Today I became aware of an initiative that I strongly support, the expansion of the Peace Corps. In February, 2009 Congressman Sam Farr (D) California introduced house bill HR 1066 to progressively increase funding for the Peace Corps over the next three years.
Officially established on March 1, 1961, the Peace Corp has placed over 195,000 Americans in over 139 countries. Peace Corps Volunteers work in: education, youth outreach, and community development; business development; agriculture and environment; health and HIV/AIDS; and information technology. Volunteers might find themselves counseling teenagers in Belize, helping Armenians launch computer center, promoting HIV/AIDS awareness in Malawi, or teaching high school chemistry in Ghana.
According to their website, http://www.peacecorps.gov the Peace Corps has three goals:
- Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
- Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
- Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
In 2009, the Peace Corps is expected to place only 3500 volunteers in the field, this in spite of the fact that more nations and more Americans want to be involved in their programs. Check out http://www.morepeacecorps.org/ for more information on writing to your Congressional Representative to request support for HR 1066. Below is the letter I sent to mine.
It seems to me that at this moment in history it is critical that U.S. citizens have the opportunity to establish connections with other citizens of the world. The value of international contact and understanding cannot be underestimated. I have been fortunate. I was a Fulbright Scholar in Russia in 1996-1997 and I have had the opportunity to travel around the globe teaching judges. The impact these experiences have had on me and my children and the friendships we have made throughout the world can only enhance the standing of the U.S. abroad. When real people interact with real people the possibilities for international understanding and collaboration are enhanced and at this moment in time, I can think of few things more valuable.
April 16, 2009
Dear Representative Tiahrt,
I am writing to you from Andover, KS to request that you co-sponsor HR 1066, the Peace Corps Expansion Act 2009. This bill, which authorizes $450 million, $600 million, and $750 million to Peace Corps in 2010, 2011, and 2012, would allow the Peace Corps to grow and innovate at a time when the US needs soft power initiatives like Peace Corps to enhance US interests abroad.
Current funding does not approach either international need or participant interest levels. In 2009, we will send fewer than 3,500 volunteers to the Peace Corps – less than half the number in 1966. Over twenty nations without Peace Corps missions including Indonesia, Vietnam, and Sierra Leone have requested new programs.
Over 13,000 people applied to become volunteers in 2008, a 16% increase over 2007. The number of minority applicants and applicants over the age of 50 also rose by double digits in the last year. The desire for Americans to serve internationally is matched by a long list of countries that want volunteers. This is an appropriate time to grow and revitalize the Peace Corps.
I hope you share my view that the Peace Corps can be a vital component of our public diplomacy toolbox. Citizen diplomacy through programs like the Peace Corp and Fulbright initiatives have put human faces on the values and beliefs that are at the core of US culture.
Since 1961, nearly 200,000 Peace Corps volunteers have provided meaningful, small-scale development assistance, reversing stereotypes about Americans and returning stateside to enrich communities domestically with new language and other skills. Peace Corps continues to be one of America’s finest expressions of friendship and solidarity across the globe.
I appreciate and welcome your support of this important and timely bill. Please contact Marc Hanson in Congressman Sam Farr’s office at 5-2861 or firstname.lastname@example.org to sign on.
Addendum: I recently received a letter from Representative Tiahrt in response to my letter explaining the status of the bill in question and thanking me for my letter. I appreciate the acknowledgement and the information.