Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng is a education specialist at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawai’i. She holds a masters degree in secondary education from New York University and a PhD in educational foundations from University of Hawai’i Manoa. She has been a lifelong advocate of peace education.
May 9, 2010
As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, I would like to extend my support to the 200,000 former Peace Corps volunteers who are endeavoring to double participation and broadly expand the reach of the Peace Corps and its philosophy of meaningful collaboration, exchange, and service. Congratulations on increasing the agency’s budget by $60 million last year. I stand behind your push for another $65 million increase this year. I want you to know that I strongly believe in the importance of what you are doing, and I encourage you to keep supporting this grassroots campaign to realize my brother’s call for 16,000 volunteers.
Today, the need to connect and engage more deeply with people of the globalizing world has never been more vital. Only by appreciating the long arc of history, by mastering languages such as Bahasa, Mandarin, and Arabic and by building true working partnerships between people of this country and leaders and grassroots stakeholders of communities across the world, can we build peaceful coexistence. Peace Corps volunteers, who live alongside the people and work in their institutions, are building the linkages that connect our world.
Today, the Peace Corps is half the size it was in 1966, and yet demand has never been greater. With an additional $300 million over the next two years, we can add 8,000 more volunteers around the world. The ministries of twenty new nations have requested new programs and many existing programs such as the one in Indonesia, a country close to my own heart, where just 22 volunteers will serve in a nation of 238 million people, merit expansion.
As the Peace Corps grows, to reflect the fact that America itself was built on waves of immigration, we must ensure that more people of color, more members of the Diaspora, and more Americans from low-income backgrounds have the opportunity to volunteer.
In conclusion, I thank you for your bold efforts to support the current administration to create a bright new Peace Corps with 16,000 volunteers. I am honored to be a part of this movement.
Mahalo Nui Loa,
New Yorker Staff Writer and Best-Selling Author Peter Hessler (China 96-98) says, ‘You Can’t Beat the Peace Corps’
For an investment in American foreign policy, you can’t beat the Peace Corps. Volunteers give their host communities a positive impression of America, and they tend to stay connected after their service is finished. This is especially true nowadays, when improved phone and Internet services make the post-Peace Corps relationship very different from what it was in the past. Twelve years after finishing my service in China, I’m still in contact with over one hundred of my former students. I hear from one of them almost every day on email. They are teachers now, mostly in rural China, and their continued contact with an American informs their perspective. There may be anti-America rhetoric in some parts of China, but you don’t hear it in those classrooms in Sichuan province.
Those of us who volunteered in China also continue to take an interest in the country, both personally and professionally. The majority of the people I served with have become teachers in the United States, where they are able to give their students an unusually personal and accurate introduction to China. Others work for NGOs, educational exchange programs, and the State Department. A large number of Peace Corps volunteers have become successful journalists in China, working for the New York Times, the New Yorker, Newsweek, and Cox News Service. During the past five years, former China volunteers have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Magazine Award, the Whiting Writers’ Award, and two Overseas Press Club Prizes. The Peace Corps China program was started in 1993, initially at a very small scale (ten to fifteen volunteers per year), and already four books have been published by former volunteers, another book is coming out shortly, and one more is under contract. This means that since 1993, former Peace Corps China volunteers have produced more books than the China bureaus of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Time Magazine, and Newsweek combined. When it comes to giving American readers an introduction to China, the Peace Corps has arguably been more successful than many of our most respected media institutions.
I was fortunate to attend Princeton and Oxford universities, but the most important part of my education was the two years I spent in the Peace Corps. I learned to teach and communicate with people very different from myself, and I learned Chinese — but the most important lesson was one of perspective. I saw the world differently, and that viewpoint has informed everything I’ve written since. This is true of many former volunteers in many walks of life: teachers, organizers, diplomats. It’s a shame that in a country with such an active foreign policy, relatively little attention and support has been given to the Peace Corps.
Peter Hessler (China 1996-98). Currently a staff writer at the New Yorker and a contributing writer at National Geographic Magazine.
Urgent Request: Keep Calling and Emailing President Obama (202-456-1111)
If you take action, let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org
“President Obama, during your campaign, you promised to build a Peace Corps of 16,000 volunteers by 2011 but failed to provide the budget in your 2010 budget increase. Through an outpouring of thousands of emails, phone calls, and face-to-face visits, former volunteer activists were able to get $27 million above your $33 million request, a historic $60 million increase to expand the Peace Corps. But as you forge your fiscal year 2011 request to the Congress for Peace Corps, we ask you to bear in mind your promise of 16,000 volunteers. We urge you to consider that since 1966, the cost of gasoline has gone up nine times, but the Peace Corps budget has only tripled. We ask you to remember that Peace Corps is half the size it was in 1966 despite demand from over 20 countries for volunteers and 15,386 applicants. We ask you to take note that there are 149 Champions in Congress who support your goal of doubling Peace Corps – Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike. Please keep your important promise and give the Peace Corps the major new funding it deserves in 2011, which marks Peace Corps for its 50th anniversary.”
-Name, Titles, Address, Peace Corps Country/Years (if volunteer)
Representatives Farr, Petri, Driehaus, and Honda have a new ally in their effort to expand and revlitalize the Peace Corps with new resources. On Thursday, November 5, Congressman John Garamendi (Ethiopia 66-68) became the 5th RPCV in the House of Representatives, winning in a special election in the 10th district of California. The movement has a bold, new champion who will fight for Peace Corps growth.