New Yorker article by Peter Hessler on Rajeev Goyal

Peter Hessler’s (China 1996-98) article about Rajeev Goyal and his advocacy of the Peace Corps will be in the December 20, 2010 issue of The New Yorker. Peter writes:  In the part of eastern Nepal where Goyal served as a Peace Corps volunteer from 2001 to 2003, people sometimes weep when his name is mentioned. Locals refer to him as Shiva, the god who is the source of the Ganges River. In the halls of Congress, most people have no idea what to make of him.

For the past two years, Rajeev has approached the place as if it were just another Nepali settlement with a caste system to untangle. He figured out the Washington equivalent of village-well routes-hallways, hearing rooms, and coffee shops where anybody can hang around and meet a member of Congress.

During the past two years, funding for the Peace Corps has increased by record amounts, despite partisanship in Congress and a brutal economic climate.

In March, the Peace Corps will turn fifty years old. The anniversary is bittersweet: despite the new funding, which has allowed for a significant increase in volunteers, the agency sends fewer than sixty per cent as many people abroad today as it did in 1966.

Peter Hessler writes about Goyal, how he grew up in Manhasset Hills, Long Island, where his parents had settled after immigrating from Rajasthan, India. In the Peace Corps, he was assigned to teach English at a school in Namje, a village of fewer than six hundred people, in eastern Nepal. Snowcaps provide Nepal with abundant water resources, but rivers are often inaccessible in mountain towns like Namje. Hessler describes how Goyal and others conceived and executed the construction of a pumping system that brought water to the town. Also describes the later construction of a school in Namje built, in part, with funds from Rotary International.

Hessler tells about the history of the Peace Corps; he discusses the National Peace Corps Association’s campaign to expand the organization and mobilize former volunteers to advocate for more Peace Corps funding. He tells how Goyal built a grassroots movement to influence the members of Congress who allocate money to the Peace Corps and describes his “bird-dogging” approach to lobbying Congressmen, in particular, Senator Patrick Leahy.

Hessler accompanies Goyal on a trip to Nepal, where, in Namje, they attend the dedication of a new building for agricultural training. He tells about a meeting between Goyal and Rakam Chemjong, the Nepalese Minister for Peace and Reconstruction.

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  • Peter Hessler, a former Peace Coprs Volunteer in China, writes about Rajeev Goyal , son of Indian immigrants and one of a growing generation of Peace Corps Volunters (PCV’s)foreign born or first generation Americans answering JFK’s call 50 years ago ” Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

    Hessler and Goyal attest to the fact that the Peace Corps experience never ends whether it’s lobbying for increase appropriations for the Peace Corps agency or going back to the country and villages around the world that provided the platform for a Peace Corps life changing experience.

    Dennis Grubb
    Colombia I (1961-63)

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