Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Laurette Bennhold (PC Staff 1994-1999)
Senior executive with over 30 years leadership experience with Peace Corps, the Department of State, and international non-governmental organizations. Substantial diplomatic experience promoting U.S. interests abroad. She works exceptionally well in culturally diverse settings. Experienced public speaker and media relations manager.
Kathleen Corey has been the president and CEO of the World Affairs Council of Seattle and Tacoma. Prior to joining the World Affairs Council, Ms. Corey lived and worked in eighteen countries in Asia, Africa, Eastern and Central Europe, Europe, and Central America. She began her overseas career as a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia, West Africa and spent twenty years managing international and domestic management programs for the Peace Corps and the Center for Applied Linguistics, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit educational institution.
From 1994-1998, Ms. Corey was Country Director for the Peace Corps in Sri Lanka where she managed a program of 70 volunteers and served on the U.S. Embassy’s management team. Prior to that, she held several positions from 1989 to 1994 at Peace Corps’ headquarters in Washington, D.C. As the Deputy Director of the Pacific, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe Region of Peace Corps, Ms. Corey was responsible for Peace Corps entry into Eastern and Central Europe, as well as managing 34 country programs. She negotiated several new country programs for the Peace Corps in China, Bulgaria, Cambodia, and Bangladesh as Acting Regional Director for one year. She is the recipient of seven Peace Corps Outstanding Achievement Awards, as well as an Inspector General’s Commendation Award.
A recent article by Kathleen:
Evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers Need Help Now
When I heard that Peace Corps was evacuating all of its 7,300 volunteers from 61 countries due to COVID-19, I thought of my own challenging experience returning home from a difficult but deeply rewarding stint as a volunteer in Liberia in the 1970s. For many volunteers, one of the hardest parts of what Peace Corps calls “the toughest job you’ll ever love” is coming home to a country that no longer seems familiar or especially interested in hearing about a volunteer’s profound, life-changing experiences.
I can only imagine the added challenges facing the volunteers who have just landed back on our shores. I returned to a country full of educational and professional opportunities for someone with international experience. I attended graduate school, where I had health insurance and where many of my fellow students were also returned volunteers.
Today’s volunteers will be returning to an economy hit hard by COVID-19. Jobs may be scarce, and returned volunteers are not eligible for unemployment benefits. In the midst of a pandemic, Peace Corps-provided health insurance will run out in two months. Universities may not be open. And opportunities to get together with other volunteers to share re-entry stories and strategies will be greatly diminished. Because of quarantines, returnees may not be able to be with loved ones.
In Peace Corps’ 60 years of existence, many volunteers have experienced the trauma of evacuation. As a senior Peace Corps official in the 1990s, I led five evacuations due to war and terrorist activity. But this will be the first group of evacuees who will not be offered the immediate opportunity to serve elsewhere.
Although Peace Corps is doing what it can with its limited resources to help the volunteers, it is not enough. A bill proposed by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal), Chris Murphy (D-Conn) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) would help these volunteers. Among other benefits, the bill provides volunteers with unemployment assistance, extended health insurance, opportunities to put their skills to use working on federal coronavirus relief projects, and a quick return to the field once the virus subsides.
Volunteers are some of America’s finest. They don’t join the Peace Corps to dress up a resume or learn a foreign language. They join to serve their country, just as any diplomat or member of the military does, and to help make the world a better place. Now it is their country’s turn to serve them. There has always been bipartisan support for Peace Corps. Now is the time for bipartisan support for volunteers in their time of need.
Kathleen M. Corey is president of the non-profit organization Women of Peace Corps Legacy in Washington, D.C. Women of Peace Corps Legacy is a 501(c)3 organization whose mission is to bring Peace Corps women together to serve communities and create a better world for future generations. We seek to partner with and highlight the work of organizations and programs that are effectively addressing the issues of women and girls. We also aspire to share the stories of past and current Peace Corps Volunteers and staff in order to inspire future service that can positively impact the lives of women and girls worldwide.