Peace Corps, CFC Celebrate 60 Years of Service
In March 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed two executive orders establishing both the Peace Corps and the effort that grew into the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). To mark the 60th anniversary for both service-oriented institutions, the Fogarty International Center recently hosted a virtual fireside chat with Carol Spahn, Peace Corps chief executive officer.
She began her remarks with a tribute to NIH staff, many of whom she has come to know through her global development work. “Thank you to everyone at NIH for all you do for public health,” Spahn said. “I have such tremendous respect for you and the service that you provide. Your integrity, passion for service and real commitment to health is so evident throughout the organization.”
With health as 1 of 6 focus areas for the Peace Corps, she encouraged NIH’ers to consider joining the 240,000 Americans who have served so far. “I feel in an organization like NIH, it’s just in people’s DNA to be of service,” Spahn noted.
There are 3 programs available: the traditional opportunity for 2 years of overseas service, a 3- to 12-month plan for volunteers with specialized skill sets and a pilot for former volunteers who can work virtually for 5 to 15 hours per week.
“It’s a transformative experience for everyone who serves and for the communities that receive volunteers,” she said.
Spahn got her start in the Peace Corps as a small business volunteer in Romania 4 years after the fall of communism.
“My own transformation was the beauty of getting to know people and how the narrative you might understand from history and the media is really different when you get into it one-on-one or are able to experience the culture in a different way,” she said. That inspired her subsequent career in international development, which included positions in the Peace Corps as country director of Malawi and chief of operations in the African region.
While the pandemic forced the evacuation of the almost 7,000 Peace Corps volunteers—the first in the organization’s history—Spahn is hopeful they will begin returning to the field soon. In the meantime, many Peace Corps staff have contributed to their country’s Covid-19 response, helping coordinate mass vaccination events, conducting contact tracing and delivering refrigeration units for vaccines.
Returned Peace Corps volunteer (RPCV) and FIC deputy director Dr. Peter Kilmarx led the conversation and encouraged any interested RPCVs at NIH to join the affinity group that meets monthly.
As for the NIH commitment to the CFC, its 2021 contributions exceeded $2 million, more than double its goal.
Commending NIH staff on their generosity to the CFC, FIC director Dr. Roger Glass noted the similarities between the annual pledge drive and the Peace Corps. “I am delighted we have come together to celebrate the shared anniversary of these two organizations that are all about giving, leadership and commitment to the community.”