Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Peace Corps: Doing My Homework and Look What I Found

I've learned through mistakes and disappointments that you can never believe the hype about something. For every good story, there is a bad one. For every person who had a good experience, there is someone who has had a bad experience.

Over the past two days, I've come across such disturbing news about the Peace Corps, it's taken the wind out of my sails. The first instance of bad news was this blog written by a volunteer in Guatemala. Tarantulas on the walls, up to 16 people in the homestay house, Spanish language training in a community that speaks only a Mayan dialect. The list goes on. After 7 months, this person decided to cut the cord and is back in the U.S., and in the process, exposed some very serious issues that I find very concerning.

Death Due to Illness in Morocco
One of the comments posted to the above volunteer's blog has to do with the death of a volunteer this past November in Morocco, a death due to illness. This is the report, and it is disturbing. In his book The Insider's Guide to the Peace Corps, the author cites RPCV's and their lackluster opinions of PC medical services in-country. The death of this 23 year old woman in Morocco speaks volumes to this point.

Foreign Policy Magazine - 2008
The former Country Director of Cameroon writes this article. It's easy to speculate why a former employee of the agency would speak up like this - maybe he was fired, or maybe his conscience got to him. Either way, it's pretty close to whistleblower status.

Violence Against Volunteers
Think there's little risk to joining the PC? Think again. Here's an article, written in what seems like the early '00's, there's no date on it, that states the dangers that volunteers face while serving. Some 21 or so volunteers have been murdered while in-service, and other deaths have occurred through accidents. But putting deaths aside, this article makes very clear that volunteers are not as safe as the PC would make you believe. To the PC's credit, they do make this information available, or someone does, on So perhaps I am overblowing this finding.

Lack of Transparency
Secrecy is the PC's MO apparently. This posting makes transparent the medical guidelines PC uses to defer or reject applicants. The kicker is, these had to be attained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The author, a RPCV applying for reenlistment 40 years or so after his initial service, offered the PC to post these guidelines, but they refused. Everything needs to be a secret. What's alarming is that the PC could be using outdated guidelines. The guidelines posted here are from 1993. That, and their absolute refusal to post this information for all eyes to see, says something.

Always do your homework. After reading this information, I have started looking into other options. Because you can never believe the hype. If I learn about the bad things, and I feel I can handle the bad things because perhaps they aren't all that bad, then I'm comfortable. But these articles reveal some real issues. And it's very sad. Is this an agency that really treats its volunteers as numbers, not as people? Something to really think about. I think my decision to move forward will depend largely on the nomination. Knowing full well that the nomination could change down the road.

In reality, no situation will be perfect. There will always be something behind the curtain, a devil always in the proverbial details. But the question becomes, how severe are those devils and how numerous are they?

1 comment:

  1. Uggggh more bad news. It keeps coming. I am starting to feel like they overshadow the benefits of serving. I hear a lot of RPCVs say they feel they didn't make a difference at all in the country.