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Peace Corps swears in 75th group of its volunteers to serve in Jamaica
Peace Corps swears in 75th group of its volunteers to serve in Jamaica
Partners in volunteerism
Saturday, August 21, 2004
On Friday, August 27, the Peace Corps will swear in the 75th group of its volunteers to serve in Jamaica, and over the next several months, Jamaica will say goodbye to many peace corps volunteers (PCVs) returning to the US after two years of service. Over the past 42 years, 3,500 PCVs have donated at least two years of their life to serve in Jamaica. I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the enormous contribution made by the PCVs and numerous Jamaican volunteer groups and the positive impact of their work on Jamaica.
The Peace Corps as a development agency was only one year old when the first volunteers arrived in Jamaica on June 12, 1962. The 37 pioneer volunteers were on a mission; determined to fulfil the agency's goals and to make a difference in Jamaica. They came to Jamaica to carry out these goals while living among the people they serve, eating the same foods, speaking patois, and enjoying no special privileges. The PCVs come to Jamaica to contribute to desirable changes in limited resource communities, by giving no money but by giving themselves. They serve in nation-building capacity by providing needed training and by sharing their knowledge to help communities address and solve their problems.
Volunteerism can be very effective in addressing the physical, social, economic and political causes of poverty and working with local and national governments and communities to find comprehensive solutions. Once the root causes of poverty are identified, then the strategies can be developed and the priorities can be set for helping the people to break their vicious circle of poverty and to begin their own process of development. Peace Corps and Jamaican volunteers are working to break their own circles of treating the symptoms rather than working to alleviate the root causes of poverty. They prioritise their involvement at the grass-roots level.
There is great compatibility between the Peace Corps mandate and the Volunteer Movement in Jamaica (VMJ).
The VMJ can be traced back to pre-emancipation times, when West African traditions gave birth to unpaid labour that was provided to neighbours who might or might not return the favour. VMJ grew with the rising of Black Nationalism under the leadership of Marcus Garvey in the 1920s, the nationalist movement of the late 1930s of the Better Village Programme and the Democratic Socialist era of the 1970s. I found it historically significant that the late Prime Minister Michael Manley motivated and mobilised the youth of Jamaica into volunteer action through a programme called the National Youth Service (NYS). Volunteers are making significant contributions to the economic development of Jamaica and could reduce the burden of funding development projects by the government of Jamaica and the private sector. By their work, a strong social capital bonding is being built, which is ultimately fostering unity between communities. There is no doubt that volunteer efforts can contribute to the GDP.
I was impressed when I became aware of Jamaica's Council of Voluntary Social Services (CVSS) and its scope, and also of the creation of the National Registry of Volunteers (NRV). I was pleased to find out that CVSS' goal is to ensure the development of the voluntary sector in Jamaica, bringing together voluntary social service organisations for consultation, planning and action. CVSS has embarked on nation-building, given the sectors of its involvement such as health, children and youth, women and community services and education for the disabled.
I am pleased to observe that volunteerism in Jamaica is very much alive. I understand that the government has intervened to promote volunteering through the Social Development Commission; the National Youth Service (NYS) which aims at bringing about changes in attitudes and values and providing youth with the opportunity to give community service and enter the world of work; and the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) where communities are educated to provide free labour on funded projects.
No wonder Peace Corps work in Jamaica has been so successful, so effective and so productive in touching people's lives and building the nation. In 2002, we paused to recognise our volunteers' accomplishments and to celebrate 40 years of partnership in service. The time has come for both US and Jamaican volunteers to join forces in "Full Circle Volunteering" for the same good - to uplift the youth at risk and empower resource-poor communities. That is the surest and most sustainable way to build this nation for the sake of future generations.
In conclusion, I'd like to quote from Tony Rebel and others who composed a song to celebrate the UN year of the volunteer. They sang these golden words, "If each one should serve the other, every one will be served by another.
You can help in your own way. We need to volunteer for peace. This would make a better world for us all. Social equality is a must. The earth produces everything for everyone and there is enough for all. Let us give a hug or a smile. Give yourself to an elder or to a child. Let us help the less fortunate with no paycheque, show them respect. Appeal to your conscience."
Be a volunteer and help build this wonderful nation.
Suchet Loois is country director of the Peace Corps in Jamaica.
When this story was prepared, here was the front page of PCOL magazine:
This Month's Issue: August 2004
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and who can come up with the funniest caption for our Current Events Funny?
Exclusive: Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed published exclusively on the web by Peace Corps Online saying the Dayton Daily News' portrayal of Peace Corps "doesn't jibe with facts."
In other news, the NPCA makes the case for improving governance and explains the challenges facing the organization, RPCV Bob Shaconis says Peace Corps has been a "sacred cow", RPCV Shaun McNally picks up support for his Aug 10 primary and has a plan to win in Connecticut, and the movie "Open Water" based on the negligent deaths of two RPCVs in Australia opens August 6. Op-ed's by RPCVs: Cops of the World is not a good goal and Peace Corps must emphasize community development.
Read the stories and leave your comments.
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