Roughly 50 people work in the central Peace Corps office here in Peru. However, the push and focus is still largely on development, often calling volunteer ‘facilitators of development, organizers’ and a host of other buzzwords.
While the Peace Corps has three goals (1. Assist with development using human and technical resources 2) Be a representative of the US in foreign countries 3) Teach Americans about the host-nationals), the focus is still largely goal 1. We have plenty of information about water treatment, child nutrition, and how to plant a tree and plenty of staff to help with that, however there’s really no manual on ‘Best Practices to Teach About Americanism’ nor ‘Proper Techniques on Sharing a Carbonated Beverage with an Older Member of Your Community’. I’m not sure what the office reaction is to PCVs who really don’t ‘do’ much in terms of technical work in their site, but are very integrated and well liked. It definitely doesn’t look good for the program nor the country, especially compiling success reports and asking for more money as there’s no box to fill in for ‘received x number of invites’ or ‘name is shouted x times while walking across town’.
However, Peace Corps is pushing the World Wide Exchange program, where a volunteer has a pen-pal exchange program with a class of American students from elementary level to high school and they converse about the life of a volunteer (yawn) as well as local cultures, customs, etc (aka Goal 3). A few volunteers have extended this and turned it into a letter exchange program between American and Peruvian students, and generally eating the cost of postage differential (we get paid the price to mail one letter a month but mailing 20-30 letters raises the price significantly). And there is a spot to check in our tri-annual reporting tool if we’re participating in the program.
I guess while it’s easy to quantify how many people come to health talks or how many local craftsmen have raised their output and income, it’s difficult to quantify Goal 2 (and boring). A happy volunteer is not necessarily the one building and working all the time, but the one who walks contently through their community, has a small group of fans who actually know their name, and a few people who can name which state you’re from (and that you like Coca-Cola).