Since President John F. Kennedy started the Peace Corps 50 years ago, more than 200,000 young Americans have gone overseas to help those in need. But today, the volunteer movement "may no longer have a real purpose," says Gal Beckerman in The Boston Globe. An organization that's ignored calls to reform itself, it currently faces allegations from dozens of former volunteers who say that Corps leaders insensitively ignored their reports of rape and sexual assault. But the bigger problem is that the Peace Corps "has never been structured to do development effectively," mainly due to a lack of commitment, efficiency and continuity. "Volunteers describe feeling like they are constantly reinventing the wheel and then not even given the proper tools to do so," writes Beckerman. Here, an excerpt:
As a volunteer from 1999 to 2001, I was assigned to teach English in a local high school [in Cameroon] — a place that already had plenty of people to teach English. I ended up instead spending most of my energy and time working with another volunteer to set up a community-run nursery school for children whose mothers were out each day farming. It was popular with the village, but the country Peace Corps office showed little interest in keeping it going after we left, or helping other volunteers learn from our experience. On my last day in Cameroon, I told the country director that I felt our real development work had been ignored. Wasn’t this type of project the point of my service? I asked him. "Not really," he said. "The Peace Corps is more like development college." Our nursery school closed after the next school year.