2007.07.27: July 27, 2007: Headlines: Congress: Legislation: Speaking Out: PCOL Exclusive: 03. Testimony of Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff on S. 732: The Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act: Renewing the Bond of Trust with Volunteers

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Special Reports: July 27, 2007: Comments on the Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act by two RPCVs now serving their second tour in Senegal: 2007.07.27: July 27, 2007: Headlines: Congress: Legislation: Speaking Out: PCOL Exclusive: 03. Testimony of Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff on S. 732: The Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act: Renewing the Bond of Trust with Volunteers

By Admin1 (admin) (ppp-70-250-75-60.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - on Friday, July 27, 2007 - 11:31 am: Edit Post

03. Testimony of Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff on S. 732: The Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act: Renewing the Bond of Trust with Volunteers

03. Testimony of Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff on S. 732: The Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act: Renewing the Bond of Trust with Volunteers

Unfortunately, today some Peace Corps managers seem to assume that Volunteers are slackers and adolescents needing strict rules and discipline. Volunteers often get the impression that the managers don't trust us. They often seem to act as if Volunteers need to be tethered so that we won't embarrass the Country Director or generate a Congressional inquiry. When the agency suffers a rare negative incident, its instinct is to construct a bulwark of paperwork and rules in hopes of preventing a recurrence. En loco parentis condescension and risk aversion seem to be common attitudes.

03. Testimony of Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff on S. 732: The Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act: Renewing the Bond of Trust with Volunteers

Renewing the Bond of Trust with Volunteers

At its founding, the Peace Corps was premised on a radical and idealistic notion that many thought was impractical and even outlandish. It took bold vision and risk taking—a New Frontier mentality, a land-on-the-moon mentality—to give this notion a try. The notion was that we could trust Americans, mostly young Americans, to envision what it would take to improve the lives of villagers in the developing world, to survive hardships, and to make the best of the situation and its challenges. It took visionaries like Sargent Shriver, Bill Moyers and Harris Wofford—leaders who trusted and listened to Volunteers—to put this brilliant idea into practice.

Over the decades, there has been no change in Volunteers that warrants a diminution of this bond of trust. As stated above, we are impressed with the Volunteers with whom we serve. Almost without exception, they are idealistic, resourceful and hard working. We find that they are more mature and wise to the world than we were at their age. We are proud to serve with them, and know that many will be friends for life. We invite you to visit the Volunteers in the field to see for yourself. We believe you will be inspired as we are.

Unfortunately, today some Peace Corps managers seem to assume that Volunteers are slackers and adolescents needing strict rules and discipline. Volunteers often get the impression that the managers don't trust us. They often seem to act as if Volunteers need to be tethered so that we won't embarrass the Country Director or generate a Congressional inquiry. When the agency suffers a rare negative incident, its instinct is to construct a bulwark of paperwork and rules in hopes of preventing a recurrence. En loco parentis condescension and risk aversion seem to be common attitudes.

One probable cause of condescension is the substantial age differential between managers and Volunteers, who tend to be straight out of college with little work experience. These skewed demographics might pose problems, but they do not justify treating Volunteers like juveniles. The Volunteers may be young, but they are exceptional individuals with deep insights into their work, their sites, and their needs at site. Condescension is sure to discourage older Volunteers from serving.

Hierarchical organizations, like the present-day Peace Corps, are notoriously poor at listening. They tend to command, dictate and impose, demoralizing Volunteers in the process. In many cases what Volunteers hear from the managers are demands—to write more reports or comply with more rules. Predictably, some Volunteers become resentful and unproductive or they terminate their service early.

Early termination is a plague in the Peace Corps. It squanders the expenses of the selection process, screening, site preparation, training and settling in. It dashes the hopes and expectations of the community in which the Volunteer was serving. The best way to reduce ETs is for the Peace Corps to listen better to what the Volunteers need to be effective and productive, as S. 732 commands.

We are aware that public disclosure of information about the mismanagement of a specific Peace Corps program might be problematic with host country officials. Therefore, we will not reveal information about specific programs if there is any possibility that the information might become public. We have taken steps in our testimony to be sure that there is no information that can be traced to a specific program or country. We do this also to protect the rights of individuals. So, the following is a sanitized view of situations that Volunteers have observed.

* An absence of mechanisms to ensure that Peace Corps staff in Washington and in country listen respectfully to Volunteers and respond decisively to reform policies and programs to maximize support for Volunteers.

* An absence of a mechanism to permit Volunteers to provide reviews of Peace Corps staff and Peace Corps programs on a confidential basis.

* Retention of staff who do not support Volunteers despite ample evidence of their poor performance.

* Continuation of certain sectoral programs year after year despite ample evidence at the village level that they are ineffective, leaving Volunteers frustrated and demoralized.

* A failure to reform language and technical training to provide the most practical and realistic preparation for village service. Written language materials are especially lacking.

* Training programs that fail to bring in officials of non-government organizations (NGOs) with whom Volunteers might collaborate to discuss insights and available funding.

* A medical screening process that is needlessly opaque and apparently designed to reduce the leverage of applicants. A refusal to publish information about the process and its standards.

* Peace Corps Washington officials who are indifferent to initiatives that would alleviate the substantial financial disincentives to service by older Volunteers and who sit on these proposals literally for years.

* Country Directors and Associate Peace Corps Directors (APCDs) 9 who lack respect for Volunteers and speak to them condescendingly, treating constructive proposals and requests for support as personal attacks, and then receive contract extensions despite the protests of Volunteers and staff.

* Country Directors who establish a climate of intimidation to stifle dissent (or even constructive criticism) and retaliate against Volunteers who do not defer to the Peace Corps managers.

* A Country Director who delayed and obstructed an application for Peace Corps Partnership Program funding, and then argued that the funding would come too late for the Volunteer to successfully complete the project. The same Country Director obstructed another application, adding multiple layers of additional requirements, and then "lost" it for six months.

* A Country Director who said, "It is imperative to understand the near-futility of trying to accomplish ANYTHING in a two year timeframe and consider that thing to be –'sustainable.'" (emphasis in original email)

* A Country Director who ignored the threat of rabies when a cat, which many Volunteers had petted at a training site, was found dead, until the Peace Corps Medical Officer (PCMO) 10 demanded that it be tested11.

* A Country Director who failed to fix defective beds in a Peace Corps medical center after a top bunk fell on the one below: the Volunteer who would have been in the lower bunk had slept elsewhere that night. 12

* A Country Director who would not even read a proposal that Volunteers developed for a feasibility study of a program to extend modern beekeeping practices and as well as a solid waste proposal that NGOs described as the best Volunteer project they had seen in the country.

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* A failure on the part of APCDs to identify sources of minimal seed funding so that Volunteers can mount demonstrations, the principal means of teaching at the village level.

* An APCD who placed a PCV with an abusive host country family (harassment for sex and money) and then, when the site proved intolerable, refused to help her relocate and accused her of cultural insensitivity. Your browser may not support display of this image.

* APCDs for agro forestry and vegetable gardening programs who do not assess the salinity of water in villagers where they place Volunteers, even though salinity is a major detriment to growing fruits and vegetables.

* APCDs who ignored PCVs' advice, given with substantive reasons, against placing additional Volunteers at their sites.

We do not claim that they are typical and we hope that they are not. We know that many Peace Corps staff are committed to Volunteers, and listen to, respect and empower them. No matter how common these situations turn out to be, however, the point is that the Peace Corps tolerates them, which is ample justification for enacting the pending reform legislation.

We believe it is time that the Peace Corps renew its bond of trust with the Volunteers and empower them to lead. This is what the legislation will promote. The Peace Corps surely has the capacity to renew itself. The threat we see is a decline in the morale and effectiveness of the Volunteers.

It is gratifying to see that the Senate is paying close enough attention to notice these problems and to draft S. 732, a constructive response. The pending legislation is needed to effectively reform the agency and restore it to its founders' vision. We are not simply criticizing; we are here to support specific legislative reforms that address the issues we raise.

This is one section from the testimony read into the record on the Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act by Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff, two RPCVs who are now serving their second tour in Senegal. The rest of the sections can be found by following this link. Their entire report in MS Word format can be downloaded by following this link.

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Headlines: July, 2007; Congress; Legislation; Speaking Out; Peace Corps Library; Peace Corps Directory; Peace Corps History; Peace Corps Message Board; Recent Peace Corps News

When this story was posted in July 2007, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Peace Corps Online The Independent News Forum serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
Senator Dodd's Peace Corps Hearings Date: July 25 2007 No: 1178 Senator Dodd's Peace Corps Hearings
Read PCOL's executive summary of Senator Chris Dodd's hearings on July 25 on the Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act and why Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter does not believe the bill would contribute to an improved Peace Corps while four other RPCV witnesses do. Highlights of the hearings included Dodd's questioning of Tschetter on political meetings at Peace Corps Headquarters and the Inspector General's testimony on the re-opening of the Walter Poirier III investigation.

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Dodd issues call for National Service Date: June 26 2007 No: 1164 Dodd issues call for National Service
Standing on the steps of the Nashua City Hall where JFK kicked off his campaign in 1960, Presidential Candidate Chris Dodd issued a call for National Service. "Like thousands of others, I heard President Kennedy's words and a short time later joined the Peace Corps." Dodd said his goal is to see 40 million people volunteering in some form or another by 2020. "We have an appetite for service. We like to be asked to roll up our sleeves and make a contribution," he said. "We haven't been asked in a long time."

July 9, 2007: This Month's Top Stories Date: July 10 2007 No: 1172 July 9, 2007: This Month's Top Stories
O'Hanlon says "soft partition" occurring in Iraq 9 Jul
Eric R. Green writes on coming oil crisis 8 Jul
Why Dodd joined the Peace Corps 5 Jul
Jim Doyle positioned for third term 5 Jul
Michael Adlerstein to direct UN Master Plan 3 Jul
Shalala says Veterans report will be solution driven 1 Jul
Blackwill says: No process will make up for stupidity 30 Jun
Allan Reed creates a Diaspora Skills Transfer Program 29 Jun
State Dept apology ends hold on Green nomination 28 Jun
Call for stories to celebrate PC 50th Anniversary 25 Jun
Michael Shereikis is singer and guitarist for Chopteeth 25 Jun
Christopher R. Hill Visits North Korea 22 Jun
Tschetter at JFK Bust Unveiling Ceremony 21 Jun
Kiribati too risky for PCVs 17 Jun
James Rupert writes: US calls for free Pakistani elections 17 Jun
Colin Cowherd says PCVs are losers 7 Jun
Tony Hall Warns of Food Shortages in North Korea 7 Jun
Youth Theatre performs Spencer Smith's "Voices from Chernobyl" 7 Jun
Ifugao names forest park after Julia Campbell 6 Jun
Anissa Paulsen assembles "The Many Colors of Islam" 5 Jun
Obituary for Nepal RPCV Loret Miller Ruppe 2 Jun
Forty PCVS to arrive in Ethiopia 2 Jun

Public diplomacy rests on sound public policy Date: June 10 2007 No: 1153 Public diplomacy rests on sound public policy
When President Kennedy spoke of "a long twilight struggle," and challenged the country to "ask not," he signaled that the Cold War was the challenge and framework defining US foreign policy. The current challenge is not a struggle against a totalitarian foe. It is not a battle against an enemy called "Islamofascism." From these false assumptions flow false choices, including the false choice between law enforcement and war. Instead, law enforcement and military force both must be essential instruments, along with diplomacy, including public diplomacy. But public diplomacy rests on policy, and to begin with, the policy must be sound. Read more.

Ambassador revokes clearance for PC Director Date: June 27 2007 No: 1166 Ambassador revokes clearance for PC Director
A post made on PCOL from volunteers in Tanzania alleges that Ambassador Retzer has acted improperly in revoking the country clearance of Country Director Christine Djondo. A statement from Peace Corps' Press Office says that the Peace Corps strongly disagrees with the ambassador’s decision. On June 8 the White House announced that Retzer is being replaced as Ambassador. Latest: Senator Dodd has placed a hold on Mark Green's nomination to be Ambassador to Tanzania.

June 1, 2007: This Month's Top Stories Date: June 1 2007 No: 1141 June 1, 2007: This Month's Top Stories
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Tom Seligman curates "Art of Being Tuareg" 26 May
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Poet Susan Rich writes: The Women of Kismayo 22 May
Christopher Hill considers visit to North Korea 18 May
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Murder charges filed in death of PCV Julia Campbell 17 May
David Pitts claims JFK offered PC to Lem Billings 16 May
Niki Tsongas announces candidacy for Congress 16 May
James Rupert writes: Pakistanis talk of Musharraf's departure 16 May
Chris Matthews writes: Jerry Falwell's Political Legacy 15 May
Ron Tschetter visits volunteers in Botswana 14 May
Which assignment to take? Africa, Europe, or Central Asia 14 May
Willy Volk writes: New way to keep mosquitoes at bay 14 May
Jim Walsh takes special interest in Nepal 13 May
NPCA offers podcasts of social entrepreneurs 10 May
Gaddi Vasquez showcases food aid work in Central America 10 May
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Tom Bissell writing book about Jesus' 13 Apostles 8 May
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Peace Corps Funnies Date: May 25 2007 No: 1135 Peace Corps Funnies
A PCV writing home? Our editor hard at work? Take a look at our Peace Corps Funnies and Peace Corps Cartoons and see why Peace Corps Volunteers say that sometimes a touch of levity can be one of the best ways of dealing with frustrations in the field. Read what RPCVs say about the lighter side of life in the Peace Corps and see why irreverent observations can often contain more than a grain of truth. We'll supply the photos. You supply the captions.

PCOL serves half million Date: May 1 2007 No: 1120 PCOL serves half million
PCOL's readership for April exceeded 525,000 visitors - a 50% increase over last year. This year also saw the advent of a new web site: Peace Corps News that together with the Peace Corps Library and History of the Peace Corps serve 17,000 RPCVs, Staff, and Friends of the Peace Corps every day. Thanks for making PCOL your source of news for the Peace Corps community. Read more.

May 2, 2007: This Month's Top Stories Date: May 3 2007 No: 1128 May 2, 2007: This Month's Top Stories
Tschetter flew to Manila to support search for missing PCV 15 Apr
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Dodd calls for 'surge of diplomacy' on Iraq 13 Apr
Tony Hall works with Opportunity International 22 Apr
Mark Gearan Calls for Service, engaged constituency 20 Apr
Timothy Obert sentenced in molestation case 20 Apr
Moyers indicts news media on Iraq reporting 19 Apr
Chris Matthews to moderate May 3 GOP debates 18 Apr
Garamendi votes to kill LNG terminal 10 Apr
Scheper-Hughes receives William Sloan Coffin Award 7 Apr
Petri outraged at Student Loan Corruption 6 Apr
Dodd wants to expand Peace Corps to 100,000 4 Apr
John Sherman's opera "Biafra" now on web 2 Apr
Peter Navarro writes "The Coming China Wars" 30 Mar
Carl Pope writes: 2% solution for global warming 28 Mar
Philippe Newlin lectures on wine 28 Mar
DRI launches program to improve Healthcare in Ghana 26 Mar
Gabriela Lena Frank's Compadrazgo debuts in Columbus 26 Mar
Reed Hastings appointed to Microsoft Board of Directors 26 Mar
Shays supports National Public Service Academy 23 Mar
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Al Kamen writes: Clinton fired Prosecutors too 21 Mar

Suspect confesses in murder of PCV Date: April 27 2007 No: 1109 Suspect confesses in murder of PCV
Search parties in the Philippines discovered the body of Peace Corps Volunteer Julia Campbell near Barangay Batad, Banaue town on April 17. Director Tschetter expressed his sorrow at learning the news. “Julia was a proud member of the Peace Corps family, and she contributed greatly to the lives of Filipino citizens in Donsol, Sorsogon, where she served,” he said. Latest: Suspect Juan Duntugan admits to killing Campbell. Leave your thoughts and condolences .

Warren Wiggins: Architect of the Peace Corps Date: April 15 2007 No: 1095 Warren Wiggins: Architect of the Peace Corps
Warren Wiggins, who died at 84 on April 13, became one of the architects of the Peace Corps in 1961 when his paper, "A Towering Task," landed in the lap of Sargent Shriver, just as Shriver was trying to figure out how to turn the Peace Corps into a working federal department. Shriver was electrified by the treatise, which urged the agency to act boldly. Read Mr. Wiggins' obituary and biography, take an opportunity to read the original document that shaped the Peace Corps' mission, and read John Coyne's special issue commemorating "A Towering Task."

The Peace Corps Library Date: July 11 2006 No: 923 The Peace Corps Library
The Peace Corps Library is now available online with over 40,000 index entries in 500 categories. Looking for a Returned Volunteer? Check our RPCV Directory or leave a message on our Bulletin Board. New: Sign up to receive our free Monthly Magazine by email, research the History of the Peace Corps, or sign up for a daily news summary of Peace Corps stories. FAQ: Visit our FAQ for more information about PCOL.

Chris Dodd's Vision for the Peace Corps Date: September 23 2006 No: 996 Chris Dodd's Vision for the Peace Corps
Senator Chris Dodd (RPCV Dominican Republic) spoke at the ceremony for this year's Shriver Award and elaborated on issues he raised at Ron Tschetter's hearings. Dodd plans to introduce legislation that may include: setting aside a portion of Peace Corps' budget as seed money for demonstration projects and third goal activities (after adjusting the annual budget upward to accommodate the added expense), more volunteer input into Peace Corps operations, removing medical, healthcare and tax impediments that discourage older volunteers, providing more transparency in the medical screening and appeals process, a more comprehensive health safety net for recently-returned volunteers, and authorizing volunteers to accept, under certain circumstances, private donations to support their development projects. He plans to circulate draft legislation for review to members of the Peace Corps community and welcomes RPCV comments.

He served with honor Date: September 12 2006 No: 983 He served with honor
One year ago, Staff Sgt. Robert J. Paul (RPCV Kenya) carried on an ongoing dialog on this website on the military and the peace corps and his role as a member of a Civil Affairs Team in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have just received a report that Sargeant Paul has been killed by a car bomb in Kabul. Words cannot express our feeling of loss for this tremendous injury to the entire RPCV community. Most of us didn't know him personally but we knew him from his words. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends. He was one of ours and he served with honor.

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By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (acc08a97.ipt.aol.com - on Tuesday, August 07, 2007 - 11:27 am: Edit Post

Ludlam and Hirschoff are to be congratulated for their thoughtful and honest testimony. However, as a RPCV who served from 1963 to 1965, I must, most respectfully, protest the romanizing of the early days of the Peace Corps. I am sure that many early Volunteers were treated as colleagues and with respect from staff. That was not my experience in Colombia. Immediately after the Kennedy assassination, we had an influx of staff which changed the character of the incountry administration. The new post of regional director was filled by a man who spoke broken spanish, was contemptuous of PCVs and Colombians alike and whose surname became synonymous with incompetence. One PCV received word that her father was dying. His help was resricted to letting her leave the country, and she arrived in Miami with one dime. Another PCV was allowed to remain in country with a serious medical condition, with the understanding that if he became symptomatic, he would conduct staff to get immediate medical attention. When he became symptomatic, he telegramed the PC office and this bobo showed up and subjected the volunteer to a third degree about why he joined the peace corps, etc....and refused to get him to medical attention. When the peace corps doctor returned from vacation, my friend, this PCV, was medevaced home...and we were given to understand suffered permanet damage because of the delay in getting medical treatment. Women PCVs were treated arbitrarily. I know of two sites which were closed without warning or reason, horrible for the women and the people with whom they worked. Country evaluations done in the early 60s did include an evaluation of staff and this man was soundly denounced. The comment by the director? I will have someone speak with him. I applaud the work done by Ludlam and Hirschoff and think it may well help towards making the staff more responsive. But, there was no "magic time" in the peace corps, except perhaps for the first groups sent off from the White House and protected by the Kennedy political umbrella.

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