Peace Corps Hosts First Virtual Thought Leaders Forum, Second Gentleman Gives Opening Remarks

March 11, 2021

Returned Peace Corps volunteers working in the fields of philanthropy and corporate responsibility met virtually to reflect on the personal and professional impact of their service

WASHINGTON – On Thursday, the Peace Corps held a virtual event in its ongoing forum series to bring together returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who are influencers in various fields. The agency hosted professionals working in philanthropy and corporate responsibility, and the event was opened by Second Gentleman of the United States Douglas Emhoff, who gave remarks about the lasting importance of the Peace Corps and returned volunteers’ dedication to public service even after their service ends.

“Peace Corps volunteers are a reminder that we can all be stewards of change in our workplaces and our communities,” Emhoff said.

The event marked the third time the forum was held and was the first time the agency hosted the event virtually.

Panelist Stephany Guachamin Coyago, an AmeriCorps alumna and returned Peace Corps Peru volunteer, spoke about how her service experiences have inspired her to remain mission-driven in her work, including in her current role as the leadership advancement program manager at the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility

When asked what impact her Peace Corps service has had on her professional life, Guachamin referenced the skills she honed during her service in Peru.

“Out of all of the skills I learned in my Peace Corps service, how to apply a humanistic approach when working with others was perhaps the most important,” said Guachamin. “That has helped me immensely as I continue to be connected to my [Hispanic] community and help them gain access to corporate America.” She added, “During my service I had to learn to be very comfortable in my own skin, and I’ve brought that forward into my career.”

Peace Corps is a great starting point professionally, she said.

Also on the panel was senior advisor of client services for the Tides Foundation, Harris Bostic. His Peace Corps service in Guinea inspired a new career track.

“My own initial career journey was not headed to philanthropy,” said Bostic. “But what got me here was that I wanted to make a difference, wanted to be the change. My Peace Corps service was the first time I, as an African American, was part of the majority. This was my home, my people, my land, my culture. In a small Guinean village, I forged connections with some amazing people who took me under their wing. That experience took me from thinking about me, me, me, to you, we, us.”

In Bostic’s current role, he engages social venture and philanthropic partners to accelerate the pace of social change by building capacity and allocating resources through the lens of equity and inclusion.

The panel also included president of The Builders Initiative, Bruce McNamer. In the 1980s, McNamer worked as an investment banker in New York before applying to the Peace Corps.

“My service in Paraguay was a transformative experience, and it was one of the most joyful experiences of my life,” he said.

After learning about grassroots development in Paraguay, McNamer brought the experience forward into the work he has done in corporate responsibility and philanthropy since.

“I have a very deep appreciation and admiration for the resourcefulness and insightfulness of people on the ground, in the villages, and in the communities I’ve worked with over the years,” he said. “They are close to the problems, but also close to the solutions.”

Acting Director of the Peace Corps, Carol Spahn, closed the event by thanking the participants and acknowledging the value returned volunteers bring home after their time abroad.

“Our impressive panelists highlight the value Peace Corps service brings not only to the communities in which volunteers serve, but also to the United States,” she said. “By living and working side-by-side with people from another culture, volunteers engage with the world in a way that honors difference, questions power dynamics and acknowledges multiple perspectives and solutions to problems. These qualities are what make returned volunteers great leaders.”

About the Peace Corps: The Peace Corps sends Americans with a passion for service abroad on behalf of the United States to work with communities and create lasting change. Volunteers develop sustainable solutions to address challenges in education, health, community economic development, agriculture, the environment and youth development. Through their Peace Corps experience, volunteers gain a unique cultural understanding and a life-long commitment to service that positions them to succeed in today's global economy. Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, more than 240,000 Americans of all ages have served in 142 countries worldwide. For more information, visit peacecorps.gov and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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