In light of current events in Texas and the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, it behooves us to learn from history. Here is what former Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez said about his decision to send Crisis Corps (now Peace Corps Response) Volunteers to aid in the Hurricane Katrina effort. (This interview was recorded by Alana DeJoseph (Mali 192-94) for the upcoming documentary about the Peace Corps, A Towering Task being made by DeJoseph):
Well, I had the opportunity to travel to Sri Lanka, Thailand after the tsunami and witnessed the devastation that the tsunami had caused and it was not long thereafter that Katrina struck the United States and the Gulf Coast. I saw the images, the devastation; it was incredible. And made a decision that I would authorize the deployment of Crisis Corps — these are returned Peace Corps volunteers who make up this group at that time– and that we would deploy the volunteers to help people with the processing of forms, working their way through the systems, helping those who needed food supplies, needed access to services. And I felt, you know, if we can serve overseas in a unique situation of tremendous devastation, why not be able to do the same thing when our country is struck by such a devastating event like Katrina? And some of my advisors said, “You be careful because there may be those who are going to be critical that is not within the framework of the Peace Corps’ mission.” But in fact, I did. I made the decision and was praised for making that decision but most importantly, the volunteers stepped up immediately to say, “Send me. I’ll go.” And it was very, very encouraging, inspiring to see Peace Corps volunteers working in those populated and rural areas of Louisiana assisting including one couple that I recall whose home was devastated by the impacts of Katrina but still volunteered and provided assistance to their neighbors and others in the course of that recovery.
For more information and to support the documentary, A Towering Task, visit www.peacecorpsdocumentary.com.