Let's start some discussion
- Hey, everyone.
I am pasting a response I got from someone whom I emailed while I
was still a PCV. This person has a lot of PC experience and I was
told that they would be helpful in providing perspective on how PC
works, and maybe could make some useful suggestions for improvement
Read what he says below and let us know what you think. His last
line is what seems to be the prevalent attitude, but there's some
interesting info in what he says.
(pasted correspondence follows)
The frustration you are expressing is not unfamiliar
to me. I served in Ghana in 1963-5 and more recently
in South Africa and Western Samoa. I also worked with
PCVs in Micronesia in the early 1970's where I served
as a consultant health educator and in Botswana in the
80's when I was a USAID consultant. I am now headed
for East Africa for another PC stint.
One of the major problems with PC is that it doesn't
have a memory; thus, re-inventing the wheel or more
explicitly, making the same mistakes over and over.
It has no memory because PC does not allow anyone to
work for PC for more than 5 years. Thus, mistakes are
not corrected and most of the PC administrators are in
their position for a couple years, move up, and then
out. (Note: Retired folks may serve more than 5 years;
thus I am exempted). Since a lot of the PC Washington
folks are RPCVs, they serve in a position for a year,
then move up as their superiors move out, and during
the last year, look elsewhere for another job. This is
true from the Director all the way down to the lowest
However, in my opinion, the most important person for
a PCV is the country APCD. The APCD is responsible for
finding suitable, safe, effective, realistic
assignments within the country. In South Africa, I had
a very good APCD and she had spent many months
developing assignments that were meaningful. On the
other hand, the teacher training APCD was lazy and
only used the telephone to place vols; consequently, a
lot of the vols ET'd due to frustration and boredom.
One problem facing the country CD and APCDs is the
fact that PC Washington decides how many vols will be
sent to a country without asking the country. Thus,
your country will get 60 this summer and I am sure you
agree that most of them will not have realistic,
viable assignments. When I was in the PC in the
beginning, the host country asked for specific types
of volunteers and Washington tried to meet those
Your frustration and angst are not uncommon. Even in
South Africa and Samoa we all felt underutilized and
were wasting our time. In Samoa, I only worked one day
a month training nurses and nutritionists. I spent my
time studying Samoan, reading over a hundred books and
doing crossword puzzles. (I was a transfer so spent
only 1 yr there)
In Samoa, I tried to get the APCD to get the PCVs
working in villages to take blood pressure and do
diabetes testing on everyone in the village. (Diabetes
and HBP are epidemic in Samoa) The SPA grant could be
used to purchse BP cuffs and glucose testers. The APCD
agreed that would be a good project but she merely sat
on it and nothing happened. The village based vols are
frustrated and bored to death because the village
matais (chiefs) only want the vols to write grants and
bring money to the village.
You have two years so you may as well do some good.
Start boys and girls volleyball, basketball, rugby,
cricket, cross country, etc. teams. Teach first aid to
people living in the country. Do diabetes and BP
testings. One PCV teacher in South Africa recorded and
typed children's stories and had children draw
pictures about the stories. She then put them in a
book and had them printed. Two other vols got a bunch
of kids from their village together and took them on
trips to museums, the city, camping, etc. SPA grant
provided the funds to rent the bus.
PC is over 40 years old and the complaints you have
are just as old. Forget about changing PC. Better you
find something more productive with your time.
- --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "rpcv4change"
Are you still around?
> Hey, everyone.<snip>
> I am pasting a response I got from someone whom I emailed while I
> was still a PCV. This person has a lot of PC experience and I was