Readers react to ‘Think Again: The Peace Corps’
Readers are weighing in on both sides of a hard-hitting new Web exclusive by Robert L. Strauss, a former Peace Corps country director. Here’s an e-mail in support of Strauss from FP reader JH: [B]eing a former Peace Corps Volunteer (Morocco 99-00) I think he hit the nail on the head. I recently attempted to ...
Readers are weighing in on both sides of a hard-hitting new Web exclusive by Robert L. Strauss, a former Peace Corps country director. Here's an e-mail in support of Strauss from FP reader JH:
Readers are weighing in on both sides of a hard-hitting new Web exclusive by Robert L. Strauss, a former Peace Corps country director. Here’s an e-mail in support of Strauss from FP reader JH:
[B]eing a former Peace Corps Volunteer (Morocco 99-00) I think he hit the nail on the head.
I recently attempted to reenlist with Peace Corps after receiving a master’s degree in international development administration with an emphasis on monitoring and evaluation of development projects in Asia and the Pacific and was rejected by Peace Corps.
After being ‘medically cleared,’ they wanted to send me to Africa to work on HIV/AIDS projects and I stated that I would be best utilized in an area and field I’m trained in. I was then told I was cut from the application process for being ‘inflexible’ when it came to placement. It seems that any questioning about the placement process is taken as a threat to the organization’s authority and there are plenty of recent college graduates with no idea about development who are willing to take an available spot.
I’m sorry to say that Peace Corps is not serious about development and it seems they would rather have bright eyed idealist with no experience or idea about sustainable development practices instead of skilled or trained personnel who could point out the flaws in the system and work to improve it while have a positive impact on the community.
Thanks for pointing out the flaws in Peace Corps which could be a development system for USAID, The World Bank, or the UN, but is instead a post-college hangout where little is accomplished.
And here’s a complaint from CH, who volunteered in Togo from 2004 to 2007:
The first question that came to my mind as I read this was why a former Peace Corps country director, who spent four years of his life working for the organization, would be on such a vendetta. I question his motivation in publicly bashing the organization and makes me wonder what happened in Cameroon…
It seems that his main and only recommendation is for the Peace Corps to recruit the ‘best of the best’ to serve as volunteers. While he may be correct in this assessment, I think his opinion makes it obvious that they should do a better job recruiting the staff as well. I have a tough time imagining what my service would have been like had I been a volunteer in Cameroon during his tenure. A country director is responsible for setting the overall tone in the country where he or she is employed and I can’t imagine a very positive or motivating environment under Mr. Strauss.
Despite all this, I tend to agree with many of his arguments. Peace Corps volunteers are generally fresh out of college or untrained in the field they’re expected to serve in (as I was) or both. However, this does not necessarily mean that they will be ineffective as volunteers. I’m very proud of what I was able to accomplish in my three years as a volunteer in Togo. I worked with some incredibly dedicated and inspiring volunteers, some of whom did not come to Togo with any particular skills yet who excelled in their assignments.
While in no way do I believe the Peace Corps to be perfect, highly effectual or a model to be used by development organizations, it remains an incredible opportunity for Americans and, at the very least, offers volunteers the opportunity to accomplish wonderful things. It is hard not to take Mr Strauss’s bitterness personally and the motivation behind his writing should be explained.
Readers, what do you think? Were you a Peace Corps volunteer? How does his analysis fit with your experience? Read the article and comment below, or send us your thoughts by e-mail. Requests for confidentiality will be strictly honored.
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