“What’s it like to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in your twenties and then again decades later? David Jarmul takes a deep dive into that topic in his recent book, Not Exactly Retired: A Life-Changing Journey on the Road and in the Peace Corps. He ‘teases out a striking contrast between his service in Nepal 35 years ago and in Moldova in the age of Trump,’ says Marco Werman, host of The World on public radio.”
Accompanying it is an article from Champa describing how “many of us were not what Moldovans expected a Volunteer would look like. Together, we showed them that ‘American’ includes many kinds of people. As Peace Corps looks to its future, its Volunteers need to fully reflect our country’s diversity.”
Versions of both articles also appear (without all of the photos) in the magazine’s new printed edition, shown below.
That agency is the Peace Corps, in which I served twice as a volunteer.
On Wednesday, the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) highlighted on LinkedIn a talk I gave recently arguing the Peace Corps is way too focused on “development” and not enough on helping Americans and others to learn about each other.
No one is better situated than Peace Corps Volunteers to explain to their fellow Americans that developing countries are not “shitholes” — or to help people around the world see the realities of our own society.
Moreover, it’s their mission to do this. according to the agency’s three goals. One goal is to assist economic development, the other two are to promote cross-cultural understanding. Yet the Peace Corps now devotes almost all of its attention and resources to the first goal, even though returned volunteers say the other two end up mattering the most. This approach makes less sense now than ever before, as some politicians whip up fear about “the other.”
Peace Corps Volunteers can help Americans recognize that foreigners, including Muslims and people of color, share many of their own dreams and are not their enemies — and they can do so while maintaining the agency’s nonpolitical, bipartisan tradition.
The talk was part of NPCA’s “global ideas summit” (also on YouTube), which raised many interesting questions about the future of the Peace Corps — an organization I love and want to see have a bigger impact.
Are today’s Peace Corps volunteers over-connected? That’s the question I explore in this article just published by WorldView, the international magazine of the National Peace Corps Association. (A digital image of the article follows, with a link to a PDF version.)