Does the Peace Corps Care about their Volunteers?

This past week was the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. Although Senator Hubert Humphry actually sponsored the bill in 1957, JFK has been largely credited with setting up the Peace Corps.

President Kennedy’s infamous “ask not what your country can do for you” speech was a call to action for citizens to get involved with organizations like the Peace Corps.

This past week also saw the death of the first Director of the Peace Corps, R. Sargent Shriver. Shriver and Kennedy belonged to a generation where civic involvement and “giving back” played large parts. For instance, Sargent Shriver assisted his wife, Eunice Kennedy in founding the Special Olympics.

What then would these civic minded leaders think of the way the Peace Corps is run today? In a 20/20 documentary last week, a group of women were interviewed about traumatic situations they faced as Peace Corps volunteers. All of them had been sexually assaulted and degraded during their periods of volunteering.

That in itself though was not the most shocking. The most horrific parts of their stories were the fact that Peace Corps officals did next to nothing to assist them. Many of these poor victims were questioned as to how they could let it happen.

They were made to feel like it had been their fault. They did not receive any counselling when they returned home to the U.S. Is this the kind of treatment the original architects of the Peace Corps had in mind for its volunteers?

There is something seriously wrong with society when the media and other “watch dogs” can devote coverage to a mayor using a city vehicle to carry a bicycle or the fact that some Governor is throwing an inaugural ball, not paid with tax payer’s money, but by donor’s and we barely hear about women from all over this country getting raped in foreign lands because they volunteered to try and make the world a better place.

Somebody should be asking more questions from the Peace Corps. Are hundreds of millions of tax payer’s dollars propping up a corrupt or dysfunctional institution in need of a serious overhaul? It would seem so. Every company knows that its people are their greatest asset. Maybe its time the Peace Corps were told this also applies to volunteers.

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