The Evolution of the RPCV Health Crusade Support Program
RPCV Health Crusade was in research mode. What should we put into a support program to help with the broad health needs of PCVs and RPCVs? We began with listing support resources into the Resource Library. We thought we had plenty of time to slowly build the RPCV Health Crusade Support Program. But then, the unimaginable happened.
Peace Corps decided to evacuate almost 7,000 Peace Corps Volunteers around the world due to the covid-19 pandemic. Supporting these evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers (EPCVs) would be a challenge like nothing the RPCV community has ever seen.
For the RPCV Health Crusade team, supporting EPCVs became the priority. Different concerns and confusion challenged the EPCVs. How could we craft an effective support program for them?
EPCVs’ Overwhelming Challenges
The EPCVs had only hours to leave their communities, host families, friends, partners, students, and pets. Peace Corps returned EPCVs to the city designated as their home of record. In some cases, Peace Corps paid for 2 weeks of lodging to self-isolate. But then EPCVs were on their own.
EPCVs hadn’t just been frantically evacuated. They were leaving their entire lives behind. Few, if any, had fully flushed out plans in place for this next chapter. They were also coming back to only two months of transitional “health” insurance, a small readjustment allowance, a pandemic, and a global recession.
Some EPCVs no longer had a “home” to return to. And some had homes cramped with high-risk family members. Some had challenging relationships with their loved ones. How do you get a job during a pandemic? Most grad schools had closed their application windows. And for many, the inability to hug their friends and family during two weeks of self-isolation was painful.
Also, EPCVs didn’t know whether they would be permitted to reinstate or re-enroll as Peace Corps Volunteers. Many were not sure whether they wanted to. Would they even be able to reapply if they pursued formal mental health therapy to help them work through this time of confusion and uncertainty?
How can we help support these EPCVs whose lives have been turned upside down?
The RPCV Community Steps Up
The RPCV community rallied together. Some RPCVs offered a place to stay. Other RPCVs offered to help with job searches. Some RPCV groups offered mentors and funds. The offers seemed endless!
RPCV Health Crusade expanded the Resource Library to include as many Peace Corps-specific post-service health resources as we could find. Anna Nathanson, RPCV and therapist, had a lightbulb moment. What could be more timely than creating an EPCV Peer Support group?
Let’s give the EPCVs with a safe supportive space where the they could navigate their concerns and confusion together as peers.
RPCV Health Crusade Support Program Launches a Peer Support Initiative
In typical RPCV fashion, we took action. In less than two weeks from the PC evacuation, we threw together a peer support initiative. We created a new section on the website. And we posted notices. Then we created an online sign-up form. And off we went!
But the EPCVs tend to scatter themselves all across the USA and beyond. So, the EPCV peer support sessions must be virtual. But whatever the format, one thing was clear. The support had to be peer-led support discussions and not formal therapist-led therapy sessions.
The participants in the peer support group would set the tone and topics. They shared what they wanted to share. The session group members agreed to respect each other’s privacy and challenges. The goal is to support each other’s readjustment journeys.
And they did!