Peace Corps: Toughest Job You'll Ever Love
Why the human capital function still has far to go.
October 2014 | by Daniel Burk
As the 110th Congress convenes this week, it faces an opportunity -- fuelled by the American public's mandate for change -- to develop and employ new bipartisan policies that enhance global peace while improving the world's opinion of our country. Central to this effort should be an increased role for the American volunteer, who has served as one of the best diplomats and representatives of this country to communities across the globe. From the Peace Corps to the rapidly growing field of corporate volunteers, Americans have invested their time, skills, and energy in service initiatives abroad and in doing so, exhibited our traditional spirit of good will and concern for others helping other countries.
Take Kimberly Priebe of Schaumburg, Illinois, who was recently honored by the White House Freedom Corps for her service as a World Teach volunteer teaching English in a community college in Vicabama, Ecuador. While serving in Ecuador for one year, Kimberly published columns back home that described the serious educational needs of the population in Vicabama. After reading the columns, the local residents of Schaumburg responded by sending contributions to establish 100 scholarships for young people to attend the Vicabama community college. This support, generated by an American volunteer abroad, will foster benefits and bonds that last beyond the scholarships.
Global Service Fellowships
To maximize the potential of international volunteering, we propose that Congress establish a program of Global Service Fellowships to support American volunteers—nominated by congressional members—serving abroad with qualifying nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), faith-based groups, and universities that are committed to advancing peace and development. Initial funding of $50 million would support approximately 10,000 fellowships annually averaging $5,000 each to pay for volunteers' travel, program costs, and minimal living expenses. In addition, Congress and the White House should work together to double the Peace Corps, authorize and provide support to Volunteers for Prosperity, and increase support of other efforts inside and outside government to enable global service and assess its impact.
We ask Congress to pursue an expansion of the Peace Corps and to empower new international volunteers through Congressionally-nominated Global Service Fellowships, increased technical assistance, and multilateral exchanges in concert with UN Volunteers. These actions will link the efforts of American volunteers in a variety of service projects to a broader national effort aimed at enhancing international and intercultural understanding while improving lives through service.