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Reader feedback: Peace Corps not about morality or money

Re: "Peace Corps shuts down Slovak operation", By Dewey Smolka, Vol. 8 No. 24, June 24-30, 2002

The Peace Corps' missions abroad have never been about teaching anyone about morality, unless by example as an accidental by-product of the work of each individual volunteer. The mission varies from country to country, depending upon needs. In some countries in Africa, volunteers spend much of their time on projects related to feeding starving populations. In some European countries, in particular those that were repressed by totalitarian-style governments for more than two generations, volunteers were assigned to help develop skills in the international language of business and to advise interested persons regarding western-style business practices. These problems resulted from the decades of Communist rule, not from underdevelopment.

The Peace Corps was, as well, expected to offer a view of America that was not gained through the lens of its military, economic or cultural power.

In other words, the Peace Corps represents the best side of America and its people.

Whenever the need for volunteers disappears (meaning the Corps' work has been successful), volunteers move to other places. They had a definite and clear mission in Slovakia, and now the need is gone. The Peace Corps came to Slovakia to offer for free what plenty of vagabond English teachers and self-serving business people were happy to do for pay.

I am not a Peace Corps volunteer, and never was. But I married one who spent more than two years living in a village on a small island in the Philippines helping the local population learn how elements of their diets were making them sick and harming their children. She looks back on those years as some of the best in her life.

Many bright, well-educated young volunteers are working for a tiny fraction of what they could earn by starting their careers in the United States. In Slovakia they were not paid better than much of the local population they served, but rather less. They were paid in a month less than a teenager cooking french fries in a fast food joint in a small town in Texas would make in two or three days.

Peace Corps volunteers are not in it for the money. I'm not sure what your problem is, JGK.

Don Merritt

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