RPCV Voices: Americorps VISTA Opportunities with Refugee Communities

By: Kiera Eckhardt, RPCV Ecuador

RPCV Voices is a blog series on the Peace Corps Community for Refugees website. The purpose is to allow returned Peace Corps Volunteers the opportunity to share their experience as refugees, work with refugee communities, or opinions about the refugee crisis.

If you have a story to share, please email morganking296@gmail.com.


Two months after being evacuated from Peace Corps Ecuador due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I found an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself again.

An RPCV Webinar highlighted an organization called AmeriCorps VISTA, which stands for Volunteers in Service to America. I looked into job postings near me and found that the Florida Department of Children & Families has a Refugee Project with a brand-new Youth/Mentoring Program.

Through AmeriCorps VISTA, I applied for the Mentor Coordinator position with Lutheran Services Florida, a non-profit in my area. For the last 4 months I have been developing the mentoring program for young adult refugees between the ages of 15-24 at this location. I created program materials such as manuals, policies, assessments, training and community partner presentations as well as adapted these materials and volunteer experience to an online platform. As I sit at home contacting refugee clients about enrolling in our program, I remember my fellow RPCV community and the commitment to service and development we all share.

Across the United States there are hundreds of thousands of refugee service centers with programs just like the one I’m helping to develop. Some have been functioning longer than others, but one thing remains the same across the country: these centers need your help.

Whether it be through mentoring, tutoring or volunteering in another form, you as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and as a humanitarian can make a difference during a time when the smallest act of kindness and support could mean a better future for not just one individual, but an entire family whose life has been uprooted.

I implore you to look into ways that you could help the refugee community in some capacity. Look into AmeriCorps VISTA if you are seeking an activity to bide your time before returning to Peace Corps service; look into the Florida Department of Children & Families Refugee Project. You can mentor or tutor virtually, from wherever you happen to be from right now.

For more information, please contact:

International Rescue Committee
Una Bilic, 850-391-9610
una.bilic@rescue.org

Tara Catanach, 850-391-9610
tara.catanach@rescue.org


Lutheran Services Florida
{Tampa}
Elisa Santos Robles, (813) 341-2879
 esantos@lsfnet.org

Stacy D. Beauchamp, (813) 607-6426
stacy.beauchamp@lsfnet.org

{Jacksonville}
Nina Frank, 904-730-8237


Catholic Charities
{Orlando}
Rae Jung Wilburn, (407) 277-1938 ext. 1080
raejung@cflcc.org

{Miami}
Monica Frias, 305-883-3383
mfrias@ccadm.org


Church World Service
Francisco Figueroa, 501-266-0624
ffigueroa@cwsglobal.org


Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services
Alen Janjus, 813-442-9306
ajanjus@gcjfcs.org

Thank you and stay safe out there.