April 18, 2002 - MSNBC: Peace Corps basks in the spotlight

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By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, April 18, 2002 - 9:29 am: Edit Post

Peace Corps basks in the spotlight

Read and comment on this story from MSNBC on the resurgence of interest in the Peace Corps at:

Peace Corps basks in the spotlight *

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Peace Corps basks in the spotlight

Bush push for volunteerism has boosted interest in mission

By Petra Cahill


April 18 — The Peace Corps is experiencing a huge surge in interest in the wake of Sept. 11, particularly since President Bush’s call to service in his State of the Union address. The organization itself says its mission hasn’t changed since its founding in 196,1 but its prominence has soared since the attack on America.

IN HIS STATE of the Union address in January, Bush seized on the idea of using the renewed sense of American patriotism to press for an expansion of the Peace Corps.

The president called for a doubling of the number of corps volunteers throughout the world, but especially in the Islamic world.

Since then, the organization says the number of requests for applications has increased by 77 percent.

In addition, in the months since the State of the Union address there were 329,923 unique visitors to the Peace Corps Web site, an 85 percent surge over the same period a year ago.


Bush’s emphasis on expanding Peace Corps service to more countries in the Islamic world has provoked concern about whether the administration is attempting to alter the mission of the organization. Advertisement

The answer is no, says the organization’s spokeswoman, Ellen Field, who notes that volunteerism in the Islamic world has always been an integral part of the organization’s work.

The mission remains “to help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women; to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served; to help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans,” she says.

There are Peace Corps volunteers currently serving in Jordan, Morocco, Kazakhstan, Senegal, Niger, Mauritania, Mali, Guinea and Gambia.

In addition, prior to Sept. 11, there were volunteers serving in the Kyrgyz Republic, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Bangladesh; service in those countries has been suspended because of the war in Afghanistan, but the Peace Corps hopes to return as soon as possible.

At the swearing-in ceremony for Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez on Feb. 15, Bush reiterated his goal of spreading the organization’s activism to the Islamic world. “I look forward to working with the members of Congress to strengthen the Peace Corps, to reassert its independence and to create new opportunities in Muslim nations for us to spread the good story about the values, the universal values, we hold so dear.”

The Peace Corps says the president isn’t trying to introduce a religious element to its duties, but is “spreading the good word” of American culture is a byproduct of volunteer service, but by no means the main goal, Field said.

Field said the real challenge for volunteers is to “bring back what they’ve learned about why these people hate us, why they treat women the way that they do, and other elements of their culture to America.”


Created in 1961 by President Kennedy, the Peace Corps now has 7,000 volunteers serving in 70 countries. They are U.S. citizens ranging in age from 22 to 82, although the median age is 25.

The Peace Corps budget for the 2002 fiscal year is $275 million. Volunteers commit to two years of service in a given country, working on projects ranging from small-business initiatives to helping communities ensure sources of potable water and improve sanitation, to AIDS education.

Volunteers live in both urban and rural environments; about a third live in communities without electricity and running water.

Given the surge in interest, the Peace Corps has responded by trying to shorten the time it takes for a person who has completed an application to depart for their country of service.

It has a lengthy application process that includes a detailed written application, an essay, numerous recommendations and a medical exam.

In the past it could take up to 18 months before a candidate could depart for service overseas; the aim is to shorten that wait to a maximum of four months.


In his State of the Union address, Bush said there was no plan to impose American culture on other nations. “But America will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity. … America will take the side of brave men and women who advocate these values around the world, including the Islamic world.”

Many former volunteers agree that in light of the events of Sept. 11, the Peace Corps’ mission is an important way to spread tolerance at home.

Matt Bockner returned from Ivory Coast, where about a third of the people are Muslims, in 2000 after serving two years with the Peace Corps.

He noted that Bush “wants to spread understanding of what it is to be an American. ... This is the point of the ‘good story.’ ... Peace Corps Volunteers teach people the values, interests and beliefs of America, while at the same time, volunteers learn the same from their hosts.

“When the volunteer leaves, one ‘good story’ goes back to the U.S. and hopefully one stays there.”

NBC’s Petra Cahill, who served for two years with the Peace Corps in Ivory Coast, is a news assignment editor in Secaucus, N.J.

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Peace Corps - recruitment



By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) on Thursday, April 18, 2002 - 11:09 am: Edit Post

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the official "spokesperson" for the Peace Corps had actually served in the Peace Corps? Ellen Field is not a RPCV, I believe. Who are these people and why are they speaking for Peace Corps? Until 1993, the only qualification for being the Director of the Peace Corps was that one had NEVER been in the Peace Corps! Luckily, President Bush seems well on his well to reestablishing that fine Beltway tradition.

By Phil Olsen on Saturday, April 20, 2002 - 2:58 am: Edit Post

>Joanne Roll is partly correct. RPCVs and former staff need not apply. Nor, from the looks of Pres. Bush's choice for Peace Corps director, need anyone with relevant overseas or international experience apply.

Hey, Washington, there are 40,000-plus RPCVs and staff to choose from. Surely, a few of them are more qualified to lead.


By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) on Monday, April 22, 2002 - 11:06 am: Edit Post

Carol Bellamy was appointed Director of the Peace Corps in 1993 and she was the first returned volunteer to serve in that capacity. When I said that until that time, not being in the Peace Corps was the ONLY qualification for being appointed to the Directorship of the Peace Corps, I meant to be scarcastic. Evidently, I sounded too literal! Or, perhaps, Phil Olson knows about some regulation which did indeed state that. Would not surprise me.

By Mark Murphy on Wednesday, May 01, 2002 - 9:00 am: Edit Post

I support President Bush. As most RPCVs are liberal, and usually Democrats, it is expected that there would be a bashing of W as he tries to expand the PC. I wonder if the only thing different was Gore instead of Bush, would they be singing his praises? Mark Murphy, 87-90 W. Samoa.

By Bobbi Oliver on Wednesday, May 01, 2002 - 9:26 am: Edit Post

I am RPCV from Yemen 87-88.
I don't think very many Americans have even the slightest idea why most other people in the world not just Arabs don't like us much. I think it is our "we know it all attitude", and big money and power over everyone else is what rubs
them and many others in the world the wrong way. I went there thinking most people loved America because we are told we give so much to the rest of the world. But I sure found out differently. The most often asked question I was asked in Yemen was, "Why is America helping Israel and not the Palestinians?" I didn't really know how to answer that sitting there in an Arab country. I don't envy anyone trying to go to an Arab country now as a PCV! I would be scared to death actually. I wish them all good luck!

By Kristen Cheney on Wednesday, May 01, 2002 - 12:42 pm: Edit Post

Since its inception, some people in foreign countries have voiced suspicions that PCVs are actually CIA spies, or at least lackeys for the US intelligence community. I think PC's big challenge as they expand will be PR to combat this and other such rumors and suspicions -- and to actually avoid information they do gather from being misused or abused by other branches of government.
My other concern is the entrenchment of attitudes of American superiority, as Bobbi Oliver mentioned (5/1). I just hope that new PCVs continue to be humbled by their experiences in other countries. In some ways, the most urgent importance of the PC right now is that it gives PCVs the opportunity to critically challenge their own assumptions about the world.

Kristen Cheney
RPCV Malawi 95-96

By Patricia Faye Marshall on Wednesday, May 01, 2002 - 1:28 pm: Edit Post

What an Awesome Time to be alive! Each one of us as Individual, Group, Organization, Community have the most special opportunity to create each and every "frame" of NOW-first as the thinking we choose to think, the feelings we choose to experience, the words we choose to speak, and the actions we choose to take. Let us be proactive in each of these arenas to bring forth the world where our children and grandchildren will point to us as the ones who turned this world around!
Patricia-Faye Marshall, Guyana 66-68

By James O. Collins on Wednesday, May 01, 2002 - 2:50 pm: Edit Post

One does not need to have a particularly keen sense for the obvious to know that if G.W. Bush is planning on doubling the number of Peace Corps volunteers in Afghanistan he will not be doing so for benevolent reasons. Our benighted leader is under the illusion that the U.S. is representative of all that is good, that the forces of evil are hiding in Afghanistan, and that Peace Corps volunteers might be used effectively as a Trojan Horse in routing those forces.
Jim Collins, Ecuador 67-69

By Jennifer W. Fowler on Thursday, May 02, 2002 - 2:38 pm: Edit Post

I do not think that President Bush has the vaguest notion of what Peace Corps is about. How often has he been out of the country? Has he ever slept on the floor for months, shared a house where three preadolescent children shared one cot, watched them be beaten with a belt when they could not sleep, showered in cold water for two years, had only an out house to use for plumbing? I don't think so.

Peace Corps was "the hardest job I ever loved". Why? Because I got so much out of it in terms of cross cultural understanding and empathy for the nationals of another country. I am sure I got more than I gave. It changed me forever and made me much more grateful for what I have here in the United States. A comfortable bed, for one thing.

Peace Corps is not about us converting others to Western politics. Peace Corps is about helping others help themselves. Peace Corps is about Americans bringing back the spirit of the host country after two or more years of service. Peace Corps is about opening the narrow minds of Americans.

When I was in Costa Rica, a democratic country, it was clear that the CIA stationed in San Jose was pursuing us Volunteers for "subversive" information about our hosts. My fellow volunteers found this laughable: CIA agents pursuing liberal arts graduates for subversive information on Costa Rica in the 60's. What a waste.

It chills me to think of young idealistic, patriotic Americans being used by the Bush government for propaganda and other shady purposes. Peace Corps is not about us, it is not supposed to be. It is about "them", the host country. "Their" freedoms, their rights to self determination without interference. In the early days, Volunteers were chosen for their ability to cross cultures, and not for their fervent desire to spread the white man's burden. Peace Corps Voluteers are not Cowboys and Cowgirls. They are individuals who are willing to risk their lives, sometimes, to help others arrive at their own conclusion. Let us not waste the time, efforts and idealism of our young people by sending them to places where they are not welcome, so that they may do nothing except satisfy the President's platform and propaganda needs. Otherwise, sending Volunteers feels just like dropping packages of food on communities the inhabitants of which would not think of eating the food, or would never see the food because it is used on the black market to stroke the egos and the pocket books of the corrupt. One of the first hypotheticals that was given in Peace Corps training was the story of the dessemination of powdered milk for nutrition. The towns people did not like the milk so they fed it to their pigs. We were asked how we would have handled the situation. The point was that one man's treasure might well be one man's trash. The first thing Mr. Bush did in Afghanistan was the food drop. Maybe the President should have spoken to a returned Volutneer before making that expensive move.

Wasn't 40 years of Peace Corps supposed to teach us something?

By Terry Josiah on Sunday, May 05, 2002 - 5:04 pm: Edit Post

"Maybe the President should have spoken to a returned Volutneer before making that expensive move."
Why? I mean you guys did such a great job there, right!?
Maybe the peace corp volunteers are the reason the Afghanistan people hate us. Ever think of that?
How about this philosophy, MIND YOUR OWN FUCKING BUSINESS.
What makes you people think your so great and caring anyway? None of you were asked to come into these countries and today, countries where there was a lot of Peace corp activity, Columbia, Iran, Indonesia, either hate us or are in the midst of a civil war.
The peace corp was created forty one years ago. We should be reaping the fruit of what was sown.
Where is the fruit?
Not in Columbia.
Not in Ghana.
Not in Afghanistan.
Not in Iran.
Not in Indonesia.
Not in Peru.
Not in Nigeria.
and on.
Proud of yourselves busybodies.

By M Bunny Dalebout RPCV Niger/83-85 on Wednesday, May 08, 2002 - 2:10 pm: Edit Post

Terry Josiah's letter is so sad I won't try to answer it, except to correct one wrong assumption: Peace Corps goes only where we've been INVITED BY THE HOST COUNTRY GOVERNMENT. A bit of advice for Terry: get better informed about your subject before you write vitriolic letters.

By Gigi Grover on Tuesday, May 28, 2002 - 7:35 am: Edit Post

I found it a bit shocking to hear Ellen Field's comment about "why these people hate us"...etc. Who exactly are "these people" and who is included in "us"?? Now is not the time to spread the message that "Arabs/Muslims hate us." That goes against the open-minded spirit needed to understand the barriers that prevent understanding. I lived for 6 years amongst muslims (2 years of that in Peace Corps)in Guinea, Morocco, and the UAE and I can safely say this: THEY DON'T HATE US. They disagree in a major way with many aspects of our foreign policy. However, they are people who were very kind to me and received me very warmly because "they" have an amazing skill which I think "we" need more of. They are able to separate individuals from governments and their activities. I was judged not as "an American", but as myself. Why can't we do that instead of making blanket generalizations like Ellen Field has done? Such statements only feed the fire.

By armanfaruqui (pcp09534867pcs.towson01.md.comcast.net - on Monday, March 14, 2005 - 11:16 am: Edit Post

All the developing countries must feel obliged to John F Kennedy for sending pcv to hasten the pace of progress and development. I vouch for the sincere services rendered by pvcs. I know, for instance, Samuel Holtzman Miles who was posted to Government Poultry Farm Saroornagar Hyderabadn INDIA where I was serving as Accounts Officer. I have seen the zeal of Sam in transforming poultry farm into a big enterprise. Wajeehuddin Ahmed. (Wajj)

By Wajeehuddin Ahmed ( on Thursday, November 09, 2006 - 10:31 am: Edit Post

Will any one ,please, try to locate, find ,trace Mr Samuel Holtzman Miles from Indiana, a PCV who was posted at Govt Poultry Farm Saroor nagar Hyderabad INDIA in 1965. Wajju

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