November 2, 2003 - Dayton Daily News: Responding Constructively Now By Dominican Republic RPCV DR

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By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Sunday, November 02, 2003 - 8:12 am: Edit Post

Responding Constructively Now By Dominican Republic RPCV DR

Responding Constructively Now By Dominican Republic RPCV DR

Responding Constructively Now By RPCV DR

Yes, we now know that all host country men are plotting the next assault on volunteers; that Americans should not leave the U.S.; and that Peace Corps is not benefiting the countries in which it serves. Writers with an agenda and the dearth of a well rounded perspective have the ability to provide the American public with those very ideas.

HOWEVER, the Peace Corps community should take this opportunity to more honestly reflect on these other salient questions: How can the administration improve its relationships with volunteers? Can volunteers protect themselves more effectively? How can volunteers more adequately serve their communities? These oversimplified criticisms did not fall from thin air. While we can debate technical skills and street smarts case by case that is not going to resolve these larger issues.

Contextually, in the Dominican Republic, mostly female volunteers now are working in agriculture with little background in that area. The training for over 40 years was designed from a male-oriented perspective and geared towards working with male farmers (although women head 40 percent of households). The program recently was partially revamped because of volunteer voices.

Moreover, we should not expect that the pre-training information packet, or a fairly protected and group oriented three month training is going to provide generally middle to upper class young Americans with all the street savvy that living and working among the poor requires. Many volunteers develop their real street smarts after training and through trial and error.

No, Peace Corps cannot protect us from the realities of poverty. SURE, many volunteers view their experiences very positively. Still though, we should respect the cultural tensions that female volunteers live and work under in developing countries.

Some volunteers fall into bad situations because their voices are muted. They want to be considered a “good and happy volunteer” by Peace Corps organizational culture. A number of volunteers do not even realize when they have entangled themselves in detrimental situations. Some crime victims are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We should not ignore that volunteers with highly negative behaviors have harmed themselves, HCNs, and impacted our reputations and abilities to work in communities. By being so defensive, we merely perpetuate issues that CAN BE more effectively addressed. Recognizing the need for new reforms and systematically pushing them with staff is important.

YES, many trainers are good and volunteers work hard to further develop the skills their communities need during service, but that area definitely can be improved. I understand that volunteers bring more to the human development arena than just technical skills. Harmful behaviors manifest themselves early in certain volunteers – maybe Peace Corps recruiting should be more stringent. How are cultural training messages being received by volunteers and can specific messages be better communicated? Peace Corps administration could provide better follow-up to volunteer needs.

I really hope that volunteers and the administration come together to present a more cohesive context and constructive insight into these articles and the organization. Peace Corps can more effectively address these issues through really listening to more voices (even the so-called “unhappy” ones – poorly reported, but I believe it was very difficult for these volunteers and families to publicly share their pain). We know how to turn any difficult situation into something more positive. We owe that to EVERY volunteer, Peace Corps' work, the host countries, and the American public.

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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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