FP reader MC weighs in on "Think Again: The Peace Corps":
As a recently returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Ukraine, I would tend to agree with some of what Mr. Strauss argued in his article... while still seeing Peace Corps as serving a useful purpose. Peace Corps is in some ways the post-college study and party abroad opportunity for those with little or no work experience. In one of our training sessions, we were told half-jokingly that the only thing we could do wrong in our two years of service was to get drunk and fall down in a ditch. I believe that the comment was based on an incident that happened earlier in the year.
On the other hand, it is also a great chance for motivated young adults to gain much-needed experience in the international development field that can serve as a stepping stone to a future career. During my time in Peace Corps, I witnessed both types of volunteers: those that over-drank and generally embarrassed the United States of America, and those whose service truly made a difference in the world. I found that the best volunteers were those who were able to find small successes despite the cultural, linguistic, and bureaucratic obstacles.
There are indeed aspects of the Peace Corps that need to be reevaluated. The site placement process to determine where volunteers will serve definitely needs to be adjusted. Many times, volunteers seem to be assigned to sites at random with little input from the person affected most by the placement decision -- the volunteer.
Overall, the Peace Corps volunteer receives much more from the experience than he/she does for the country of service... In the end, the volunteer's attitude (along with a little luck) determines whether it's worth the taxpayer dollars spent and the volunteer's time.
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