I have been in discussion with another of my colleagues at this site.  The question is if the Peace Corps is best remembered for the assistance it has delivered or the mutual understanding it has created.  Both are goals of the Peace Corps.  However, I maintain that in its zeal to deliver “perfect’ purveyors of “perfect” services the Peace Corps has overlooked it most resounding success, to be an icon of a caring, friendly, understanding America.  My colleague disagrees and says that the Peace Corps should focus on delivering a good service.

I and my fellow RPCVs who served in Ethiopia did deliver a good service.  On our “Return to Ethiopia” trip last year I talked to an Ethiopian businessman who told me that Peace Corps teachers did make a difference in the country’s educational system.  He said that employers there recognize the difference between those who studied under the PCVs until the late 1970s and those who studied after the Peace Corps was ejected from the country by the infamous military junta that ruled from 1974 until 1990.  He said employers specifically choose the former who are much better prepared. 

I personally followed my Peace Corps service with a 50 year career in international affairs.  During that time I have personally devised, planned and implemented projects and programs to train first aid workers, build clinics, inoculate whole communities, fight outbreaks of plague and other lethal diseases, dig wells, install water pipes, construct sewers and drains, build roads, build low cost housing, establish micro-lending and micro-businesses, improve agriculture, on a small scale as well as provided key US input and support for the largest Turkish-American military assistance project, Spain’s largest electric power program, Finland’s single largest aviation expansion project, South Africa’s post apartheid development of black owned enterprise, and major foreign investment in Mozambique. 

The point I want to make is that, rather than the input and assistance that I provided for these various positive steps for the recipient countries being my lasting image with host country nationals, I am remembered for my interpersonal relations with them.  My attribute perhaps best remembered is my intelligence followed by my understanding of others, willingness to work together, respect for them as equals, and keen sense of humor.  So I repeat, the Peace Corps should focus on mutual understanding and not dedicate its entire effort to what service is provided.  Again, it is what is in your heart, not what is in your hands, that counts.

Oh, by the way, I built plenty of latrines along the way.  I especially remember one such project about which the host country manager said in his follow up report, “it brought much pleasure to the people.”  I always wondered just what was going on in that large latrine project.