace Corps funding.
Advocating with the National Peace Corps Association was fun, our Hill meetings couldn’t have been more welcomed and in the process we made a new friend in one another. Next year we hope to see all of you in the Peace Corps ranks--people who have heard life calling."
-- Nancy Stills and Antoine McGrath
**You can see photos of Peace Corps advocates on the Hill on our Facebook page.