|By Ernest Kendall (main.ipmsb.ro - 188.8.131.52) on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 5:56 am: Edit Post|
In response to Michael Batt - I was also in the first 1000 PC volunteers (Ghana2 62-64) and am now serving again as a PCV in Romania (Romania18 04-06). Although I share many of his concerns and do not believe PC expansion can undo the damage of US policies over the last two years,I still believe that PC is a positive (and challenging and exciting) force and should be continued and strengthened, not abandoned. Much the same can be said on the issue of trying to strengthen the UN rather than undercut/ignore/destroy it just because one does not agree with everything it has done(or not done).
Despite known incidents and stories of PC volunteers being pressured/punished for discussing US foreign policies I can say this has not happened to me. In fact at our PCV swearing in ceremony in Bucharest, with both press and TV present, US Ambassador Michael Guest made a clear direct and eloquent statement to the new volunteers - that "PC Volunteers represent America (with its diversity of people and opinions) and, as volunteers, you do not need to represent US government positions, for example you do not need to support the US positions on Iraq". I have had numerous private discussions with Romanians on US Iraq policy (and UN intervention in Kosovo)and US military presence in Romania, and have them very enlightening!
A second equally critical point is the naiveness of how easy, and indeed how to expand the PC. It is not enough to send large numbers of relatively inexperienced Americans to fill poorly defined jobs, or undefined CD positions. PC must maintain high standards and provide significant (and soetimes costly) support to the volunteers in the field. Now, more than the case 40 years ago,the developing world often has a significant educated population but is hampered by insufficient funds or support materials to utilize their own people. Thus I feel that we should look to increasing the cost(but not the pay) per volunteer as well as the experience/education level of the volunteers to fill more demanding jobs. The PCVs could then overlap more with, while being more effective (and much cheaper) than USAID programs (and its contractors).
|By Anne Beaman (v8-163-92.valley.net - 184.108.40.206) on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 10:40 am: Edit Post|
I served in Nigeria in 1963-65, and I agree with Ernest Kendall in his view that the Peace Corps can be an invaluable asset to both Americans and host countries alike. While the Peace Corps cannot be expected to heal the damage done by the Bush administration's policies in Iraq, one of its most profound influences is upon the Americans who serve as Peace Corps Volunteers, and who then return enlightened to world realities, to the importance of cultural understanding, and to the people as warm human individuals -- an antidote to news footage of starving masses and angry mobs.
What strikes me most about the last few years in America, including the shock of 9/11 and the ill-conceived Iraq war policies, is how little Americans know or care about the depth and structure of other cultures, and the values founded in those cultures. The Peace Corps can certainly provide help to needy countries in the form of technical, agricultural, educational, logistical, or medical assistance. But with the right selection and training, the Peace Corps can also help our own nation as Volunteers return home with a greatly broadened world view, a clearer idea of how we need the community of nations, and less naivete about our imagined moral superiority and invulnerability. We need the Peace Corps for the future of America as well as for that of the countries where we serve.