“Peace Corps Volunteers, stay as you are—be servants of peace; work at home as you have worked abroad—humbly, persistently, intelligently. Serve your neighborhoods. Serve your cities. Serve the poor. Join others who serve. Serve…Serve…Serve…that’s the end. That is the challenge. For in the end it will be the servants who save us all.”
– Sargent Shriver, Peace Corps First Director
The WellPower Blog is committed to creating a healthier nation by lifting up community involvement, including drawing attention to local organizations striving to end health disparities in Baltimore. As such, we are highlighting the Shriver Peaceworker Fellows Program as described by Assistant Director, Meghann Shutt:
Serving in the Peace Corps is a life changing experience for most people. Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) often speak of a life-long orientation to service as a result of that experience. In fact, when the Peace Corps was originally introduced by John F. Kennedy and Sargent Shriver (the agency’s first director and for whom our program is named), they spoke widely of the need for a critical mass of internationally trained men and women who would return from the Peace Corps to build a better America.
Personally speaking, as a Peace Corps volunteer, I found myself very engaged in my work in a rural village in Southern Kyrgyzstan, but I was often thinking about changes needed in Baltimore City, my own hometown. I initially went abroad thinking I wanted to do international development work for a career and discovered that the politics of working internationally changed my mind.
If I was going to work that hard at community development, I wanted the fruits of those efforts to go to Baltimore. This city reminds me of a developing country in so many ways, and the skills I built as a Peace Corps volunteer have been unbelievably helpful working on various community efforts here in Baltimore City. For some of our Peaceworker Fellows, they had similar experiences. Others came to the realization that in order to be more effective agents of change, they needed specialized graduate degrees. Still others came back looking for opportunities to work and serve at the same time. All of these things bring applicants to the Shriver Peaceworker program, and most fellows are not native to Baltimore.
The Shriver Peaceworker Fellows Program is a graduate level service-learning program housed at UMBC for returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCVs). The program is highly competitive and seeks to recruit dynamic change leaders to work, study and live in Baltimore. The fellowship combines:
- Full time graduate study across a range of disciplines
- Twenty hours per week service placement with a local Baltimore nonprofit, government agency or school
- Weekly ethical reflection seminars on issues surrounding social justice, peace and service
Now more than ever, we see the need for professionals who understand the rich and nuanced world of local international and immigrant communities, cultural differences and how to build on that diversity rather than see it as a threat. The Peaceworker Program builds a community of returned Peace Corps volunteers who are interested in transforming this Peace Corps experience into social change leaderships either here or abroad.
Whatever their reasons for coming, one of the secondary aims of the Shriver Peaceworker Fellow’s Program is to attract these leaders to Baltimore and keep them here. And it’s working! Some Peaceworker alumni continue their commitment to international development in agencies and organizations like USAID, Peace Corps and Catholic Relief Services.
Still, many more Peaceworker alumni are currently serving and leading in local government agencies like the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Baltimore City Council President’s Office, Mayor’s Office of Economic Development and Baltimore City Public Schools, as well as nonprofits, philanthropic organizations and companies focused on social change including the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Friends of Patterson Park and Campaign Consultation.
RPCVs, including Campaign Consultation’s own Michelle Bond, Julia Krieger and Megan Wall, are continuing to make changes in Baltimore long after their Peace Corps experiences ended. This is a sign that our approach of investing in people and creating meaningful community around social change is working.
WellPower Blog is pleased to showcase the Shriver Peaceworker Fellows Program, which exemplifies lifting up community involvement and collective action to create a healthier city – and nation.
Click here to find out more.
“The benefits of the Peace Corps will not be limited to the countries in which it serves. Our own young men and women will be enriched by the experience of living and working in foreign lands. They will have acquired new skills and experience which will aid them in their future careers and add to our own country’s supply of trained personnel and teachers. They will return better able to assume the responsibilities of American citizenship and with greater understanding of our global responsibilities.”
– John F. Kennedy, Message to Congress March 1, 1961
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