Thursday, October 23, 2008

Inflation..I'm sick of it

So reading an article sent to me by my father and a good friend, regarding the evacuation/aftermath of the PC Bolivia volunteers, I had rabies (well, that's a translation of a way of saying you were super crazy mad) to put some things into the light.  May I add the following (of course from my own point of view, but we were all going through this together in one place, and I heard a lot of talking volunteers, discussing their options, hopes and fears)...

The Peace Corps team from Washington, D.C. was extremely helpful in the decision-making process, never forcing us to take a transfer, because it is not wise to make life decisions during stressful events, or to make them in a short period of time.  Many of my compa├▒eros weren't ready to make that decision to jump into a new culture, program, and country without our familiar surroundings and friends.  And it wasn't a rejection of Peace Corps, for anybody that I talked to.  It was a need for time and closure, whether in Bolivia or in the U.S.  Sometimes I wonder whether it's something I should have taken more time to think about, and had I done so, I would have had to close my service and re-enroll for 27 months, thus being counted among the "PC rejectors."  We had a wonderful counselor to help us with the tough stuff, and we had placement officers who helped us with knowing exactly how sure we would be about getting placed to a new, satisfactory post if we so chose, once we had sorted our thoughts out in the U.S. (or on a super-sweet South American vacation using some of the money we'd earned as's not much, so why not spend it somewhere less expensive and really interesting).

More than half the volunteers had LESS than a year left in service (some were a MONTH away from their full commitment of 2 years), and it wouldn't make sense for those people to add a new 1 or 2 year commitment just to keep being in Peace Corps.  To me, that makes sense that they wouldn't hurry to another country, but rather go back to Bolivia to tie up their loose ends and maybe make arrangements for almost-done projects to be completed.  Again, not a rejection of peace corps or a statement against the organization, rather a logical decision.

There is a good number of people who are planning on doing another WHOLE 27 MONTHS.  those people had to close their service, which inflates the number of "not continuing" members.

Some COS-ed people are interested in Peace Corps Response, which places returned volunteers in short-term high-involvement projects to accomplish a specific goal, often in response to a major crisis (this used to be called Crisis Corps).  to be eligible for PCR, you need to close your service, then re-apply from home.

Some people with recent injuries could not transfer, because their medical clearance would take longer than the few weeks that would remain before moving to the new country.  That's unfortunate, but those people could still do Peace Corps in the future, and I know some really fought for the chance to transfer.  Were they rejecting the organization?  This might be the only small group of "angry" volunteers, but they were angry that they couldn't continue right away, because they still wanted to be volunteers.

All the people who ended their service have "Returned Peace Corps Volunteer" status.  It's like they're veterans.  Are those who end their military tours of duty rejecting the U.S. military?  They are honored as veterans, and hold that status for life.  Though the military and Peace Corps are clearly different, I do see a comparison.  An RPCV continues as such, as a part of the organization, and can choose to be an active RPCV, visiting schools, participating in events, etc.  It's an honor for many people to say they are RPCV.  I don't think most of these people would be considered as mad at the organization.

So as you can see, when the news talks about the HUGE number who apparently ended their relationship with Peace Corps or who were angry at the organization, they aren't giving a full picture.  Why paint it in this negative light?  I'm glad the Washington Post today did add more to the story about back-to-Bolivia volunteers.  I'm so proud of the people who chose to go back to tie things up, or stay in their sites and work for a while longer.  It says a lot about those people, and (in my opinion) how important their Peace Corps experience was to them.  For us transfers, that was an unfortunate draw-back.  Many of us would have loved to have gone back to Bolivia for a week and THEN go to another country, but it was not an option because the government is still obligated to protect us as volunteers, and Bolivia isn't safe enough for them to let any current volunteer visit.  

I would encourage the Press to give a more rounded version of the story.  They probably can't find a current volunteer willing to give an interview (we're not supposed to, for our safety and privacy), unfortunately, but the least they could do is research more of the post-Close of Service options and reasons behind taking this path.  Then the numbers might not look so dramatic.  But then again, what is the Press if not Drama?  Not News...certainly not! 


JSL said...

Thanks for your thoughtful response. I thought the WP article was pretty uplifting, but I caught the tone of loss even in the pictures of the PCV they featured. So I can see why you, who went through the experience, see it from the other side of the glass. Reporters always have to have an angle...but it was very nice to have any story. Hope you are moving into the groove now in P.

Love, Dad
Have you said your rosary today

Gloria Levin said...

Glad to know you're well settled. And thanks for your putting the record straight, to offset the media's the dramatization of the situation. Please know that you are welcome to a free year's membership in Amigos de Bolivia y Peru -- several others who transferred have joined. Just write and I'll sign you up. Gloria