The Peace Corps Leaves It To Others To Do The Job In Haiti

The following email note from “Peace Corps Response’ (i.e. The Crisis Corps) has been making the rounds of the RPCV world. I ask, why isn’t the agency doing the job? Why isn’t the Peace Corps going to Haiti with its Crisis Corps Volunteers?

I’m told, the U. S. Embassy in Haiti, and the bureaucrats in Washington responsible for Haiti relief, have stymied Peace Corps efforts to get Volunteers in there. Part of this problem is the lack of a government in Haiti with which to have an agreement.

If so, then how are all the other relief efforts able to go forth? Sean Penn seems not to have any trouble getting to volunteer in Haiti.

I’m also told that Aaron and his Chief of Staff have been banging on the State Department doors, but they aren’t getting anywhere.

Perhaps what the Peace Corps needs is another ‘Push for Peace Corps’ more work from  Rajeev Goyal who clearly can get the attention of everyone’s in Washington. At the moment the Peace Corps, which is always been as well loved as ‘Mom’s Apple Pie,’ is nowhere in the international scene when it comes to ‘making a difference.’ In the age of Twitter, Facebook, social networking and microblogging, the question is being asked by everyone outside of the beltway: “Is there still a Peace Corps or did the agency die with Kennedy? While other NGOs and government agencies are smart enough and ‘with it’ to Tweet, the Peace Corps is dialing for volunteers on their analog phones. Talk about being lost on the Beltway!

Perhaps Aaron Williams should take another look at that photo hanging of his office wall, that photograph taken with Harris Wofford, the former senator and architect of the Peace Corps, and read his memorandum to John F. Kennedy on May 25, 1961, where he warned, JFK, about placing the agency inside AID and the State Department, “The Peace Corps’ people-to-people approach and educational emphasis offers an opportunity to create a new pattern. For this is needs the freedom and energy of autonomy.”

Or read what Bill Josephson wrote about the meeting between Kennedy and Johnson, where Johnson convinced the president to let the Peace Corps stand on its own feet. Josephson wrote, “Johnson, on his way to the Oval Office, picked up Henry Labouisse (head of ICA) and Dave Bell (director of the Bureau of the Budget) by their respective ears and began telling them what the foreign aid program really should. It should be healing the sick and the lame and the blind-very earthy, pithy, stuff… very close to what Peace Corps Volunteers could and would do.”

Anyway, here’s a letter you might have received from Brianna Fischer, who, by the way, isn’t listed as an RPCV in the latest NPCA book.

Dear RPCV,

Greetings from Peace Corps Response!  You are receiving this email because you expressed an interest in learning more about opportunities to offer your services in Haiti. 

Attached you will find a job opportunity with Hope for Haiti, and NGO based out of Les Cayes, Haiti.  They have asked that we forward this job posting to RPCVs interested in living and working in Haiti.  Please refer any questions about this position directly to Hope for Haiti. Their website is www.hopeforhaiti.com.

All the best,

Brianna
Brianna Fischer
Peace Corps Response
Peace Corps
1111 20th St NW
Washington, DC 20526
800-424-8580, extension 2247

4 Comments

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  • It’s too dangerous.

    RPCVs pressuring and lobbying countries to open up don’t do security studies and really don’t care. The new countries opening up are being done for funding. Indonesia by Clinton and Obama where he went to school and Colombia for trade, Pelosi. Whatever the country is, if it won’t provide more funding keeping Congress, State or the President happy; it won’t open around safety and security.

    Response was used when countries were too dangerous, but Haiti really is too dangerous for both, so it’s not really a funding issue and there is plenty of money there to help.

    PC rights and legal facts have also been denied by Congressmen because of the Kate Puzey murder and, until this is straightened out; it is even more dangerous to open up countries to Response or regular PC.

    Haiti is an example of safety and security working, not failing due to whims of politicians and RPCVs.

  • “Safety and security” is not the reason Peace Corps Volunteers are not in Haiti – bureaucracy is. Peace Corps has very legitimately been working to put Volunteers there but has been stymied. Perhaps it hasn’t pushed hard enough.

    Haiti can use all the help it can get, and Peace Corps should be a part of the response.

    Why is Haiti “…too dangerous.”, specifically? The assertion that “…RPCV’s don’t really care.” about safety and security is absurd and insulting.

  • John,

    I’m not familiar with all the facts about Haiti, but I just had a fantastic experience here in Senegal with Peace Corps Response. We used a PC Response Volunteer to manage our efforts to lead the largest malaria prevention education/ universal coverage of bed nets campaign ever in West Africa. See:
    http://pcsenegal.org/malaria/velingara.html

    Also, PC as an agency has moved forward significantly in using social networking technology since Aaron Williams became director. The agency’s Twitter account @peacecorps has more than 330,000 followers.

    All the best,
    Chris Hedrick
    PC Country Director
    Senegal

  • Thanks, Chris–I wished I twittered….my point was metaphorical, but I guess I missed making the point. What I was attempting to say was that the Peace Corps has to be able to move quickly, whether PCV tweet or not, and not be kept inside the State or AID game plan. I realized, of course, there there are ‘lots’ of reasons why the Peace Corps can’t do this or that. There are always ‘lots’ of reasons why it can’t be done, but when we compare the programming from the first days of the agency and now, we see the Peace Corps is in a rut. A whole new generation of young people see that too.

    Yes, recruitment is up, over 20%, I understand, but that has more to do with the economy and the lack of jobs than the thrill of being part of something new and challenging. Teach for America is where the ‘best and the brightest’ kids off campus are seeking their first adventures.

    A few years back there was this recruitment campaign from the agency, “It’s not your father’s Peace Corps” was the slogan. Right. In ‘our father’s Peace Corps’ the agency was risky, and inexperienced, and totally new. It was cutting edge. That’s what we are missing. Let’s take some chances. Let’s go for those risky assignments in dangerous places. Let’s do what hasn’t been done before, even in our father’s Peace Corps. And, guess what, we’ll make a difference, again.
    John

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