Archive for March, 2011

Guest column: Peace Corps aims to unite world with understanding

March 3rd, 2011 by bobebill

This commentary was written by Julius Amin, who was born and raised in Cameroon and is chair of the history department at the University of Dayton.
By the Dayton Daily News | Thursday, March 3, 2011, 12:01 AM

Thirty years ago, Peace Corps volunteer Alvin Blake and I were colleagues at the Government High School in Limbe, Cameroon, where he taught economics and I taught history.

Blake, an African-American, was inspiring to students, and they flocked to his side. He absorbed the local culture, ate the food, shopped at the market, enjoyed the music and frequented the bars.

Always unselfish with his time, Blake volunteered at different places, including teaching evening school. I talked to him many times about my plans to leave Cameroon and pursue graduate work in the United States.

Privately, I wondered why he really came to Cameroon, why he left the comfort of his home to come and live so far away. Years later, those answers would come to me as I became immersed in Peace Corps research.

In fact, Blake’s Peace Corps experience is typical of many of the volunteers I have studied in my more than 20 years of researching the topic. Themes of friendship, fulfillment, transformation, service and social responsibility dominate Peace Corps stories and offer a glimpse into an aspect of the American character often underemphasized these days.

It was 50 years ago that John F. Kennedy tapped into that part of the American character and launched the Peace Corps. Thousands of young people answered his challenge. Today more than 200,000 American volunteers have served — and are serving — in nations across the globe.

Over the years, volunteers have served in education, health care, community development, small-business enterprise and HIV-prevention programs.

At the same time, they have acted as bridges of cultural understanding, offering to their hosts a picture of the promise, as well as the challenge, of American life.

Once they’ve come home, they’ve reflected back to fellow Americans their experiences living in the wider world.

Indeed, the Peace Corps’ most enduring significance is its role as a pioneer and facilitator in today’s great challenge: globalization.

In host countries, volunteers examine themselves and their values. Peace Corps volunteers discover a world beyond the stereotypical tourist sites depicted in casual reading and postcards and learn to appreciate the merits of living in a global village.

They learn that globalization is not just about economic imperatives; it is also about human dignity, understanding and respect.

Several organizations have been founded by returning volunteers to carry on the work and sustain the bonds formed in their experience. They carry names such as Friends of Pakistan, Friends of Kyrgyzstan and Friends of the Dominican Republic.

Those organizations provide information to Americans and suggest ways to foster understanding between the people of those nations and the people of the United States.

To date, the half-century track record of the Peace Corps speaks for itself: In the U.S., there are thousands upon thousands of Americans, spanning three generations, who are more knowledgeable of the world and more engaged with its problems, thanks to some direct or indirect experience with the Peace Corps.

Across the planet today can be found thousands of instances of Peace Corps initiatives, not only in the countless physical structures such as schools, health clinics and agro-forestry programs, but also in the warm memories and appreciation of the people who have come to know the volunteers and their work first-hand.

As Americans strive to understand and master the challenges of the global era, it is important to remember the legacy and promise of the Peace Corps. Indeed, the agency shines as one of the best expressions of American ideals and the volunteers as examples of some of the best qualities of American character.

Peace Corps celebrates 50 year anniversary; 2011 budget safe for now

March 2nd, 2011 by admin

Foreign Policy, Josh Rogin, 3/1/11

The Empire State Building will be lit up red, white, and blue tonight, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s creation of the Peace Corps.

“Life in the Peace Corps will not be easy,” Kennedy said on March 1, 1961. “But if the life will not be easy, it will be rich and satisfying. For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps — who works in a foreign land — will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace.”

Kennedy set a goal of recruiting 500 Peace Corps volunteers that year. In 2011, the Peace Corps has 8,675 volunteers who serve in 77 countries. Its alumni include author Paul Theroux (Malawi, 1963-65), Chris Matthews (Swaziland, 1968-70), Sen. Chris Dodd (Dominican Republic, 1966-68), former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala (Iran, 1962-64), Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson (Tanzania, 1965-68), former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher R. Hill (Cameroon, 1974-76), and four other members of Congress.

Tonight’s commemoration in New York City kicks off over 4 months of Peace Corps events, culminating in a featured program at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on June 30 to July 11.

The Peace Corps received $400 million in fiscal 2010 from Congress, and has been largely immune from the slash-and-burn mood of many House Republicans, who have proposed large cuts in rest of the international affairs budget. The House GOP’s version of funding for the rest of fiscal 2011 would keep the organization’s funding at 2010 levels.

In addition to its alumni representation on Capitol Hill, the Peace Corps has been able to stay out of the budget debate — in part because the organization is spread out over the country and therefore has advocates in many districts. The Obama administration has asked for $439.5 million for fiscal 2012, but the debate over that request has yet to begin.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement today praising the Peace Corps’ role in preparing people for careers in diplomacy and development.

“Every day, I work with dedicated colleagues at the State Department and USAID, many of whom paved the foundation for their careers in the Foreign Service and Civil Service with their years in the Peace Corps,” she said. “The Peace Corps taught them compassion, patience, and continues to bridge cross-cultural divides.”

Sargent Shriver, the Peace Corps’ first leader, died in January. Here’s a video of then Senator Kennedy pitching his idea to University of Michigan students on Oct. 14, 1960, about three weeks before he was elected President.

In Baghdad, Former “Volunteers” Celebrate 50 Years of the Peace Corps

March 2nd, 2011 by bobebill

From the Department of State website
http://blogs.state.gov/index.php/site/entry/baghdad_peace_corps

2011 is going to be a big year for the Peace Corps as the agency marks its 50th anniversary with celebrations around the United States and at locations throughout the world where Peace Corps Volunteers are serving and have served. To date, more than 200,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps in 139 countries, and currently there are 8,655 Peace Corps Volunteers serving in 77 countries.

One of the earliest celebrations to mark Peace Corps’ 50th took place in Iraq last summer. On August 3, 2010, Ambassador Chris Hill, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and a Returned Peace Corp Volunteer (RPCV) himself, hosted more than thirty RPCVs and supporters at his official residence in Baghdad for a BBQ celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Peace Corps. Former volunteers are now working around Iraq, in government and contracting companies, including the U.S. State Department, USAID, USDA, Office for Provincial Affairs, and CPI.

While Africa was particularly well represented at the BBQ, there were also multiple volunteers from Ecuador and the Solomon Islands. Ambassador Hill noted the importance of Peace Corps experiences in his own life, remembering his time on an old motorcycle making the rounds to rural credit unions in Cameroon. Muddy tracks to village offices and Ministerial meeting rooms only appear miles apart to non-RPCVs — volunteers understand that both worlds are best navigated by building relationships and maintaining individual commitment. Our colleague Erin Eddy proved this point by traveling by truck, C-130 and helicopter to make the BBQ that she had helped plan.

Referencing Tom Hanks’ character in the film Volunteers, Ambassador Hill congratulated all the former Volunteers for continuing to find ways to build cultural bridges and create opportunities around the world in spite of periods of misgivings. The personal pictures from the Ambassador’s tour were the perfect accompaniment to great food, a few drinks, and several shells of Pacific Islands kava.

Just like in Iraq, RPCVs can be found in all career fields today, throughout the United States and around the globe. The agency and its spirit have grown from the seed that then-Senator John F. Kennedy planted during an impromptu speech to 5,000 students at 2:00 in the morning at the University of Michigan into an important part of American culture. From the first volunteers that arrived in Ghana and Tanganyika in 1961 to those that join the ranks of the Foreign Service today, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers have made a difference in the world, and will continue to do so for many years to come.

Posted by William Pryor and William Strassberger / March 01, 2011
About the Authors: William Pryor serves as Senior Rule of Law Coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and William Strassberger serves as Public Affairs Chief in the Bureau of African Affairs.

March 1, 2011–Happy 50th birthday to Peace Corps!

March 1st, 2011 by bobebill

Here are a some YouTube links to watch while you celebrate your part of the 50th
today:

Peace Corps, Kennedy Outlines Program

Peace Corps Volunteers for West Cameroons 1963

Peace Corps Cameroon 2008-2010.mov