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FW: GroupLeaders list postings on More Peace Corps

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  • JoAnna Allen
    Hi Everyone, This is a long series of emails but important enough that every RPCV should at least have this information. Hope you get a chance to see what s
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 2, 2008
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      Hi Everyone,
       
      This is a long series of emails but important enough that every RPCV should at least have this information.
      Hope you get a chance to see what's been going on and how you can help.
       
      JoAnna Allen


      From: Anne Baker [mailto:Anne@...]
      Sent: Monday, June 02, 2008 3:31 PM
      To: NPCA Group Leaders
      Cc: Rajeev Goyal
      Subject: GroupLeaders list postings on More Peace Corps

      Dear Group Leaders:

      Per my message on Friday, we are working to better target our communications to reach the best audiences most effectively (and keep this list focused on group capacity building and management issues).  We ask that discussion about the More Peace Corps campaign take place through the campaign, instead of through the GroupLeaders listserv.  However, two messages had come in related to the campaign in the interim.  So, I am passing them along below.  Please follow-up with the senders directly and/or with Rajeev and the More Peace Corps campaign at http://www.morepeacecorps.org

       

      The two postings are below my “signature” here in the order in which they were received.

       

      Anne Baker

      Vice President

      National Peace Corps Association

      1900 L Street NW, Suite 404

      Washington, DC 20036

      vp@...

      phone:  202-293-7728, ext. 12

      fax:  202-293-7554

      www.peacecorpsconnect.org

       

      Message #1:

       

      Since I have been active in the MorePeaceCorps Wisconsin Task Force Kick off, I'd like to share with you my thoughts on what a MorePeaceCorps means. When I first agreed to Rajeev's request to participate in this campaign, I did so because I thought he made a good case for a statewide, professional campaign that would get our legislators active and interested in getting the money the PC needs to increase its numbers and truly move the organization toward the vision first set out by JFK, who envisioned 100,000 volunteers a year.

       

      Among group leaders, there is a lot of cynicism of this movement or any previous attempts to build up the Peace Corps. But I look at this campaign as an opportunity to not only get the funding to increase PC but as an instrument to improve the Peace Corps. If we could even get 10% of 190,000 RPCVs to weigh in on this by letter writing, by making phone calls to their legislators, by getting media attention, we'd make progress and perhaps get the funding necessary to increase PC numbers. By doing this we'd also get RPCVs' insight into how PC could/should improve. Look at the emails and letters written about Robert Strauss' NY Times op-ed piece! 

       

      There is no agenda on the part of NPCA to make this a 'political' movement, at least I don't know of one, and I'm a current board member. The numbers say it all. In any given year, there are 100,000 inquiries to the PC, 10,000 applications, but only 4,000 are accepted. 

       

      It's easy to sit back and criticize what has or hasn't been done but unless we all get active, the PC will continue to put out a mere 4,000 volunteers a year, and the existing problems in administration will remain unchanged and inherently flawed. 

       

      I agree with Jim Gore who said that we, RPCVS, can drive this movement forward and insist on not only a MORE Peace Corps, but a BETTER Peace Corps. And in the end, regardless of whether or not we are successful, we will at least be able to say that we tried.

       

      I didn't sign onto this campaign because I was on the NPCA board but because I see the Peace Corps as an organization made up of some absolutely awesome and talented individuals, both young and old, who help break down the stereotypes of the ugly American, who don't necessarily espouse or promote the politics of the U.S. government, but who are willing to give up two years of their lives to help make the world a better place to live for all involved.

       

      I think that Ina Corinne Brown said it best: "It does not matter how culturally diverse we are as long as we agree on certain basic values, one of which must be respect for our cultural differences. Our problem is how to live together, not how to become alike."

       

      Allegra Troiano

      Senegal 80-82

      akt@...

       

      Message #2:

      Don and James: Here's another way of addressing the More Peace Corps issue. Chris Dodd's way.

       

      I have been working very closely with Senator Dodd and his staff on their Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act, S. 732. This bill would give us both more and better Peace Corps.

       

      Here's how Senator Dodd explained the way in which more and better work together -- excerpted from his speech to the NPCA Director's Circle on March 7 of this year:

       

         "So as we grow the Peace Corpsas we get it the volunteers it needs and the increased funding it deserveswe must respect its roots. We must work to make it more decentralized, because service at its best is personal and spontaneous, and because volunteers know far more about conditions on the ground than we in Washington ever will.

          "We can start that transformation today. In the Senate, I've introduced a Peace Corps bill that would give volunteers more initiative and responsibility. We can set aside a portion of the annual Peace Corps budget as seed monies; volunteers can use the money for demonstration projects in their host countries or for "third goal" projects at home to promote understanding of the world. We can encourage volunteers to take advantage of the private sector by authorizing them to accept, under carefully-defined circumstances, donations to support their projects. We can bring the Peace Corps into the digital age by establishing websites and email links for use by volunteers in-country. And finally, we need to bring more volunteers into the decision-making processthey should have input into staffing decisions, site selection, language training, and country programs.

            "So we ought to work to make the Peace Corps bigger, and more decentralized, at the same time. I believe we can, at the same time, extend its worldwide reach and honor its grassroots past. Doing both is the best way to be true to the spirit that created it: the spirit that turned student activism into government action, that combined Cold War diplomacy with the spontaneous need to serve."

      So, Senator Dodd's view is that more and better are done "at the same time."

       

      This is the way Senator Dodd's bill works. It increases the authorization -- to double -- and proposes reforms to empower Volunteers. This is the perfect balance.

       

      My wife and I have just completed our second term of service. We served 40n years ago -- in Kenya and Nepal respectively -- and just COSed inSenegal from 2005-2007. We became deeply convinced that the Peace Corps is in need of reform and strongly support the Dodd proposed reforms. Last July Senator Dodd invited us to fly in fromSenegal to testify at the hearing on the legislation. We did so gladly, paying for the airfares from our readjustment allowance. You can see a copy of our testimony on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee website.

       

      I'm happy to address here why these reforms will lead to a better Peace Corps.

       

      Printed below is what we said about doubling in our testimony.

      One issue we've pursued is of direct relevance to the Friends Groups. I was the founder of Friends of Nepal so I know how important it is to support the Friends groups and I don't think either NPCA or the Peace Corps is doing enough to support them. In our testimony we championed funding for Third Goal activities but we recommended that the provision be amended to provide funding to Friends groups so that they can better support current Volunteers.

      Thanks very much.

       

      Chuck Ludlam

      RPCV Nepal (68-70)

      RPCV Senegal (05-07)

      chuck.ludlam@...

       

      Excerpt from Testimony at July 7, 2007 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing of Chuck Ludlam/Paula Hirschoff Quality and Quantity

       

      At one point in the 1960s, nearly twice as many Volunteers were serving in the field, 15,000 versus about 8,000 today. For many years there has been a call to "double" the number of Volunteers in the field to return to that era. We support this goal as long as the level of support for the Volunteers is increased substantially, as provided in this legislation. Only after more attention is devoted to quality should we focus prudently on increasing the number of Volunteers.

      Cost is one major reason to concentrate first on quality. The provisions of this legislationall focused on improving the quality of the Volunteer experiencewill impose additional costs per Volunteer.

       * Providing a $250 minimum and $1000 maximum fund for seed demonstrations for every Volunteer (see proposed amendment to legislation to set the minimum) will impose additional costs. The Peace Corps currently funds "reimbursement" for some Volunteer expenses, so the total cost of this provision will not be $250 x 8,000 Volunteers ($2,000,000) or $1000 x 8,000 Volunteers ($8,000,000). We would need to subtract the current reimbursement expenses to reach a net total increase in cost.

       * The job-related leave proposed amendment needs to be budgeted.

       Some minimal administrative costs might be imposed by the following provisions:

      * Implementing the programs for older Volunteers.

      * Conducting the Volunteer surveys (personnel and programs).

      * Operating the VACs.

      * Reforming the medical screening process.

      * Drafting the financial guide (minimal costs).

       Some additional costs would result if the other amendments proposed below are enacted, especially the proposed strengthening of medical support for Volunteers.[1]  The survey of Peace Corps salary and benefits, discussed below, may lead to additional expenses.

       All of these expenses should be accommodated before expending additional funds to expand the number of Volunteers.

       In addition to the costs associated with these mandates, the legislation sets a priority on listening to, respecting and supporting the current Volunteers. This inevitably imposes non-financial burdens on existing personnel. More Volunteers in the field means less time and energy to listen, respect and support individual Volunteers. The process of finding outstanding CDs and APCDs to give outstanding support to Volunteers is intensive. Hiring more APCDs, medical staff, and personnel to manage more Volunteers strains the Peace Corps personnel system.

       Given all of these pressures, it is difficult for Peace Corps to effectively manage more than about 100-150 Volunteers per country. Training, site preparation and Volunteer support are quality-intensive activities that today often fail to meet Volunteer needs. To assess and prepare one site for one Volunteer might take 3-5 visits. The traveling times and distances in many countries can be daunting. Peace Corps managers like to visit Volunteers several times a year and on average they can visit no more than two or three per day. If they are managing 40 Volunteers, they will have to spend 40 to 60 days on the road for these visits. On average, Volunteer training lasts about 3 months. Assuming that there are 2 training sessions per year, the training sessions take 6 months. Extra demands, say a Volunteer who needs special help, add to the load. Training sessions, and close-of-service and mid-term conferences all impose more work on the staff.

       If, for example, the number of Volunteers in a given country is expanded from 150 to 300 Volunteers, a number of staff positions would have to double. Assuming that the Volunteers arrive in 4 rather than 2 groups, and each group receives 3 months of training, training would be continuous, 12 months a year rather than 6. The number of mid-term and close of service conferences would double. The number of site visits would double and the pressure to develop new sites would double. The Country Director must be personally engaged in every case of Administrative Separation, Early Termination and Medical Separation, which can run 25% per group. The number or size of regional houses would need to double. The number of reports to be filed would double. All of this places stress on an organization and potentially jeopardizes quality.

       To us this means that the best opportunity for expansion is to launch the Peace Corps into new countries, or return to countries where programs have been suspended or terminated. If any country program is targeted for expansion, the highest priority should go to China because of its strategic importance to the United States.[2]  Finally, we have concerns that a dramatic increase in Peace Corps funding is not feasible given the constraints of the federal budget. It may be more realistic as a fiscal matter to focus on improvements in quality, which are less expensive, than dramatic increases in quantity.[3]  Section 401 of the legislation calls for increasing the Peace Corps authorization from $336 million for FY 2008 to $618 million for FY 2011. The NPCA survey found substantial support for this proposal with 89% agreeing and 26% disagreeing. Some 79% then agreed with the goal of doubling the number of Volunteers while 13% disagreed. Due to a preparation error, the survey failed to provide comment space for this section of the legislation. However, a number of respondents commented, in the course of the survey, on issues of funding and size. Some enthusiastically supported doubling (or even tripling) the number of Volunteers. Among those expressing concern or opposition, most raised the need for adequate funds to support and strengthen existing volunteers and programs. Following are some of the comments:

      Peace Corps needs to make sure individual country programs are capable of dealing with the extra influx of volunteers so Peace Corps activities do not suffer…if they were to double Togo's volunteers at the time I served, PC Togo, I think, would have been ill-equipped for this because there was a limited local staff for training needs, assessing villages for volunteer placement, etc. 

                                                                  RPCV, Togo , 2000-01

       

      Doubling PCV numbers without addressing real constraints of Volunteer support will result in more PCVs with insufficient PC support. Many staff, especially Program Staff, are overstretched to provide time and energy to their PCVs. Program staff should travel to visit PCVs, find sites as well as screen housing & counterparts with briefing to communities, counterparts, and supervisors; review project development with host country partners and PCVs, keep programming active and relevant, develop/review training to support technical as well as cultural and language needs, and maintain official rapport and communication with meetings and outreach that includes PCV input…Double PCV numbers means increase field staff numbers and skill development inputs also. 

               Seattle WA , Nepal , 5

      ________________________________________

      [1] The costs of the Third Goal program will probably come in a separate appropriation and not subtract from appropriations for the Peace Corps itself. If post service health coverage is eventually extended from one to six months, it would impose additional costs per Volunteer.     S. 732 provides for a study of the costs.

      [2] The United States is not preparing itself to deal effectively with China . Far too few Americans can speak Mandarin, have lived and worked in China , and know how to operate effectively in the Chinese culture. We need to train millions of Americans in the language and cultural skills necessary to conduct business withChina . Senator Lieberman has introduced legislation, which Chuck authored while serving as his Legal Counsel, to dramatically expand business and cultural engagement with China , including funding for Chinese language instruction and various types of cultural exchange programs. See S. 1117, the U.S.-China Cultural Engagement Act, introduced by Senators Lieberman and Alexander (May 25, 2005). The legislation authorizes appropriations of $1.3 billion, one dollar for each Chinese, to fund these programs. Section 621 directs the Peace Corps to submit to Congress a report on increasing the number of United States-People's Republic of China Friendship Volunteers (the name for the Peace Corps in China ) serving in the People's Republic ofChina .

      [3] Using present value accounting, which the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation requires of every U.S. pension plan, the US government pension programs (Social Security) and health care programs for the aged (Medicare) are $70 trillion underfunded on a present value basis. This means that we need to put aside $70 trillion today to fund the shortfalls. If we fail to do so, we must add about $2 trillion to the shortfall total every year we delay. This total shortfall is nearly twice the total net worth of the United States . With this catastrophic underfunding of these programs, the prospects are grim for increases in funding elsewhere in the budget, including for the Peace Corps. Senator Lieberman has introduced legislation, which Chuck authored while serving as his Legal Counsel, to require the Congress to use present value accounting rules to assess the long term balance of the Federal budget. The current cash accounting system gives us no meaningful projection of the long term budget picture. See Honest Government Accounting Act of 2003, S. 1915, introduced by Senator Lieberman on November 11, 2003.

       

       

       

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