Reform Plan Ludlam Hirschoff Part III Conclusion and Appendixes

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Reform Plan Ludlam Hirschoff Part III Conclusion and Appendixes
Link to PDF Report

Intro: Table of Contents and Executive Summary
Part I: Plan to Strengthen and Expand the Peace Corps
Part II: Twenty Point Plan
Part III: Conclusion and Appendixes
Assessments & Reform Plans

Contents

[edit] Conclusion

President Obama and the new Peace Corps management have an opportunity to renew, strengthen and expand the Peace Corps as a centerpiece of an ambitious National Service plan. This initiative will provide a powerful theme for this Presidency. There is substantial evidence of widespread management problems in the Peace Corps, including high Early Termination rates and a failure to achieve substantial First Goal results. These issues need to be addressed before the Peace Corps can effectively campaign to double the number of Volunteers. With this approach, the Peace Corps will more fully live up to its noble potential so that Americans can serve their country as President Kennedy challenged them to do. With enactment and implementation of these reforms, Volunteers will work more effectively with their local partners, promoting development and cultural exchange in a spirit of peace and generosity, and ensuring that the Peace Corps will thrive for decades to come. The authors love the Volunteers and love the Peace Corps. We believe that with fundamental reform, the Peace Corps can achieve its full potential.


Again, the authors welcome comments on this plan. Please send them to Chuck.Ludlam@gmail.com, Phirschoff@gmail.com, 4020 Reno Road NW, Washington, D.C. 20008. 202-364-6021 (home).

[edit] Appendix A: Email Affidavits From PCVs in 28 Countries Regarding Peace Corps

Following are extended excerpts from email affidavits from Volunteers in 28 different countries sent to Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff following their testimony in favor of the PCV Empowerment Act, S. 732 at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Dodd) in July 2007 and publication of their article calling for Peace Corps reform in WorldView in November 2008. The names of the countries and Volunteers are withheld.<ref name="ftn127">These affidavits do not mention the Volunteer or countries by name. The Volunteers often fear that retaliation for speaking out.</ref>


1. West Africa

“We had been through numerous discussions before [with the country Director] and been told that things would change that would improve the program. These never occurred. The administration would then flaunt our advice and enact further policies that restricted our ability to be proactive volunteers, treating us like children who couldn't be trusted with even the most basic risk management.” PCV 2001-2003


2. West Africa

“I served as the Co-Chair of our VAC, which reminded me a lot of a Student Council in its lack of effectiveness and in the disdain it was given by our Country Director…I left [name of country withheld] demoralized because the personal efforts I made to bridge the gap between volunteers and the PC administration ended in disaster…[in the fact of] an unresponsive and sometimes hostile bureaucracy.” PCV 2004-2006


3. Central Asia

“I would like to voice my full-throated support for your efforts to enhance the efforts of Peace Corps by improving its administrative organs. I hope that this will allow volunteers to feel that they are succeeding in their communities in partnership with, not in spite of, Peace Corps’ management…The administration appeared to be more concerned with repressing any sort of independent expression from volunteers rather than trying to use such expressions as a guide for what could be changed or improved…I can say that over his two years in country he did not initiate or support any significant changes to Peace Corps policies or programs in the country, despite the obvious need for improvement and the plethora of suggestions from volunteers on how such improvements could be made.” PCV 2005—2007


4. Pacific

“My biggest continued fear for future PCV’s in [name of country withheld] is the host family policy. Across the board the administration has turned a blind eye to the sexual assaults that occur to female volunteers by male members of their host families. In my situation, my host family did nothing to deter drunk males from yelling outside my window at night. In country administration was not alarmed by this, nor was the regional safety inspector. Her response was that Peace Corps worldwide was moving to longer stays with host families. Due to community dynamics, this should not be a blanket policy…I feel that general priority of the administration was more focused on self fulfilling needs like remodeling their homes than best serving the needs of the volunteers.” PCV 2003-2005


5. West Africa

“[M]y experience with the PC Administration has been discouraging and frustrating. There really is a lack of support for the development work of PCVs. The country director did not believe that volunteers should help to find funding for projects and he has sabotaged many attempts. There are numerous cases where PCVs partnership proposals have sat on his desk and not been submitted to Washington for approval but the volunteer was not aware of this until it was too late. The PC staff treats us as is we are high school students, and moreover are the bad students. We have had a high rate of early termination (ET) for this reason…Few volunteers are willing to serve on the volunteer advisory committee (VAC) as the former country director would often filibuster at the meetings, would not listen to us and if anyone spoke up he would react in a condescending way—essentially shutting off any type of a two-way dialogue…The country director viewed any suggestion as a personal attack and would retaliate against those volunteers that offered suggestions or tried to explain some of the problems that existed out in the field…The lack of resources and support from PC administration is also demoralizing when we contemplate the thinking that is behind it—that we are not serious, development experts, but are youngsters who cannot be trusted and have little to offer beyond being friendly Americans who, unlike the tourists, are willing to learn and speak the host country native languages.

I have watched one demoralized PCV after another leave…It saddens me because it was so unnecessary.” PCV 2005-2007


6. West Africa

“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your bravery in standing up for what you believe in, especially in an environment that is—at times—as hostile and unyielding as the Peace Corps bureaucracy…First and foremost, is the manner in which volunteers (and their service) is viewed here. I consider myself a fairly intelligent individual…I worked for [many] years before coming into the Peace Corps, and was used to being treated as an adult. In the small amount of time that I have spent in Peace Corps [name of country withheld], I feel like the clocks have been turned backwards, and I am back in my parent’s house repeating high school. We are constantly monitored, constantly mistrusted, constantly questioned, and constantly driven away from service due to these issues…The Peace Corps has bred an environment of intimidation, telling the volunteers ‘you should feel privileged to even be a part of this’ and constantly threatening administrative separation. Now, I do feel privileged to have been chosen to serve my country as a Peace Corps volunteer, but this BY NO MEANS gives them the right to then treat me as a worthless and skill-less individual that is incapable of managing myself….[T]hrough intimidation, they breed a fraternity-like environment where we are expected to bend over, get paddled, and simply say ‘thank you sir, may I have another.’ It is this lack of respect, which in turn causes the many volunteers to become disillusioned and ET.” PCV 2006-2008


7. East Africa

“I was dismayed early in my service to observe how the staff at PC-[name of country withheld] treated us Volunteers. Mostly, they treated us with disdain--as though we were a bother to be dispatched as quickly as possible. It felt as though the staff had no respect for us and for our efforts as Volunteers...I think that the most difficult thing for me as an older (I was 56 when I started my service) Volunteer in Peace Corps-[name of country withheld], was learning how bureaucratic Peace Corps was…When we would make any sort of request to the staff, the response invariably included a comment about how busy the staff person was, or how we didn’t need what we were requesting. Oftentimes, the PCVs were treated like we were recalcitrant children who were bothering ‘the grownups.’...We Volunteers got the sense that what mattered most to the CD was getting in as many vacation days as possible.” PCV 2002-2004

8. South America

 “The organization I believed Peace Corps to be was not the same one I experienced as a volunteer.  I believed I were joining an organization that focused on community development, addressing local needs through sustainable projects and ultimately bettering the lives of the people I was to serve through improved education, health care and technology. This, unfortunately, was not the case. It appeared that the general attitude toward volunteer hosting, site placement, project development and volunteer issues was one of convenience, with little respect paid toward the needs of the community or the skills of the volunteer…[O]ur training was inadequate, our site placement was poorly researched and project support was almost non-existent…[N]o system for organizational memory existed.  We were to repeat the mistakes of past volunteers, raising the question of how serious Peace Corps considered our service.

Housing and project placement appeared to be based on nepotism and cronyism, with little to no research into the needs of the community…Most volunteers learned at some point during their two-years in country that if they were to consider their service a ‘success,’ they needed to disconnect themselves from the Peace Corps office, develop projects on their own and bypass official Peace Corps funding.” PCV 2003-2005


9. Eastern Europe

“I have had numerous bad experiences with the staff of PC [name of country withheld]. With one exception, every time I have complained or given constructive criticism, my comments have been dismissed by the staff…I informed the staff immediately that my host organization was not a good fit for me. I was told that I did not know what was right for me and to leave these decisions in the hands of the staff, the experts on the issue. It has now been a year since my site placement and I am still incredibly unsatisfied with my host organization. I have let the Peace Corps staff know about this and they simply dismissed my statements and told me I needed to work on these things by myself…I was highly offended by the same program staff during his visit to my site during our first 3 months of service. During our meeting he made numerous offensive comments to me that were sexual in nature. I complained to the ACPD in a private meeting in her office. She told me that this behavior was normal for [name of country withheld] and it’s to be expected, but that she would talk to him about it.” PCV, 2007-present

10. Central Asia

“I am not sure whether to be happy that I am not alone in my feelings or to be disheartened by the fact that so many volunteers around the world have run into the same issues. I can sum up my experience so far with the statement ‘If I am successful it in my role as PCV I believe it will be in spite of Peace Corps Management and not because of it.’…In my short time in country about all we have heard from Peace Corps Administration is ‘don’t do that or you will be Administratively Separated’ and ‘If you get caught doing this you will face Administrative Separation.’ They use that threat for about everything imaginable…Many of the volunteers I have spoken to have no faith in changes taking place based on Volunteer feedback. I have come to the conclusion that the Peace Corps staff views the volunteers as potential liabilities and not the assets that we are.” PCV 2008—present

11. Asia

“We came in under the watch of a CD who had the philosophy that PCV's didn't actually need a job in their assigned sites and consequently many of us felt underutilized and devalued, especially the teachers and social workers. Little or no effort was made to communicate with host agencies about what was expected of them in utilizing PCV's and therefore teachers were not allowed to teach and those of us in the social work agencies were only peripheral with no real tasks assigned…Living allowance did not meet the needs of daily living if a PCV chose to live on their own and this was not information shared beforehand. Therefore, each month I had to tap into my own savings to pay for food and transportation…There was rampant alcohol abuse among some of the younger volunteers, probably because of isolation and loneliness, but I know part of the reason was the pervasive feeling of not being able to do what they came to do as a volunteer.” PCV 2005-2007


12. North Africa

“Of more concern to me was the treatment of the PCVs by some of the program managers, to the point I finally told our CD that if I continued to be treated like a 16-year old employed worker rather than a mature (65 years old) adult volunteer, that I would have no choice but to leave. I know I was not the only person who felt the same. That program manager is no longer with the PC but the replacement has already created her own ‘culture of disrespect’ as stated to me by the current PST group….The new PM has called HCNs who live in rural areas "ignorant," yet during training she lectures and interrupts other's presentations, making comments that clearly indicate she has no knowledge of the subject as pertains to our lives/work here… I must add at this point that every survey that has been taken for the past two years, and for some years previously, on settling-in allowance and monthly living allowances have not had adequate response percentages to effect an increase.” PCV 2006-2008


13. Southern Africa

“As ambassadors, I think the Peace Corps is terrific. But in making meaningful change while we are here, in a way one can see, it is not being done by the vast majority of volunteers…Just with the older PCVs I have come to know here in [our country], we have teachers, nurses, business people and university professors with 20 plus years of experience. All of these professions could be supporting the country at a level of their experience. But to a person, they are in an entry level position at sites that do not find the proper value in their experience, and most often are not even a match for the profession.” PCV 2008-present


14. Eastern Europe

“Even though [name of country withheld] had more Peace Corps Volunteers than anywhere else in the world (300+), I am sorry to say that PC [name of country withheld] was very poorly run. Whenever PCVs would get together, all we would do was complain about the staff. One day - I realized that it was usually about the same staff members. And then it dawned on me—all of the people we were complaining about where also the American staff members—not the [name of country withheld]! And I remember thinking how very sad that it’s the Americans who are acting like Soviets—not the [name of country withheld]!...Our country director was very polarizing. [T]he majority of us did everything possible to stay away from him. I heard numerous staff members complain that he was treating them like it was the old soviet times…I found myself constantly saying to the new PCVs, ‘If you want to be a successful PCV—lay low.’ Don’t ever call the PC office—especially if you have a complaint or concern or problem or issue. They will always turn it on YOU for creating the problem. Or blame you for getting sick. Or blame you for putting yourself in a ‘bad situation.’ Or accuse you of not being able to solve your problems. Even if you want to let your RM know of a situation, they will interpret all comments as complaining and will mark you as high maintenance and as a complainer. The most successful volunteers are those who the staff doesn’t even know exist. Don’t ever call anyone on staff unless you are dying—and even then think twice. How sad that my advice was to not stand out, to not excel, and just try to blend in.” PCV 2004-2006


15. Pacific (a)

“When I signed up for the Peace Corps, a complete young idealist, I really believed in the vision of President Kennedy. Unfortunately I have found my service to be anything but Idealistic…When I started PC I was so excited and eager and now I feel broken down and sad that I couldn't get it to work out. The PC systems really needed to be changed to better attune to Volunteers needs. It’s hard enough to come so far from home to learn a new language and way of life without having support from people in the office especially the higher ups that are our fellow Americans.” PCV 2008-2010


15. Pacific (b)

“I was put in the Hindi language class which I cannot use at site…The site development and counterparts are not thoroughly planned and organized… I often call or email programming staff at the main office and do not get return calls. I send in my trimester reports and receive a generic template response about my work. There are many PCV's in my group that never send in their reports and it pisses me off that I take the time to do it and they are not reprimanded for it.  All we've heard in the last 4 months is BUDGET CUTS, BUDGET CUTS! The Peace Corps Medical Officer doesn't even have funds to bring volunteers in for our annual physical. How is that?   I can't believe that Peace Corps wants to double the number of volunteers by 2011.  How about improve the existing system before you throw more people into the mess!!!  The quality of the Peace Corps needs to be improved.” PCV 2008 to present.


16. Southern Africa


My house had been broken into twice in one night (10:30 PM and again at 3:00 AM after the police stationed a guard) while I was inside...  I lived less than two hours from the Peace Corps Country Office in the capital city. Not once was I asked if I felt comfortable staying in my house that next night with its broken windows and lack of security. The Peace Corps Medical Officer wasn't contacted until after 7 PM that next evening...Another night of stress and no sleep, and I told the PCMO that I wanted to leave. I was summoned to the Peace Corps Office and told by the now returned Country Director that the Regional Director would not approve my staying in country to attend the Close of Service conference. I gave examples of two other volunteers who had been allowed to leave their sites and stay in [name of country withheld] for months until they could COS.  I requested a hearing in Wash D.C. as per the rules and regulations stated in our Volunteer Handbooks. I was denied that request as per the set of rules for volunteers in Wash D.C., which volunteers had not been informed of and which could not be accessed in Malawi...I left the country a few days later bitter and a bit traumatized. I was a "mature" volunteer in her mid-40's.  I had been very vocal about the lack of support for the volunteers throughout my service.  I felt that the staff, both USA staff and Host-country National staff, were there to serve themselves instead of the volunteers.” PCV 2006-2008

[edit] 17. West Africa (a)

“The issue with [name of country withheld], and I believe many other countries, is that, as often as not, the individuals who work in the Bureau of that country (most often the Americans rather than the locals who have been hired for important positions) are more interested in their careers and forwarding policy than the support of the volunteers in the field. These individuals will attempt, at the expense of the PCVs, to institute blanket guidelines that have been created by an office worker thousands of miles away. In addition, the people who are in fact there to support volunteers have forgotten this; they live and work in conditions that are similar to the Western World from which we've come and grown accustomed to. Meanwhile, volunteers are asked or required to act in ways that are either not possible, or very difficult to achieve with high moral, in the respective cultures in which they live…[I]t became obvious to my entire group that the Bureau, as an entity, did not care about the volunteers, only the numbers being sent to Washington…Finally, after having left, very disenchanted with what had been my experience was I came to grips with the issues that made me become angry and depressed.  I can't speak for all the countries around the world, but for Peace Corps [name of country withheld] the main problems came down to a lack of communication between volunteers and the Bureau; however, it was not often from the volunteer side. Decisions were made in regard to the lives of volunteers without our input, or, even when we had input, often that knowledge was ignored…[T]he Bureau was more interested in control of the activities and movements of the people and choose those [to be PCVLs] who would tell them what they wanted to know not necessarily what was needed to be known.  Volunteers felt trapped and forced to do things that either weren't what they should be doing or were blatantly without reason.” PCV 2006-2008


[edit] 17. West Africa (b)

“The…more important issue to me is the lack of responsibility that is given to volunteers. I felt like I was treated like a child. No motorcycles, no driving, no drinking, no this, no that; it was an endless dictum from up high on how I was supposed to live my life. I felt oppressed and even scared at times. Give volunteers good advice, but don't tell them what to do. We work on the ground, and more often than not, know how best to help the communities that we work with…The bureau is supposed to help volunteers, not be their watch dogs…If you truly want to make the Peace Corps a better institution than please deregulate it. Return to volunteers the ability to make their own decisions. The more rules you impose out of Washington the less effective you make the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps is supposed to represent freedom and the desire to do good in the world, but if you want to show freedom you have to give it to the volunteers. If you treat volunteers like children they will act like children. If you treat them like adults they will act accordingly.” PCV Niger 2006-2008

[edit] 18. South America

“I thank you both for shedding light on the multiple management issues currently affecting the Peace Corps and for striving to bring about change in this important agency…

Throughout my service there existed a constant tension between volunteers and the country’s administration in the central office. Battles sprung from conflicts over vacation policy and the regulations surrounding when it was and was not appropriate to leave site. At times the administration seemed more determined to hunt down ‘illegal’ vacationers than to improve the overall program, or even answer volunteer emails. Rarely would staff return emails or provide feedback, which served to further widen the gap in volunteer-administration communication and trust. At times the administration’s concern over a volunteer spending an extra day in the city to catch up on errands seemed a bit hypocritical, considering the abundance of office holidays, half-day Fridays, and extended lunches taken by the staff on a regular basis…The bewildering lack of organizational wisdom that has been retained and dearth of project resources that have been complied over Peace Corps’ history also confuse me. In the field it feels as though each volunteer is reinventing the wheel every time he or she initiates a project or trouble-shoots a problem.” PCV 2006-2008


[edit] 19. Asia

“My complaints with PC start from before service.  I speak Russian and Spanish fluently.  I requested Eastern Europe/Central Asia, Africa and then South America (in that order). I was offered Eastern Asia (A region I told my recruiter I DIDNT want to go to), and told by my placement officer that if I didn’t accept, that Peace Corps would not give me a second choice and that I would have to reapply from the very beginning.  I found out later that this was a lie…Training for our program was miserable, irrelevant and ineffective. Our language training was terrible.  We weren’t allowed to take notes, no consideration was made for how quickly volunteers learn the language, and no consideration was made for different learning styles…Our technical training was also the bare minimum…The site selection process was…completely arbitrary. ..When I make my complaints to HQ, they just say…I should just spend a year to a year and a half getting to know the community, then the work will come. I should just ‘hang out’ for a year and a half, then get the work?  Have you ever had to not do anything for a year? Its torture!” PCV 2008-2010

[edit] 20. Caribbean

“After a year of the most trivial and repeated medical testing (to the point where my own doctor picked up the phone and called the PC nurse to tell him in no uncertain terms that I did not have an on-going condition they swore I had (cost me $1000 out-of-pocket to prove it) I was accepted and assigned to Grenada. One week before I was to fly to Miami for Staging, I got a call saying I was being switched to [name of country withheld]. And they had put me in Youth Development.  I asked if they had by chance read my resume.  I don't 'do kids' and I am a small business specialist.  No, hadn't seen it, wasn't in my file from DC…As for the PC staff here on the island, they are basically useless and clueless. ..The Asst. CD cannot carry on a conversation that isn't dialog out of the PC rules and regulations book. She quotes it verbatim, like a wind-up doll…When we tell the locals we are working with some of the rules we have to follow, they are flabbergasted and totally amazed at the stupidity…We all feel that the PC staff are not on our side, are trying to find any reason to send us packing.” PCV 2008 to present</nowiki>

[edit] 21. Central Africa

“The general view of Volunteers in [name of country withheld] is that Admin should be avoided at all times. There are exceptions to this - the PCMO and the Health APCDs are responsive to Volunteer needs in the field, and their attention to detail is widely appreciated.  As for the CD, the training unit, and Peace Corps Washington, the application of policy is arbitrary, rigid, authoritarian, command and control, all the worst aspects of bureaucracy. Volunteers expect that policy decisions handed down from Washington or from the CD of [name of country withheld] will be worst-case scenario decisions, 180 degrees contrary to Volunteer needs. There seems to be no consideration for Volunteers' personal or professional obligations, no respect for Volunteer input, and no regard for the reputation or the professionalism of individual Volunteers, and by extension for the Peace Corps as a whole.  Individual letters, petitions, or meetings with the CD or the Peace Corps Director in Washington get stonewalled. Individual unofficial protests of policy are ignored. Peace Corps Volunteers are intelligent, creative, idealistic educated people.  They should be treated as an asset.” PCV 2007-present


[edit] 22. West Africa

“Unfortunately, as with many—even most—of our fellow PCVs, we found that both our patience and our flexibility have been tested more by an impatient, inflexible, and occasionally incompetent Peace Corps bureaucracy than by the challenges of living for two yearsin an undeveloped African country…[M]any PCTs problems and concerns aired in an open session were fairly dismissed—even derided—by Peace Corps staff. Of course, some concerns were overblown, perhaps, but the condescension was unnecessary…Indeed, ‘That's Africa’ seems to be the general attitude when any volunteer has a concern; however, it seems more the case that, ‘That's Peace Corps.’  Volunteers are frequently referred to as ‘all 22-year olds, fresh out of college,’ which many of our stage group are not. Besides that fact, why should someone aged 22 not be respected as an adult?.. We're told it is not as difficult here, and that we should ‘suck it up.’…Finally, staff are constantly surprised by discontent in the ranks, surprised to hear that we do not feel we are getting the—even minimal—support we need...Many Peace Corps staff treat volunteers with not just contempt, but outright suspicion. Whereas one should feel that ‘support staff’ are the first ones to go to with a problem, PCVs often avoid seeing and talking to them at all costs. Certainly, in a position where even unfounded ‘suspicions’ of illicit activity, raised ‘anonymously,’ are ruthlessly investigated, where threats of ‘administrative separation’ loom large, Peace Corps staff are the last people one would wish to confide in…As for program management, it is simply ineffective and unevaluated. Results, if there are any, are unmeasured… Unless reforms like those proposed by Senators Dodd and Kennedy are fully and well implemented, we could not in good conscience recommend Peace Corps service to anyone without expressing our many reservations, and unlike so many volunteers from the 1960s who served again in retirement, we could never consider doing so. We signed up for Peace Corps because we believed in its mission.  We still believe in that mission, but like many volunteers who have ended their service early or stuck it out despite frustrations and anger at an ineffectual, impersonal, and frequently inept bureaucracy, we will look back upon our service with as much sadness as joy.” PCV 2007-2009


[edit] 23. South America (a)

“For a long time we have felt that the higher administration is out of touch with the needs of both Volunteers in the field and with the communities they serve...Our former Country Director terminated our Peer Support program and told volunteers in a mass email that if they were unhappy they should just go home and that the Country Director and Program Training Officer know more about volunteer life than Peer Support so a Volunteer should just go directly to them for support...I love Peace Corps and I have enjoyed my experience.  However, I have also been very frustrated with my administration and their unwillingness to include Volunteer input and constructive criticism. PCV 2008 to present.

[edit] 23. South America (b)

“Volunteers are often not treated as adults by PC...Site development and site selection is severely lacking.  Nearly all the Volunteers who have left early claim that some part of their decision was related to site development.  PC staff often spends no more than a couple of hours at a site before determining it suitable for a Volunteer. What needs to happen is to put more resources and time into site development.  PC [name of country withheld] has a Volunteer Advisory Committee, however, this committee is constantly told that the issues they raise are non-negotiable.  Therefore, this advisory committee doesn´t do anything and thus many of its members quit...       There is zero continuity here in PC [name of country withheld].  Many Volunteers quickly find themselves in a position of not knowing who their immediate superiors are... Training needs to be revamped.  The best parts of training with the tech trips that we took to receive more practical hands-on knowledge.  Most of training, however, was spent sitting in a room getting lectured to by current PCVs, staff, or some other technical expert.  Without the hands-on experiences a Volunteer walks away from training with a bunch of ideas and information, but little real ability to put those into action... I still scratch my head trying to figure out why PC-[name of country withheld] does not have a website of its own.  A place where Volunteers can access documents (PC Forms, grant applications, etc.) and technical resources... In my time here I have heard staff call Volunteers:  whiners, complainers, spoiled brats, members of Posh Corps, entitled, jerks, and titty-suckers.  Hey, we do whine and complain at times, we do need to be coddled a bit, but the bottom line is that each and every one of us gave up the comforts of the U.S. to serve in Peace Corps, to learn a new culture, to learn a new language.  The primary role of staff is to support the Volunteer s so that they can make positive impacts in their sites.  Only by working together can PC function as a development organization.” PCV 2008 to present


[edit] 24. Central Asia

“I too am a returning Peace Corps Volunteer. I served in [name of country withheld] in 1968-69 and now serve in [name of country withheld]...As volunteers we are treated as if we have little ability to manage our personal lives or make job decisions.  Most of the volunteers I am serving with are the age of my three adult children but Peace Corps polices and rules restrict our own decision making as if we were children of 8 or 9 years...Now I am one of a very few 50+ volunteers in my country but along with the younger volunteers policies treat us as if we don’t have the sense to come in out of the rain...One of the reasons that I object so to these policy restrictions is the fact that when you treat people as if they can’t make their own decisions some stop making good decisions, some ignore policies and others just leave...I believe in the Peace Corps as much now as I did 40 years ago.  I agree that it is time to make it more a part of the 21st Century.  The base this more mature Peace Corps is built on must be sound. In my short period of this second stint I have seen too many volunteers disappointed with their opportunity for service. Part of this is the policies under which we serve and part is what we have been asked to do.  PCV 1968-9 and 2008-present

25. East Africa

“Rather than narrative form, I am opting to use bullets to make more points in less space. I am an older volunteer in an Eastern African country. Where I have 8 months left of service, I prefer to remain anonymous now, but would be glad to assist with your PC reform efforts after I complete my service.

  • Training: It was geared for high school graduates, not college grads, let alone those with years of professional careers behind them...
  • Language: Again, geared for 20 somethings, when older adult learners require alternate learning strategies due to known cerebral changes associated with aging.
  • Staff ineptitude: One example would be the APCD for my program said at IST that when he had not received any responses from my site personnel that they wanted a volunteer, he interpreted that as “Yes.” I will spare you a long list of possible examples.
  • Site placement: I told staff I would go anywhere or do anything, but do not place me on the Eastern African coast due to the climate. Where was I first sent? The coast with a sweltering, humid, hot climate that started out at 90 degrees F at 8 a.m., only to go up from there to 120 degrees in the sun by 10 a.m.
  • Staff rudeness: I am mentoring younger volunteers because I enjoy that role. One recently received a rude call, as I have many times, asking where certain forms were. The staff member had not checked his email before placing this rude call. I once was accused of being away from my site in a town 14 hours away from my site. After repeating the same questions numerous times and interrupting my language lesson, staff called another volunteer to confirm my whereabouts. I find this quite insulting since as an older volunteer, everyone knows I stay in my village.
  • Training: Redundant, over and over the same material. We are all college grads and don’t need to be told the same things over and over. Although we fill out forms asking for suggestions for training content, the same old, same old is presented.
  • Staff do not return emails or phone calls: No matter the issue, they are too busy to help with anything, grants, simple questions, etc. They work a 4.5 day week and have group sports on Friday afternoons because of the stress they state they have.
  • Reimbursements are so slow that younger volunteers fake medical conditions to go into the PC office to obtain their past medical, VAC, or other reimbursements. Otherwise, reimbursements go into a black hole. There is no notification of what the problem may be. There has been some improvement lately with this due to staffing changes.
  • Lack of volunteer support: Any concerns are framed as complaining or as your fault, so I am pleasant but distance myself from country staff. Where this plan is effective for me as an older volunteer, it is very difficult for some of the younger volunteers and as a result they languish in their villages, doing very little for their service or spend their time drinking. I was told early in my service that “under the radar” is the best plan by far.
  • We have filled out numerous living allowance surveys and staff agree living costs vary widely depending on site. I don’t know any PCV who can live on our monthly allotment except those who live in communities where rice and beans are the only food options. The 75% return rate required to obtain an increase is outrageous and anyone with any knowledge of statistics knows that this return rate is impossible to obtain. Then, staff go shopping anyway to confirm that a living allowance increase is needed. Again, when will PC start trusting that PCVs are not all manipulative, untrustworthy people?
  • Lack of support for projects: Grants are not reviewed for months on end, then alternate directions are given as to how to complete grant forms, only to reverse or change directions once stated changes were made. Available and requested materials are not sent for important PC projects, such as supporting World AIDS Day.” PCV 2008 to present

26. Central America

“[My husband and I are] writing to express [our] support to Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff and the Dodd/Kennedy Bill…[With regard to our site during training w]e found out…that a Peace Corps representative has not been in [one of our sites] in over 5 years and no Peace Corps representative had EVER been in [out other site]. For our first month of service we stayed with a host family as Peace Corps policy states. Peace Corps negotiated the contract with the host family including what we would pay and that the host family would cook our meals instead of letting us cook for ourselves, without our input or permission…We started to notice the first week that we both had come down with diarrhea. It persisted every day, unless we were traveling and ate somewhere then our host family’s house. We than began to notice that our “host Mom” would cook our evening meal in the morning, only cover it for the entire day [in the 95 degree heat] and then serve it to us at night…We reported this to our PCMO, who told us that it was Peace Corps policy that we live with a host family for one month and there was nothing she could do to move us…[With regard to our post for our service] we discovered that our sites were 10 hours apart. When we told this to Peace Corps they responded with “you can see each other on weekends”. We were neither told about this distance in our sites nor did we give our permission to be separated. Peace Corps contractually obliged to us that as a married couple we would be located together…The people located at my site did not know who I was or what I was doing there. Nobody offered to help us and when I inquired if someone would take us around the park I was told by [park] employees to rent a guide at my own expense….We met with a young employee of [the park and] asked the young man if it was safe to stay in the government housing in the park at night (the park closes at 5 pm). The young man said that it was NOT safe but they didn’t have any alternatives…[H]e did not want me to go to [the park] without my husband present. [But at my husband’s site, 10 hours away, the park] staff was adamant that my husband needed to [live there]…I was told [by the Peace Corps] to go to [my park] on a bus [but my husband] was not to go with me. I reminded them that Peace Corps had told us that I was not to go to [my park] without my husband the PCACD told me that “Peace Corps did not say that”…I was left completely abandoned by people I trusted in Peace Corps…The following month it became more and more impossible to get me to my [primary] site without incurring extra costs to be paid out of my pocket and having me stay alone in a place that was not considered safe by local people. I also did not trust the people at my site to make sure I made it home when it was time and not abandon me or be unable to bring me back. I [was told by my] PCCD (country Director)…to “just start working on projects at [my secondary site].” [But people at the second site] refused to work with me because of a fear to spark an internal conflict within the [main park] office. I wrote a long carefully worded letter to the PCACD, PCPM and the PCSO (Security Officer) detailing my safety concerns and questions. My questions were directly related to who was going to escort me into the [primary site] and whose responsibility it was to make sure that I would be safe in the park. In this letter I recalled all of the earlier incidents that had occurred during our stays at the park as evidence that I needed to know the answers to those questions. I received a phone call from the PCACD, where he demanded to know where I was going to work. I told him I was not going to return to [my primary site] until my security questions were answered and I knew who the people were that I would contact. He could not give me those answers and repeatedly told me that “its safe, its fine”. During this conversation I feel I was bullied by the PCACD into staying in the site that he set up, because he did not want the embarrassment of admitting the site was a failure…I told the PCPM that I wanted to make an official complaint against the PCACD, which was ignored and I was told it would go into my file. Seeing no alternative, I sent my security questions to the park director and cc’d the PCACD. The PCACD then accused me of “poisoning future relationships” with the host country agency. I never received any answers to my security questions…This completed the first 3 months of our Peace Corps service…[Later w]e called Peace Corps and told them about our situation and the new PCACD (the one from earlier had moved on) immediately decided to move us. [T]he PCACD told us that if a new site could not be found we would have to go home. We were put in this situation and this town by Peace Corps, who knew nothing about it when they placed us there, and we were about to be forced to ET because of a Peace Corps mistake. [Then] PCCD emailed us and in no uncertain terms stated that the PCACD had made too quick of a decision and we were given an ultimatum to return to [our site] or to go home… After what we would find out later was a series of emergency meetings, we were granted another ultimatum. They had found us a new site but we would have to extend at least 6 months or we would have to ET. [W]e are determined to see this service to completion and we are flexible. We chose to extend and the good news is that our new site is great…While our story has a happy ending, this is a prime example of gross Peace Corps oversight, lack of planning, and inability and (in some cases) outright refusal to sufficiently support its volunteers. In our situation our treatment on behalf of the Peace Corps [name of country withheld] staff was unethical at best and at worse a breach of contract and knowingly exposing us to dangerous situations.” PCVs 2007-present


27. Central America

We are a “50+” married couple, currently serving as Peace Corps Volunteers. While considering whether to apply, we read over 1000 pages of Peace Corps training manuals (including titles such as Community Economic Development, Micro-Enterprise, Roles of The Volunteer, etc.) and were thrilled to find ourselves in complete agreement with the espoused development theory. However, after our experiences…, we could not today in good conscience recommend Peace Corps service to others, until and unless the organization, including its mission, policies, and implementation, has been revisited and modified. How did we get from there to here? Why did we find an organization whose reputation in the States is above reproach, one that is defended each funding cycle by both politicians and former volunteers with a cult-like fervor, one that is so clear in theory, yet so dysfunctional in practice? We ask these questions with a sincere interest in restoring the Peace Corps’ potential to reach its goal, to work for ‘world peace and friendship,’ and perhaps along the way, to restore our own idealism. Although we have had wonderful moments during our service, we have been forced to spend an inordinate amount of time, attention and energy dealing with unnecessary challenges caused by both the contradictions between Peace Corps’ theory and practice, and institutionalized dysfunction. Initially we thought it possible that our experiences in Peace Corps might be unique to the country itself and / or our individual circumstances; yet, we have found, through corresponding with numerous other past and present volunteers, that many of the difficulties we have encountered are universally experienced to varying degrees around the globe…Because the majority of recruits are just out of college and most are generalists, the assumption is that nine to twelve weeks of training qualifies a trainee in a given field to spend the next two years transferring their newly acquired knowledge, skills, and attitudes to host country partners. The basis for this approach seems questionable in today’s world where developing nations have their own college graduates in need of work in their own countries… It is unfortunate that Peace Corps still does not have a successful basic training program in place, but reinvents the wheel with every new group of arriving trainees and trainers…The arduous process of applying for Peace Corps service requires the future volunteer to provide volumes of information on him- or herself, from high school and college transcripts, to descriptions of skills and life experiences, to extensive records that confirm medical and dental clearance. One might hope that, as a result of this process, a complete picture of the applicant would enable appropriate site and job placement for each accepted volunteer. Unfortunately, by the time records reach the intended country of service, only a resume describes the future volunteer to in-country staff, and they are left with this as a guide in attempting to match a person with an existing request for a PCV. This approach to placement seems to be unique among volunteer agencies in the field of international development, with comparable organizations in Japan (JICA) and the UK (VOS) using a direct job placement model. (These agencies also have a smaller number of volunteers and a lower attrition rate.)…When discussing with our APCD the difficulties of spending nearly half of our service period dealing with poor assignments, we were told, ‘Well, didn’t that experience make you stronger?’ We do not believe, particularly as mature adults, that working under expectations of undue hardship (whether caused by ineptitude, unclear communication or intentional maneuverings,) under the guise of character building, is a useful exercise. Again, clearer trainings, communication, and a large-scale effort to educate host country nationals as to the intended role of Peace Corps volunteers are needed to make the best use of volunteers’ time, effort, and goodwill…There has been a chronic pattern of insensitive communication from staff to PCVs that creates low morale. The most disturbing examples of this were communications surrounding the violent assault and robbery of one PCV (and gang rape of his girlfriend,) and a volunteer’s death. Both of these incidents were handled throughout with administration’s obvious primary concern being to control media coverage of the incidents, rather than to relay clear information and attend to the emotional responses and needs of the remaining PCVs…The myth of the Peace Corps is a powerful one, embedded in the North American psyche after having been built on decades of goodwill and warm, fuzzy anecdotes. Indeed, the myth lies in the moments; but, the hours, weeks, and months tell a fuller story, one worth listening to, and learning from. As we examine Peace Corps’ inefficiencies, we see a two-fold problem: the agency’s dysfunction, in addition to limiting its effectiveness in achieving its own program goals also creates undue stresses that limit the volunteer’s capacity for productivity. With this in mind, it becomes clear that increasing the number of volunteers and / or adding additional funding are not, at this time, the answer to the question of how to improve Peace Corps. Positive changes may begin with the careful consideration of each aspect of the organization, including, but not limited to: pre-service training; host family stays; site placement, job assignment and counterparts; health; staff support and communication; and the Peace Corps culture…Ultimately, changes may be made, resulting in a Peace Corps that fulfills its own theoretical premise and promise, and is worthy of the taxpayer’s money, volunteers’ time and commitment, and host countries’ efforts. It would be at that time that, with the same enthusiasm we had when we began our service, we could unequivocally recommend Peace Corps service to others. To borrow a line from President Obama’s inaugural address, ‘For the world has changed, and we must change with it.’” PCVs 2007-present


28. Central America

“My wife and I are 1 3/4 years into our service in [name of country withheld]. We are in our early 50s and gave up a beautiful home and very nice careers in order to try and make a contribution to the needs of the world's poor. That was our sole motivation for joining and is probably the reason why, unlike so many of the younger volunteers, we feel like our experience has been a waste. Where they have been able to create positive spins on their time here thru resume building, personal and romantic relationships, travel, and avoiding the start of a working life (or in most cases grad school), we can only see the wasted tax dollars and completely ineffective manner in which PC operates as a development service to its host countries, and how it fails in supporting the philanthropic motives of its volunteers.


PC doesn't seem to even try to serve as a development tool for host countries. [We] won't speculate as to what PC has as its un-stated purpose, but beyond US public relations, we don't see anything. Yes, a very small percentage of PCVs do accomplish significant things, but they do it with no help or support from PC, only from their own efforts, and usually with money from friends and family thru the PC Partnership program. They are also the lucky ones who are assigned to a site that has a person or organization who wants to work with them. This of course doesn't count the one or two indigenous poster communities that garner money from USAID and the US Embassy and are used as show sites for visiting dignitaries.


What is obvious is that PC is no different than any other government agency with its primary goals being survival and expansion. After 35 years here, PC is still doing the same types of projects it was when it started. There is no effort to coordinate with government agencies or communities and promote self sufficiency. And with the country well developed economically, the office here seems desperate to find new sites to justify its desire to expand. New volunteers are being assigned to highly developed sites, sometimes with a large expate population already present (like our site). Follow up volunteers are assigned to sites when no longer needed or requested. But the strategy is working. [name of country withheld] has been very successful at increasing the number of volunteers and expanding its budget and staff.


PC has no interest in providing the necessary tools for volunteers. We were stunned to find out that, after 45 years in Latin America, there was no "teaching English" program, curriculum, or even notes, that we could get. Virtually every PCV here spends some time teaching English and every one has to try to build a program from scratch. The same applies to information technology, environmental education, and any other activity the typical PCV tries to do in their site. The only definitive program with a complete and comprehensive manual here is Sexual Health. That was done by volunteers with no help from the office and only within this country. Every other country had to make their own, if they have one. Nothing exists to share resources except a new gmail account set up by some volunteers just last year to try to meet that need. Unfortunately, with no one to manage it, it is becoming a disorganized collection of files that few are even trying to use. Last year PC [name of country withheld] initiated a new program to teach English and promote tourism. But for the English part, the volunteers received no books, dictionaries, lesson plans, etc. How can anyone be serious about teaching a language as difficult as English with no resources whatsoever? [We] suspect the purpose is not to actually teach English, but to accomplish the goal of increasing the size of the country operation.


The thing we have found most upsetting is the complete waste of talent we have seen. With 30 years of business experience, my wife and I were assigned as follow up PCVs to a 4 person organic farming group (we know nothing about farming), and nothing else. The group had not even requested another volunteer. Young PCVs with Civil Engineering degrees are assigned to latrine projects involving nothing more than digging holes in the ground. PCVs with theatre arts and political science degrees share the same work. Fluent Spanish speakers are assigned to indigenous sites where they have to learn another language. For a significant number of volunteers, the projects they end up working on have nothing to do with development at the site or country level. Rather they involve themselves in projects associated with the PC office. When a PCV says they are “busy” they are usually involved with office activities like new group training, planning conferences, or developing new training tools. Others get together to do AIDS presentations. Interestingly though, the actual AIDS and sexual health presentation is done by a Red Cross volunteer. All the PCVs do is plan games to make the day more fun.


The [name of country withheld] office is apparently considered very well managed. They have a high rate of volunteer extensions, have increased their volunteer numbers, and maintained below average ET rates. But lets look at those indicators. First, [name of country withheld] is a developed country with an large international city offering everything one could find in the states. It is home to many expates and so has a large permanent American population. It’s debatable whether PC should even be here. But the main reason most volunteers extend here is because they are involved in a romantic relationship with another PCV or a national. The other reason we hear is that the younger PCVs just aren't ready to start the routine of a life of work. Unlike more undeveloped countries, this is a pretty easy place to stay. But even with that, almost 50% of our group left early due to lack of meaningful work, or were Admin Separated, mostly for incidents related to a lack of work opportunity and boredom.


The Country Director, who had been here for 7 years (he's leaving to head a PC country director training project in DC), constantly bragged about how exceptional the [name of country withheld] operation was. He is a very nice person and very, very protective of his staff. But it is easy to see your operation as successful when you deny the existence of anyone identified as an unhappy or unsuccessful PCV. It doesn't even matter if you’re productive at your site, only that you are loving PC. Once you are identified as unhappy, frustrated, or struggling, you are not helped or counselled. You are blackballed. Our CD visited us one time because our site is located in a vacation area where he was visiting with his family. We had been in site for 3 months and expressed our troubles and frustrations with him then. Instead of getting any support, we eventually learned that we were the only couple not invited to a reception for the PC National Director a few months later, and have never been invited to participate in any office training or activity that would expose us to new volunteers. Other than the mandatory 3 month and 1 year visits by our APCD, we have never seen another staff person at our site or been contacted by one.


[We] won't touch much on the 3 months of our lives we lost doing PC training. That subject has been beat to death, I'm sure. But what does merit mentioning in our case was the complete lack of concern for the training needs and existing qualifications of older volunteers. PC [name of country withheld] knew all about the difficulties our demographic has with language training. They even sent us copies of articles they had substantiating it. Yet they did nothing to support us or offer us alternative training methods. Even now, our language skills are minimal which has obviously hindered our ability to participate in meaningful community activities. It was also ridiculous for us to sit every day thru training sessions conducted by 22 year old volunteers with no knowledge of what they were talking about. All the older volunteers in our group were assigned to developed sites and none have been successful in developing any meaningful projects (ourselves included). For younger volunteers, PC training (and subsequent service) did nothing to facilitate a transition from college to professional life; just the opposite. The environment encouraged young PCVs to hold on to their college mentality. The atmosphere was designed to emulate summer camp as opposed to an effective training environment. The focus was always on fun and positive reinforcement thru games and activities. The failure of the training was evident by the behaviour of many of the trainees and their struggles afterward.


We have just completed our new reporting form on our activity. The form itself is designed to make PC service sound great, capture cute little "success stories" and overstate PCV contribution. We are teaching a computer class to 3 grades totalling 48 children. We only teach one day a week, an hour each class. If a PCV holds an AIDs presentation for an hour to 25 kids, that goes down, even tho the presentation was done by the Red Cross. If you play baseball with some kids a couple times a month, that goes down as a youth group activity reaching 20 kids building self-esteem and teamwork. It’s easy to see how the numbers can be made to look impressive with no substance behind them. Plus, the younger PCVs have every incentive to embellish their numbers as much as possible. Its like having college seniors who are applying to graduate school, grade themselves knowing their grades will never be verified. One PCV we met last year admitted to us that she had a terrible experience and didn’t do much of anything in her 2 years. She was the previous volunteer at our site. Today, we understand she is working for PC in the states. Again, young PCVs have a lot to gain or lose from how they present themselves as PCVs and RPCVs. There is no incentive for them to make honest presentations of their service. Also, younger volunteers seem more content with small activities. Many of them express satisfaction with their PC experience, even though they aren’t doing much. They seem to be able to enjoy a more balanced lifestyle than older PCVs because they are building career/grad school credentials just by being here, enjoying personal relationships, travelling, and holding on to a college type life style. Also, they do not recognize the sacrifice they make in career and income. If they did, they would also be much more dissatisfied.


Like all volunteers, we can easily put a very positive spin on our service and make it sound like we did a lot. But the reality is we have failed in just about everything we tried to do. We accept that the blame is shared among Peace Corps, the community that did not need or want us, and our own shortcomings and failings. What we cannot accept, is that key factors that contributed to our failure are obvious and therefore, should already have been addressed. We should not have been sent to the site we were assigned and should not have been sent to this country, given its disregard for the needs and qualifications of older volunteers. Most likely, accepting older volunteers and married couples was just another way to bump up the country's PCV numbers. We also feel resentment because our experience does not appear to be the exception, but the norm. PC is content with a 20% or less rate of PCV success, hides or denies its real performance issues, and uses the exaggerated to perpetuate its myth and maintain the status quo.


Like everyone else, we want to see PC succeed. It is one of the few organizations that has the potential to do really good things. But based on what we have seen ourselves and heard from other volunteers in other countries, we do not believe it is accomplishing any of its goals to any significant degree, only thru the individual successes of a very small percentage of its volunteers. We believe the following recommendations would be needed to make PC the kind of agency its recruiting department promotes:


[Recommendation:] The fluff and fake stats generated by today’s volunteer reporting tools sound impressive I'm sure, but they are hollow and artificial. Install leadership that wants to build international relationships thru works, not just PR. It would not cost any more to have volunteers involved in legitimate activities than the waste of tax payer $ to keep most of us in country with no contributions. This would involve reducing, not increasing the number of volunteers and reducing the office with less focus on in-country training (which was the only focus here) and more support for development. After all, that's why most volunteers are joining isn't it?


[Recommendation:] Produce internationally shareable volunteer tools that cover the most basic activities volunteers typically do. Stop making every volunteer reinvent every wheel there is. Stop producing volunteers that, with the best of intentions, do the most basic tasks badly because they have no resources from which to work...


PCs volunteers, in most cases are unqualified for any real development projects. What may have been good enough in the 1960s does not apply in today’s environment. What PCVs do that government agencies and NGOs don't, is live among the people and understand what they really need. PCVs can make great liaisons and intermediaries between the community and the agency and this is a role that should be emphasized and developed for those with limited practical or academic skills. With no qualifications, PCVs doing advanced projects can do more harm than good (we have seen this). And with no resources, even the qualified PCVs are handcuffed as to what they can actually accomplish. Meanwhile, NGOs and government agencies with the expertise and resources, are throwing money away on unnecessary or ill conceived projects because they have no one who really understands what the community needs. PCVs would be more successful if they were assigned to a project under the direction of another agency rather than working alone, especially given they recieve no help from Peace Corps or the US govt.


[Recommendation:] Provide different types of volunteer service with relevant training based on that type. Maintain the small community PC service where relevant and for volunteers seeking that experience, but provide higher level service options that involve working within agencies, ministries, or school systems. Work within the leadership levels of appropriate organizations instead of around them. The first option preserves the traditional, stereotypical PC experience that many seek and does have true value where the community actually wants the PCV and supports their presence. The second, we understand is being done in some countries already. But give PCVs the option to enter the type most appropriate for them. From what we have seen and heard, PC is terrible at matching sites with PCVs. The criteria used seem to have nothing to do with skills, language, experience, or personal interest.


[Recommendation:] Country and national offices need to stop suppressing failure and start embracing it to see how to make things better. All anyone wants to do is promote the cute stories that makes PC sound so useful and personally fulfilling. Only by working and communicating with volunteers who are struggling can needs be identified and improvements made. Instead of unsuccessful volunteers being vilified and ostracized, they should be the most involved in country and national discussions. No PCV is complaining because they don’t care. They are frustrated because they care so much. They want to contribute to their communities, and be “good” PCVs, but what has been presented or provided to them is not working.


[Recommendation:] Loose the cult secrecy manner of assigning volunteers. Why hide information from volunteers as to where they will go and what they will do? Why do volunteers have to go thru a 1 year or longer application process, and then be given one option to either accept or decline? If you decline, you than have to go thru the process all over again. This is impossible to do if your an older person who isn't retired. Give applicants options based on what their skills are and where their interests lie. Maybe the drop out rate would decline significantly if volunteers had a say in selecting sites that they felt most relative instead of finding themselves in sites where they feel they are being under utilized and not getting any of the cultural or personal experiences they sought when joining. For us personally, the program in [name of country withheld], based on what we have read, seems as if it would have been a much better match for us, but we were not told at all about this program and how it differed from any other. We would never have accepted [name of country withheld] had we been given a choice. But as an older, married couple, we were lead to believe there were limited options for us. Let PC offices compete for volunteers by providing meaningful projects and quality support. Let host countries participate in the process and help recruiting PCVs so volunteers are being sent where there is actual work and host country support. If they have a stake in who comes and what they do, they may be more inclined to be better partners for PCVs, something that is not the case in [name of country withheld]. It is ridiculous to think that volunteers would only go to “soft” countries if given the choice. Most PCVs join to go where the need is greatest. We joined expecting 2 years on a dirt floor with no electricity and would have gladly accepted a position in Africa had it been offered. I’m not saying let volunteers choose their countries, but they should be involved in the process and given options as to countries, qualifying programs, and site characteristics. DC office twenty-year-olds decided on our PC fate, probably acting on what they thought were our best interests, but with no input from us, and based only on generic interview questions from another twenty-year-old. They got it wrong, but the consequences have been ours to bare.


[Recommendation:] A huge problem with PC is its staffing. Like General Motors, anyone familiar with the organization knows its problems and what needs to be done to fix them. However, the only way you get into a position to make changes to the agency, is if you don't believe there is anything that needs to be changed. PC is filled with staff who had fun during their service and aren't ready or able to start a career outside the agency. Consequently, they believe that if a volunteer is struggling, it has to be the fault of the volunteer. It could not possibly be a fallacy within PC. It is also filled with staff that have no experience beyond that of a PCV. This means you have an agency of independent offices filled with associates who, even if they think something should be different, have no idea how to change it. In [name of country withheld], all the staff does is work on training activities because that is all they know. We have never been a part of an organization that spends more time and money on training its staff, with so little to show for it. The [name of country withheld] office got its budge increased this year and all it is doing is adding 3 more training positions. Nothing for volunteer support, site/project development, resource management, or anything else that might possibly help a field volunteer be successful. But it will make it easier to justify asking for more volunteers next year.


[Recommendation:] Giving up all we did, we were obviously very serious about trying to be good, productive volunteers doing useful development work. Yet, after a year of trying to do things PC's way we found ourselves frustrated, unneeded, and ready to quit. Only our personal pride kept us here. Eventually we found our way into a couple of elementary schools and started doing computer classes in one and just hanging around and playing with the kids at another (the teachers there didn't want our help or participation). While it has been fun working with the children, an opportunity we never would have had otherwise, its a terribly small accomplishment given our aspirations, the experience we had to offer, and our sacrifice. We could never recommend PC to anyone in our demographic. But we are certain PC will make sure we won't have to.”


[edit] Appendix B: “Using the Triple Convergence to Listen

(Excerpt From Testimony of Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff Before the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, and Narcotics Affairs of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, July 25, 2007)


Thanks to the Triple Convergence that [Thomas] Friedman described [in The World is Flat], it is now possible for Volunteers to lead the Peace Corps from the grassroots. Essentially all Volunteers have email addresses and some access to their emails. And most Volunteers have cell phones for voice and text. And the Volunteers in the field have organized websites and list serves so that they can communicate with each other. Peace Corps itself uses list serves to communicate with Volunteers. In a Peace Corps world that is so connected, the tools for a flat organization already exist. All we need is to instill a culture where managers listen to and respect Volunteers and use the Triple Convergence to consult with and support them…


To these ends, the Peace Corps should consider implementing the following:

* Construct and maintain a master website for use by all Volunteers, staff and RPCVs. Also construct websites for each country where Volunteers serve. Hire webmaster and staff in Washington, D.C. and in each country (perhaps third-year Volunteers). Suggested name of website: "Sarge" (The website for the Library of Congress is named "Thomas" after Thomas Jefferson, who founded the Library with donations from his private library.)

* Set up an account for all Volunteers and staff with a user name (an ID number or name) and password. Enable account holders to change their user name (to secure anonymity) and password (to prevent third parties from posting information in their name). Open a visitors' account for Peace Corps applicants once they are invited to serve as Volunteers, enabling them to access website and obtain information useful in determining whether to accept the invitation, and upgrade their accounts once they accept the invitation. Enable RPCVs to continue their PCV account. (RPCVs may well be able to contribute valuable content to the websites.) Give all account holders the option to obtain an email address--"(Country)PeaceCorps.gov" under their own name or an alias. Permit webmaster or web monitor in Washington or abroad to rescind an account based on violation of terms of use published on the site. Note: Facebook.com revokes accounts for those who attack a specific person or group of people. University websites typically bar violation of copyrights. Permit account holders to notify the webmaster or web monitor regarding violations of the terms of use.

The Master Peace Corps website should include the following:

* A periodic column by the Peace Corps Director

* The capacity for the Director and other Peace Corps staff to engage Volunteers in live chat sessions at pre-arranged times, either open-ended or regarding subject specific topics.

* The capacity for the Peace Corps to conduct surveys of Volunteers (such as the recent NPCA survey of Volunteers regarding S. 732). Same for Peace Corps Inspector General and House and Senate oversight/legislative committees.

* Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook

* Peace Corps Manual

* Peace Corps official documents and policies

* Staff directory for Peace Corps Washington (with phone numbers and email addresses)

* Organization chart for Peace Corps Washington

* Information regarding the Peace Corps Inspector General and how to file requests for investigations (together with contact information)

* History of the Peace Corps. Special sections on JFK and Shriver

* In Memoriam section listing staff and Volunteers who have died during their service (with bios, photos and a forum for postings by those who knew them).

* Peace Corps annual reports and budget requests to Congress

* Information regarding pending legislation affecting the Peace Corps

* Peace Corps statistics

* Peace Corps news releases

* Link to Peace Corps news posted on PeaceCorpsOnLine

* Link to the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA)

* Link to all Friends (RPCV) groups (through NPCA)

* Information regarding the Peace Corps Partnership Program, including relevant forms and manuals.

* Basic information on each Peace Corps country program

* Link with World Wise Schools program. Permit teachers access to "use" accounts (limited access to website).

* List of companies that provide free or discounted cost items to Volunteers (e.g. Chacos and Christian Science Monitor). The Peace Corps should actively solicit such donations or discounts for Volunteers (e.g. free mailing of Amazon books, free or discounted subscriptions to the Economist, discounts on phone cards and cell phones that accept SIM cards, discounts on solar chargers, cameras, computers, iPods and other music players, laptops and peripherals, hot weather clothing like ExOfficio and Patagonia, camping equipment, posters, etc.), and photography sites (e.g. Snapfish and Shutterly)

* The master website should include separate sections on the following development subjects:

  • All ICE publications (technical information published by the Peace Corps)
  • Links to international NGOs that might assist and support Volunteers. (NGOs could post information about their programs, funding opportunities and countries of service.)
  • Links to RPCVs with special expertise in development projects who are available to serve as consultants to current Volunteers.
  • Forum with file/comment posting capacity for Volunteers to search history of conversations for keywords; also permit those who subscribe to the forum to receive automatic updates of new postings. (Use this format for all forums listed below.)
  • Curriculum materials for languages spoken in countries where Volunteers serve. The website should include also downloadable pod casts of language curriculum materials. Include forum as above.
  • Information on sources of financing, especially micro-financing, with forum as above.
  • A bibliography of books and publications on development issues, and sources for seeds and classroom materials (available free or at a discount).
  • Information on each sector in which Volunteers serve, including relevant technical reports and training manuals (e.g. health, education, small enterprise development, agriculture/forestry).
  • Project "cookbooks"/modules for each sector in which Volunteers could post project design,technical specifications, training curriculum, problems and solutions, and outcomes/benefits (with translations into other languages). Site should include a suggested format for these postings. Include forum for each project as above. Establish an annual award for the best posting by a Volunteer.
  • For specific types of projects (e.g. food drying, porridge making, vegetable gardening, beekeeping, etc.), Volunteers should be able to post project cookbook/modules (with translations into other languages). Site should include suggested format for these postings. Forum as above for each type of project. Same award as above.
  • Permit Volunteers to post offers to donate their time/services doing translations or providing technical expertise for Volunteers worldwide on specified subjects together with forum as above.
  • Permit posting of advertisements (pair or unpaid) by corporations and non-profit organizations describing their development programs, offers of donations of services or materials to PCVs, requests for Volunteer participation in projects, or input from Volunteers on the viability/sustainability of their projects. Forum as above.
  • Include a forum as above for discussion of Peace Corps policies, issues of interest to Volunteers and staff, or other subjects.

* Separate sections on the master website on the following subjects of interest to Volunteers and to connect various Volunteer groups, each with its own forum:

  • Volunteer medical issues, including medical manuals and handbooks, information on all the tropical diseases endemic where Volunteers serve.
  • Graduate education opportunities, including scholarships. Permit universities to post information about their programs. Permit Volunteers to file applications on line.
  • Post-COS employment, information and SF-171 regarding government service, job postings, links to potential employers. Permit employers to post job openings. Link to Transitions Abroad (information on opportunities overseas).
  • Post-COS housing availability, including apartment/house sharing offers by RPCVs. Permit RPCVs and others to post notices.
  • Travel and vacations for Volunteers, including links to State Department bulletins and other resources, with separate capacity for Volunteers to post ISO Traveling Companion notices.
  • Volunteer safety and security.
  • Domesticity/survival issues focusing on cooking (recipes), US Postal Service "M" bags (cheap book rates), callback services and international phone cards, care packages, and related subjects.
  • Packing lists and sources for useful equipment to use during service.
  • International calendar of events concerning development issues.
  • Software of value to PCVs, available for downloading.
  • Issues of interest to the following groups, each with a forum as above:

1) Those struggling with PC service and considering Early Termination (ET). Encourage postings about benefits of completing service, especially by RPCVs

2) Female/male Volunteers

3) Older and minority Volunteers

4) Gay Volunteers

5) Older RPCVs and those serving again

6) Volunteers with religious motivations to serve

7) Couples serving as Volunteers

8) Volunteers contemplating marrying host country nationals

9) Volunteers contemplating adopting host country children

10) Peace Corps Volunteer Liaisons (PCVLs) and representatives to Volunteer Advisory Committees (VACs)

11) Volunteers wishing to extend their service in a second country

12) Volunteer writers, including a link to PCV Writers and Readers, information on copyrights, lists of publishers and agents recommended by RPCVs. Include section for posting PCV articles, fiction and humor. Include section on absurd/humorous PCV stories. Include links to PCV blogs.

* The master website could do the following:

  • Permit account holders to create forums with access limited to users authorized by the forum creator (e.g. forum accessible only to Volunteers, only to Volunteers in one region, only to staff, etc.). New forums can be made open to all account holders as well.
  • Provide a section for uploading photos and managing a monthly or quarterly photo contest. Possible monthly themes might include: Volunteers at work, fetes/celebrations, rural/urban scenes, agriculture, small business, education, and healthcare. Peace Corps could solicit corporate sponsors for each theme.
  • Sponsor annual "Volunteer of the Year" award for each continent on which Volunteers serve, with nominations from Country Directors, APCDs, and Volunteers.
  • Provide forum as above for Country Directors, Admin Officers, PCMOs and APCDs, etc. Set up separate accounts, with separate IDs and passwords to ensure confidentiality.
  • Include links to separate websites (or subsets of master website) for each country in which Volunteers serve. (Make these websites accessible to pre-service trainees.)

* The separate websites for countries (or subsets of the master website) could include:

  • Messages from the Country Director and other Peace Corps staff.
  • Contact information for all Volunteers in country.
  • Phone and email directory of Peace Corps staff in country together with biographical information (similar to Facebook.com).
  • List of Volunteers indexed by site and program. Keep list of all Volunteers who have served in a given site, with updated contact information if possible, so that site's work history is not lost.
  • Contact information for host country government offices and officials.
  • Peace Corps Handbook for that country.
  • Peace Corps policies applicable in that country
  • Emergency Action Plan (EAP) for the country.
  • Relevant forms (reimbursement/vacation leave/quarterly reports/medical supplies/work orders/home of record/site locator) with links to submit them on line. Permit Volunteers to "sign" the forms on line. If forms require signature of someone other than Volunteer, permit Volunteers to certify that they've obtained that signature (by mailing copy).
  • Transportation schedules for Peace Corps vehicles (so that Volunteers can hitch rides).
  • Calendar of Peace Corps events (training, "demyst" village visits and APCD site visits).
  • In-country newsletters and notices.
  • Training curriculum (including pod casts) for local languages.
  • Links/contact information to NGOs operating in that country.
  • Links/contact information for all funding sources, including micro-financing, in the country
  • Links to news sources about the country.
  • Links to blogs maintained by Volunteers serving in that country.
  • All Close of Service reports (indexed by sector and site and searchable by Google desktop).
  • Maps and city guides for use by Volunteers when traveling around the country. Include survival guide for key sites and set up a forum. Similar information on nearby countries.
  • Permit Volunteers to opt out of receiving paper copies of reports and other mailings.
  • Permit each Volunteer to access statements of his/her earnings/deductions (required user name and password).
  • Permit access to record of vacation leave taken and medical supplies requests.
  • Permit country account holders to create forums with access limited to those authorized by the forum creator (e.g. forum accessible only to Volunteers, etc.)
  • Permit Volunteers to post absences from site online without seeking oral approval for the leave with APCD or other country Security Director. (Or permit Volunteers to post site absences to voice mailbox.) Vacation leave, including international travel, would require approval.
  • Permit corporations and non-profit organizations to post advertisements (paid or not paid) describing their development programs in that country, offers of donations of services or materials to PCVs in country, requests for Volunteer participation in projects, or input from Volunteers on viability/sustainability of their projects. Together with forum.

* Each country should use the Internet to conduct the surveys mandated in Section 201 of S. 732 (reviews of personnel and programs). Postings would be available to all account holders in that country.

* Peace Corps Washington should establish annual award for the best Peace Corps country website.

* Each regional/transit house should be considered as a work site, with ample computers and printers, and an Internet connection (high speed if available).

* Volunteers should be able to connect personal computers to the Internet wherever Peace Corps supplies connection (country office, regional/transit houses, or training sites) that does not compromise the government computer network (to include wireless connections).

* Each country and regional/transit house shall install Skype or other Internet telephony services (including microphones) to eliminate the need for fixed line telephone calls between Peace Corps offices worldwide and headquarters. Also install for calls between regional houses and Peace Corps country office. Potential substantial cost savings.

* Peace Corps should be committed to granting Freedom of Speech and immunity for Volunteer postings, other than those that threaten individuals or otherwise violate terms of the site use. No action for Administrative Separation can be based on postings on the site. If postings violate terms of use for the site, the penalty is to forfeit account, not Administrative Separation. This policy is essential to maximize the use and value of the digital Peace Corps vision. Volunteers need to know they can share their views frankly and openly without risking retaliation. (Volunteers can also change their user name to secure anonymity.)


[edit] Appendix C: Robert Strauss Viewpoint on the Peace Corps=

The Peace Corps should listen to and respond respectfully to its critics. One of the leading critics of the Peace Corps is Robert Strauss.<ref name="ftn128">Robert L. Strauss has been a Peace Corps Country Director (Cameroon 2002-2007), recruiter (Denver 1982), consultant (Fiji, Nepal and Belize 1980s), and Volunteer (Liberia 1978-1980). He is a recipient of the State Department's Meritorious Honor Award and lives in Madagascar, where he runs a management consulting company. He can be reached at RobertLStrauss@hotmail.com.</ref> He is noted for his January 2008 Op-Ed in the New York Times “Too Many Innocents Abroad,” April 2008 article in Foreign Policy “Think Again: The Peace Corps,” and Fall 2008 article in WorldView, “What Peace Corps Could do: A Critic Weighs In.”


In these articles Strauss has argued that “The country directors understand, better than anyone else, Peace Corps' strengths, its weaknesses and what the agency must do to achieve the greatness that was foreseen for it nearly half a century ago. To quote Colin Powell, ‘The commander in the field is always right and the rear echelon is wrong, unless proven otherwise.’” Strauss proposes that the Peace Corps should “stop growth and any discussion of growth for the next five years.” He argues that, “Increasing the number of volunteers without a concomitant increase in resources is irresponsible,” that “support per volunteer has been dropping for years,” and that “pursuing growth with fewer real dollars per volunteer is a formula for ineffectiveness.”

Strauss argues that the Peace Corps needs to “start operating as an organization that is serious about efficiency and bang for the buck.” He says that the “first step” would be to consolidate its activities in countries that are stable, that are truly needy and that are truly serious about economic development,” leaving it to operate in 50 “or possibly fewer countries”.


He questions the Peace Corps’ role as an agent of development. He reviews the most recent U.N. Human Development Report and finds that the Peace Corps is active in 10 countries with “high human development,” 49 with “medium human development,” and 11 with “low human development.” He argues for concentrating the Peace Corps’ resources in the world’s poorest countries, where the need is likely greatest. “Granted, half a dozen of those places are either so unstable or dangerous that there’s little hope of achieving much,” he acknowledges, “But even if the Peace Corps didn’t concentrate only on the poorest of the poor, one has to question what it is still doing in Romania and Bulgaria, two countries that have already become members of the European Union.”


He says, that “if the Peace Corps were as successful at development as its literature and many volunteers and staff members attest, one would expect other organizations and scholars to cite it as a model. Yet pick up any of the recently popular books on development by Paul Collier, William Easterly, or Jeffrey Sachs, and you won’t find a single reference to the Peace Corps. Tony Blair’s 464-page Commission for Africa report? Not a word. ‘Beyond Assistance,’ the 215-page report of the HELP Commission on foreign-assistance reform? Just three passing mentions. “


His experience is that “Many Peace Corps staff and volunteers see development work as a burdensome obligation undertaken only to legitimize the cultural exchange aspects of the agency. But without a focus on economic development and an improvement in standards of living, the Peace Corps is really little more than an extended, government-sponsored semester-abroad program. For applicants, the Peace Corps emphasizes the personal experience, not the volunteer’s development impact. That, of course, is not how the Peace Corps pitches itself to foreign governments, to whom it promises significant technical development assistance—only to provide predominantly recent college graduates who may or may not have any useful skills to offer.”


He says, “The real problem is that the Peace Corps has never done a serious job of evaluating its impact. If it is a world peace and friendship organization designed to ‘help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served,’ then, as a start, it ought to ask the peoples served if they even know which country Peace Corps volunteers come from. If it’s a development agency, then it needs to undertake rigorous measures to assess its impact.”

He argues that reducing the number of countries would “free up tens of millions of dollars which would allow Peace Corps to fix the basics.” He sees that “Time, money and good intentions are thrown away as if they have no value.” He doesn’t “see these as the signs of a mature, professionally run organization, but rather of a confused adolescent, albeit an adolescent soon to turn 50.” He says that, “A smaller, more focused Peace Corps will also help get the agency out of its perpetual crisis management mode and build systems focused on getting concrete results in the field. Then, when that is done, Peace Corps will be able to go to Congress and ask for increased funding because it will be able to show that it is using public funds responsibly.”


He proposes that the Peace Corps give Country Directors incentives to run their country programs efficiently.” “Why not promise CDs that they will be able to keep 50% of any cost savings achieved for use in their country programs?” He argues that the Peace Corps has to become much more serious about its impact on development. He says, “Five decades into it, it's more than time for Peace Corps to be measuring its impact. This is true whether one believes Peace Corps is first and foremost a development agency or first and foremost a good-will and cross-cultural exchange organization.”


He says, “Without solid evidence, it will be impossible for any director to convince Congress that Peace Corps is worth more than a handshake and pat on the back.” He observes, “Without real numbers that demonstrate real impact, Peace Corps will simply remain on life support, getting enough to keep breathing but nowhere near enough to make big, lasting differences in the lives of millions.”


He says that the Peace Corps has “no plans for [exiting] any of the more than 70 countries where it is currently active.” He says, “The Peace Corps is unable to do this because it never has had any benchmarks to signal when the mission has been accomplished” or is one that the agency, because of the failure of the host country to serve as a partner, “is unlikely to fix.” He says, “A serious development organization would either not allow such a situation to persist or would refuse to abet it.”


He says that the Peace Corps relies on “biannual surveys in which volunteers comment on whether they think they are making a difference.” He says this is “a bit like asking a bunch of doctors how they think they are doing without ever talking to the patients—or even checking to see if they are still alive.”


He observes that, “Like many bureaucracies, the Peace Corps operates predominantly on inertia. The agency sends most volunteers to the same places where volunteers have been sent before, often to do the same thing volunteers were doing 20 and 30 years ago—regardless of whether their mission still makes sense.”


He says that the “truth is that so long as applicants meet the minimum standards and are healthy and persistent, the Peace Corps rarely rejects them outright.” This observation contradicts the Peace Corps claim that it has 3 applicants for each trainee.


He argues that to secure these development impacts the Peace Corps must “exponentially” increase support to Volunteers in the field. He argues that “Volunteers have never received adequate support in the field. Sending out predominantly ‘newly minted’ college graduates and then visiting them only two or three times a year - a best case situation in many countries - is irresponsible and a formula for on-going dramas and disasters.” He says that Volunteers “need intensive supervision and on-going, on-the-job training. Regardless of country or program, every volunteer in every country should be able to count on consistent and frequent support in the field.”


He argues for setting a much higher “standard of professionalism” for the agency and that it view the agency’s primary customer is the poor in the developing country. He endorses the Masters International program and proposed that it be expanded significantly. He says that, “To make its expectations clear, the agency must establish clear standards for what constitutes professional performance and behavior.” Finally, he argues for reducing the number of political appointees by 90%. He observes that, “Political appointees at Peace Corps rarely receive their positions because of their passion for the agency but more often because they are ‘owed’ a government job because of party or family connections.”


Strauss argues for eliminating the five-year rule. He observes that the “average staff tenure at Peace Corps is 18 months. Having a constantly churning staff overseen by a constantly churning cadre of political appointees is why Peace Corps has reinvented the wheel more times than Barney Rubble and Fred Flintstone.” He says that “in the 1960s it was a nice idea to think that forcing people to leave would result in a creative, dynamic organization with a constant stream of new ideas and no dead wood.” But, he believes that the five-year rule has “resulted in exactly the opposite.” “No one is around long enough to really understand how things work or to be able to make substantive changes or to even convince anyone that such changes should be made. The result is a stagnant organization with no institutional memory and one that is afraid to give up the status quo, dysfunctional though it may be. And it is one that spends millions of dollars annually needlessly recruiting, training, and deploying new staff while forcing out people just as they finally are mastering the art of understanding how things work and how to get things done.” He believes that the “Peace Corps clings to the five-year rule because it believes the rule is what distinguishes it from other bureaucracies. But hanging on to a rule that doesn't work, and one that is costly to boot, only leads to the reinvention of wheels destined to spin in place. Peace Corps' forty years of five-year rule experience shows that it is no substitute for meaningful and rigorous performance assessments. The five-year rule causes Peace Corps to throw out the dead wood AND the good wood. This makes the rule much worse than no rule at all.”


When the Peace Corps throws out the five-year rule goes, then it would, he argues, begin to value its staff. “In addition to treating its USDH staff better, Peace Corps must recognize that the agency works not because of USDHs or volunteers, but because of local staff. Volunteers come and go. So do USDHs. Local staff stays and makes the machine run. Yet the agency invests virtually no money in them and, by retaining the PSC category, needlessly stigmatizes and antagonizes them. A little money goes a long way in most Peace Corps countries. It's way past time to start investing in staff development.”


Strauss states, “[T]he bottom line on change [at the Peace Corps] is that it's a lot easier to continue to pretend that everything is swell than rock the boat. Much easier to leave people with illusions than the cold shower of reality.  From a leader's point of view, especially one for whom PC is perhaps only a stepping stone, far more fun to accept the ceremonial robes than to suggest the emperor's wardrobe needs a new tailor.”


He concludes that “Despite my criticisms of Peace Corps, I do believe that the agency has the potential to be one of the best and most important things our country has ever done. Over the last three decades I've worked for or with many of the big name, big budget development outfits. I came back to Peace Corps because I believe that its approach is one of the only ones that really has the potential to effect significant change. Unfortunately, that potential has been squandered over and over again. Getting Peace Corps on the right track after so many years of fumbling will not be easy. There are many other issues that need to be addressed. These include but are hardly limited to developing criteria for the selection of partner countries, significantly reducing the economic barriers that prevent many from ever considering service with Peace Corps, implementing creative solutions to the obstacles of a uniform length of service, creating a GI-type bill for RPCVs, establishing a truly independent Inspector General's office focused on malfeasance while creating a truly empowered, credible and competent

evaluation division to assess impact objectively.”

[edit] Appendix D: Proposal to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees

Regarding Peace Corps Reform and Expansion
May 31, 2008

MEMORANDUM

To: House and Senate Appropriations Committee Staff

From: Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff

Subject: The Bottom Line: Recommendations Regarding Peace Corps Appropriations

 

Thank you again for meeting with us last week regarding Peace Corps reform and appropriations issues.

 

You have seen our draft report on Peace Corps reform. Building on that framework, we would like to present a list of the functions at the Peace Corps for which we believe increased appropriations are justified. Our focus is on improving quality, not just quantity. For far too long, the Peace Corps has focused on a numbers game. It’s now time to focus on quality and update the Peace Corps for the 21st Century. Our focus on quality listens to the Volunteers, who have said by a margin of 46% to 20% that they support reform over expansion.  

 

[edit] Appropriations for Reform

 

1. Early Termination Rates: The Peace Corps needs approximately $1 million in funds to develop and implement a wide-ranging strategic vision of how to halve the early termination rate (ET) due to non-medical causes. If this reduction is achieved, the number of Peace Corps Volunteers will rise organically by approximately 10%, a cohort of approximately 800 Volunteers. Note: the appropriate measure of the ET rate is the number and percentage of Volunteers who complete their 2+ years of service (the cohort rate), as explained in detail in our report. The only way the Peace Corps will be able to reduce the non-medical ET rate is to implement fundamental reforms such as those proposed here—all of which focus on quality and increasing the effectiveness of the Volunteers in achieving sustainable development and cross-cultural results. Volunteers who feel that they are accomplishing something worthwhile are much less likely to ET. With a worldwide ET rate of approximately 35% (cohort rate), it can be argued that the Peace Corps is wasting a substantial portion of the funds appropriated to it.

 

2. Third Year Extensions: The Peace Corps needs approximately $2.25 million to fully fund third year extensions of Volunteers. The Peace Corps should not zero out one training slot for every Volunteer who extends for a third year, as has been the policy. By fully funding third year extensions the Peace Corps can organically increase the number of Volunteers by a cohort of approximately 500.  

 

3. Reimbursement of Volunteers for Work-Related Expenses: The Peace Corps needs approximately $6 million the first year and $4 million per year thereafter to give each Volunteer a $1000 account that they may draw on during their service for their work-related expenses.  The Dodd/Kennedy Peace Corps Empowerment Act (S. 732)(110th Congress) makes this reform a priority.

 

This proposal and proposals 4-15 will all substantially increase the effectiveness of the Volunteers and help to reduce the ET rate. These proposals are discussed in our reform report.

 

4. Connectedness of Volunteers: The Peace Corps needs approximately $2 million to upgrade its networks to connect Volunteers with one another worldwide. The focus should be on providing Best Practices Guides (providing all the specifics on successful projects) to Volunteers so that they do not have to reinvent the wheel.

 

5. Innovation Fund: The Peace Corps needs approximately $2 million to award competitively for innovative programs of Country Directors, especially those focused on increasing the First Goal (development) accomplishments of the Peace Corps.

 

6. Sarge Fund: The Peace Corps needs approximately $2 million to take to scale the most successful Volunteer programs. These funds should be awarded based on a competition among Volunteers.

 

7. Reduction of the APCD and PCMO-to-Volunteer Ratio: The Peace Corps needs to reduce ratio of APCDs (program officers) and PCMOs (medical officers) to Volunteer to 20-to-1 and 50-to-1, respectively. We are not able to provide an estimate for the cost of this reform.

 

8. NGO/AID Partnerships: The Peace Corps needs approximately $500,000 to launch an initiative to substantially increase its partnerships with NGOs and USAID. Most of this funding should be go to the country posts.

 

9. Evaluation of First Goal Results: The Peace Corps needs approximately $1 million to launch a program for vigorous evaluation of the First Goal (development) results of the Volunteers.

 

10. Peace Building: The Peace Corps needs approximately $250,000 to launch a new initiative to position Volunteers to support peace building programs.

 

11. Written Language Materials and Language PodCasts: The Peace Corps needs approximately $1 million to launch a major program to develop written language materials and language podcasts for Volunteers. Most of this funding should go to the country posts.

 

12. Reimbursement for Required Medical Tests: The Peace Corps needs approximately $5 million to implement the Peace Corps IG recommended reforms of the medical screening process and to provide full reimbursement to applicants for the costs of required medical tests. By providing full reimbursement the Peace Corps can increase the pool of medically qualified applicants so that the Peace Corps can select from among them the most qualified and committed to invite to training. It can also better match the skills of the applicants to the available positions and reduce the extent to which it switches applicants away from the program that the applicant is nominated to serve in (prior to the medical selection process). This increased selectivity and improved matching will be especially helpful in reducing the ET rate. The Dodd/Kennedy Peace Corps Empowerment Act (S. 732)(110th Congress) makes reform of the medical selection process a priority.

 

13. Volunteer Input on Program and Staffing Decisions: The Peace Corps needs approximately $1 million to institutionalize 360 degree reviews—where Volunteers provide confidential reviews of the programs in which they serve and their managers. This is the way to hold managers accountable and institute a continuous process of reform and renewal. The results of these reviews, along with evidence from the ET rate, extension rate, and surveys of the Volunteers, must be given substantial weight in considerations of contract extensions for staff. The Dodd/Kennedy Peace Corps Empowerment Act (S. 732)(110th Congress) makes this reform a priority.

 

14. Raising the Standard of Medical Care: The Peace Corps needs approximately $2.5 million to raise the standard of medical care. See our report for detailed recommendations. This is a moral imperative for the Peace Corps.

 

15. Reconnecting RPCVs: The Peace Corps needs approximately $500,000 to launch an initiative to reconnect Volunteers to the countries and sites in which they served.

 

16. Upgrade Financial Systems: The Peace Corps needs approximately $2 million to upgrade its financial systems. See our report for specifics.

 

17. Staff Incentives: The Peace Corps needs $2.5 million to provide additional incentives to Peace Corps staff, including enhanced training and benefits comparable to those of other overseas mission staff. See our report for specifics.

 

18. WorldView Subscription: The Peace Corps needs approximately $50,000 to fully fund subscriptions to WorldView magazine (NPCA) to distribute it to all currently serving Volunteers.

 

19. Mentoring Program: The Peace Corps needs approximately $100,000 to fully fund the mentoring program it has established with NPCA for Volunteers who have recently completed their service.

 

20. Professionalization of Friends Groups: The Peace Corps needs approximately $200,000 to fund a program to professionalize the Friends groups (enabling them to provide support, including financial support, to PCVs). The Peace Corps should modify its fundraising rules, a priority in the Dodd/Kennedy Peace Corps Empowerment Act (S. 732)(110th Congress).

 

Total Appropriations for Reform: $31.58 million (not counting item 7)

 

The Peace Corps can provide more accurate estimates of the implementation costs of these reforms. It should be invited to advance additional reform proposals.

 

Note: Implementation of these reforms will be possible only if the Peace Corps ends the politicization of the Country Director (CD) selection process and upgrades the quality of these managers. The results of the 2008 Biennial Survey of the Volunteers documents the problems with the quality of the current cohort of CDs. CDs make or break the programs they manage.

 


Appropriations to Cover Shortfalls

 

In addition to implementation of these reforms, the Peace Corps needs approximately $30 million to cover its short-falls—and the reduction in the number of trainees—during the last year. Most of these are due to the devaluation of the dollar, inflation in commodity prices, and other developments beyond the control of the Peace Corps.

 

Appropriations for Expansion

 

In terms of expansion of the number of Volunteers, the first priority should be to grow the number of Volunteers organically through an emphasis on quality (see first two reform proposals above).

 

In addition, the Peace Corps should be appropriated sufficient funds to launch new programs. We note that the Peace Corps has been forced to terminate a number of programs recently (Bolivia, Guinea and Madagascar), so these savings could be applied to fund launching of new programs. We doubt if there are anything like 20 countries where Peace Corps programs can soon be launched.

 

In terms of expanding existing programs, funds should be appropriated to the Peace Corps for expansion of existing programs only in countries where it is clear that the current Peace Corps program in that country is well managed. This means that expansion should only be funded in countries where the following conditions hold:

a. The non-medical ET rate is well below the worldwide average.

b. The extension rate is well above the worldwide average. 

c. The ratings of the managers and programs in the 2008 Biennial Survey of Volunteers is among the top 15%.

d. The ratio of APCDs and PCMOs to Volunteers is reduced and the other staff slots—AOs—and resources are appropriately increased to accommodate the additional Volunteers.

e. The Country Director establishes a program for 360 degree confidential reviews of programs and staff and publishes these reviews to Headquarters and the Volunteers currently serving in that program.

 

Appropriations for Volunteers for Prosperity

 

The Subcommittee should fully fund the new Volunteers for Prosperity program, which promotes international volunteerism based on the AmeriCorps model. Fully funding the VfP program so that it can compete with the Peace Corps will enhance the prospects for substantial Peace Corps reform. The Peace Corps should be required to submit a report on how the Peace Corps intends to meet the competition from the VfP program, including an explanation for how the Peace Corps can justify expending over four times more per Volunteer.

 

Additional Mandates

 

In addition to funding and implementing programs for which appropriated funds are needed, the Peace Corps should be required to take actions that do not carry a cost.


It should publish the results of the 2008 Biennial Survey of Volunteers, with the results presented on a country-by-country basis, and forward the results to those applicants who are invited to training. It should be required to provide information to these invitees about the Early Termination rate in the country in which they are invited to serve (using the cohort rate of accounting). It should also be required to transmit the results of 360 degree reviews to these trainees. Invitees should be given access to the country websites so that they can chat with current Volunteers. This shift towards transparency will institutionalize a process of continuous reform and renewal.

 

The Peace Corps headquarters staff should be required to submit a plan to reduce the expenses and head count of headquarters by 15% for each of the next two years and transfer these resources to the country posts.

 

The Peace Corps should be required to transfer back to the Peace Corps Inspector General the authority and responsibility to investigate violent crimes against Volunteers. This issue is discussed in depth in our report.

 

The Peace Corps should be required to publish on line on an ongoing basis all of the documents that the Peace Corps produces in response to FOIA requests. The posting should include all documents produced since 2005.

 

Legislative Amendments

 

Some reforms may need to be enacted into law. The Volunteers should be given standing as Whistle Blowers. The Inspector General for the Peace Corps should be appointed by the President to guarantee his or her independence. (We are active in promoting both proposals as legislation.) And the number of political appointees at the Peace Corps should be reduced to no more than 10.

 

Oversight

 

It is crucial that the Appropriations Committees substantially increase their oversight of the Peace Corps and of the reform process.

 

Conclusion

 

Our draft reform report and this budget proposal make it clear that we support increased appropriations for the Peace Corps—principally to fund quality improvements.

 

If the Peace Corps embraces fundamental reform, then it should be rewarded with increased appropriations over the long term.

 

We are happy to discuss any and all of these recommendations with you. We very much appreciate your support for the Peace Corps.

Thank you. Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff

[edit] Appendix E: Amendments Proposed to S. 1382

By Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff (June 30, 2009)


AMENDMENTS PROPOSED TO S. 1382,
THE PEACE CORPS IMPROVEMENT AND
EXPANSION ACT
(Insertions in bold; deletions in brackets)


111TH CONGRESS

1ST SESSION S. 1382

To improve and expand the Peace Corps for the 21st century, and for other purposes.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

On June 25, 2009

Mr. DODD introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations

A BILL

To improve and expand the Peace Corps for the 21st century, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Peace Corps Improvement and Expansion Act of 2009’’.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

Congress makes the following findings:

(1) Firmly established beliefs of the Peace Corps include the following:

(A) The act of volunteering has inherent value.

(B) The foreign policy goals of the United States are advanced by—

(i) contributing to the reduction of poverty; and

(ii) fostering international under standing.

(2) More than 195,000 volunteers have ably served in the Peace Corps in 139 countries by—

(A) working towards economic and social development; and

(B) promoting a better understanding of—

(i) the people of the United States on the part of the peoples served; and

(ii) other peoples on the part of the people of the United States.

(3) Today, the importance and necessity is greater than ever for the Peace Corps—

(A) to promote global economic and social development;

(B) to promote understanding and friend ship; and

(C) to foster collaboration with international nongovernmental organizations.

(4) Since 1961, a bi-partisan succession of Presidents and Congresses have endorsed the expansion of the Peace Corps in order—

(A) to meet requests from countries to increase the size of the Peace Corps programs in their countries;

(B) to initiate Peace Corps programs in countries where the Peace Corps does not currently operate;

(C) to provide more opportunities for the people of the United States to engage in volunteer service abroad; and

(D) to renew dormant Peace Corps programs.

(5) The purpose of the Peace Corps, as declared by section 2(a) of the Peace Corps Act (22

U.S.C. 2501), is to promote world peace and friendship by helping—

(A) the people of interested countries in meeting their needs for trained men and women, particularly in meeting the basic needs of those living in the poorest areas of such countries;

(B) to promote a better understanding of people of the United States on the part of the peoples served; and

(C) to promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of the people of the United States.

(6) As the Peace Corps reaches its 50th anniversary in 2010, a new forward-looking strategy

should be developed to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the Peace Corps in pursuing the goals described in subparagraphs (A) through (C) of paragraph (5) by analyzing and accounting for the strengths and weaknesses of the following:

(A) The program model of the Peace Corps

(B) The current and planned distribution of Peace Corps volunteers throughout the world.

(C) Partnership opportunities and operations of the Peace Corps.

(D) Recruitment and management practices of the Peace Corps with respect to the diversity of Peace Corps volunteers and staff.

SEC. 3. ASSESSMENT AND STRATEGIC PLAN FOR IMPROVING AND EXPANDING PEACE CORPS.

(a) ASSESSMENT.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Director of the Peace Corps shall complete the assessment described in paragraph (2) to determine how best—

(A) to strengthen the management capabilities and program effectiveness of the Peace Corps;

(B) to expand opportunities for Peace Corps volunteers; and

(C) to increase the size of the Peace Corps.

(2) ASSESSMENT DESCRIBED.—The assessment described in this paragraph means an assessment of—

(A) how the purpose of the Peace Corps declared under section 2(a) of the Peace Corps Act (22 U.S.C. 2501(a)) translates into tangible strategic plans for the Peace Corps;

(…) strategies to solicit the confidential views of volunteers regarding the design, effectiveness, and continued need for the programs in which they serve, and to give these views substantial weight;

(…) strategies to solicit the confidential views of volunteers regarding the support provided by management personnel, and to give these views substantial weight in the decision making with respect to the extension of contracts for such personnel;

(…) strategies to solicit the confidential views of volunteers regarding site selection, including the placement of additional or subsequent Peace Corps volunteers at existing sites and the training curriculum for Peace Corps volunteers, and to give substantial weight to these views;

(…) strategies to empower and support Volunteers to serve as effective agents of development and cross-cultural communication, including providing sufficient funding and reimbursement to Volunteers for their work-related expenses and enabling Volunteers to engage in appropriate charitable fundraising;

(B) the distribution of Peace Corps volunteers in country programs, including how and why volunteers are assigned to various countries and jurisdictions of within countries and standards to be utilized to determine in which countries Peace Corps programs should be established or expanded and in which countries existing programs should be terminated;

(C) the most effective and efficient methods of improving support for the Peace Corps’ goal of promoting a better understanding of other peoples on the part of the people of the United States;

(D) strategies to deepen and broaden effective relationships and partnerships between volunteers and other government and non-government agencies of economic and social development and cross-cultural communication, including the US Agency for International Development [(D) the prospects for partnerships with international and host country nongovernmental organizations and other entities to achieve the goals of the Peace Corps through development projects];

(E) the adequacy of the current program model of the Peace Corps and the comparative effectiveness and cost of feasibility of program models such as the Peace Corps Response Program and the Volunteers for Prosperity program (Title V of the Kennedy Serve America Act, Public Law 111-13, April 21, 2009);

(F) the effectiveness and efficiency of volunteer recruitment strategies, methods, and re

15 source allocations used by the Peace Corps and the selectivity of the Peace Corps with regard to applicants who meet the minimum qualification standard for service as a Volunteer;

(G) strategies for increasing the effectiveness of the Peace Corps in recruiting ethnically, socio-economically, and geographically diverse volunteers with wide ranging skills and interests;

(…) strategies for increasing the recruitment of volunteers with at least 5 years of relevant work experience, including strategies for identifying and reducing the disincentives and barriers to service by such persons;

(…) strategies for developing and utilizing substantial written and electronic language curriculum materials designed to facilitate the learning of foreign languages by Peace Corps volunteers;

(H) the skills and interests of current Peace Corps volunteers;

(I) options for diversification of the skills and interests of Peace Corps volunteers, including volunteers with skills and interests that relate to public health, information technology, urban planning, social services, communications, and community organizing;

(J) the Peace Corps volunteer pre-service and in-service training programs;

(K) the options available to volunteers to suspend payment of student loans while serving in the Peace Corps and secure cancellation of loans upon the completion of service;

(…) the rights available to volunteers to suspend premium payments for retiree health insurance while serving in the Peace Corps without losing the right to reinstate such insurance upon the completion of service;

(L) Strengthening the standard of medical care received by volunteers while serving in the Peace Corps and upon completion of service for service-related health care matters;

(M) the procedures of the Peace Corps for mandatory medical and administrative separation of volunteers serving in the Peace Corps, including respecting the rights of Volunteers;

(…) strategies for strengthening the safety and security of Volunteers;

(…) strategies for enabling volunteers to engage in charitable fundraising from non-government organizations and persons personally known to them, including family members, friends, and members of their home community in the United States, and from government and nongovernmental agencies, including but not limited to working through the Peace Corps Partnership Program;

(N) the medical screening process for volunteers entering service in the Peace Corps, including—

(i) the costs and benefits of providing full reimbursement for the cost of medical tests required by applicants;

(ii) expanded information for applicants including potentially disqualifying medical conditions; and

(iii) the cost of extending the medical care insurance provided by the Peace Corps to volunteers serving in the Peace Corps to include the 5-month period beginning on the date on which a volunteer completes service in the Peace Corps;

(O) the causes and costs of the early termination of service in the Peace Corps, using the cohort

and other statistically appropriate methods and the reasons cited by volunteers terminating

their service in the Peace Corps early and strategies for reducing the early termination rate of volunteers;

(…) strategies for increasing the number of volunteers who extend their service;

(P) how the Peace Corps can utilize information technology to improve—

(i) program efficiency, effectiveness, and coordination; and

(ii) communication among volunteers;

[(Q) mechanisms for soliciting the views of volunteers serving in the Peace Corps, on a confidential basis, regarding—

(i) the support provided to such volunteers by senior staff of the Peace Corps;

and

(ii) the operations of the Peace Corps, including—

(I) staffing decisions;

(II) site selection;

(III) language training;

(IV) country programs; and

(V) dialogue with host country partners and ministries; and

(R) mechanisms for incorporating the views solicited in subparagraph (Q) into programming and management decisions of the Peace Corps.]

(…) strategies to enhance Third Goal opportunities for returned volunteers,

including strengthening of the Peace Corps relationship with and financial support of representative of returned Volunteers;

(…) strategies to enhance recruitment and retention of professional staff, including a review of the impact of the five-year limiting on employment and proposals for modifying it;

(…) strategies to decentralize authority and resources to the country posts and volunteers and to reduce the impact on country posts and volunteers of requirements and paperwork imposed by headquarters; and

(…) actions to increase the transparency of the Peace Corps within the Executive Branch, to the Congress, the volunteers, the returned volunteer community, and others.

The Peace Corps shall report to the Congress on the organization and effectiveness of investigations of crimes against Volunteers, including an evaluation of whether the Peace Corps Inspector General shall again be given the lead in these investigations.

(3) METHOD.—The assessment shall—

(A) be built on a review of past experiences and studies; and

(B) draw on the knowledge of—

(i) current Peace Corps volunteers and staff, at all levels of seniority;

(ii) returned Peace Corps volunteers and staff; and

(iii) host country nationals and officials who have worked closely with Peace Corps volunteers.


and (iv) officials of government and non-government entities with expertise in managing volunteers and programs for sustainable development and cross-culture exchange.

The Peace Corps shall offer these parties the option to submit their views on a confidential or non-confidential basis.

(b) STRATEGIC PLAN.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Director of the Peace Corps shall develop, based on the assessment required under subsection (a), a strategic plan for the Peace Corps that—

(A) encompasses the findings of the Director with respect to the assessment required under subsection (a); and

(B) includes the matters described in paragraph (2).

(2) MATTERS DESCRIBED.—The matters described in this paragraph include the following:

(A) 1-year and 5-year goals and benchmarks for the Peace Corps that address—

(i) each matter included in the assessment required under subsection (a); and

(ii) such other matters as the Director considers appropriate.

(B) Strategies for—

(i) distributing volunteers to countries in which they have maximum value-added for the host country, for the United States, and for the volunteers themselves;

(ii) identifying countries with strategic value to Peace Corps goals, currently not served or dormant, and proposals for starting new country programs or re-activating dormant programs, as well as countries with less strategic relevance to Peace Corps goals, including proposals for reducing or closing such country programs;

(iii) balancing the Peace Corps’ independence with its need to remain relevant to broader United States foreign goals; and

(iv) ensuring that Peace Corps operations and goals are not adversely affected in situations where the bi-lateral relationship between the host country and the United States is problematic.

(c) REPORT.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Director of the Peace Corps shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report that includes—

(A) the findings of the Director with respect to the assessment required under subsection (a); and

(B) the strategic plan developed under subsection (b).

(2) APPROPRIATE CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEES DEFINED.—In this subsection, the term ‘‘appropriate congressional committees’’ means—

(A) the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate; and

(B) the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Appropriations of the House

of Representatives.

The Peace Corps shall publish the draft strategic plan for a period of public comment and comments by volunteers and Peace Corps staff of not less than 90 days and shall report to the appropriate Congressional Committees its response to these comments.

SEC. 4. LIMITATION ON NUMBER OF PRESIDENTIAL APPOINTMENTS UNDER PEACE CORPS ACT.

The Peace Corps Act (22 U.S.C. 2501 et seq.) is amended by inserting after section 19 the following:

‘‘SEC. 20. LIMITATION ON NUMBER OF POLITICAL APPOINTMENTS.

‘‘Except for appointments made under section 12, the President may not make more than 15 concurrent appointments under this Act.’’.

SEC. 5. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.

Section 3(b) of the Peace Corps Act (22 U.S.C. 2502(b)) is amended to read as follows:

‘‘(b) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.—

‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out the purposes of this Act—

‘‘(A) $450,000,000 for fiscal year 2010;

‘‘(B) $575,000,000 for fiscal year 2011;

and

‘‘(C) $700,000,000 for fiscal year 2012 and such sums thereafter.

‘‘(2) AVAILABILITY OF FUNDS.—Amounts authorized to be appropriated under paragraph (1) for a fiscal year are authorized to remain available for that fiscal year and the subsequent fiscal year.’’.

(…) WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION

The Director of the Peace Corps shall ensure that Peace Corps volunteers and staff reporting the misconduct of Peace Corps staff or advocating for reforms are treated in accordance with the provisions of chapter 23 of title 5, United States Code, prohibiting certain personnel practices (commonly referred to as whistleblower protection provisions).

(…) INDEPENDENCE OF THE PEACE CORPS INSPECTOR GENERAL

The Peace Corps Inspector General shall be appointed by the President subject to confirmation by the Senate.

(…) PROGRAMS AND PROJECTS OF RETURNED PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS TO PROMOTE THE THIRD GOAL OF THE PEACE CORPS.

(a) Purpose- The purpose of this section is to provide support for returned Peace Corps volunteers to develop and carry out programs and projects to promote the third purpose of the Peace Corps Act, as set forth in section 2(a) of that Act (22 U.S.C. 2501(a)), relating to promoting an understanding of other peoples on the part of the American people.

(b) Grants to Certain Nonprofit Corporations and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers-

(1) GRANT AUTHORITY- The Director of the Peace Corps shall award grants on a competitive basis to private nonprofit corporations and returned Peace Corps volunteers for the purpose of enabling returned Peace Corps volunteers to use their knowledge and expertise to develop programs and projects to carry out the purpose described in subsection (a).

(2) PROGRAMS AND PROJECTS- The programs and projects that may receive grant funds under this section include--

(A) educational programs designed to enrich the knowledge and interest of elementary school and secondary school students in the geography and cultures of other countries where the volunteers have served;

(B) projects that involve partnerships with local libraries to enhance community knowledge about other peoples and countries;

(C) audiovisual projects that utilize materials collected by the volunteers during their service that would be of educational value to communities;

And

(D) building the capacity of returned Volunteers and returned volunteer groups to support volunteer projects.

(3) ELIGIBILITY-

(A) RETURNED PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS- To be eligible for a grant under this section, an individual who has served as a Peace Corps volunteer shall have successfully completed all aspects of the volunteer's required Peace Corps service.

(B) NONPROFIT CORPORATIONS- To be eligible for a grant under this section, a nonprofit corporation shall have a board of directors composed of one or more returned Peace Corps volunteers with a background in community service, education, or health.

(C) REGULATIONS- Not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Director of the Peace Corps shall promulgate rules and guidelines as to the appropriate accounting and audit standards and other reporting requirements that must be adhered to by an individual or nonprofit corporation as a condition of eligibility to receive grants under this section.

(c) Status of the Fund- Nothing in this section shall be construed to make any individual or nonprofit corporation supported under this section an agency or establishment of the Federal Government or to make any member of the board of directors or any officer or employee of such nonprofit corporation an officer or employee of the United States.

(d) Congressional Oversight- Grant recipients under this section shall be subject to the appropriate oversight procedures of Congress.

(e) Funding-

(1) IN GENERAL- In addition to any other funds made available to the Peace Corps under any other provision of law, there is authorized to be appropriated for the Peace Corps for fiscal year 2010 and each fiscal year thereafter $10,000,000 to carry out this section.

(2) AVAILABILITY- Amounts appropriated pursuant to paragraph (1) are authorized to remain available until expended without regard to fiscal year.

[This provision is taken from the Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act, S. 732, introduced by Senators Dodd and Kennedy on March 1, 2007]

(…) READJUSTMENT ALLOWANCES FOR PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS AND VOLUNTEER LEADERS

(a) Volunteers—Section 5(c) of the Peace Corps Act (22 USC 2504(c)) is amended in the first sentence by striking “$125” and inserting “$250.”

(b) Volunteer Leaders—Section 6(1) of the Peace Corps Act (22 USC 2505(1) is amended in the first sentence by striking “$125” and inserting “$250.”

Appendix F: Biographical and Contact Information for

[edit] Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff

Chuck Ludlam

Peace Corps

* Twice served as Peace Corps Volunteer, Nepal (1968-70; Ag Extension) and with Paula in Senegal (2005-07; Agro-Forestry Extension).

*Co-founded Friends of Nepal

*Serves on Board of Directors, National Peace Corps Association.

*Advisor to Obama/Biden Transition Team for Peace Corps.

Peace Corps Reforms

* In June 2008, after five-year effort, secured enactment of Section 110 of H.R. 6081 (P.L. 110-245), providing tax relief to Peace Corps Volunteers and staff on sale of personal residence (first provision of the Dodd/Kennedy Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act

(S. 732) (PCVEA) to be enacted into law).

* In July 2006, published Peace Corps Medical Clearance Guidelines, obtained through Freedom of Information Act request, on PeaceCorpsOnLine, together with explanation of guidelines and detailed reform proposals. These proposals were included in PCVEA and largely incorporated in March 2008 Final Program Evaluation Report: Peace Corps’ Medical Clearance System (IG-08-08-E) of Peace Corps Inspector General. Thus, for the most part they are being implemented.

* In November 2005, persuaded Office of Personnel Management to issue regulations eliminating double payment of health insurance premiums by Federal government retirees who serve as Volunteers. (The PCVEA presses the Peace Corps to extend this victory to retirees of state and local government and corporations.)

*Active in crafting National Service initiatives to strengthen and expand Peace Corps and establish program to recruit and place overseas 85,000 Prosperity Volunteers (S. 3487 and S. 277) and Global Service Fellows (S. 2609).

[edit] Career Resume

* Over forty-year period served as staff and legal counsel to various House and Senate Committees (1965, 1967, 1975-79, 1981-93, and 2001-05) and Carter White House (1979-81); trial attorney at Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection (1972-75); and Vice President and principal lobbyist for the association representing the biotechnology industry (1993-2001).

* Stanford University (BA 1967) and University of Michigan Law School (JD, 1972).


Paula Hirschoff

* Twice served as Volunteer, Kenya (1968-70; Education) and with Chuck in Senegal (2005-07; Small Enterprise Development).

* Served on board of Friends of Kenya

*Docent at National Museum of African Art (1989-2009)

* Worked as English instructor; consultant-advocate for community based natural resource management NGO, writer/editor, congressional aide, journalist (1967-2005).

* Macalester College (BA 1966); George Washington University (MA in Anthropology, 1996).


Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff

* Testified on behalf of 8,000 current Volunteers before Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Dodd/Kennedy Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act, S. 732 (PCVEA), July 2007, at invitation of Senator Chris Dodd. (Flew in from Senegal where they were still Volunteers).

* See their oral and written testimony at http://foreign.senate.gov/testimony/2007/Ludlam_HirschoffTestimony070725.pdf and http://foreign.senate.gov/testimony/2007/HirschoffTestimony070725.pdf. A video of the hearing can be viewed at http://foreign.senate.gov/hearings/2007/hrg070725a.html.

* Published article, “A Call for Peace Corps Reform,” in fall 2008 issue of WorldView, magazine of National Peace Corps Association.


Contact Information

Chuck.Ludlam@gmail.com, Phirschoff@gmail.com, 4020 Reno Road NW, Washington, D.C.

20008, 202-364-6021.

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