The Added Value of Peace Corps
By Jonathan Pearson on Friday, October 22nd, 2010
Coming home from your Peace Corps service and taking your next step in changing the world is the forgotten value of the returned Peace Corps volunteer. It is a story that is important to tell our lawmakers to emphasize the enormous payback Peace Corps service provides. It is a story that can be found in many shapes, sizes and activities in most any community around the country.
For example, consider Livonia, Michigan.
At a Saturday morning informal gathering in mid-October, we met with several members of the local Peace Corps community. Each are engaged in local and global activities that demonstrate the width and breadth of RPCVs continued commitment to serving others, and to bring the world home to America.
Tom Napolitano (Malaysia 66-68) is a leader within the local RPCV community, serving as treasurer of the Southeast Michigan RPCVs. Tom notes that this NPCA member group raises approximately $2,500 a year, all of which goes to support current Peace Corps projects in the field. The group tries to support projects being coordinated by volunteers who come from the state of Michigan.
Michael Lavoie is another member group leader, serving as President of the Friends of Burkina Faso, the country where he served as a volunteer in the mid 1970′s. Ten years ago, Michael partnered with the Cranbrook Schools to launch The Namtenga Project, a program which is designed to foster independence and self-sustainability in the northeastern Burkina village, while instilling social responsibility and global awareness in Cranbrook students.
RPCVs serve their local communities as well. While Diana Malcolm (India 67) and her husband Bruce are talking about serving in the Peace Corps again, Diana continues to devote herself to providing comfort and support locally as a hospice volunteer. Sally Fedus (Bolivia 65-67; Philippines staff 67-70) has been very active over the years through a taxpayer assistance program for low income citizens in southwest Detroit. She also serves on the Board of Directors of several local organizations including the Plymouth chapter of the American Association for University Women and the Plymouth historical society.
Many RPCVs share the global experience with others through the written word. Ron Peterson (Ethiopia 73-75) has done this with his book A Time to…, a fictional work that connects some of his experiences as a volunteer through the themes of faith, hope, love and charity.
As you reach out to your lawmakers or candidates for public office, don’t forget to make the case for increased Peace Corps funding by sharing stories of the ongoing work that goes on long after the 27 months overseas.