30 Year Focus: Peace Corps Alumni Foundation for Philippine Development
By Jonathan Pearson on Saturday, March 23rd, 2013
At a time when some volunteer-led organizations struggle to survive, members of the Peace Corps Alumni Foundation for Philippine Development (PCAFPD) say sticking to two basic principals has worked for them. First, have a simple, core mission. Second, stay focused.
In the case of PCAFPD, the mission has been education, giving back to their country of service through college scholarships. ”We wanted to help young Filipinos break out of the cycle of poverty,” according to Foundation President Mark Holt (Tarlac 1982-84). ”We wanted to assist students who are academically gifted, but come from the poorest families.”
A Washington gathering Thursday evening at the Philippines Embassy commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Foundation. There is much to
celebrate. Over three decades, PCAFPD has raised nearly $700,000, providing full scholarships to more than 200 students. 160 students have now graduated, while 41 students are currently attending college.
“It’s very rewarding,” said Maureen Carroll, a member of Philippines Group I (Sorgoson 1961-63), who was recognized at the gathering for her recent ten years of service as Foundation president. ”I’ve been impressed that we have been able to sustain the group for 30 years.”
Another member of Philippines I, Claire Horan Smith (Camarines Sur 1961-63), highlighted two elements of the program that contribute to the success of the Foundation. ”They won’t start (a college scholarship) for a kid until they know they have the monetary commitment to finish the student’s education.” Smith also noted the program serves as a bridge connecting early Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) with many of the current Philippines volunteers, especially those involved in education. ”Current volunteers identify potential students, encourage them to apply for a scholarship and (in some instances) write letters of recommendations.”
Like a number of his fellow RPCVs, Charlie Schwartz (Manila 1967-69) first connected as a donor, but has gotten more involved in recent years. Currently he is finalizing an article for the Foundation newsletter, Balitaan, on the giving experiences of PCAFPD’s 1,100 donors. ”It’s just phenomenal. It speaks to the cause people respond to, and their generosity.”
Schwartz says among the common responses as to why people give are a commitment to give back to the Philippines, a sense of continuing to serve the
country and a desire to make the Peace Corps experience more than a nice memory.
As Sarah McMeans (Cebu 1962-64) volunteered at the registration table, welcoming guests, distributing name tags and offering Foundation literature, she reflected on the program’s impact and the connections that go well beyond the scholarship recipients. “I’ve not been back. (The Foundation) is my continuing connection to the country. And the scholarships not only make a difference in (the recipients) lives, many have said they will help their siblings, their families in advancing their education.”
Follow this link to learn more about the ongoing work of the Peace Corps Alumni Foundation for Philippine Development.