Peace Corps Congressional 'Alumni' Back Agency Increase; Five House Members Urge Appropriations Subcommittee Support
March 31, 1998Washington, D.C., March 31, 1998—The five House members who served as Peace Corps volunteers—three Republicans and two Democrats—testified today in strong support of the proposed budget increase for the Peace Corps, which would put the agency on the path to having 10,000 Peace Corps volunteers overseas by the year 2000.
"There is no better investment in international service and humanitarianism, with long-term dividends both for our country and those where our volunteers work," said Rep. Tony Hall, D-Ohio, who served as a volunteer in Thailand from 1966-68.
Hall and the four other House members who served in the Peace Corps—Reps. James Walsh, R-N.Y., Christopher Shays, R-Conn., Thomas Petri, R-Wisc., and Sam Farr, D-Calif.—all testified in support of the Peace Corps budget at a hearing today on foreign aid programs held by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations.
Two weeks ago, the five Congressmen and several others—including Senators Paul Coverdell, R-Ga., a former Peace Corps Director, Senator Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., who served in the Dominican Republic from 1966-68, and Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, who served as a volunteer in Iran from 1962-64—testified in support of the budget before the House International Relations Committee.
President Clinton has proposed boosting the Peace Corps budget by $44 million, from $226 million in fiscal year 1998 to $270 million in fiscal year 1999. The proposal represents the largest funding increase requested for the Peace Corps since the 1960s.
Interest in Peace Corps Service is Up
Walsh, a member of the House Appropriations Committee who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal from 1970-72, said today that one of the reasons he wholeheartedly supports the proposed increase is because of the recent management reforms and downsizing of the agency staff.
"Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan has done a fabulous job and has worked tirelessly in recent years to change the way business is done at Peace Corps headquarters," Walsh said. "The agency is clearly prepared for these new challenges and is ready to capitalize on the resurgence of interest in Peace Corps service that has developed in recent years."
Rep. Shays, who served in Fiji from 1968-70, said he believes he would not be a member of Congress were it not for his Peace Corps service. "Volunteers also come back to the United States with a commitment to service, as well as the skills and interest in world affairs needed to be leaders in the global community," he said.
Rep. Petri, who served in Somalia from 1966-67, said Peace Corps volunteers are the best kind of grass-roots ambassadors the United States can have. "I believe that much of the traditional foreign aid from the United States is wasted. But this is certainly not true for the Peace Corps. It provides direct aid to ordinary people, and it is probably one the most cost-effective forms of foreign aid that there is," Petri said.
Currently, about 6,500 Peace Corps volunteers are working in 84 countries to help fight hunger, bring clean water to communities, teach children, protect the environment, start new small businesses, and prevent the spread of AIDS.