Taking jobs from the locals?

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By Laura Swanson ( - on Wednesday, March 01, 2006 - 5:01 pm: Edit Post

When I taught biology in Malawi, I had over 600 students (roughly grades 9-11), and taught 38 out of 45 classes per week. One teacher's untrained wife had to take the final year because there were simply not enough hours in the schedule for me to teach it. Our PC nurse actually told my Headmaster that some of my classes had to be covered by someone else as I was ruining my health - but there was no one to take them. And I taught at a new, relatively well supplied and well staffed school! Some of my friends had classes that had over 100 students each. We also had volunteers at some of the teacher training colleges. The fact remains, however, that there were simply not enough teachers for all the students who want to learn.

Yes, I had fun there. Yes, I traveled a lot - during school breaks and after my tour. Yes, my house was paid for, and I hired a local "worker" (who earned $20/month -from my salary-, MUCH more than anyone else without a high school certificate.)

But I worked my butt off, endured serious health problems, and earned a whoping $120 (in local currency) per month. Ok, so we got $200/month backpay when we finished - a total of $2,400. Sure, for the total amount of $3,840 (ok, plus training), they could have paid local worker - if there were people qualified - or they could have bought supplies for schools or hospitals.

But my Peace Corps experience was worth much more to me and to my Malawian co-workers than the amount the government paid for my 2 years. They learned more about America and Americans, and I learned to love a country that is still, and will always be, a part of me. I educate my friends about Malawi, my daughter and her girl scout troup, my co-workers. I've influenced 2 people that I know of to become Volunteers. I spent hundreds of dollars on local craftsmen for the art I brought home. My wedding gown was made from material I brought home from Macoha - MAlawi COuncil for the HAndicapped, which employs and supports Malawians with devestating illnesses and birth defects. People who had never heard of Malawi now know more than just its name.

I challenge Peter Rice to take the amount of money the government spent on me and accomplish half as much.

By Leo Cecchini (c-68-56-201-42.hsd1.fl.comcast.net - on Thursday, March 02, 2006 - 10:53 am: Edit Post

As a RPCV and retired American diplomat I would say that the US Government could have saved itself about $150-200,000 a year by having Peter Rice stay at home. Imagine how much good the Peace Corps could have done with that money.

By Roger L. Church ( on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 7:48 am: Edit Post

I cannot agree that the Peace Corps is a waste of money. Decades after my Peace Corps experience (Western Samoa, as a science teacher), I remain in the Pacific region as a teacher who is able to teach science and who is familiar with the Pacific environment and with village life in Pacific villages. Yes, I even still speak Samoan and can still shock the few Samoan students we have here with my ability to speak the language.

Certainly, there are some things about the Peace Corps that can be criticized. Too much of an amateur attitude and a lack of rigorous training that might weed out amateurs are problems that I hope can be addressed by the Peace Corps. However, my Peace Corps experience provided me with the opportunity to not just visit another culture, but actually to live in it. Growing up as the son of an Army officer, I lived in both Germany and Japan but never had the close contact with and knowledge of another culture that I had as a Peace Corps volunteer. Too many Americans live overseas in priveleged ghettos; Peace Corps volunteers are forced to learn the local area through experience.

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