October 27, 2003 - Dayton Daily News: Villifying the poor and PC By Dominican Republic RPCV

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By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-165-54.balt.east.verizon.net - on Thursday, October 30, 2003 - 3:28 am: Edit Post

Villifying the poor and PC By Dominican Republic RPCV

Villifying the poor and PC By Dominican Republic RPCV

As soon as I read a few of these articles, I knew they were not written by returned Peace Corps volunteers. The writing clearly lacks objectivity and insight into many dynamics that occur in underdeveloped countries, poverty, volunteer behaviors, and Peace Corps as an organization. I certainly empathize with volunteers that have undergone criminal assaults or that die during service. Unfortunately while these stories should be told -- this type of reporting did not do the victims, the poor, or Peace Corps justice by providing such a one sided, dramatically bent presentation of the facts.

Just to clarify that serious crime does not only afflict underdeveloped countries, my socio-economically mixed neighborhood in Washington, DC experiences all types of crime. Moreover, we have a very large RPCV community here that not only provides a much needed cultural bridge, but also that understand the socio-economic and racial dynamics being played out around them.

Peace Corps warns volunteers during training and thereafter to the risks involved in service. Some volunteers exhibit highly risky behaviors upon arrival to the host country. Generally, those behaviors are exhibited immediately -- through alcoholism, drugs, and sex. Peace Corps can only point out these dangers. The organization can not coddle a supposed adult that decides to not respect cultural norms or their explicit warnings.

Peace Corps never tells volunteers at any phase of the application process or training that they will be partnered at sites with other volunteers. Many volunteers do not want to be placed with another American. Although, certain circumstances may warrant it, placing volunteers together severely lessens the chance that they will adapt to the local culture, language, and their communities. I can provide examples of those cases if the reporters would like to include that topic.

Peace Corps supported me when I firmly decided it was time to move from an unsafe site. Some volunteers can not recognize when they face unsafe situations and they waver on whether to move. I learned a tremendous amount from both of the communities that I lived in. The mentally ill individuals that often carry out assaults are not representative of the many admirable, struggling and inherently good people in the communities where Peace Corps works.

This form of irresponsible reporting villifies not only the Peace Corps, but also the poor communities that assuredly will not voice their opinion with this newspaper. Peace Corps volunteers are not always the innocent lambs that these articles portray them to be. While many volunteers do help the poor, I have seen cases where volunteers commit substantial abuses of the poor. Although not at knife point, some cases are almost as cutting through money, connections, and education. As volunteers, we always have the option to leave poverty -- no one, especially not Peace Corps, forces a rape or mugging victim to remain a volunteer.

Peace Corps aids many Americans in growing up and becoming world wise citizens that do not just watch events unfold on their televisions. Most organizations are in need of constructive criticism. Certain elements of Peace Corps need to markedly improve their responses to volunteers that are about to be or have been victimized. That is the real argument to be made here. Peace Corps service has many grey areas. Real life often does not fit into neat accusatory boxes.

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Story Source: Dayton Daily News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Safety and Security of Volunteers; Investigative Journalism; COS - Dominican Republic



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