In those early days of the Peace Corps the greatest sin was leaving before one finished his or her tour. More than one person I know back in Ethiopia in the early Sixties would declare, “I don’t care what happens to me, I’m not ETing!” Now it seems to many PCVs ETing isn’t even a venial sin.
The numbers of PCVs who pack it in before finishing their tour keeps climbing and no one at HQs is blinking an eye. It wasn’t always that way. In the first 22 months of the agency, 294 Volunteers did not complete their tours. Of these, 65 returned for compassionate reasons, usually family illness or death, another 37 had to resign for medical reasons. And sadly, six PCVs lost their lives–four in plane crashes, one in a jeep accident, and one as a result of illness.
The total number to ET during those first 22 months for other reasons was 184, about 4.2% of the number who were sworn in. Now, when the agency was established, it was expected that that % would be much higher. It never was in the early years. Why isn’t the ET number being taken seriously? Today you hear people say, “Well, I’ll give it a try and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll split.”
Perhaps it is too easy to get into the Peace Corps. That might be the reason PCVs come and go. In the first two years of the agency, more than 58,000 filled out application forms. Of those who made an application, about 25% to 30% –lets say one in four–were invited for Training. Half of those invited (56%) accepted and went to Training. And of those in Training, four out of five went overseas.
Why then was the Peace Corps so successful in those early years? PCVs weren’t any better than volunteers today, that’s for sure.
In fact, the candidates today are in better health, better educated, more worldly. Before they are out of high school they have been everywhere. Okay, let’s see why the number of ETs were so low in the Sixties in up coming blogs. Stay tuned!. As Arnold would say, “I’ll be back!”
Those were the good ol’ days!