April and Kevin in Kuna Yala, the northeast coast of Panam√°

Monday, October 20, 2008

Feeling the impacts -US economy

Ok, so I know that the economy has been doing crazy things....ups and downs and more downs and budget issues and bank problems and home foreclosures, well that is what I hear anyway.

The reality of my life is that I feel isolated from the US...too isolated for the first time ever. That was a good thing when I got to miss the 3 months of pre-Christmas commercials. It has been a good thing this year of election madness. However, just now it does not feel like a good thing (other than still missing out on election madness). I can honestly say that I do not really know what is going on up there other than the election.

We don´t have the access to news that some volunteers have, be it a newspaper or television or regular weekly internet. Most of the time I am fine with that, but right now I would like to understand what is happening in the economy better. After all, our COS (close of service in PC lingo) date is just 9 or so months away (anyone else shocked by that?). How can we plan what is next if we don´t understand what our options are and are not?

While the economy changes don't totally feel real from here, we also are impacted. On a personal level, I checked out my IRA savings in Vanguard the other day...thankfully I don't remember exactly what the value of it was before I joined PC, but its value is down that much I know. Every year Kevin and I compare how our IRA did for growth for the fun of it...this year we may be comparing who lost less value.

From a Peace Corps level, budget shortfalls have been caused primarily by the declining value of the dollar and the consequent increases in the cost of running a program overseas. Peace Corps, which has a budget of 330.8 million dollars, estimates its foreign currency losses from 2008 to be 9.2 million dollars.

These budget shortfalls have resulted in lowering the amount of volunteers placed (even some who where approved and now are not being sent), decreasing training for new volunteers, and decreasing the staff and resources supporting current volunteers. Yes, we can personally see a change in the office's outlook on what they can do and not do based on funding. For a fuller account, check out these news stories:

To put the Peace Corps budget into some perspective as to size:
Peace Corps proposed 2009 Budget: $343.5 million
2009 Enacted supplemental Global War on Terror Funding (see pg 22): $68 billion
Peace Corps 2009 budget= .005% of 2009 Global War on Terror budget
In 3.65 days the Global War will spend as much supplemental/emergency funding as the whole Peace Corps budget.

Now, before some of you get upset by my comparison...I do fully support our troops. I just wish that our national spending reflected a greater commitment to non-military options for promoting peace.

I hope that you all are fairing well, personally and professionally, during these economic turmoil. Know that we are thinking of you all. Please help us to make this feel more real and understandable, email or post a comment below to tell us how the economy is impacting you or your community. We want to understand and be supportive.

Take care out there. Get ready to get out and


Anonymous said...

A Peace Corps Volunteer costs $45,000 a year. The $45,000 a year could be used by NGOs to hire people and would be more efficient with the money. Non military options should include non agency or governmental options like NGOs.

Kristin said...

"I agree that NGO's are part of the answer and should be a large part of the answer for poverty related issues, however with each and every agency or NGO we need to examine the percentage of the money that goes to meet the mission of that agency or NGO. And I've seen plenty of NGO's working that are not more efficient than Peace Corps Volunteers and some that are.
If you look at Peace Corps three missions we are excellent and effective at our cultural exchange related goals of the missions."
From April and Kevin