A Birthday Present for the Peace Corps

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Everyone knows that United States Peace Corps Volunteers serve two years in Africa, Asia, and the Americas to help

What most people don't know is that

There is no such things as a "retired" Peace Corps volunteer or a "former" Peace Corps volunteer.

PCOL Story

The Peace Corps has always neglected the third goal, allocating less than 1% of their resources to it, so when Aaron Williams promised Senator Dodd to provide a "Comprehensive Assessment Report" with ideas to strengthen and reform the agency's operations we expected to see some forceful recommendations to address this weakness. In 2008, Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter, the only RPCV who has served as both the agency's Director and Chairman of the Board of the NPCA, proposed a Peace Corps Foundation that would be a private charitable non-profit corporation dedicated to the third goal whose purpose would be to increase public awareness within the United States of Peace Corps Volunteer experiences, and the diversity of the countries in which they serve. The foundation would be totally financed with private funds from corporations, foundations, and private individuals and would not be a federal agency or receive funding from the US government. Unfortunately, the "Comprehensive Assessment Team" continued the Peace Corps' traditional disregard for the third goal by neglecting to consider the establishment of the "Peace Corps Foundation" even though the legislation to establish a Peace Corps Foundation was already drafted in bill form two years ago ready to be introduced to Congress and the Peace Corps has already received approval from the OMB, Treasury, IRS, the State Department to go ahead with the foundation. This critical omission by members of the "Comprehensive Assessment Team" to not even mention the Peace Corps Foundation, may leave some with the overall impression that their report is perfunctory in nature, written only to satisfy Senator Dodd's request and not to seriously address the issues at hand. Although the comprehensive report does recommend that the agency establish a third goal strategy, we believe that another team needs to be appointed to do a comprehensive study on the third goal and methods to achieve it - and that the team needs to seriously address the establishment of a Peace Corps Foundation. If members of the Obama administration have good reasons why they do not support the establishment of a Peace Corps Foundation whose charter would be to support third goal activities, then the Peace Corps should explain these reasons to the RPCV community and Friends of the Peace Corps. This issue is too important to be swept under the table.

Peace Corps Press Release

Director Ron Tschetter Pursues Peace Corps' Third Goal

Washington, D.C., Oct. 23, 2008 - Peace Corps Director Ronald A. Tschetter officially announced his vision for a Peace Corps Foundation today. The principal purpose of the Peace Corps Foundation would be to advance the Peace Corps' third goal of inspiring a better understanding of other cultures through returned Volunteers in America.

As a former Peace Corps Volunteer, Director Tschetter has committed to enhancing Third Goal activities agency-wide and has formally requested authority from the U.S. Congress to create the Peace Corps Foundation.

Describing the idea during a town hall staff meeting, Director Tschetter said, "The Peace Corps Foundation would foster greater participation and support to Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and their organizations, encourage cross-cultural exchange, volunteerism through community events, classroom visits, and other educational activities. We now seek support and authority from Congress on this key priority for our agency, and I look forward to moving ahead on this initiative as soon as possible."

The Peace Corps Foundation would be a private charitable non-profit corporation. The goal of the Foundation is to increase public awareness within the United States of Peace Corps Volunteer experiences, and the diversity of the countries in which they serve. Groups such as the National Peace Corps Association and the numerous "friends of" groups comprised of Returned Volunteers could greatly benefit from Foundation resources.

The Foundation would not be a federal agency; therefore it would not require any appropriated funds from Congress. Instead, funding for the Foundation would be sought from corporations, foundations, and private individuals; grants would be disseminated for specific programs under a governing board's direction. The activities of the Foundation will be planned in coordination and cooperation with the activities of the Peace Corps.

Ultimately, a Peace Corps Foundation building in Washington D.C. would serve as an educational facility where Americans, particularly children, would come and learn more about other cultures and countries, as well as how the Peace Corps fulfills its mission of promoting peace and friendship worldwide. The Foundation would also complement the Peace Corps' Third Goal activities such as Peace Corps Week, the Coverdell World Wise Schools Program, and the publication of educational materials for teachers and students.

Interview with Ron Tschetter

Hugh Pickens: I am going to move over to a question that should be of special interest to you because you are unique in the history of the Peace Corps because you are the only person who has 1) served as a Peace Corps volunteer, 2) served as the Chairman of the National Peace Corps Association, and 3) been Peace Corps Director. There are over 190,000 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and the membership of the National Peace Corps Association is less than 10,000. Do you think a larger and more broadly based returned volunteer organization is desirable and if so, how do you think the "Friends of" groups, the NPCA, and Returned Volunteers would go about creating a more broadly based organization and how does this tie into the Peace Corps Foundation that you have spoken about recently?

Director Tschetter: That's an excellent question and I definitely feel that we need a broader constituency of returned Peace Corps volunteers who are actively involved.

The third goal is what we are talking about, and I have openly said the third goal of the Peace Corps is our weakest link.

Even we here at the Peace Corps have not dedicated enough money to that. We spend something around 2 million a year on third goal initiatives, and that's not enough.

The NPCA over the years has done a good job - there's no question about that-- but I think if you look at their history, they have plateaued, and I think the reason for that is one of the primary reasons I have come up with the idea of creating a Peace Corps Foundation. Part of the NPCA's challenge is funding, so how do you get this flow of money that you need to support all those initiatives.

Now the one thing that I see across America and around the world is the activities of the "Friends of" groups. I was just in Thailand last week, and we had a luncheon at the Peace Corps office where we invited the Thailand RPCVs - a very close knit group who are very close to the needs and the issues in Thailand. I was very impressed with the amount of money they had raised and projects they have launched in support of people in Thailand. This is just one example, and I see this around the world in so many different countries.

So the Peace Corps Foundation would be private money. There would be no appropriated funds used for this initiative, and I believe once you create a proper legal foundation and we are well on the way to doing that, it will encourage and open up the giving. And it will be primarily for third goal initiatives.

There are 195,000 plus returned volunteers who I think we could encourage to give to an organization such as that. There are corporate monies. I have talked to corporate executives personally, and I know there is potential there, and they would give to a foundation that has structure, accountability, and so on. Right now they just won't consider giving to an organization or an association type structure.

So corporate America is certainly significant but then there are other foundations that will support a foundation such as this. Once we get this launched, it could not replace the NPCA. This is not to eliminate that initiative, but this is to underpin it with finances and with structure so that it doesn't have to worry every month about the next month's revenues. Then NPCA can go about its work of supporting third goal initiatives, friends of groups, and the many creative things that could be done about supporting third goal initiatives that we are not doing today.

Hugh Pickens: You mentioned legal issues. In the past there have been some issues regarding the use of the words "Peace Corps." Will legislation be required to facilitate the Peace Corps Foundation or to bring it into existence?

Director Tschetter: Yes, legislation will be required to create a Peace Corps Foundation, and we have vetted it through, if I may use that term, the various governmental agencies that are impacted to make approval of this. That would be OMB, Treasury, IRS, the State Department - people that need to look at how this would operate and so on. That has all been done, and it's all been approved by those vettings. It is actually in bill form ready to be introduced, and we were actually going to do this in September but there was an incident that took place called the economic crisis. That really distracted everybody and everything away from whatever might be going on legislatively to pay attention to this, and so we concluded that it would not be an appropriate time to draft the bill, and we hope to do that early in the 111th Congress.