What Some Staff of NPCA are Saying…But Are Afraid to Tell Us Who They Are

Sexism is harming the Peace Corps Community.
Let’s change that.

 An Open Letter to the Peace Corps Community

Dear Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, Peace Corps family and friends, Peace Corps Allies, Elected Officials, and Peace Corps Agency Staff,

We are writing to you as former NPCA staff who want change. A strong Peace Corps is built on a strong Peace Corps Community. However, our opinion is that sexism and gender-based violence, including violence against women, is a culture and problem in the Peace Corps, as victims of sexual assault during Peace Corps service made publicly aware. However, sexism and gender-based violence, especially violence against women also permeate the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) community and the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA). NPCA – the organization that represents 230,000 RPCVs and advocates to Congress in support of Peace Corps – enables sexism through its actions with the Peace Corps community, internally with staff, and in its culture. We are being harmed, and we want it to stop.

It Starts with NPCA

NPCA is the only organization that represents the Peace Corps Community. It has a unique role in advocating to the Peace Corps for change. However, we are concerned that the leadership at NPCA directly and indirectly upholds and perpetuates an unsafe and hostile work and community environment against women. NPCA is a less effective advocate for Peace Corps when NPCA itself violates the changes it says it represents. However, over years, NPCA has alienated many community members and affiliate groups. As a result, they no longer interact with NPCA. We know that RPCVs are the best advocates and recruits for Peace Corps, but they cannot be advocates if they are alienated.

What is Happening at NPCA?

Over recent years, several women have faced:

  • belittling, gaslighting, and bullying;
  • devaluing quality work, ideas, and experiences;
  • stonewalling;
  • gender stereotyping;
  • public humiliation;
  • retaliation for complaints of discrimination; and
  • overt sexual harassment.

NPCA staff tried to raise concerns on numerous occasions:

  • In 2017, NPCA employees raised complaints of gender discrimination to the NPCA Board of Directors.
  • In 2018, two women filed a lawsuit against NPCA for a sexually hostile work environment and retaliatory firing. It was eventually settled out of court.
  • Since June 2020, numerous staff members have taken extraordinary efforts to address discrimination issues directly with all staff leadership; with NPCA’s Human Resources (HR) consultant; through other consultants; and with NPCA Board members. However, not only were the issues not addressed, but two staff members were then put on “Communication Coaching Plans” with HR. Reasons, among others, included using a “confrontational tone” and were asked not to use words such as “gaslighting” or other words perceived as “aggressive”. Then job responsibilities assigned for these staff significantly declined.
  • On September 15, 2021 four women employees at NPCA submitted a complaint of sex-based harassment, gender discrimination, and implicit gender bias against women to the NPCA Board of Directors. Following the complaint, one of the employees was fired and the contract of another ended. Despite extraordinary efforts from staff to raise concerns, the behavior of leadership has not changed.

We see an egregious lack of accountability amongst NPCA staff leadership and the NPCA board. We see hypocrisy between what NPCA says it stands for and what it does. We also see an unwillingness for leadership to change behavior. The leadership team at NPCA directly and indirectly upholds and perpetuates an unsafe and hostile work environment for women, established and led by Glenn Blumhorst as CEO.

We know we are not alone in this experience. We need this cycle to stop in our Peace Corps community. A strong Peace Corps is built on a strong Peace Corps Community. We must stop NPCA from harming women. We believe change starts today by talking openly about sexism in our community.

Take Action

All Peace Corps Community members are represented by an NPCA Board member.

Tell the NPCA Board of Directors to:

  • End the employment of CEO and President Glenn Blumhorst with no severance
  • Stop the abusive work environment against women that includes addressing behavior of Dan Baker and Steven Saum
  • Develop and implement a comprehensive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion organizational policy (not merely a framework)
  • Prioritize a healthy work and Peace Corps Community environment that eliminates harassment

If you have experienced discrimination from NPCA or within the Peace Corps Community, and you’re willing to share, you may use this form to share your experience to help advocate for change. Information shared with us will be kept confidential.

Please help us in demanding change.

Sincerely,

Former NPCA staff, Concerned Peace Corps Community Members, and RPCV Allies

(Names are kept confidential to protect individuals’ safety and well-being)

8 Comments

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  • Why has this been printed? Charges made by nameless persons without presenting verifiable facts. Haven’t we had enough of that? I hope Glen was provided more due process than represented here.
    Jim Wolter,
    Malaya I

    • Jim, Good point and a sad day in the history of the NPCA. This is a time for transparency and standing behind one’s convictions.

      And Glenn should have an opportunity to provide his side of the story–the board telling him that he’s been fired and that legally they don’t have to tell him why is not acceptable for Glenn nor NPCA members.

      Mark

  • In response to the open letter copied above, Kim Herman, NPCA Board Chair, posted the following letter on May 22. He stated that independent investigators found no evidence of a hostile work environment at NPCA. The letter can be found on NPCA website https://www.peacecorpsconnect.org/articles/statement-on-recent-posts-online-making-allegations-against-npca

    Dear Members of the Peace Corps Community,

    National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) is dedicated to serving the Peace Corps community and supporting the mission of the Peace Corps. NPCA is committed to providing support, resources, and advocacy while promoting a spirit of respect and acceptance of all people.

    The Board of NPCA takes all allegations of an unsafe or hostile workplace environment for women or others very seriously and has not and will not condone such an environment at NPCA. The allegations referenced in the recent posts online are not new. The Board took action to engage an independent and qualified investigator to conduct a thorough examination of these charges when they were brought to the attention of the Board. The independent investigator concluded that the allegations of misconduct were not credible and that NPCA did not present an unsafe or hostile work environment for women.

    The posts also reference an older lawsuit in which other former employees alleged a hostile work environment at NPCA. In that case, the allegations were investigated by an experienced and qualified attorney who found the allegations unfounded.

    We regret these allegations have been raised again in an attempt to damage the reputation of NPCA and its employees. The board and staff of NPCA remain committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in all facets of its operation.

    Kim Herman
    Board Chair, NPCA

    May 22, 2022

    • RPCV Allies response to this statement: https://www.rpcvallies.org/Response

      “Let’s be clear – these allegations are credible and well-founded.

      The NPCA board of directors hired an attorney to investigate the September 2021 complaint. The attorney did not determine if the allegations were credible. He determined that there was no unlawful sex discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. Unfortunately, legal protections fall short, and the burden of proof is high for sex discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.”

    • Twenty-seven days before the NPCA board abruptly announced they were ending the nine-year service of CEO and president Glenn Blumhorst, they dismissed for lack of evidence complaints of discrimination by several former female employees. That reversal raises serious questions of justice and equity in the board’s response to both parties. The Peace Corps community deserves greater clarity of the board’s decision-making process.

  • Thank you, Patricia,
    I received that letter, and I agree with you. Whoever these RPCVs are, this is their statement and they are hiding themselves from the rest of the RPCV community. John

  • belittling, gaslighting, and bullying;
    devaluing quality work, ideas, and experiences;
    stonewalling;
    gender stereotyping;
    public humiliation;
    retaliation for complaints of discrimination; and
    overt sexual harassment.

    These accusations have no merit without a description of actual events; in fact, who are nameless accusers that don’t have the guts to come out in the open with their complaints? This is kangeroo court stuff; You mean RPCVs are human and aren’t exempt from the strengths and weaknesses of the rest of humanity? Wow! I belong to an affiliate, but will no longer support the NPCA with this kind of a coup d’etat! So called ‘cultural changes’ in any org aren’t made in the back room, but must to subject of PUBLIC DEBATE if there are those who feel wronged! Otherwise forget any support from the rest of us!

    H Green, Turkey V

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