Afghanistan In….Peace Corps Out

The breaking news this afternoon is that the U.S. is planning to send hundreds of additional diplomats and civilian officials to Afghanistan…all part of the new post-Bush “civil-military” regional strategy that President Obama security advisers have scripted and now waits the president’s signature.

Okay, where are the “hundreds, if not thousands” of additional Peace Corps Volunteers that Candidate Obama promised to send overseas as soon as he got elected?

Remember, President Obama, you said you would double the number of PCVs to 16,000. Well, if the current cuts to the agency hold, based on the Omnibus Bill for 2009, the Peace Corps will eliminate 500 positions, dropping the number of new PCVs below 3,500. This is at a time when 22 + nations–including Indonesia, Sierra Leone, and Colombia–are asking for Volunteers.  

President Obama, the Peace Corps isn’t just a scribbled name in the margin of some paper on regional strategy for the United States. The Peace Corps has been the best face of America for nearly 50 years. Do better than Bush. Keep your promise to enlarge the agency. The Peace Corps is not part of your foreign policy problem; it is part of your solution.

As an ex-community organizer, you should be well aware of what men and women, PCVs living, working, and making friends in the villages of the world, can do for America.

Keep the faith. Keep the Peace Corps strong.

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  • John

    Afghanistan has been a Peace Corps country almost since the beginning. Apparently this has not done enough to improve understanding. As far as I am concerned there are only two Americans who ever really understood the Afghans, James Michener and Peter Tomson, and Pete was a PCV.

  • I know several RPCVs from Afghanistan who have written books and/or have a deep understanding of the country albeit, in some cases, from years ago.

    Do you remember at the NPCA Conference in Chicago a few years ago the former Afghan Vice President (can’t recall his name) who BEGGED for Peace Corps Volunteers to come to his beleaguered country. I think he had married a PCV there. Maybe someone could find the text of his presentation and send IT to President Obama. His was an eloquent plea for More Peace Corps, not More War.

    Leita Kaldi Davis

  • I am disappointed that almost three months into his administration and President Obama has not felt a “need” to expand the Peace Corps…why Mr. President? Peace Corps is the soluton to many of our problems! JFK wouild be upset that you have not kept your word to increase the Peace Corps, instead the budget will be reduced causing the agency to cut 500 positions…why?
    Bob Arias
    RPCV Colombia

  • Honestly what I am disappointed about at this point is the fact that so many people actually think three months should be enough time apparently to bring the country out of debt, find money from somewhere to use to bring more volunteers to various countries, enlist new countries for Peace Corps, stop the war, increase the budget for PC and everything else, and a whole lot of other things. I am a current Peace Corps volunteer right now IN THE FIELD and to be honest there is so much going on right now in the developing world and at home that I think that its ok if our President AND government need to take a year or two before they can get to increasing the number of volunteers in the field. We barely have enough money to function since Bush just cut the budget and food prices are rising and volunteers are barely making it. It seems as if everyone expects the president to perform a couple miracles which include the home base concerns of unemployment, home ownership, income, the economy, the education system, bringing our soldiers home, and the list goes on. While I know Peace Corps volunteers make significant impact in the countries they serve we are usually not sent to (in this era) countries at war or those that even are too unstable so I dont see how we will be helping certain countries in the middle east when we have these regulations. I’m very upset about the budget cuts but if you come into a job and someone has emptied the bank account you cant make money appear to make all your changes happen. In case no one sent the bulletin to the American people WE ARE BROKE as a country and we need to dig ourselves out of debt. What that means is that any change that is made means a cut somewhere or everywhere which means someone is always going to be unhappy until we can get back on our feet with a decent budget to handle all of our needs. Until then everyone is going to have to grit and bear because the wound of debt needs to heal before we can start increasing budgets and functioning adequately. I have also learned that 2 years is hardly enough time for me to really turn over a high yielding product with my projects, usually it takes at least 2 follow up volunteers before a project is sustainably successful. If thats how it is for us on a grassroots small initiative level what can 3 months really be for a nation trying to turn things around nationally AND internationally? Problems will have to be attacked in an orderly and strategic basis and I have already seen a lot of initiatives that were promised in action. Actually I just applied for a grant for my community from USAID whom just sent out applications for funding for development projects thanks to the new mandate for more international aid funds. Good and sustainable progress takes time not frenzy disorganized demands, we got enough of those with the Bush administration. I dont even have a T.V. but I traveled 5 hours and heard a speech where President Obama said ‘I will do my best to fulfill all my promises during my campaign, we may not get it done this year, or even in this term, but we will get it done’. The fact of the matter is to dig us out of 8 years of mess (or more for Peace Corpst) it might take 8 more years of hard work. If you dont learn anything else in Peace Corps you learn patience and you learn that things dont happen as fast as you want them to or even how you want them to but you know that it can be done. Maybe because I have stepped out of the microwave world of the U.S. for so long I forget how quickly everyone expects things at home. I hope President Obama takes his time to look closely at the Peace Corps budget and is able to give Peace Corps the budget increases it so desprately needs to function well with the number of volunteers currently in the field. THEN I think it would be a great idea to look into additional countries, an increase in volunteers worldwide, and other advances but I understand that all of that may take a back seat to the fact that job fairs have a turn out of over 2,000 people for a mere 200 jobs or that more people in the world (and my own pueblo) are starving because basic food like rice has gone up dramatically; and this might take more than 3 months or even 2 years to get a handle on.

  • Don’t Forget the Peace Corps

    Appeared in Washington Post — Sunday, March 22, 2009; A18

    Letter to Editor:

    In his March 16 op-ed column, “An Ideal That Crosses the Aisle,” E.J. Dionne Jr. observed that politicians laud service to the country but that “few see national service as an important political issue.” Mr. Dionne praised Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) for sponsoring the Serve America Act, which Mr. Dionne hopes could provide federal funding for as many as 250,000 domestic volunteers.

    I agree, but as a Peace Corps volunteer who served in Peru from 1963 to 1965, I encourage Mr. Dionne to remember another Kennedy, President John F. Kennedy, who laid the cornerstone of all American service projects by establishing the Peace Corps. Unfortunately, the recently passed 2009 budget will not even maintain the 7,800 volunteers who served in 76 countries last year. Should that decline continue, there is no way that President Obama’s campaign pledge to double the number of volunteers will be achieved by 2011, the Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary.

    TINO CALABIA
    Friendship Heights

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