September 4, 2002 - International Herald Tribune: Another RPCV comments on "Bigger Peace Corps, Paltry Effort"

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 09 September 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: September 4, 2002 - International Herald Tribune: Another RPCV comments on "Bigger Peace Corps, Paltry Effort"

By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, September 10, 2002 - 1:20 pm: Edit Post

Another RPCV comments on "Bigger Peace Corps, Paltry Effort"

Read and comment on this letter to the editor of the International Herald Tribune from Mali RPCV Meggin Leigh Doody on Mark Shahinian's op-ed piece in the Washington Post titled Bigger Peace Corps, Paltry Effort.

The original op-ed piece is at:

Bigger Peace Corps, Paltry Effort

Read the response at:

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR The mission of the Peace Corps*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR The mission of the Peace Corps

Sep 4, 2002 - International Herald Tribune

Regarding "People's real problems aren't being solved" (Views, Aug. 21) by Mark Shahinian:

As a former Peace Corps health volunteer in Mali, I can relate to Shahinian's experience in Ivory Coast, but I disagree with him on several fronts.

The main objective of the Peace Corps has always been cultural exchange and understanding.

This always proved harder than encouraging development at the grassroots level by weighing babies or educating people about washing their hands.

So President George W. Bush's idea of "spreading the good story" is still in line with Peace Corps goals.

On another front, the hardships of rural West Africans are completely relative. Shahinian's comparisons are based on what he knows as an American under an American system.

Life is certainly difficult for many in West Africa, but the people are essentially happy and good-natured. And on a general level, social life and the sense of community in West Africa are 100 times more developed than what I see in the Western world.

Those of us in the United States and Europe could stand to learn a few lessons on social behavior and community relations from the Africans. At the same time, we should be encouraging the African governments to fill the stomachs and pockets of their own people.

It has never been the intention of the Peace Corps to pour money into developing countries while imposing American values.

The investment is more in the people. That is what makes it so special and different from any other organization.

Meggin Leigh Doody, Cologne

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By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) on Tuesday, September 10, 2002 - 9:57 pm: Edit Post

I appreciate Meggin Leigh Doody's honesty and perspective. But, I disagree with her assertion that the main goal of Peace Corps has always been cultural exchange. I think this is why the "goal thing" is so important. The first goal was to send trained personnel to help meet needs. I think the health education programs of Peace Corps failed in meeting the first goal and no amount of cultural"exchange" can justify that failure; and I think we need to talk about it. Saral Waldorf's article "My Time in the Peace Corps" ( The Public Interest/Winter 2001) is her description of inadequate health
programs. It was written thirty five years after I came home and it was absolutely pertinent to what I had experienced. The women in my site, when asked what were their felt needs" were so eloguent: they always said the same thing. They wanted to keep the babies they had, alive, and they did not want to have any more. Peace Corps was not effective in helping them meet that goal, then, and I don't think it is now. I think there is alot of variation in Peace Corps programs; some work, alot don't. We ought to name and claim our failures and not sweep them under the rug of "cultural exchange" or "making friends for American" or my personal favorite, "a growth experience for the volunteer."

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