May 23, 2002 - Chicago Tribune: Director Vasquez visits Chicago

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 05 May 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: May 23, 2002 - Chicago Tribune: Director Vasquez visits Chicago

By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, May 29, 2002 - 1:20 pm: Edit Post

Director Vasquez visits Chicago

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Peace Corps chief pays call on troops*

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Peace Corps chief pays call on troops

By Shia Kapos Tribune staff reporter Published May 23, 2002

The Peace Corps is seeing a surge in volunteers and in countries asking for assistance, according to the new director of the federal agency, which offers hands-on aid to communities and villages worldwide.

During a visit to the corps' regional office in downtown Chicago on Wednesday, new Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez praised recruiters for their work in bolstering a program that was established by President John Kennedy and has been touted in recent months by President Bush as a good way to carry out his call for voluntarism.

There are 223 volunteers from the Chicago area in the Peace Corps, up from 194 a year ago. Worldwide, there are 7,000 volunteers in about 70 countries.

Since Bush's call in January for Americans to volunteer in some way, the Peace Corps has seen a 36 percent increase in applicants, according to the agency.

The Peace Corps also is assessing whether to send in teams to Pakistan and Afghanistan, nations that have asked for the agency's assistance, Vasquez said. Later this year, the Peace Corps will enter Peru.

"People long to build a future," Vasquez said of a recent trip to Afghanistan. "They are tired and fatigued. ... Their homes are battered, their lives are battered."

Vasquez cited several agency concerns, mainly beefing up volunteer numbers, re-examining safety in certain countries and increasing the recruitment of minorities and seniors.

"Older volunteers bring a level of maturity and life experience that can make a difference," he said.

Vasquez, a former Orange County, Calif., supervisor and major contributor to Bush's presidential campaign, drew criticism when he was nominated late last year.

While some have lingering concerns that Vasquez is too political, others hope his leadership will benefit the agency.

"He seems to bring a solid management style," said Stanley Lemons of Chicago's recruitment office. "He seems genuinely committed to what the agency stands for."

Copyright © 2002, Chicago Tribune

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