Peace Corps Response Volunteers Take Oath to Serve with FEMA in Mission Supporting US COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts

May 20, 2021

158 Peace Corps Response volunteers to begin service in five states, marking the second time in the agency’s history that volunteers will serve domestically

DALLAS, TX – On Wednesday, 158 Peace Corps Response volunteers took the oath of office to assist the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in their vaccine distribution efforts. Following a week of training in Dallas, the volunteers have departed to begin their mission assignments with FEMA in Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey and Oregon.

“COVID-19 has exposed gaping divides in privilege, access and opportunity - not only in the countries where the Peace Corps serves, but also in the U.S.” said Peace Corps Acting Director Carol Spahn. “Our Volunteers will use the skills, grit and passion for service they honed overseas to help reach underserved populations here at home. We are proud to partner with FEMA on this critical mission.”

The volunteers serving in this special assignment were evacuated from 52 countries last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They range in age from 22 to 80 and have skills in 88 languages. Their three-month assignments will focus on urgent needs as identified by FEMA, and on communities that have been traditionally under-served. Volunteers will be assigned to language support, administrative, logistical and other work that supports FEMA operations. A majority of volunteers will serve in mobile units, traveling to help in communities that do not have access to large vaccination centers. Some volunteers will engage in community work, educating people on the importance of getting vaccinated.

“FEMA’s employees are committed to the mission of serving our country before, during and after disasters. Every day, our team of over 20,000 emergency managers work to make our nation safer, stronger and more prepared,” said Ron Wells, Chief of Workforce Operations Support Branch at FEMA. “We are proud to have Peace Corps volunteers work alongside us in this mission. They share the same drive as FEMA employees to help protect people in uncertain times.”

The Peace Corps is implementing the COVID-19 domestic deployment through Peace Corps Response, a Peace Corps program that sends individuals with specialized experienced to short-term service assignments. When the agency activated more than 270 volunteers to respond to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Peace Corps Response, then called Crisis Corps, also managed the agency’s deployment to aid FEMA’s relief operation in the gulf coast region.

In early 2020, Peace Corps temporarily suspended its global operations and evacuated nearly 7,000 volunteers from 61 countries due to the coronavirus pandemic. The agency’s short-term contribution to the domestic response to COVID-19 will not alter its commitment to overseas service once conditions permit. Preparations for returning to overseas posts continue in parallel to this special assignment.

*Editor’s note: Photos from Wednesday’s swearing-in ceremony can be found HERE.

About FEMA: FEMA was established in 1979 when President Jimmy Carter signed Executive Order 12127, effective April 1, 1979, before giving the agency the dual mission of emergency management and civil defense shortly thereafter. FEMA’s employees are committed to the mission of serving our country before, during and after disasters. Every day, our team of over 20,000 emergency managers work to make our nation safer, stronger and more prepared.

About Peace Corps Response: Peace Corps Response sends experienced professionals on short-term, targeted service assignments around the world for 12 months or less. The positions are highly specialized and technical and volunteers provide targeted assistance in areas such as agriculture, community economic development, disaster risk reduction and mitigation, education, environment, health, and youth in development. Since Peace Corps Response began in 1996, nearly 4,000 Americans have served in over 80 countries around the world. For more information, go to www.peacecorps.gov/response and follow us on Facebook.

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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