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Nor is the imposing list of athletic skills listed on the Peace Corps application blank. If the purpose of the Puerto Rico camp is merely to acquaint the recruit with the sights, sounds, and smells of a tropical climate, why not begin the process of acclimation in the country to which he is assigned? The expense incurred by shipping back those individuals who cannot adjust to the physical environment cannot possibly equal that of operating a permanent camp in Puerto Rico.

What has been obscured in these shenanigans is the basic fact that physical adjustment is the least of the problems confronting the Peace Corps. In almost all areas to which Peace Corps members may be sent, Europeans have been living for many decades. They have arrived at ways and means of living in a tropical area. With a little education and a little common sense, the risk of disease or debilitation need not be any greater for the Peace Corps member than they would be in this country.

The emotional adjustment is by far the more important and the more worrisome problem.

The Americas

To a greater or lesser degree, every Peace Corps member will experience what is called "culture shock," "cultural isolation," or a loss of cultural cuts and supports. An adequate physical examination should suffice for the selection board to determine who can or cannot tolerate changes in climate.

No one has as yet developed an examination to determine who can survive with the least damage the inevitable period of loneliness, frustration, and psychological uprootedness which will accompany any prolonged overseas experience. Shriver and other have repeated endlessly the principle that Peace Corps members will live on the same level as the local peasant, that he will live in the same kind of housing, that he will try in every way to become a member of the community in which he is working. To a limited extent, of course, this is both necessary and desirable. The Corps member should obviously be flexible and open to new experience.

He should realize, however, that a simple-minded attempt to become an African or an Asian peasant by adopting the outward forms of their life will not accomplish any constructive purpose. No matter what he does, he is not an African; he will remain an American, and no mortification of the flesh will change that fact. Leaving aside for the moment considerations of health and nutrition, it is certain that any American who tries to live in a grass hut and subsist on yams and termites will soon find himself ostracized by his colleagues at his own professional level, who will invariably live on a standard inconceivably higher than that of the peasant and who will in most cases be quite jealous of their own status and position.

He will also find that the villagers, instead of living him, will quite rightly dismiss him as a lunatic.

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Implicit in the hair-shirt approach is a curiously inverted or disguised condescension. It assumes that the peasant has no tolerance, no appreciation of differences, no standards of hospitality. It assumes that the villager would demand complete conformity to his own mores before he would accept the Peace Corps member as an individual.


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Both these assumptions are sheer nonsense. From a cultural perspective, the Peace Corps helps foreign military personnel understand a bit about Americans before the two groups actually meet, thus countering many of the misperceptions, often acquired through the media, host country nationals frequently have regarding Americans. This applies not only to the host country military leadership, but also to the low-ranking foot soldier. Many a Peace Corps volunteer in a remote village has shared a drink in some rundown bar with young host country draftees who know little more about America than what they have seen in American movies or heard in American music.

These encounters, between host country soldiers or future soldiers and Peace Corps volunteers, are non-intimidating, often conducted in the host country's native language without the need of interpreters, and frequently in the soldier's hometown or where the soldier is stationed. On several occasions this author has witnessed a fairly close relationship between soldiers in a remote village and a Peace Corps volunteer, with the soldiers, who also serve as the local police force, watching over the volunteer and giving safety advice. Numerous questions are often asked by the host country nationals, some serious relating to issues such as American foreign policy, but also many along the lines of what the soldiers hear on the radio or see in the movies.

Sometimes it seems Hollywood and American music still reach even the most distant and inaccessible parts of the planet. Having Peace Corps volunteers there to put such media into perspective can help clear up a lot of strange ideas people have about the United States, paving the way for better interactions between the host country's military and America's.

Peace Corps volunteers are sometimes the canaries in the coal mines, alerting others to potential trouble. Often serving in the hinterlands, their stories of dealing with corrupt officials, observing increased deforestation, or encountering crime in areas previously relatively crime-free make their way back as official reports or unofficial stories to the Peace Corps and frequently also to the American embassy. As the volunteers serve at the grassroots level, such stories often reflect the pulse of the country.

Too much bad news from these individuals "embedded" in communities, to borrow a term often used by the military, might be an indication of increasing trouble, perhaps even instability. Although the author is unaware of any formal use of Peace Corps volunteers to alert others to health hazards, it is quite conceivable they have also helped sound the alarm regarding communicable diseases.

Volunteers who are nurses or community health workers might be the first to notice an outbreak of cholera, meningitis, or some other infectious disease that warrants further investigation by the host country's public health officials. At a regional level, this might prevent American soldiers from entering that area to conduct joint training exercises with local forces.

At a global level, in this age of jet travel, preventing individuals who may have been exposed to a serious disease in a foreign country - possibly a new, more virulent strain of one that is highly contagious - from stepping onto a plane and a short time later arriving in the United States is incredibly critical to protecting America from the outbreak of a possibly serious epidemic. Though these countries have not had Peace Corps programs for years, former volunteers can provide a legacy of experience, including valuable information that may not be available elsewhere. This can help Americans better understand the peoples of these countries, which is of immense concern with regards to security and international terrorism.

An oft repeated phrase, or perhaps better stated, an oft repeated criticism is that America did not understand the Afghan culture when it decided to invade and subsequently attempt nation building. Peace Corps volunteers who had spent two years there working at a grassroots level with the indigenous population probably could have given valuable advice to the military both before the invasion - warning them of the difficulties inherent in development programs in a country where much of the population is illiterate and tribal - and after the invasion, when their expertise could probably have smoothed some of the stabilization operations.

As author Rajiv Chandrasekaran wrote in his book, Little America , regarding Afghanistan during the late s, when a massive United States-sponsored irrigation project employing numerous U. And because of this he has been welcomed where others have been turned away. With America's increasing involvement in combating terrorism in Somalia, as well as its efforts to encourage democracy in Iran, it behooves America to tap all knowledgeable sources regarding these countries if for no other reason than to avoid some of the mistakes made in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The wisdom of someone who spent two years fostering close relationships with Somalis or Iranians - learning their language, attending their celebrations, and, in many instances, being treated as "family" - could provide valuable background information for those trying to develop an appropriate course of action, diplomatic or military, involving these and other nations of concern to the United States where the Peace Corps has served. This author does not know how many former Peace Corps volunteers are now serving as Foreign Service officers or in other capacities at American embassies, but he does find them to be ubiquitous in these settings.

Even some ambassadors have done their time in a remote village, teaching sustainable agricultural techniques or performing similar types of activities before joining the Foreign Service and progressing through the ranks.

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This point is most notably driven home by the recent killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Libya, who several years before joining the Foreign Service had served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco. For many former Peace Corps volunteers, working in the embassy is a way to continue their service to both America and the host country. It also appeals to their sense of adventure, which is why, in part, a good number of them joined the Peace Corps in the first place.

Fortunately that can-do spirit, which enabled the volunteer to walk seemingly endless miles to ensure all children were vaccinated against a deadly disease; or start a women's co-op, fail, and then start again; or complete some other daunting task, is a commodity which also serves the Foreign Service, an organization often called upon to accomplish difficult and complex assignments in the host country, quite well. Frequently it is the former Peace Corps volunteer now working in an embassy who not only is the most fluent speaker of the local language among the American-born embassy staff, but he or she can also provide the best cultural background information.

This is not to diminish the excellent training and contributions of the other embassy workers; however, for a real grassroots perspective the former Peace Corps volunteer, who maybe spent two years in a small village without electricity, developing friendships and working on projects, all the while learning the local dialect of a national language, is often the one to go to for advice.

Fortunately, it is not just the Foreign Service in receipt of the talents of former volunteers. Numerous nongovernmental organizations are also staffed by these enthusiastic and idealistic individuals who are determined to make a difference in the world. With a renewed emphasis on stability operations, inevitably some American service members are going to find themselves not just working with former Peace Corps volunteers but actually depending on them to help complete their humanitarian missions.

These individuals bring their grassroots perspectives to discussions, and when they do field research in a less developed country, it could actually be in a real field talking with indigenous farmers. Such rural perspectives might be quite different from that obtained talking to the high-ranking government officials and other "suits" in the capital, and could provide key insights regarding a country's stability and security. Much has written been written about the importance of development in preventing conflict.

Below is a short list just touching on some of those writings:. Projects such as these are sometimes a part of military operations performed to stabilize an area. Especially when it comes to small-scale projects at the village level, it would be extremely valuable for the armed services to utilize the findings of an organization which has fifty years of experience in grassroots development.

Granted, not all Peace Corps projects during those fifty years were successful, but that is even more reason for the American military to look, for it is probably as important, if not more so, to know what did not work so that efforts are not wasted on projects that failed in the past without understanding why they failed. The expertise the Peace Corps has accumulated is substantial.

From sustainable agriculture to women's cooperatives selling locally made clothing to designing village level health programs to countless other projects, the Peace Corps has a history of how to accomplish these difficult grassroots projects and frequently also the detailed written records which the military could study in order to learn how to proceed with its own development initiatives. However, one must expect a challenge to be challenging.

Encourage prospective volunteers to stick with the old system of country placement, where they allow Peace Corps to choose which country to go to. I ended up in a place I had no interest in, and am now forever attached to that country. You gain very hands on practical experience.

I've collected more knowledge during my two years working as a Peace Corps Volunteer than I did during my 4 years of college by far.

Peace Corps "corps volunteer" Reviews | Glassdoor

The staff are extremely supportive and you meet and work with a very wide variety of colleagues. Becoming a Peace Corps volunteer is not for the unsure of weak-of-heart. It's a serious commitment. You can of course leave at any time but it's best to be sure that it's exactly what you want before coming. Some volunteers are placed in towns that have electricity and running water available.

In Zambia you will be placed in an extremely rural setting. Grass roof huts, no electricity, no running water, agricultural Peace Corps is a very well liked organization in Zambia.

Day in the Life : Peace Corps South Africa

They do great work with PEPFAR practices, gender equality, education, Malaria work, cultural exchange and working as liaisons for other organizations and country nationals. Being a Peace Corps Volunteer is a unique and life changing experience. Also if you're starting a career in international development it is absolutely essential to have this experience first - there's no other job or organization that will allow you to learn a local language and live like a local. Without this viewpoint it's impossible to become nearly as effective an international development professional.

Often peace corps volunteers struggle with the isolation of being a PCV, but overcoming this is also one of the positive parts of the experience. Stop being so soft on volunteers and stop being afraid to admin sep people. Being a Peace Corps Volunteer is an incredible experience. I loved my community, the high quality language instruction, and the community development projects in my country. Peace Corps is a demanding experience, emotionally and physically. I would encourage all applicants to deeply reflect on whether or not this type of experience is right for them.

The bureaucracy is frustrating, no matter what country you are in. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you are "in the trenches" of international development work on a daily basis for two years. Every day can bring something different and surprise you in the ways that you can contribute to your One con for me is that Peace Corps is a highly unstructured program.

I was assigned to a very disorganized community and host organization, neither of which had any motivation in engage in development projects There a wide varity of positive aspects about being a Peace Corps Volunteer, however these ultimatley depend on the country. There are certain pros that one will probably find in any position: Learn a new language. Create your own schedule and projects, ability to be creative and independent.

Make friends. Read a lot of books. Experience is very individualized. It should also be noted that living conditions may be very difficult. This can vary between countries and within countries. Example: one may have no electricity or water yet their closest neighbor has both. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer, not employee, and it was great.

If you have ever thought about joining I would wholeheartedly recommend it. You have enough autonomy to work on projects that interest you but are given a base to build from by Peace Corps. Walls are decorated with amazing, colorful, historic icons of Peace Corps' 50 years of service.