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"Volunteers for Prosperity" program started
"Volunteers for Prosperity" program started
Bush Initiative Enlists Volunteers to Serve Abroad
By Irene Lagan
Herald Staff Writer
(From the issue of 10/2/03)
An executive order signed by President Bush last Thursday created new possibilities for Americans who wish to promote peace and prosperity abroad. Doctors, nurses, computer specialists, teachers, engineers, economists and others will have the opportunity to use their professional skills as volunteers on development projects overseas.
The executive order implements "Volunteers for Prosperity," a component of the White House’s USA Freedom Corps that oversees national and international volunteer programs including Peace Corps and Americorps.
USAID Administrator Andrew S. Natsios and John Bridgeland, domestic advisor and director of the USA Freedom Corps, announced the new program at a press briefing last Monday.
Coordinated and administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the initiative will make it easier for agencies and organizations to fill requests for volunteers to work on specific development initiatives abroad.
According to Bridgeland, the order will relieve the "pent-up demand around the country" for people who want to contribute to efforts abroad. "The order sets up the infrastructure that will give them easy access to information and ways in which they can be deployed for flexible terms to meet their schedules," he said.
USA Freedom Corps will match skilled professionals with U.S. organizations working on specific initiatives. including: the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief; the Trade for Africa Development and Enterprise Initiative; the Water for the Poor Initiative; the Digital Freedom Initiative; and the Middle East Partner Initiative.
President Bush announced the program last May when he called upon Americans to assist development projects abroad through service.
"Like generations before us, this generation of citizens will show the world the energy and idealism of the United States of America," he said.
Unlike the Peace Corps and similar programs, Volunteers for Prosperity allows volunteers to serve for varying lengths of time, from weeks to months, and to choose a country in which to serve. One of the key criteria for organizations who do sign onto the program is their capacity to deploy volunteers, said Natsios.
Representatives from a few of the 40 non-governmental organizations that have signed onto the program were present to share their experience.
Among the benefits of service, volunteers said that it was personally and professionally rewarding. Registered nurse Kathleen Hartmann from New York served as a Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB) volunteer in Swaziland, Africa. Hartmann, who ministered to some of the millions suffering from AIDS in rural Africa, said her experience allowed her to fulfill a life-long desire to use her nursing skills to care for those in need.
"Those 14 months were the most rewarding months of my life," she said. "The CMMB allowed me to work creatively and independently, and I had tremendous support from home. Our volunteer efforts are only as good as our base at home." Hartmann’s husband is a physician who is also interested in volunteer work.
Jack Orrell, a veteran volunteer for the International Executive Service Corps (IESC), said that effective relationships that are personally and professionally enriching develop very quickly. Orrell has lent his marketing and management expertise to six IESC projects in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, and will play a role in an IESC Morocco Fast Track Trade program.
"Unlike working as a paid consultant, interaction with a volunteer interaction is noncommercial and allows an effective relationship to develop very quickly," he said. "Your investment of time quickly increases their capacity to export. And, your relationship to your client is social. Often you live in their home and get to know them as people."
Peter Kappleman, a fourth generation dairy farmer from Wisconsin, traveled to Malawi as a Land O’Lakes International Development Division volunteer to work on the USAID funded Malawi Private Dairy Business Project. The project is designed to foster economic growth by supporting dairy farmers and others in the industry through technology and information exchange.
My life as a dairy farmer is very predictable," he said. "When we have a bad year, the the American people sustain us by providing what we need. But in Malawi, I met farmers are powerless and vulnerable."
Kappleman, who is the first vice chair on the Land O’Lakes corporate board of directors, said Volunteers for Prosperity gives individuals who wish to serve an expanded role in helping families, and ultimately in contributing to world peace and security.
"Long term peace has no chance when people are hungry," he said. "Solving the problem of hunger is one of the foundations for peace to exist."
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