June 9, 2003 - Washington File: USA Freedom Corps Director John Bridgeland talks about the "Volunteers for Prosperity"

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2003: June 2003 Peace Corps Headlines: June 9, 2003 - Washington File: USA Freedom Corps Director John Bridgeland talks about the "Volunteers for Prosperity"

By Admin1 (admin) on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 5:00 pm: Edit Post

USA Freedom Corps Director John Bridgeland talks about the "Volunteers for Prosperity"

John Bridgeland, Assistant to the President and Director of the USA Freedom Corps

Read and comment on this interview USA Freedom Corps Director John Bridgeland gave on May 21 as he talks about the new "Volunteers for Prosperity" program the President unveiled at his commencement address at the US Coast Guard Academy. The program will enlist thousands of doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers, economists, computer experts, and other specialists to work on short term development initiatives around the world. The volunteers will be deployed overseas for a more limited period of time than Peace Corps Volunteers, normally weeks or months. Non-governmental organizations will receive federal funds to pay for the specialists. Read the interview at:

Interview with John Bridgeland, Director of the USA Freedom Corp*

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

Interview with John Bridgeland, Director of the USA Freedom Corp

MR. BRIDGELAND: Today as part of his USA Freedom Corps, the President will announce -- yes, today as part of his USA Freedom Corps, the President will announce a new international service initiative called Volunteers For Prosperity to deploy and enlist highly skilled professionals like doctors, nurses, computer specialists, engineers, educators, to be deployed in countries around the world consistent with his global prosperity agenda.

So these volunteers will be matched through USA Freedom Corps with nongovernmental organizations working through the Millennium Challenge Account, the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the Digital Freedom Initiative, the Water For the Poor Initiative, the Trade for Africa Development and Enterprise Initiative and the Middle East Partnership Initiative.

There have been 100 -- just to put this in context, there have been 183,000 requests for applications for Americans to join the Peace Corps, and there are only currently 7,000 slots. The President will also restate his commitment to double the capacity of the Peace Corps from 7,000 to 15,000 volunteers over the next five years. And we remain on track to do that.

But this initiative calls upon highly skilled professionals who will be deployed for a more limited period of time, normally weeks or months. And today there are a whole host of organizations working with USA Freedom Corps and through the relevant departments and agencies who are prepared to accept skilled volunteers, for example, to work in hospitals to help prevent and treat AIDS patients, through City Links partnership to deploy individuals from city governments to help work on clean water and sanitation projects.

So through each of these initiatives and those that are coming on line, we will have a massive volunteer effort that will deploy highly skilled professionals.

Q: You're essentially creating a market for the excess in volunteer capacity?

MR. BRIDGELAND: That's exactly right. This is a market -- not only a market for the excess capacity, but also a market that taps into the highly skilled, trained professionals who, in the course over the last year and a half, we have experienced are very anxious to serve for short periods of time in countries around the world on these prosperity initiatives.

Q: How long do they serve for?

MR. BRIDGELAND: There will be flexible periods of time, working with the non-governmental organizations. It could be weeks, it could be months, or it could be multi-year assignments. The other thing that's significant here is that these non-governmental organizations are going to be receiving federal funds under these initiatives. And a factor in their ability to receive federal funds will be their ability to recruit, mobilize and deploy these highly skilled volunteers, which will show the more efficient use of federal resources in the field.

Q: Is there additional funding for this program?

MR. BRIDGELAND: Yes, there are -- one example is the Digital Freedom Initiative, which provided -- we have volunteers right now, through the Geek Corps, it's called, but it's computer specialists in Senegal that are working and receiving -- the organization receives federal funds. These other NGOs will be receiving federal funds. And as you know, the AIDS plan and the Millennium Challenge --

Q: But is there different money for the volunteers?

MR. BRIDGELAND: The NGOs will be paying the volunteers and leveraging those resources to draw down private funds. But new funds will be available for this initiative.

Q: Are you John Bridgeland, or are you a senior administration official?

MR. BRIDGELAND: John Bridgeland.

Q: How many people are we talking about?

MR. BRIDGELAND: We hope, eventually, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. And the U.S. --

Q: Digital Freedom, people have already been deployed?

MR. BRIDGELAND: Yes, we have people in Senegal who are literally -- one specific example, you have a rug maker in Senegal, and you send a information technician over to Senegal, and they can open up, through technology and cyber cafes and telecenters, markets all over the world for that rug maker in Senegal. And that initiative alone is designed to help 360,000 small businesses in Senegal. And that's a pilot program that we're going to expand to 20 countries throughout Africa.

Q: How many people are currently deployed in that?

MR. BRIDGELAND: Through there we have, I think, more than 40 volunteers right now. Again, that's a pilot program.

Q: How long ago was it announced?

MR. BRIDGELAND: It was announced by Secretary Evans, myself, the administrator of AID just a few months ago.

Q: Do we know -- switching gears for a minute, do you know whether the President will mention topical events at the top of his speech, like yesterday's change in the terrorist threat level, for instance?

MR. BRIDGELAND: Again, Sean can address that issue, but he's going to focus on his global prosperity agenda.

Q: I realize that may not be --

MR. McCORMACK: That will be up to him.

Q: When you say additional funds will be available, do you have a target amount? Do you have an idea in mind?

MR. BRIDGELAND: Well there are -- permitted use under each of these initiatives -- the AIDS Initiative, Millennium Challenge Account, is that non-governmental organizations will be able to use funds to implement programs. And so -- you know, I think in the millions of dollars you'll see NGOs receiving funds to carry out these programs. And we want to make them more competitive by showing their capacity to use highly skilled Americans to be deployed in the field.

Q: Is that going to go beyond what they were going to get already, or there is going to be additional --

MR. BRIDGELAND: Well, there's going to be additional money through these programs for NGOs. And what we're doing today is, in addition to the funding provided, we're ensuring that these organizations are more competitive in the process if -- as a point of leverage -- if they can show their ability to recruit and mobilize highly trained and skilled Americans abroad. So there will be funds available for this program.

MR. McCORMACK: Thanks a lot, everybody.

END 9:55 A.M. EDT

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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