The Peace Corps Reform Series

Four stories about Peace Corps Volunteers and staff members who work to improve the U.S. Peace Corps.


This story investigates the complex, frustrating, dysfunctional health care system available to Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.

Nancy Tongue, who served in Chile from 1980 to 1982, struggled to get serious illness covered through the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA). FECA, which is administered by the Department of Labor, is the only way for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to get compensation for their service-related medical issues. FECA is so dysfunctional, that many Returned Peace Corps Volunteers with serious post-service medical conditions are trapped in a medical limbo, unable to get the treatments they need, unable to work due to illness and unable to get help from Peace Corps. Nancy Tongue started a support group for these volunteers called Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers.

More Info...

This story investigates Peace Corps' mismanaged implementation of the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act.

Kate Puzey served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin. She was murdered after blowing the whistle on sexual misconduct by a part-time Peace Corps contract employee. Kate Puzey's parents worked with the members of the advocacy group First Response Action to advocate for the Kate Puzey Volunteer Protection Act. The Kate Puzey Act required Peace Corps to implement new procedures for volunteer victims of sexual assault, and whistle-blower protections for volunteers. The Kate Puzey Act also required Peace Corps to hire a victim advocate to help volunteer victims and agency management understand the rights of victims.

Kellie Greene was the first victim advocate hired by Peace Corps. Kellie says that Peace Corps was resistant to the reforms mandated by the Kate Puzey Act, and that agency management forced her out of her position at Peace Corps.

More Info...

This story investigates Peace Corps' use of the anti-malarial drug Mefloquine.

Mefloquine, also known by the brand name Lariam, is an anti-malarial drug that has been prescribed to Peace Corps Volunteers since 1989. Mefloquine is effective at preventing malaria, but some believe that the adverse side effects of the drug may be just as dangerous as malaria itself.

Sara Thompson served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Burkina Faso from 2010 to 2012. She experienced serious adverse side effects from Mefloquine use during service, and the side effects did not end when she stopped taking the drug. 

More Info...

This story investigates a fundamental flaw in Peace Corps policy which prevents the agency from embracing reform.

A provision within the Peace Corps Act limits employment at Peace Corps to a term of five years. This provision is known as the "Five-Year Rule." Numerous assessments have found that the Five-Year Rule creates serious disincentives toward high employee performance. The dynamic between the Five-Year Rule and a high number of political appointees at Peace Corps produces a fundamental flaw in Peace Corps policy.

Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff served as Peace Corps volunteers in the Sixties, and they served again as volunteers in Senegal from 2005 to 2007. They found that Peace Corps had not matured as much as it should have over the years. They are among the very few volunteers who have successfully advocated for Peace Corps reform.

More Info...