Watching the event this afternoon, Monday, July 15, 2013, where the President and former president George Bush, honored an Iowa couple as part of Point of Light Awards, I was struck again how the Peace Corps has been cast aside by the current cast of characters in Washington. Obama wouldn’t even meet with RPCVs during the 50th celebration, and here we have been ‘volunteering’ for 50 years, way before 1989 when George H.W. Bush talked about “points of light” in his inaugural address. Bush said he wanted citizens who make a difference through their volunteer work. Hello!
What about us?
RPCVs, some 220,000, have been volunteering since 1961, and continue to ‘do good’ in the world, as well as at home, fulfilling the Third Goal of the Peace Corps Act.
One reason Marian and I wanted to focus part of www.peacecorpsworldwide.org website on Third Goal Projects is because RPCV projects NEVER get any recognition, not from the White House, not from the Peace Corps.
In fact, the president won’t even meet with the RPCVs two years ago at our 50th Anniversary. I’m told it was because a woman in Vice President Biden’s office didn’t want the White House ‘associating’ with the likes of us so soon after the death of the Kate Puzey (Benin 2007-09) and the ABC program that showed how the agency had screwed up. The Peace Corps was ‘bad news’ for the White House’s image.
I have nothing against Points of Light (some of my best friends work for it), and I have nothing against this retired Iowa couple, who have just been honored, as has their community, for making sandwiches for hungry children in Africa. But listen, making sandwiches for African kids isn’t going to change the world.
Here are two quick examples of how RPCVs, and their projects, ARE changing the world. Both of these projects were started by Ethiopia RPCVs, both of them were written up in a recent Herald e-newsletter, the newsletter of Ethiopia & Eritrea PCVs.
Many displaced Eritreans have found themselves in difficult circumstances having fled their homeland. The America Team for Displaced Eritreans founded by John Stauffer (Eritrea 1966-68) has come to their aid providing financial and logistical assistance both in the U.S. and abroad.
Bob Gausman, (Ethiopia 1970-72) writes about a water project in Ethiopia initiated by members of his group. He just returned from his fourth trip to Ethiopia in the past seven years. The purpose of the trip was to look for possible sites for water improvement projects.
These are just two examples of many more Third Goal projects in Ethiopia. And there are countless other RPCV Third Goal projects in countless other countries.
When all is said and done the real value of the Peace Corps will be in what RPCVs do after their years overseas as they continue–for the rest of their lives–their involvement in their second home.
Yes, we won’t be recognized by the White House; we won’t be recognized by the Peace Corps agency, but RPCVs don’t give a s***.
They’ll do it for themselves and for the people and nations where they served as volunteers.
And Marian and I are going to do our best to let everyone know about it.
Send me information on what you are doing. And call the White House and say: I was a PCV, and I vote!