Read the entire interview which is very illuminating and thought-provoking at:
It's a story that probably needs to be told. It probably is going to hurt recruiting unless changes are made. It talks about the Peace Corps in a way that it's never been talked about.
...it appears to me that the Peace Corps needs to make some changes. Things have changed in the last 10, 12, 14 years.
I do know that there are some glaring problems, and they've got to be looked at.
The thing that makes the Peace Corps is not the bureaucracy; it's not the director, it's the volunteers. Everything should be done for the volunteers.
In the long run, if the Peace Corps makes corrections, that will help them.
If I were still in Congress, I'd say there needs to be some kind of victims' liaison or ombudsman for volunteers and their families. They need answers and follow-up. I think a lot of the anger and frustration that I read in the articles came from poor communication.
There's always the issue of should the director be an ex-volunteer. And nine times out of 10, I'd say, "Absolutely." But then again, you've had some good directors who were not former volunteers. I'm not wedded to that, but if I had to come down on one side, I'd advocate that the next director, and all directors, should be Peace Corps returnees. Nobody understands the volunteer better than an ex-volunteer. They understand the language difficulty, they understand what it means to get dysentery. They understand what it means when you're out there and you're all alone.
I am for increasing the Peace Corps' budget. I know that it gives us a much better image in the world. If Congress wants a more protected Peace Corps, and if it wants to increase the number of volunteers, as the president wants to do, then the money has to be provided.
|By bankass.com (0-1pool136-5.nas12.somerville1.ma.us.da.qwest.net - 18.104.22.168) on Friday, November 14, 2003 - 4:34 am: Edit Post|
Tony its about time you came around to the fact that it really needs to make changes. You and Sam Farr and Chris Shays need to hold hearings. When you hold hearings, if you only listen to the NPCA, you will be talking to the wrong folks about policy changes. You guys have been doing this for years and look at where it has gotten us in terms of Safety and Security. Yes, I blame members of Congress for not making changes earlier. You know I called for years. But it fell on deaf ears until now.
Two Volunteers at every site, Mandated in Law if Peace Corps can't do it.
A Lawyer mandated from Congress works on behalf of volunteers solely for Volunteer rights. So that Volunteers don't feel the feeling of reprisal from the agency when they serve and perhaps need to report an incident.
Open Amensty for all Separations which are safety related. Open Amensty for all victims of violence who have been safety related from the past and provide health care, job development and a venue for them to continue with Peace Corps. That is employing people who have gone through these circumtances not just people at headquarters who never served and "never had it happen to them attitude."
Grave memorials both at Peace Corps and the individuals home town for all the people who have persihed while serving with Peace Corps. This should be couled with a memorial fund for development projects on going in their respective villages in which they served.
Internal Policy changes on how APCD's do their jobs in the field to entail more visits to volunteer's sight with an emphasis on providing resources to the volunteer.
|By bankass.com (0-1pool136-5.nas12.somerville1.ma.us.da.qwest.net - 22.214.171.124) on Friday, November 14, 2003 - 4:40 am: Edit Post|
I apologize. I thought you were still a member of Congress.
Please let your friends in Congress like Samm Farr and Chris Shays that they need to hold hearing and have a public witness hearing with the families.
|By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (cache-ra07.proxy.aol.com - 126.96.36.199) on Sunday, November 16, 2003 - 10:19 am: Edit Post|
There is only one question about PC management I would like answered and that is: "Why isn't successful service as a Peace Corps Volunteer a prerequisite for any Peace Corps staff job?" There is a forty-two year agency history, with the brief and notable exception of Carol Bellemy, of both Republican and Democratic administrations appointing ONLY NON-RPCVs to the post of Peace Corps Director. Why? It makes no sense. RPCVs have been Senators, Congressional Representatives, Governors, Cabinets Heads, Presidential candidates, University Presidents, Smithsonian Directors, etc. A RPCV reestablished the financial system in Iraq, for god's sake, and was home in time to head his university for the Fall semester. And yet, no RPCVs are qualified to run the Peace Corps? It makes no sense.
I feel the same way my little niece did when she looked at the house across her street. The house belonged to a highschool coach and had been "tpeed" as part of a homecoming prank. Sara was two and heriocally trying to learn the complexities of potty training and its etiquette.
She just kept looking at that "tpeed" house and shaking her head and saying "I don't understand."
Neither do I.
|By Donald Pattillo (sdn-ap-024scfairp0072.dialsprint.net - 188.8.131.52) on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 11:05 am: Edit Post|
(NoteL Letter to Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the DDN series, which the AJC did not print.)
To the Editor:
As a returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Macedonia 1999-2001), I read your three installments of the Dayton Daily News series with greater than normal interest. Also, as a former college professor with a good grounding in survey and research techniques, I find myself disturbed by the conclusions of this report. My strong impression is that the reporters began with a conclusion, then gathered allegations and incidents to support their conclusion, rather than the other way around. Their allegation that Peace Corps administration is indifferent to the safety and security of volunteers, or that it sweeps unpleasant incidents under the rug in the fear than full reporting and investigation would hurt recruitment of new volunteers, is dubious. The reality is closer to the opposite, that any assaults or other crimes against volunteers are indeed investigated vigorously, since a failure to do so would bring the full force of the volunteers' outraged families, friends, and probably Congressmen, on the Peace Corps. The last thing Peace Corps wants is a charge that they have failed to protect volunteers, especially young volunteers, in their assignments.
In my experience, safety and security were, if anything, overemphasized. Volunteers were evacuated from Macedonia twice, in 1999 and 2001, as a precaution against violence connected with the political unrest at those times. Many if not most serving volunteers at those times were vocally unhappy with the evacuations, feeling that the Peace Corps was overcautious. I knew of no volunteers who felt personally threatened. Again, the dominant consideration of Peace Corps was to head off any allegations that it had failed to protect volunteers.
With regard to crime, there were a few incidents in Macedonia. One female volunteer had some money stolen on a crowded bus, and a male volunteer suffered a burglary. Several female volunteers reported unwelcome attention, inappropriate sexual remarks, or improper advances, but such things happen everywhere in the world, including in the U.S. Certainly, some female volunteers have become involved in abusive relationships with host country nationals, although I knew of none during my service in Macedonia. Emphasis during my time was that volunteers should report all incidents, regardless of the circumstances, with the assurance that the response would not be judgmental. In the past it was determined that some volunteers had been reluctant to report incidents out of concern that the office would rebuke them if they had been in a bar or nightclub alone, or the incident had involved excessive drinking. We were constantly cautioned to avoid such situations, but there is little the Peace Corps can do if a volunteer simply fails to exercise good judgment.
One homicide of a volunteer is one too many, of course, but a conclusion that twenty homicides over the course of forty-one years, when some 169,000 volunteers have served, means that PC service is dangerous, simply is uninformed. The reporters might consider homicides in the city of Dayton, with a population similar to the number of volunteers who have served, for a single year. Actually, the leading cause of injury and death of volunteers over the history of Peace Corps has been vehicular accidents, a fact that I did not see in the series. During my service, the then-Peace Corps Director, Mark Schneider, visited Macedonia and made that point in particular. That is why volunteers are absolutely prohibited from driving motor vehicles.
There is another allegation that is simply false, that some volunteers are virtually abandoned at remote sites for periods of up to a year. That is impossible. First, there are the required medical checkups, and there are required In-Service Training (IST) sessions, usually two or three a year, in which all volunteers are assembled in a central location for the training. Also, volunteers are alloted 24 days of annual leave. I never knew a volunteer who never took at least some leave during a year. I challenge the reporters to produce a volunteer who was abandoned at a remote site for a year.
The Peace Corps is not a perfect organization. It has made mistakes, and as with any human endeavor, will make others. But the allegation that Peace Corps is indifferent to the safety and security of volunteers simply is uninformed. I developed several differences with Peace Corps policies and practices, but safety and security matters were not among them.
Donald M. Pattillo
p.s.-I realize this leter exceeds your 150-page limit, but I hope you will consider it anyway. Also, feel free to forward this to the Dayton Daily News.
|By bankass.com (0-1pool136-5.nas12.somerville1.ma.us.da.qwest.net - 184.108.40.206) on Friday, November 28, 2003 - 3:19 am: Edit Post|
Forget FAO. Why don't you become the head Tony?
|By Nijma (dialup-220.127.116.11.dial1.chicago1.level3.net - 18.104.22.168) on Monday, December 08, 2003 - 2:19 pm: Edit Post|
In my experience, the Peace Corps is indeed indifferent to safety concerns of volunteers. One volunteer who reported an assault was told, "What's wrong with you that you didn't enjoy it," by a medical officer.
In my experience, the Peace Corps does indeed sweep incidents under the rug. Incident report forms were unavailable in our office until one volunteer found a copy of the form, xeroxed it at her own expense, and distributed it privately to volunteers. One brave medical officer who was returning stateside solicited unsigned incident reports from volunteers to be hand-carried by her to the D.C. office.
I personally reported two incidents during my service. Only one of these survived long enough to be entered on my medical record. (p.s. I wasn't "involved in drinking" or "failing to exercise good judgment.")
In my experience, volunteers who reported incidents were asked to resign. Those who did not resign fast enough were administratively separated. Those who were unwise enough to tell their families about an unsafe situation were pressured to resign by their families. (Families ARE worried sick when we are out there.)
In my experience, some volunteers who experience incidents keep their mouths shut because of fear of retribution. We don't who they are unless we meet them and they confide in us.
In my experience, some volunteers do not report incidents because they believe the Peace Corps is a valuable program. They fear public knowlege about the incidents may cause the Peace Corps to be shut down or embarrass their host country.
This is not based on "survey and research techiques", but it is what I have seen and experienced personally. I believe it is valid.
I am deeply grateful to the nationals of my host country who supported me in my own bureacratic ordeal with the Peace Corps.
I hope a public debate will strengthen the Peace Corps and rescue this national institution at a time in history when we need understanding between cultures more than ever.
I'm glad you had a good experience.
|By Ken Rustad Bolivia 62-64 (1cust182.tnt2.farmington.nm.da.uu.net - 22.214.171.124) on Tuesday, December 09, 2003 - 7:05 pm: Edit Post|
I read all there was printed on the web site for the Dayton newspaper and some other sources as well including feedback from former Volunteers. There are indications of immaturity and extreme isolation and too much overgeneralization. The world is still a highly diverse place.
Providing all female PCVs with cell phones does not help if they can not keep the batteries charged and the police responses are virtually nil, for example. I have been surprised to note that PCVs have some choice in their job assignments but many connections with counterpart agencies are weak in the worst cases. Some of the best such arrangements have been worked out by the PCVs themselves over the years, however.
There is still evidence of "I want my own village" evident among replacement groups. The request for my group was for all males. Rape and assault can happen anywhere but let's not forget the context that 60% of PCVS are now females.
The five year limits on staff(up to seven in some cases) needs changing. I agree that Peace Corps should not become an entrenched bureaucracy but ten years might be a good compromise. Former staff could finish up their retirement prerequisites with other Federal agencies -- the other agencies gain in my view.
I also think the practice of using personnel recruiting companies for country directors should be revisited and modified. (Dealing with other cultures has only been a minor supplement in most management training programs in recent years.)
The push to double the number of Volunteers should be suspended until security and management practices are reformed. Then again,things could be worse, I (you)could have a daughter or granddaughter or sister at the Air Force Academy.
|By Daniel (0-1pool136-58.nas12.somerville1.ma.us.da.qwest.net - 126.96.36.199) on Thursday, January 08, 2004 - 10:08 pm: Edit Post|
This is the time for you to call about your idea before the hearing. Please write to each member of the Foriegn Relations Committee.
Your idea about an Ombudsman or lawyer for volunteers will help safety because it will diminish the threat of reprisal against volunteers from the agency. Make I encourage you to call them.