In Brief: Peace Corps to deploy volunteers for US COVID-19 response

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The Peace Corps’ former headquarters in Washington. Photo by: Armel Sylva via Twitter

For the second time ever, the Peace Corps will deploy volunteers inside the United States, the agency announced Wednesday.

Through a partnership with the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Peace Corps will soon begin recruiting volunteers for a domestic deployment to assist with the COVID-19 response. Volunteers who were evacuated from their overseas posts in March 2020 due to the pandemic will be among those eligible to serve.

“Assignments will focus on urgent needs as identified by FEMA, and on communities that have been traditionally under-served,” according to a statement.

Peace Corps assignments will include language support, as well as other administrative and logistical work that supports vaccination centers. The agency expects to deploy volunteers into the field by mid-May.

This is the first time Peace Corps volunteers are deploying domestically since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

After COVID-19 evacuations, volunteers fear for future of Peace Corps

After the Peace Corps conducted its largest mass evacuation of volunteers, questions remain about the organization's capacity to resume international service.

The backstory: The Peace Corps’ global evacuation of approximately 7,000 American volunteers from 61 countries last year was unprecedented. It raised concerns about the well-being of those no longer able to serve, as well as the agency’s future. “A number of the programs will have to be rebuilt from the ground up again,” Glenn Blumhorst, president and CEO at the nonprofit National Peace Corps Association, told Devex at the time.

The plan: The idea of redeploying evacuated volunteers to help with the COVID-19 response was first floated almost a year ago by a group of nearly 40 U.S. senators.

Why Peace Corps: “The volunteers who contribute to this effort will bring valuable cross-cultural experience, language skills and adaptability fostered during their time overseas as they contribute to an equitable vaccination campaign here at home,” Peace Corps acting Director Carol Spahn said in the statement.

About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.