The Peace Corps and USAID in Bed Together!
USAID, Peace Corps Join Arms in Support of Education
The Peace Corps and USAID have signed an agreement entitled the Global Education Framework, a joint venture, they say, “that would implement global initiatives for basic and higher education, and youth and workforce development.”
The agreement means more money for the Peace Corps, and more programs for education, gender equality and the youth.
“The Global Education Framework agreement demonstrates how we are effectively and efficiently programming every development dollar to deliver meaningful results in education,” says USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. “By working together, we strengthen our organizations to better assist the countries and people we serve.”
Other activities being supported under the GEF are:
- Development of new training modules for volunteers and staff.
- Training teachers and school officials for the two-year Peace Corps Education Assistance Project in Mindanao, Philippines.
- Volunteers teaching English to judges and court staff under the Millennium Challenge Corp. Rwanda Justice Strengthening Project.
- Development and use of training materials to improve reading and learning in the classroom, and for life skills and youth leadership.
- Hiring a full-time literacy specialist and program support at the Peace Corps in Washington, D.C., for better implementation of projects concerning early grade reading and literacy.
- Education study and assessment in South Africa prior to Peace Corps project expansion in another region in the country.
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During PC training, we volunteers in Nepal-2 (’63-’65) were told that when we arrived in Kathmandu we were to strictly avoid any contact with USAID, out of a concern that the Peace Corps would be tainted by the US Government’s involvement in the fighting in SE Asia (Vietnam and vicinity)… When we landed at the Kathmandu airport, however, the first person to meet and greet us was USAID/Nepal’s deputy director, an anthropologist who was keen on working with PCVs. And, indeed, some of us forged a close relationship with USAID to the point where after 2 years of Peace Corps, the State Department recruited several from our group as interns to work on USAID/Nepal rural development programs.
Now, it seems, after 48 years, the union of AID and PC has been forged internationally, in what look like fruitful initiatives in education.
No John…this is not good, not for the future of Peace Corps…we need another President Johnson to fight for us in their war to take Peace Corps under their wings…they have not given up! A close friend of mine from Peace Corps just went over to them…when I asked my friend why he would go to USAID, he said…”I have gone over to the dark side!” Remember…USAID builds “momuments” to themselves, Peace Corps builds communities! Check your files John…Bob
I can see “both sides now.” In the 2010 Assessment document, the recommendations was for Peace Corps to work more closely with NGOs and other aid agencies. This plan would be consistent with that policy. Peace Corps has also forged a relationship with the National Centers for Public Health.
The problem I have, in addition to FlacoBob’s concern, is that these agencies do not have the same prohibition against working with intelligence gathering components as Peace Corps Volunteers do. Incountry, we were always conscious that other “good” “US agencies” might use the reputation of Peace Corps or the trust developed by Peace Corps Volunteers to “enter” communities that might otherwise be hesitant.
Aaron Williams, Rajiv Shah, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama made a tragic decision. They undermined the spirit of the agency and the legacy of Sargent Shriver and 200,000 RPCVs.
Now USAID staff will never have to leave their cozy compounds;
they’ll have PCVs to do the legwork out in the villages and barrios.
I have always been puzzled by the anti-USAID bias in some parts of the Peace Corps. During the 70s in the Philippines PC/P and USAID worked together on many fronts, especially agricutural programs. There was a bit of tension between the two — probably because of the differences in life styles — but the government of the Philippines recognized that the two together were better than each separately. As a result, in 1974 both Peace Corps and USAID were awarded the Golden Harvest Award for services rendered to the people of the Philippines at a joint ceremony hosted by key government officials. USAID’s feelings about the PeaceCorps are best indicated by the fact that it has hired many, many RPCVs for staff positions over the years.
It is not fair to speak of an “anti-USAID bias in some parts of the Peace Corps.” We were trained to be independent and that is reflected in the attitudes of RPCVs toward USAID and other US agencies. It is not a question of feelings. It is a question of PCVs not wanting to be co-opted by other agencies.
I think that since the early days, Peace Corps has worked more closely with NGOs and other agencies. The Assessment calls for more of that kind of coordination. I have indicated my concerns.
The goal is cooperation, not co-option. I believe that some half of all USAID employees, not contract hires, are RPCVs. There is a natural affinity between the Peace Corps and USAID. I applaud cooperation between ogranizations who have common purpose, in this case, the betterment of less fortunate people around the globe.
There is a difference between RPCVs working for USAID and PCVs working in the field. The big difference is salary. RPCVs are properly compensated for their work and are part of the USAID system. One goal that the “founders” of Peace Corps had was to provide knowledgeable RPCVs to work for State and its components. I think that is a good thing.
PCVs working in the field should NOT be used as “cheap labor” for USAID nor should the independence of their work be co-oped. If PCVs are doing the work of USAID employees, then they should be paid accordingly.
Astounding. PCVs could be considered to be “cheap labor” in any context. They are “volunteers.” Even when I taught in Ethiopia I received less than the local teachers or the contracted foreign teachers. Was I “cheap labor?”
Each Peace Corps volunteer cost the government about $50,000 a year. That is hardly ‘cheap labor.’ USAID and Peace Corps both bring important, but different, skills and resources to a project. Just like the bundle of sticks, together they are stronger than apart.
David. I agree completely.
Although a Peace Corps Volunteer might cost $50,000 per year, a sergeant in Irag costs $500,000 per year (“Contractor’s Report in U.S. Operations in Iraq,” Congressional Budget Office, 2008).
Leo and David,
The Peace Corps Volunteer never sees the $50,000 per year. Cheap labor, as I am sure you both realize, means that USAID does NOT
have to pay a salary for a person to do the work that a Volunteer might do. Serving Peace Corps Volunteers should NOT be used as unpaid interns for USAID.
It is not necessary to burnish the image of USAID. The issue is how can Peace Corps work in cooperation with USAID without being co-oped or having Volunteers and or the NCHs exploited or losing its independence.
Joey. I can only reply for myself but, as I said, the goal is “cooperation” between USAID and the Peace Corps. When two agencies share an objective they will do more by pooling their resources, than by acting alone.
Joey, were you ever involved with USAID in a project? There are many instances over 50 years where the two agencies worked well together. By the way, what is the difference between having a PCV work with a NGO (which you seem to approve of) and work with USAID (which you seem to disapprove of)?
Let’s reset the discussion. The Peace Corps Agency Assessment Report of June 2010 called for closer collaboration between NOGs and US agencies.
The issues under discussion are:
Is that a good thing for Peace Corps?
How can Peace Corps protect its independence and the unique character of the Volunteer assignment?
Are Volunteers simply going to be used to do work that otherwise would be done by USAID employees?
Now, David, in the olden days when I served, the field was very empty of agencies and resources. CARE had a contract with Peace Corps and supervised Peace Corps Volunteers in conjunction with a Colombian Community Development Agency. These Volunteers had HC counterparts. CARE provided equipment, like sewing machines and “block building apparatus,” some agricultural tools and food.
Colombian RPCVs would have a much better description of that program.
One of the women Volunteers in my group developed a literacy program in conjunction with Laubach that was outstanding. Volunteers taught literacy in the prisons of Colombia.
I was assigned to Salud Publica, Public Health ministry. The public health nurse in our state came to my site and engaged the midwives I was working with into a UNICEF training program. I acted as a liaison. My partners and I also developed a “school lunch program” that depended on people in my site organizing and staffing a kitchen for such a program and then we contacted CARE and were able to get food stuffs for the program.
I would never turn down the opportunities to bring resources to poor communities. But in the cases with which I am familiar, the agencies were already working with the Colombian government and we cooperated with programs that supplemented the work we were doing as Volunteers.
We deliberately avoided contact with the United States Information Agency because we felt that is legitimate mission was propaganda and we were not sure about all the staff and their agency affiliations.
The Alianza Para El Progresso was active in our area paving the Pan American Highway. We had no contact with that. My recollections is that all of the work was done by Colombians. If USAID was working in my area, I had no knowledge of it.
I don’t want to play “boys against the girls.” These are very important issues and all of us bring our experience to the discussion.
To me, again, this demonstrates the need for a Peace Corps Archive/Museum/Research Center. There should be an entire library section devoted to how Peace Corps has cooperated with various agencies through its fifty year history, researching what worked and did not work. It is outrageous that such an institution does not exist.
Thanks Joey…our voices need to be heard…USAID will put their stamp on the future of Peace Corps…that’s what they told JFK! Aaron Williams a retired USAID official will make it possible! OK John…what’s your take in all of this?
Aaron Williams is an RPCV.
What the hell does the statement, “boys against the girls,” have to do with a discussion of USAID and the Peace Corps? .
USIS promotes America’s image abroad. The Peace Corps was invented in response to the need to improve the image of the “Ugly American.” Thus the two labor in the same vineyard.