Peace Corps

A recent article here (Hawaii) was rather critical, written by someone who had left half-way through their stint.

Any thoughts on the agency by the SD Board visitors ?

“Proverbs for Paranoids, 3: If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.”

  • T.Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow.

A link to the article, or some key points reproduced here, would be nice…

Yer pal,

Two anecdotes:

  • When the mother of a friend died, the father was depressed for a long time, and decided to join the Peace Corp. He had been a farmer all his life, and he thought that helping and teaching people farming techniques in an undeveloped country would be rewarding – that he would help himself by helping others. He was sent to a western African country, I forget which one, Nigeria or Ghana region. His experience was dreadful and he left very quickly.

He admits that part of it was that it wasn’t pulling him out of his depression. He says that part was that he was woefully unprepared for just HOW undeveloped the region was. He says the biggest part was that the people really didn’t want to learn the new techniques, they were happy doing what they had always done.

I have no way of judging where reality lies, of course, but it seems to me that this was a set-up for a failure from the get-go.

  • A friend of my daughter’s is currently in the Peace Corps in Russia. He is enthused beyond belief about it. He studied Russian in school (language and history), he spent a semester abroad in Russia, and after graduation he signed on for 3 years in the Peace Corps in Russia, primarily teaching English. He’s only been there a few months at this point, but he’s having a great time and feels like he’s doing well. His sister did a similar stint in Sri Lanka, teaching English, and had a wonderful experience.

So there you have my take on it.


Which, of course, is pretty ironic considering all the horror tales I’ve heard from farmers and county extension agents about how hard it is to persuade U.S. farmers to change any aspect of the way they produce crops. Contour plowing almost led to violence a few times in the 1930’s and no-till farming has pockets of guys who jumped at it and pockets where they still refuse to consider such a “stupid” idea.

I’m not knocking the gentleman that Dex mentioned. There were obviously a lot more things going on in his experience.

However, that line just dripped irony for me coming from an American farmer–especially since a criticism I have heard of the Peace Corps for 30 years is that they try to impose American/Western/industrial practices on societies that are not ready for them (and in places where it is, occasionally, inappropriate).


Satan: Sorry, I’d been thinking of a more general response (as in CDext & Tomndebb). While there is no link for the article, briefly:

young guy, background in TV production, was assigned to Samoa for “capacity building” with their college’s production dept. but felt that there was little if any equipment, little if any gov’t support from the US (no significant funding) and not much interest from host gov’t (“What, you’re not bringing $$ ?”).

His objections in a technical field are, oddly, similar to the objections in more “traditional” USPC projects such as agriculture in the two previous posts.

Seemed to me like one can throw in the towel half-way (culture shock, degree of difficulty, health, et al.) without challenging yourself to do more with less. (Hey, there was camera and film. Coulda made some environmental-themed music video… or led a video “Folkways” effort, or whatever.)

I was wondering about the general value of coming back from abroad having seen these difficulties first hand. Seems like one good way to get the US populace educated about foreign cultures and affairs, and low-tech matters like food & health. Better to 1) get people thinking (say like CKDexthavn & Tomndebb, for example) than yokels with a vote but little experience or perspective (who wouldn’t understand irony, much less learn from it), and 2) have people learn about “no pain, no gain” and “hitting the wall & busting through” in pursuits other than athletics.

Oops, sounded snooty there, as if I were qualified to judge anyone; I ain’t. Didn’t mean that how it sounded; sorry gang. Must lay off the absinthe while typing. Perhaps it’d be better to use some other example that falls in common experience: say some ex-USPC politicians of either political stripe (eg. Sen. Chris Dodd) vrs. … say Sen. Jesse Helms.

Umm…“I am the authority; you are benefitting from the largesse of my wisdom. And it is a real pleasure to be able to dispense it to you.”

Sound like something you’re ready to flame? Sure does to me. Also sounds like most “outreach to the underprivileged” and “bringing government aid to our people” programs I’ve heard of.

What is effective is when people go in and work alongside the people they want to help, showing them that there are benefits to doing it the new way (and keeping an open mind that there may be good reasons to do it the old way; to use one of the above examples, I heard of a case where a bright young USDA agent introduced contour farming into an area with terraced plateaus and actually increased substantially the soil erosion). The other key point is to realize that these people are no different than I am; the only difference is that I have a bit more information in one specific field. Respect for who they are and what they do is a prerequisite for introducing any change.

I cannot change any of you. But together we can change the world.

There is no WE in TEAM. And we all know there is no I in TEAM either. Then again there is some **T[/] and A in TEAM. Don’t ask me what it means…

This is how the post was supposed to look. Let this be a lesson about the evils of Pisco.

There is no WE in TEAM. And we all know there is no I in TEAM either. Then again there is some T and A in TEAM. Don’t ask me what it means…

True enough, Polycarp, should work alongside - my guess is this is drilled in during training. But are you referring to individuals, or to the program generally ?

My brother was an Anglican Missionary and maybe that was the key to their sucsess. They had no qualms about imposing their ways on natives.

They were there to convert and to “civilize”