The Peace Corps will need to reduce the total number of PCVs by approximately 300 Volunteers when the full force of the sequester takes hold. The Volunteers will go first, than the overseas staff, and, of course, no one in D.C. will be laid off. When the hammer of the sequester falls the total number of Peace Corps Volunteers will drop.
We all know that regardless of who is in the White House or on the Hill, the Peace Corps is expendable. We are a token agency on the foreign aid front. The budget in 2012 was $375 million. The budget for the agency in 2013 is set at $377.295 million before the cuts begin.
At the moment, we have 8,073 PCVs overseas. Of course, we don’t know who just ETed in the last ten minutes. We are currently in 76 countries, more or less.
The high point for the agency in terms of PCVs overseas was in 1966 when there were 15,556 Volunteers serving, according to the numbers collected by Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras 1975-77) in his useful book Peace Corps Chronology 1961-2010. The low mark was 2,940 when the Peace Corps was one-year old. The next lowest was in 1987 when the total was 5,219. That is when Reagan was President.
So we haven’t done much better in terms of numbers regardless of who was president or what political party controlled the White House or Congress. The truth is that while we think we are valuable overseas, it is hard to convince those controlling the ‘purse strings’ as they like to say in Washington, D.C., that America gets much bang from the Peace Corps buck. We’re nice, but who really cares?
Now I ask. Who will go to the floor of the Senate or House and demand that the Peace Corps is the best foreign aid investment that America has?
And this is why.
I continue to marvel as the friendships that are made overseas by PCVs in the 50+ years of the agency, and how these friendships continue and develop and are sustained over all this time. Individual relationships that have nothing to do with government policy or politics. Human connections between a PCV and a HCN because at one time in America we had wise men and women who said, “lets send Americans overseas to help, and let them be ordinary citizens, common folks, and let them live in villages and towns and teach and work as nurses and doctor, construction people, and farmers. And lets see what happens between people.”
Well, what happen were friendships that started with a few faulty words of greeting on the part of the PCV and turned into long history of friendship, love, and mutual respect, one person to another.
Try and top that human success story, Congress. You can’t.