For twenty plus years, Congress has been voting to double the size of the Peace Corps. They vote yes, then they don’t vote (on a separate bill) to fund the increase. Bait and switch. Whatever hope there is to increase the number of Peace Corps Volunteers serving overseas must come from the top, from the president. I hope (and expect) that our new president will double its number.
What is important is not that the Peace Corps is bigger, but that more Americans have the opportunity to serve others in other lands, and that host country nationals learn ‘up close and personal’ what Americans are really like.
Peace Corps Volunteers are a different breed of Americans. They come into a village or community and live at the level of the people. They learn the language and they learn the host culture. They unpack their bags and they stay for two years. They become part of a village, a community, a host family. They learn more than they teach or give. And then they return home to America and teach Americans about the village where they lived, the people that they knew as neighbor and as students and family. They are ambassadors from American with a small ‘a’ and a big heart.
They are not missionaries selling a religion, or foreign service officers selling a political philosophy. They are young people and old people and women and men not selling or trying to prove anything; they are just being themselves. And the more Americans like them that we can send into the world, the more the world will know that ‘Americans’ are just like them. It is such a simple idea. Why is it so difficult to understand and put into practice?