3 NOVEMBER 1960. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, a dozen Harvard students file out of a late lecture, turn up coat collars against the cold and trudge off into the centuries-old 'Yard'. Talk turns to the forthcoming Presidential elections. The discussion is desultory. Neither candidate has yet come across as much of an alternative to the last eight years of lethargy. Like hundreds of campuses across America, Harvard has emerged from the silent generation numbed and wary, but ready for international commitment and looking for a cause and spokesman. The elections, it seems, will provide neither.
The students separate and wend their respective ways through the bustling city towards digs and dinner. On the way they idly scan headlines displayed by newsboys. 'Kennedy proposes Youth Peace Corps' leaps out at them. Suddenly the election and the New Frontier mean something to them. Leaving Harvard the next June, some will step into history as members of the first Peace Corps teams.
A fortnight earlier, the Democratic candidate had launched the idea of a people-to-people service programme for the developing countries at a two a.m. Michigan University gathering.(1) Response was enthusiastic and a few days later students travelled to Ohio to present him with a petition from several hundred prospective volunteers. Encouraged, Kennedy made the Peace Corps the theme of a major campaign address delivered on 2 November to a packed San Francisco Cow Palace.
Jealous or sincerely unconvinced, Republicans could do little else than pooh-pooh the project. Kennedy, observed Nixon, proposed 'to send as America's representatives to other nations young men whom he calls volunteers but who, in truth, in many instances would be trying to escape the draft.'(2) President Eisenhower benignly opined that the Corps would be a 'juvenile experiment'.(3)
Youthful adventurousness may not have characterized the administration about to leave Washington, but Kennedy's vision fired the imagination of students and other young people around the country. In Cambridge, for instance, within a few days of the Cow Palace speech Harvard students and their female counterparts at Radcliffe College formed a Committee for the Peace Corps, polled undergraduates and professors on the idea and the election over, forwarded their proposals to the task force charged with translating the Corps from platform plank into plan of operation.
Kennedy electrified internationally-minded American youth because, on the brink of the UN Development Decade, writers and thinkers from the authors of The Ugly American to Barbara Ward and Dag Hammarsjköld. had made it abundantly clear that the race for economic growth and social change in the Third World was being lost. Not enough funds and men were being provided to Africa, Asia and Latin America, and those that were all too often made little or no contribution to development.
The provision of experts, in particular, was proving unsatisfactory. Specialists of skill, even talent, were sent to the developing countries on the assumption that 'somehow' they could inject their high-level technological expertise into pre-industrial societies. Even where the transfer could have been made, many experts were unwilling to make an adaptive effort. All too few knew or took the trouble to learn local languages and customs. Countries relinquishing political power to former colonies hastily rebaptized colonial civil servants 'experts' but the men themselves underwent no change of heart or mind. Many only stayed on because, in return for having to take orders from their former subjects, they earned more. Indeed, dollars not development often seemed to be the chief goal of expatriates. French-speaking Africans termed foreign experts men who had come pour faire du CFA ('to make African francs') and to this day the impenitent UN and its agencies spend per expert-year the equivalent of 366 times the annual per capita income of India. Thus, an FAO expert's day is considered to be worth more than a year in the life of the Madras peasant he is advising.
In fairness, it should be said that all the fault did not lie with experts or expert-furnishing nations and bodies. Urgently needed equipment lay in customs sheds for months, indispensible transport and housing were refused on the whim of semiliterate clerks and political instability meant that priorities adopted one day might be reversed the next.
Wherever responsibility lay, experts were not being as useful or efficient as they could have been. A story going the rounds soon after Kennedy's election illustrated the point in extreme but not deceptive terms. After twenty-four months in a have-not nation where he was supposed to plot out and create an agency for producing and distributing adult education audio-visual media, one top-level mass communications specialist could show no more for his efforts than a twenty-minute film (in colour and with sound) of the local prime minister's wedding.
One serious problem affecting local officials as well as foreign experts is their very level of responsibility and expertise. From the point of view of skills, the optimum structure for an industrializing society is a pyramid. Simply stated., each technician at the apex (capital city) should have several deputies (one for each provincial capital), each of whom should have several assistants (one for each county seat in his province), each of whom should have many field workers (one for each village or group of villages in his county). In fact, the skill structure of most developing societies resembles a thin and only slightly conical column rising abruptly from a broad base of semi- or unskilled peasants. The deployment of highly skilled expatriates even turns the pyramid on its head. In a typical African country, Pierre Martin-Dumeste recently wrote, '5,900 of the 6,000 foreign experts reside in towns of more than 10,000 inhabitants and, what's more, nine-tenths of them are concentrated in the capital, i.e. several jeep-days away from certain points of the country.'(4)
The missing link is the stratum of skills stretching down from the Deputy Minister's ante-chamber to the door of the Village Chief's hut, and most leaders of the Third World are frantically trying to fill the middle-level manpower gap. Meanwhile, indeed to hasten the process of materializing the medium-skilled 'hidden-force'(5) --- more foreign personnel would have to fill. in.
Kennedy's advisers and interested young people throughout, the United States were anxious that such personnel would represent a new departure in aid to the developing countries. Skilled the new men and women would have to be --- many would show greater results than earlier 'experts'. But they must be neither indifferent to local customs nor concerned with material benefits. Peace Corpsmen would be young --- in spirit at least --- and they would be volunteers. Sniffing, at last something to poke fun at in the notoriously impious new administration, newsmen quickly dubbed the initiative 'Kennedy's Kiddie Korps'. A rash of cartoons portrayed Knock-Kneed Korpsmen making their way through culture shock and into assorted Southern Hemisphere jails, harems and stewpots. Perhaps, fretted parents of twenty-year-olds, the idea is just a juvenile experiment.
Reporters, parents and some of the more exuberant PC supporters overlooked that more than a decade of experience had amply demonstrated that youthful long-term volunteers with medium-level skills can make a useful and appreciated contribution to developing countries. Recognizing the existence of precedents, an Associate Director of the Peace Corps has referred to the 'renaissance of the Volunteer idea' brought about by the creation of his programme.(6) Given the pre-1960 popularity of short-term domestic and international service (examined in preceding chapters) and the existence at the turn of the decade of more than twenty-five schemes providing long-term voluntary personnel to developing countries, it is unjust to view the Corps as emerging from a dark age of voluntary service.
A fairer image would depict the PC's first Director, Kennedy's brother-in-law R. Sargent Shriver, using his team of high-powered organizers and 558 million budget to transform service from a cottage handicraft into a modern industry, and volunteers from quaint artisans into unionized workers. 'Industrialization' of voluntary service in the 1960s has only been possible because the renaissance of service has been unfolding since 1920. The new President's advisers knew of --- and based much of their thinking on --- Quaker overseas service teams, but they may not have been aware of the two dozen other programmes in operation at the time of the Cow Palace speech.
With civilists and Quakers, whose activities are described in earlier chapters, members of the international Catholic Grail were, from 1947 onwards, among Peace Corpsmen's forerunners. Since about the same time Brethren, Mennonite, YM and YWCA volunteers were sent out to developing countries, while a World University Service Assembly encounter between students from Indonesia and Australia led the latter to launch the Volunteer Graduate Scheme. Since 1950, the Scheme and its younger sister, Australian Volunteers Abroad, have furnished teachers, agriculturalists and otherwise skilled young people to Indonesia, India, Malaysia and South Pacific territories as well as three African countries.
From 1953, International Voluntary Services, Inc.---not to be confused with the American branch of Service Civil International---sent agricultural and other volunteers to the Third World countries. The next year the Filipino Operation Brotherhood, supported by Junior Chamber of Commerce and similar private bodies, was founded to provide medical, construction, agricultural and other volunteers to Asian nations. The Dutch Catholic Band Kisumu, also created in 1954, limited its beneficiary target even further by concentrating midwives, nurses and teachers on a single Kenyan diocese (whence its name). The same year a group of ex-GIs and other Americans constituted Volunteers for International Development, the first body to suggest seconding long-term volunteers for UN service whose men and women have since worked with UN agencies.
1957 saw the first International Builder Companions go to the developing countries and twelve months later the end of military National Service in Britain set Alec Dickson, a former Unesco community developer (and true expert), wondering how young men could put 'the year between' school and university to good use. Travelling to Sarawak with his wife, Mora, he discovered that a number of young Britons were finding self-fulfilment in helping the Dyaks. He also noted that needs --many of them urgent --- far outstripped manpower available to meet them. Back in Britain, the Dicksons went the rounds of students and headmasters, men of the City and men of the cloth.(7)
The enthusiastic response to these consultations moved Alec Dickson to action. By the end of the year eighteen school-leaving volunteers were at work in Sarawak, Nigeria and Ghana, financed by various private donations. In 1959 sixty-one volunteers --- two girls and four specially released industrial apprentices among them --- were dispatched to eighteen countries. Voluntary Service Overseas was born.
Simultaneously, the idea caught on in New Zealand where, since its foundation in 1959, a Volunteer Graduate Scheme has expanded beyond its original teacher-providing function into Volunteer Service Abroad. Chaired by Sir Edmund Hillary, VSA supplies nurses, farmers and carpenters as well as students. The same year, France's Army and Co-operation (overseas aid) Ministries concluded an agreement by which qualified recruits could be seconded to teaching and other posts in overseas départements and French-speaking countries of North and sub-Saharan Africa. In 1960, only months before the Peace Corps came into being, an American jazzman-tennis player, struck during a goodwill tour by Latin America's urban wretchedness, obtained oil company aid to create Acción, a scheme under which US, European and local volunteer community organizers have worked in Venezuelan city slums.
Until 1961, the use of long-term volunteers resembled workcamping of the late 1930s. A number of sponsoring bodies existed but most had only a few volunteers who were only dimly --- if at all --- aware of the other organizations' activities. In any event, the need was so great and help so limited (with the exception of the French scheme,(8) programmes were private and poor), that duplication of efforts was not the average organizer's main worry. The Third World was a great maw, it seemed, into which limitless quantities of eager youngsters could be shovelled without approaching forced feeding. Then came the Peace Corps.
Within a few months there were more Peace Corpsmen in the field than volunteers of all other schemes combined. A few more, and the number of Peace Corpsmen had doubled while other industrial countries fell into stride. Thanks largely to President Kennedy, governments took an active interest in long-term volunteers. Some (Australia, Britain, Denmark, Canada, Belgium, West Germany, USSR) aided new or already existing private or non-state schemes. Others (France--Les Volontaires du Progrès [Progress Volunteers], not to be confused with conscript secondment --- Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland) planned or began to operate their, own systems. Simultaneously, the number of unaided private bodies --- many of them tiny and specially founded to sponsor long-term volunteers --- spiraled upwards until, today, there are more than two hundred separate organizations dedicated to providing voluntary personnel to developing countries. By 1962 observers began pointing to the manpower absorption problem and making dark predictions about a volunteer glut.
Few doubted that middle-level personnel could contribute to development. But many, particularly in Africa, Asia and Latin America, began to ask for what jobs volunteers are best suited. To find at least a general and provisional answer, Glyn Roberts (CoCo's Executive Secretary) obtained Unesco's aid to carry out the first systematic international survey of Needs and Openings for Skilled Long-Term Volunteers in the Developing Countries. Having sent questionnaires to three dozen national and foreign development workers in the Third World he found that in formal, technical and informal education, health, agriculture and a variety of miscellaneous fields 'there is an almost infinite number of technical jobs waiting to be done.'(9)
But they would have to be done by skilled people. 'Don't send underdeveloped people to underdeveloped areas' warned one reply, and a Ghanaian pointed out the 'dedication in the true sense would involve submission to training to make the volunteer skilled.'(10) A specific speciality would be useless unless it can be communicated, moreover, and a reply from Indonesia used italics to stress that 'technical skill must be supplemented in teaching and leadership.'(11) 'Don't tell us what to do,' pleaded a Nigerian underlining the usefulness of non-'experts', 'just show us how to do it.'(12)
Skill and leadership are qualifications all middle-level technicians, salaried or not, should possess. Volunteers would have to meet even more rigorous specifications. Simplicity was considered one of their cardinal virtues by a Kenyan who suggested they remember this Kikuyu proverb: 'A King's son is regarded as a servant outside his own country.'(13) For young Europeans trying to live simply in Sarawak, 'dress, personal relations and social behaviour are tricky'.(14) In Cameroun --indeed everywhere --- volunteers would be expected to find something in common with their hosts 'whether it be professional, emotional or intellectual; blacksmithing, Bach or a love of cows'.(15)
One important ingredient of adaptability is humility. Beyond reasonable discussion, volunteers should not feel it their mission to 'sell' any particular philosophy, and politics, above all, was seen as a sensitive subject about which they should keep their mouths tightly shut. A man in Nigeria made this his First Commandment for foreign volunteers: 'Thou shalt not prate about democracy.'(16) Further, it was assumed that volunteers would be willing and wanting to learn as much as to give. 'The self-righteous "giver" rarely considers or consciously admits that he is receiving anything,' remarked a Ghanaian, to suggest the stereotype of charitable white men volunteers would have to overcome. 'You have only to remember the many "Saints" who are assumed to have "given" their lives in Africa to appreciate what I am driving at. And, of course, we are expected to be grateful! '(17)
In short, the survey concluded that there were numerous needs and openings in the developing countries for medium-skilled personnel and that volunteers were expected by people in those countries to meet the needs and fill the openings as well as --- and perhaps better than --- less adaptable salaried manpower.(18)
Concern about the misconceptions arising from lack of information about and understanding of volunteers recently led CoCo to decide to draft a Charter defining the aims, concepts, jobs, status and conditions of long-term voluntary service. Odds are that the elaboration of such a Charter, with its inherent implications of standardization, will prove an extremely difficult task. All the more so since, in spite of recent talk about a slump, increase in numbers of volunteers and organizations is only beginning to level off. Ambitions and plans for the future continue unabated.
For the time being, confusion abounds. Uninitiated candidate volunteers or prospective volunteer users tend to throw up their hands in dismay at the disparities and contradictions between organizations seeking to employ or help them. What follows, then, cannot be a clearly delineated photograph of how volunteers are doing their jobs. It will, rather, be an impressionistic image attempting to suggest rather than define, to give a feeling for--- rather than exhaustive and exact (and necessarily incomplete and quickly outdated) figures on --- who the volunteers are, what they are doing, where are they doing it, when and why.
Who are the volunteers and, firstly, how many are there? Organizers are unanimous on one point: there are many more candidates than volunteer posts available. The Peace Corps is deluged with some 40,000 applications a year for about an eighth that number of open assignments. An early Acción appeal --- made when the organization was still unknown --- for thirty volunteers drew 300 candidacies. A Committee of Soviet Youth Organizations' call for 100 volunteer technicians to work in Algeria reaped a harvest of one thousand letters and cables from all over the USSR.
There is some debate about the actual number in the field but, at the time of writing, there are probably comfortably more than 20,000. The Peace Corps is a behemoth (11,000 in the field) among lesser denizens of the volunteer world: British Volunteer Programme: 1,350; Deutscher Entwicklungsdienst (GDS --- German Development Service): 850; Canadian University Volunteers; 350; Comité belge du Volontariat d'outre-mer (Belgian Committee for Overseas Voluntary Service): 325; and so on down to the Liechtensteiner Entwicklungsdienste (Liechtenstein Development Service): 5.
Volunteers represent a wide professional and social cross-section of their home countries. A high proportion of them are university graduates. Only 14 per cent of Peace Corpsmen have not finished or been to university, but the proportion of graduates tends to be lower in European programmes. The French Progress Volunteers and German Development Service (GDS), in particular, concentrate on recruiting, respectively, agriculturists and skilled craftsmen and industrial workers. A GDS from Libya in 1964 included two locksmiths, four mechanics, a lathe operator, a secretary and an upholsterer, but only one diploma holder --- an agricultural engineer.
Socially, volunteers tend to be of middle and upper middle class origin, but they have ranged from a Cabinet Minister's nephew to a day labourer's daughter. Villages and provincial towns are represented, as well as capital cities and suburbs. The proportion of English- to French-speaking Canadian volunteers closely parallels that of the country as a whole. The average volunteer, clearly, is not the avis rara he has occasionally been made out to be, idealized by some and denigrated by others. He could be your brother or your neighbour's daughter. He is, in a word, average.
But not just anyone is sent out, for the volunteer is carefully selected. Able to pick among numerous applicants, most organizations can afford to be choosey. A Peace Corps volunteer once remarked to the author that filling out the long and searchingly detailed application blank was the 'toughest chore' he had met in eighteen months of service. Few organizations have evolved as complicated a questionnaire but, once they are assured that a candidate is appropriately skilled, most do require a short essay on why he wants to serve. And one phrase 'want-to-help-my-fellow-man-while-seeing-the-world' answers go straight into the dustbin. Someone who can't or won't express himself will probably be unable or unwilling to establish the kind of human rapport necessary for communicating skills.
Age counts too; sex usually doesn't. Britain's Voluntary Service Overseas school-leaver scheme and the Peace Corps, which take eighteen-year-olds, are probably unique, for most bodies accept only volunteers of twenty or twenty-one and older. The German Dienste in Übersee (Service Overseas) requires a minimum age of twenty-five, and while the American Quaker Voluntary International Service Assignments have set a ceiling of thirty, many programmes recruit middle-aged leave-takers and retired men and women. In America, a privately-financed International Executive Service Corps, founded in 1965 and known by its members as the 'Paunch Corps', has already placed a hundred high-level older men in crucial jobs.
Whatever their actual age, volunteers are expected to have a youthful approach. The French Co-operation Ministry tells prospective recruits that, 'In Africa, where more than half the population is under twenty and cadres are rarely over forty, youthfulness is a trump card for those who know how to use the experience of their elders.'(19) While the Dutch Band Kisimu is exclusively female, and, for obvious reasons, there are no women among French Army conscripts seconded to the Co-operation Ministry, most programmes are open to both sexes and young women constitute a large minority of volunteers currently in the field.
Once an applicant has been selected he must be trained. Glyn Roberts heard any number of harrowing tales from volunteers about training mills they had been put through. He concluded that, to hear them talk, one would think some cruel joker had been specially employed to instruct them in ever more bizarre and useless exercises. When these hapless recruits were not breaking chickens' necks and/or butchering, cows, they were taking lecture notes on 'Economic Trends in French West Africa' [then pressed] on for talks on frost-bite treatment in Zambia, followed by a 'practical' on the correct way to hand cigarettes to Buddhist monks. The Yoruba they had learned in language lab proved useless in Calcutta and dangerous in Kano ...(20)
These stories are not quite as fantastic as they sound when one considers that Japanese Overseas Co-operation Volunteers are trained in flower arranging, karate and Zen contemplation(21) and that Peace Corpsmen heading for Latin America (including those going up into the Andes) are subjected to a rigorous 'Outward Bound' course that includes a unit on the fine art of 'drownproofing' -'instruction in methods for remaining relaxed in water for an indefinite period of time'.(22) Curious as these topics sound, they are part of ingenious cram courses devised to prepare youngsters intellectually, linguistically, physically and, sometimes. professionally to adapt to the known, face the unknown and. only a little less, to represent their own culture abroad.
Some organizers doubt the wisdom of extensive training (Peace Corpsmen are given three months training for twenty-one of service) and say volunteers are best trained on the job. To be sure, there have been many cases of excessive training. A Peace Corps team the author met in Bolivia had been gorged with facts, Spanish and drownproofing for fully five months and were thoroughly exhausted long before boarding the plane for La Paz. However, indications are that overstuffing is less of a danger than underfeeding.
Too many organizations --- usually non-governmental bodies operating one-year programmes --- hand out a reading list, hold a skimpy few-day 'orientation' and let it go at that. In its hurry to upstage rival sponsors in meeting an urgent request, one association recently dispatched a volunteer to Africa without interviewing, much less 'orientating' or training him. The man's paper qualifications are unimpeachable and he may do a first-rate job. Or he may turn out to be a waffly idealist, confirmed alcoholic or vicious racist. Having no field administration, the organization will only find out if something goes radically right ... or wrong. Rushing to compile ever more impressive statistics, some organizers forget that the object of the volunteer exercise is not to move eager youngsters out of industrialized countries willy-nilly, but to put the right people in the right Third World manpower slots at the right time.
But 'whatever his training, a volunteer has 'something' (enthusiasm? naïveté?) which moves and enables him to cut through red tape and stereotypes. 'Nitakaa na nitafanya kazi haps kwa miwaka miwili na nataka kusaidia kila mtu,' announced a bright-eyed Peace Corpsman in Swahili on arriving in 'his' East African village: 'I want to work here for two years and I am going to help everyone.'(23) Most volunteers are not so blunt but --- if only because their stay is limited to one or two years --- they are ready to give their all.
What do volunteers do? The range of tasks is endless. A British volunteer made plastic legs for lepers; another tended to 3,000 sick or about-to-be-sick coffee trees and a third improved mangrove swamp oyster cultivation in Sierra Leone. The German Development Service sent a beekeeper to Latin America and a pottery instructor to Afghanistan. The European Working Group sent a bush pilot to Kenya and a French teacher recruit gave up after a long search for simple African history textbooks and wrote, cyclostyled and distributed one himself. Another Frenchman --- a Progress Volunteer --- ran a ferry service in Gabon and a Belgian civilist planned, participated in and ensured a follow-up to a season's workcamps sponsored by Volunteers at Work in Togo.
A Danish International Co-operation engineer helped plan the expansion of Accra's electricity supply and the Colombian School was named after a Peace Corps girl who had initiated its construction and taught in it. Other individual Peace Corps volunteers have planted figworts and opened a refuse disposal system (Ecuador); helped supervise the construction of 300 miles of road (Tanzania); quelled an epidemic of cerebral malaria among children (Togo); and restored endangered art treasures (India).
These are exceptional cases --- probably because the volunteers were exceptional people --- and after unfortunate experience with exaggerated recruitment publicity organizers tend to play down heroism. The volunteer assigned to Gabon who has been encouraged to imagine himself piloting a ferryload of urgently needed medicine up a crocodile-infested and storm-whipped Ogooué River to Dr Schweitzer's hospital at Lambaréné will be disgruntled and ineffective teaching English idioms to sleepy schoolboys in Libreville. For most volunteers, the glory ends when the grind begins, i.e. when the thrill of travel and charm of newness tarnish and the realization dawns that another year or more has got to be stuck out. Once he learns to live with the grind, however, the volunteer begins to profit from his experience and to be useful both on and off the job.
In both situations volunteers are seen as educators, bringing and transmitting modern techniques and new ideas. It is not surprising, then, that teaching is the profession exercised by the largest single group of volunteers --- probably even a simple majority of all volunteers --- now at work in the developing countries. Another reason why so many volunteers work in schools is that educational systems are usually sufficiently structured, administered and accustomed to expatriate personnel to be able to absorb volunteers with minimal disruption. Furthermore, given proper supervision, teaching in primary and secondary schools can be the middle level job par excellence. A liberal arts B.A. or Licencié ès Lettres may not know how to minister to about-to-be-sick trees but he can teach English to French-speakers, French to English-speakers or his specialty to either. Finally, the determining factor in many local administrators' thinking is the crippling shortage of school staff. 'I have to find twenty teachers between now and September' one African headmaster told Glyn Roberts in June 1964..(24)
Glyn Roberts found that volunteers made up 15 per cent of secondary school teachers in Sierra Leone and 55 per cent of the same category in Liberia, while in Ivory Coast there were 43 volunteers to 55 lvoirien instructors. By organizational distribution, the Canadian University Service Overseas (CUSO) leads major sponsoring bodies with nearly three quarters of its men and women occupying teaching posts. Other schemes with 50 per cent or more volunteers in education include the French Army conscripts, British Volunteer Programme, Japanese Overseas Co-operation Volunteers and US Peace Corps. The last supplied fully 75 per cent of graduate maths and science teachers entering Malaysia's school system between 1963 and 1966 and is now responsible for 40 per cent of elementary and secondary instructors in Tanzania.(25)
Paradoxically, the enthusiasm of volunteer teachers has often been their main drawback. Eager out of school as well as in it they have not always been as tactful as they might be. Used to relaxed teacher-student exchange, North Americans in particular have been ill at ease with the exam-orientated syllabuses and Victorian atmosphere of many African and Asian classrooms.
For some, the dilemma has proved insoluble: either they knuckle under and resign themselves to being gap stoppers got on the cheap (in which case they lose their self-esteem) or they persist in befriending their pupils, being called by their christian names and organizing a hundred-and-one extra-curricular projects (in which case they rouse the jealously, ire and, eventually, antagonism of expatriate and local teachers who may be less dynamic only because education is their life's work). More often than not, however, volunteer teachers have successfully steered between the Scylla of capitulation and Charybdis of revolt. Tactfully, without insisting on dropping the 'Sir', they manage to fraternize and be living examples of a new kind of pedagogy.
Equally serious, but more amenable to solution, is the problem of inappropriate volunteer teacher assignments. Some organizations are guilty of negligent project vetting. The attitude of certain local officials responsible for volunteer deployment has not been above reproach either. A common type of inappropriate assignment is that of volunteers posted to posh academies that could and should hire paid personnel. British volunteers continue to be sent to one South American colegio although returning volunteers have reported that the students are exclusively the children of the oligarchy and of wealthy foreign residents. Similar situations, it is difficult to think of more disheartening ones, have occurred in Africa and seem to be specially common in Asia. There, observed Glyn Roberts, 'it is ironical that the poorer schools which could best use volunteers, cannot afford to house them ... while the superior city colleges which have funds and influence at the Ministry accept too many.'(26)
Equally unlucky are the hapless Anglo-Saxons placed as teachers of English in a number of French-speaking African countries. Treated as Assistants d'anglais, that is sympathique young foreigners who have come to have a look at Africa for a few months while making a token effort to repay their keep, these frustrated youngsters have often been refused permission to teach more than the required five to a dozen hours of conversation a week. Language is a drawback, for educated French-speaking Africans look with a scorn worthy of the Métropole on those making a hash of subjunctives and le passé simple. 'When I spoke to them in English' one under-employed Peace Corpsman told Glyn Roberts, 'they just laughed; and when I spoke in French they laughed even more!'(27) Would it be too much to ask that the Anglo-Saxons spend a month or two of intensive language study in France en route to Abidjan, Lomé or Dakar? This would seem preferable to the Peace Corps' February 1967 decision to phase all English teachers out of French-speaking Africa.
The job occupying most volunteers after education is community development, which mobilizes a quarter of the Peace Corpsmen, a fifth of the volunteers of the Belgian Committee for Overseas Voluntary Service, many civilists and members of the Stichting Nederlandse Vrijwilligers (Dutch Volunteer Foundation) and Swedish Volunteer Service as well as virtually all Acción teams. Sometimes, community development volunteers are all-round catalytic agents whose principal tool is a knowledge of the services provided on request by different ministries and whose prime skill is a way with people that brings them to make the right requests.
One such lone wolf was a French civilist who disappeared for weeks on end into the forests of West Cameroun amply armed with virgin copybooks. He would emerge only long enough to deliver pleas for trowels, shovels, seeds and ploughs to the departments concerned, have a hot bath and devour a European meal before plunging back into the bush to await delivery.
If only because volunteers of this calibre and gumption are hard to come by, the romantic approach is giving ground to team-work. At Borikane, in Laos, a seven-man, one-woman International Voluntary Services, Inc. 'cluster team' combined its several specialities to achieve integrated impact.(28) Acción, too, stresses multipurpose results but places even more emphasis on creating a social network within Venezuelan barrio slums and between them and the nation as a whole.(29)
Many sponsors are now laying increased stress on quality, rather than quantity. But not all. Instead of concentrating on furnishing highly qualified and mature teams to national programmes which can absorb them without undue friction, some programmes have increased the flow of authoritative community developers and created structures which, though efficient, parallel and therefore undermine local efforts. Recently, the community development minister of an Asian country inadvertently discovered that the field director of one foreign volunteer programme wielded more de facto power over certain rural projects than he did. The minister's infuriated appeal to his premier -'Let's boot those so-and-so imperialists out of here in twenty-four hours!' --- was more than understandable.
Intentionally or not, some organizations are building states within states. Surely, this is an unwise practice (where it is not conscious) or policy (where it is), harmful rather than helpful to development. In the short run it can lead to expulsion en masse of all volunteers of a given nationality. In the long run, where the leaders willingly or forcibly acquiesce, it will re-accustom local middle and lower grade administrators and field workers to colonial dependence on foreign know-how and equipment. Volunteer sponsors should perhaps heed Glyn Roberts's advice on community development projects: 'Analyse the real value and workability of the programme and its implications, not from the angle "Does this make a good volunteer project?" but from the angle "In the long run, does this strengthen local structures? " '(30)
Agriculture occupies only 8 per cent of Peace Corpsmen, but accounts for 32 per cent of German Development Service Volunteers, half the French Progress Volunteers and 50 per cent of Japan's Overseas Co-operation Volunteers. One has only to remember that 80 to 95 per cent of the Third World is rural and too imbued with primitive or at least antiquated farming traditions and methods to grasp the vastness of the need for agricultural development. The problem is staggering (half a million villages in India alone), basic (to work men must eat) and complex (to eat men must work). Yet, in local terms at least, a relatively minor improvement can make all the difference.
A fatal error made in many well intentioned Third World agricultural projects has been the introduction of methods and material too complex or costly to be maintained once the innovator has withdrawn. A tractor represents progress in Turkey or Chile; in most parts of Peru or Chad it is about as useful to the peasant as a jet plane. With this in mind, nine volunteers sent to Upper Volta by Luxemburg's Young Farmers' and Winegrowers' Association have since 1959 cast about for appropriate means of animal traction.
Rare and dear, horses were out of the question. Oxen, a government experiment had shown, were also too expensive for most peasants. The only remaining quadrupeds strong enough to pull a plough were the wild donkeys that abounded in the region where the team worked.
These were sometimes tamed as beasts of burden, but they were no use once in harness. The material used by rural Voltaïques proved too supple and cut the animals' breathing when they were yoked to a heavy load. One ingenious Luxemburger
did what Europe had done for the horse at the end of the middle ages, he made a rigid collar. Thus the donkeys could work in harness and give maximum yield without being hurt or uncomfortable.... The older men were reticent towards the new process, but the young people showed great interest for they would no longer have to wield their hoes, backs bent down to the land, for hours on end.(31)
Anxious that their improvements should survive them, the volunteers from Luxemburg helped Upper Volta villagers set up a workshop for making and mending donkey collars.
Rare is the volunteer who, at one time or another during his service, is not called on to give medical care from rudimentary first aid to life-saving. One West German Weltfriedensdienste (World Peace Service) construction worker in Cameroun treated a little boy's grazed knee one afternoon, only to find six or seven anxious mothers with sick babies waiting by his door that evening. The queue doubled the next night, then trebled and grew daily until the young man's supply of medicine and bandages was exhausted.
While the number of volunteers specifically assigned to medical posts hovers around 10 per cent of any given programme (US Peace Corps: 9 per cent; Danish International Cooperation: 7 per cent; British Graduate VSO: 11 per cent; German Development Service: 15 per cent), the Dutch and Norwegian governmental schemes have stressed health personnel. Norway's first Fredskorps (Peace Corps) team, which went to Uganda, was composed largely of medical workers, midwives and X-ray technicians.
Perhaps more than other volunteers, medical workers find professional adjustment perplexing. Even following strict syllabuses teachers can use their imagination, and community development and agricultural volunteers are only effective as long as they are inventive. Medicine, on the other hand, is a science the practice of which demands rigid adherence to strict codes of hygiene and conduct. To break the rules is to endanger lives. Yet, with so much suffering not yet alleviated, to keep the rules is also to endanger lives. 'Every morning I have to make the same terrifying choice' a Peace Corps nurse told the author in Bolivia. 'I can treat twenty patients properly, or I can tend to forty hurriedly, or I can hand out aspirin to the eighty or more who invade the surgery daily.'
A day in the life of a CUSO nurse in Peru is similar, if less dramatic:
Today, I ate breakfast at eight with an old man who's had TB for two years but who only consented to be hospitalized in our clinic a fortnight ago. The Doctor from Iquitos was supposed to come this a.m. but he couldn't get away from his vaccination tasks.... He comes every Monday and gives us free medicines. He leaves a week's stock for the TB patients ...
At 9 a.m. I began my rounds. About 75 per cent of the patients have TB but many other people, who also do, won't come to be looked after. There are also many cases of bronchial pneumonia, leg ulcers, diarrhoea caused by worms, anaemia and pellagra.
I finished work at 1 p.m. having seen only forty patients, although I felt as though I'd tended to 80. I was a little tired, but happy.
Then 1 sterilized the instruments and prepared cough syrup. Then I returned to see the old man with TB and studied Spanish for an hour before relaxing by taking a swim for another hour.
Almost every evening we go on home visits to people in the village.(32)
Education, community development, agriculture and medicine absorb most volunteers. But not all. A third of the German Development Service contingents are skilled craftsmen and industrial workers. Peace Corps trades run down the alphabet from auto-mechanic, blacksmith and clerical worker through draftsman, electrician and farm machinery mechanic and, after a flurry of 'p's --- painter, pipe-fitter, plasterer, plumber and printer --- end with welder. (A serious African official once asked Glyn Roberts for a zoo-keeper.) Among the many jobs done by volunteers are refugee work (with Tibetans in India, Arabs in the Middle East and Watutsi in Africa), administration (UNA specializes in providing junior staff for UN Development Programme offices around the world) and communications: US Peace Corpsmen helped set up an educational TV network in Colombia, French Co-operation recruits did the same thing in Niger.
Where are the volunteers working? There are few places where they aren't. At the end of 1965, the British Volunteer Programme had individuals and teams in 92 countries and territories, and probably led other bodies in geographical distribution. Its volunteers have gone to such exotic-sounding spots as St Helena, Brunei, Fiji, the Gilbert and Ellice and Falkland Islands. The Peace Corps, which for administrative reasons tends to concentrate its efforts, still rings the world with volunteers in more than 50 countries. There are about 3,200 Peace Corpsmen and women in Africa, 1,900 in East Asia and the Pacific. 3,530 in Latin America and 2,300 in the Near East and South Asia. About 60 per cent of Canada's CUSO volunteers work in Africa, the others being in the West Indies, South America and India. National Belgian and French programmes prefer French-speaking countries while a third of German Development Service volunteers are in Africa, a third in Asia and a third in South America. Ideological affinity has drawn Soviet and other East European teams to Algeria and Cuba. The swarm of smaller Western private organizations send their one, seven or fifty volunteers to a related Church, sympathetic youth movement or to a development project which a returning journalist, expert or mountain climber has raved about.
Where volunteers work is intimately linked to how they live. This, in turn, raises the question: what does 'volunteer' mean? Motivation is discussed below, but living conditions --- long a bone of contention among sponsoring organizations and a cause of misunderstanding between volunteers and Third World nationals on and off the job --- merits examination here. A few volunteers are mentally and physically sturdy enough to endure almost any hardship.
A civilist boy worked eighteen highly fruitful months in rural Togo with one pair of blue jeans, one polo shirt, one pair of (locally made) sandals and one jack-knife. From beginning to end he toiled long hours, ate a peasant's diet (supplemented only by quinine and occasional chocolate bars) and slept in a mud hut. He never had a sick day.
Clearly, organizations would be unfair to demand such exemplary abstinence from the average human beings that most volunteers are. Most of them need, want and ought to be accorded sufficiently decent conditions to enable them to operate at full efficiency. It is the definition of these conditions in widely varying circumstances that causes all the trouble. A volunteer showing Sinhalese fishermen how to use and maintain outboard motors can get by healthily but relatively unobtrusively on $50 a month, accommodation (but not food) provided. Twice that amount would be a fair subsistence allowance for someone teaching in a Colombo school. The rule of thumb evolved by Glyn Roberts is that the 'volunteer shall have just enough money to be able to fit into the group with which he lives and works.'(33) Even here, the latitude is enormous.
Some organizations, for instance, provide a substantial resettlement allowance while with others volunteers are on their own as soon as their plane touches down on home soil. It is perhaps still too early to expect standardization of policies, although uniform conditions of supply would be much appreciated by the long-suffering officials of the host country (and prospective volunteers). But one continuing practice of certain organizations is blatantly wrong and should be stopped quickly, that of paying professional wages to youngsters while calling them 'volunteers'. Two young men Glyn Roberts met in Kinshasa were each preparing 'to struggle by on a yearly living allowance of $4,700'.(34)
Two other living-standard pitfalls gape before organizations and volunteers endeavouring to work in a new spirit of international co-operation. First, servants. The terms 'houseboy', 'steward' and 'boy' (as the institution is called in French-speaking countries) conjure up unpleasant images of bygone days when natives were kept in their place and any third-rate failure exiled to the colonies was sure to be waited on hand and foot. Anxious to break with the past, many sponsors have qualms about encouraging their volunteers to hire domestic helpers.
Nevertheless, Glyn Roberts observed that a cook is legitimate in some situations because he saves time and energy for the volunteers' main job and because volunteers not hiring cooks are considered to (and do) deprive them of work. Also, the relationship between the volunteer and his cook does not have to be one of master to servant. One wonders whether the servant problem was discussed during the orientation of one British group in Nigeria. Most --- according to a Weekend Telegraph article ---'agreed that at first they were too deferential to [the stewards] (" I used to say 'Please,' and 'Would you mind?"') but that after a month or two the relationship sorted itself out.' How did the relationship 'sort itself out'? 'I used to let Andrew do everything except my tennis shoes and underthings' sniffed one young lady, 'but now he does even them.'(35) 'A cook, yes' concluded Glyn Roberts on this question, 'a valet de chambre, no.'(36) If the helper-helped relationship is not to run on the rocks, some preparation is certainly necessary.
A final problem is the relativity of volunteers' living standards. For an American, $200 a month may represent a subsistence wage. For his counterpart it is often more than a living. A teacher volunteer in Africa once came to grief by ignoring the difference. For several weeks he tried unsuccessfully to interest his older boys in aiding a near-by village self-help project. Exasperated by their indifference, he called them together one day and, for the nth time, explained the scheme's purpose and the role they could play. Silence. 'Don't you chaps understand what voluntary service is?' Silence. 'Well, take me, for example. I'm a volunteer.' The boys burst out laughing and an African teacher who had been listening in the back of the room, stalked up to the young man and said coldly: 'I shouldn't boast about that too much. You earn more than the headmaster of this college.'
When do volunteers work, and firstly, for how long? Some bodies do not stipulate a maximum term of service, and the International Builder Companions have even recruited a number of life volunteers. Still, as a service organizer in Ghana suggests,
Voluntary status is by nature an intense period rather than a permanent state. It's like the difference between an affair and a marriage. Three years is beginning to have a touch of the permanent.(37)
Today, organizations worry less about the few volunteers who fall in love with service than those candidates they can't get properly smitten.
Realizing that there is no sense in doing a job unless it can be done properly, most sponsors of large volunteer programmes have set a two-year minimum. This is the case of the US and Norwegian Peace Corps, Canada's University Service Overseas, Denmark's International Co-operation Volunteers, France's Progress Volunteers, the German Development Service, Swedish Volunteer, Japanese Overseas Co-operation Volunteers, American International Voluntary Services, Inc., and the Dutch Volunteer Foundation. French Army Co-operation workers serve out their military conscription --- currently set at sixteen months in the field --- but are strongly encouraged to sign on for second or even third stints.
Among major volunteer-sending agencies that only insist on their recruits spending a year in the field are the Belgian scheme and British Volunteer Programme. If one thinks in terms of the candidate volunteer, specially the eighteen-year-old school leaver (for whom one year seems long, two an eternity), there is something to be said for twelve month minimums. Faced with a two-year tour of duty, many youngsters would not take the leap; there would be that many fewer students and apprentices with foreign experience under their belts as they enter universities and trades. Underlying this argument is the fear --- apparently decisive to some minds --- that, should the service period minimum be raised, the drop in candidates would drastically curtail the number of 'our' volunteers overseas.
An eloquent rejoinder comes from the Ministry of Education of Northern Nigeria. Graduate VSOs from Britain, wrote the Ministry, 'are with us for only one year. This makes it difficult to employ them successfully in schools, particularly as their tour of service cuts right through our academic year.'(38) The British Volunteer programme is now signing youngsters on for fifteen months, so as to include at least a full academic year in their stint. But two academic years would certainly be more than twice as valuable as one.
Service schemes are not --- or should not be --- designed primarily to broaden the minds of eighteen-year-olds and maintain the national presence abroad. Volunteers do or should go out first and foremost to help develop. The recent forceful statements of Adrian Moyes and Glyn Roberts making the case for a two-year minimum have increased the ferment of thought and discussion in Britain at least, and it can be hoped that the British Volunteer Programme will bring its policy in line with that of other major agencies in the near future.(39)
The other part of the 'when' question concerns volunteers' work schedules. 'One needs a thousand hands' wrote a German Development Service printer from Kabul. If two years seem to stretch endlessly ahead when one is in training, the months whip by at an astonishing rate when one is on the job, and there is never enough time for everything. Often, work itself consumes a volunteer's every waking moment. This is particularly true 'on season' for agriculturists. 'The work was hard', wrote a member of a Soviet combine team during the Cuban's sugar harvest. 'Six in the morning right through till evening. We had to hurry because in May and June the rains were expected and then the cane loses its sugar content.'(40)
Why are long-term volunteers working in the developing countries? Firstly, because organizations exist to send them. And these bodies have been created not only in response to the urgent need for middle level manpower or for giving young people overseas experience. Among governments running or supporting service systems, motivations vary from country to country. They are not always spelt out in the legislation governing voluntary service, but they are often uppermost in the minds of M.P.s, Congressmen and députés drafting and voting that legislation. Ex-colonial powers tend to see volunteers as the fresh expression of long-standing responsibilities. France, for instance, is concerned with maintaining a cultural 'présence' and concentrates her volunteers in French-speaking countries.
Other ex-colonial nations are less concerned with maintaining their presence than with refurbishing their image. Most British volunteers are stationed in Commonwealth countries but a sizeable minority are not. Belgium, too, concentrates its young men and women in Africa though nearly a third are in Asia and Latin America where there were no Belgian possessions. The Dutch programme has placed not a single volunteer in an ex-colony.
Powers with little or no recent colonial history have an even wider range of primary motives for running or aiding volunteer programmes. Australia and (perhaps to a lesser extent) New Zealand are anxious to overcome a reputation for international isolation from --- and racial aloofness towards --- their neighbours. Japan hopes to give a new meaning to 'co-operation' in the minds of those who remember the one-way benefits of Greater East-Asian Co-prosperity. Soviet Party members and American lawmakers doubtless see their volunteers as new foils for cold war thrust and parry. The Peace Corps Act stipulates that volunteers will 'help promote a better understanding of the American people on the part of the peoples served . . . '(41)
Among less aligned governments, the desire to help probably balances or outweighs the wish to benefit. Sweden, it is true, concentrates volunteers in East Africa with which her religious, commercial and military links go back a century or more, and Yugoslavia sees service as a means of strengthening the bonds of friendship between non-aligned powers. These axes are small however. Do Austria, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Switzerland have any to grind at all?
Governments' motives are multiple; those of non-governmental service sponsors are infinite. There are as many ideologies and shades of ideology as there are organizations, and each has its own history, outlook, approach and revered figureheads. SCI's internationalism is more radical than UNA's which, in its turn, is more enthralling than that of Volunteers for International Development. Among Catholic organizations, to take another example, the nuances are finer still. The quality of Builder Companions' Catholicism differs from the spirit of the Papal Volunteers, which resembles but does not reproduce the ideas of the Grail, the Catholic Lay Mission Corps, the International Catholic Auxiliaries (the last two being American) or the British Catholic Institute for International Relations. And none has motives identical to those of any of the thirty-five members of the German Catholic co-ordination body, Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Entwicklungshilfe (Society for Development Aid).
What of the young people themselves? What moves them to volunteer? Visits to British volunteers in the field led one writer to postulate that they were volunteering because they understood that there were people whom they could help, even with their limited knowledge and experience, and because they were willing to give a year to them in exchange for yet another facet of experience, for the travel and the novelty.(42)
Wanting to find out as scientifically as possible what makes people join up, in 1962 the Peace Corps studied the motives of 2,612 applicants. The conclusions of the survey bore out the above-quoted suggestion. Six per cent of those who replied reported that they hoped to gain from the Corps without mentioning the wish to aid others through it while 33 per cent stated they expected to help without expressing a desire to profit personally from the experience. But --- and this was the most notable finding --- 'the overlap between the two, that is, a "giving" and a "getting" statement combined, was 60 per cent.'(43)
Closer analysis of the results, particularly on the 'getting' side, revealed that the expectations of candidates covered six major needs and wants of adolescents and young adults reared in American affluence. Applicants saw service as:
1 . A testing ground for their capability and resourcefulness.
2. Independence from parents, professors, employers and other individuals and institutions who 'control young people's attitudes and behaviour'.
3. A way to find meaning in the social fabric of their society.
4. A way to co-operate, in contrast with the competitiveness of Western culture.
5. A laboratory in which the politically conscious can observe and take part in various kinds of social revolution.
6. A place where they are needed.(44)
The need to be needed is not restricted to volunteers in their teens and twenties. Said a sixty-eight-year-old participant in the International Executive Service Corps:
What I got out of this is the satisfaction of knowing I am not a has-been.... I found that there are places where I am a lot more useful than I ever was before.... It's better than getting a hole-in-one or cutting five strokes off your score.(45)
Generally, volunteers are doing a good job. But is their job doing any good? This is not sophistry, for it is perfectly conceivable that the careful work of a given volunteer may have little or no impact, or that it may even have an adverse effect. If enough such cases exist, then the overall impact of long-term volunteers in the Third World is negligible and the effort expended and expense incurred to put them there is fruitless or even harmful.
What use, one wonders, were the Japanese volunteers who gave instruction in flower arranging in South-East Asia, the Americans who taught baseball in a cricket-playing country, or the French team whose total contribution to one African nation was to lay out a garden at their Embassy? Our brief discussion of the effect of volunteers will concentrate on the impact of service on development, on the host community at large, on volunteers themselves and on the community which sends them out.
'Long-term volunteers,' once wrote the American news commentator Eric Sevareid, have had something to do with spot benefits in a few isolated places [but their] work has, and can have, very little to do with fundamental investments, reorganizations and reforms upon which the true and long-term development of backward countries depend.(46)
True, most volunteers and their sponsors would not claim to play a decisive role in determining the pace and quality of development in any country. As middle-level technicians, their place is by definition not at the top of the pyramid where plans are made and resources allocated. As foreigners, it is not their business to determine 'fundamental investments, reorganizations and reforms'. They are, as the Germans call their teams, Entwicklungshelfer --- development helpers.
Given this limitation, and although widespread use of long-term middle-level voluntary personnel is recent, it may nevertheless be affirmed that many volunteers are making a vital contribution to development. The German Development Service volunteer who wished for 'a thousand hands' helped to open Afghanistan's new State Printing Office, thereby breaking a crucial bottleneck in the country's information network.(47)
A Graduate VSO man wrote from Nigeria: 'The students to whom I teach electrical science have been without a teacher for some six months, so there is much leeway to make up.' And another, from Zambia, 'Now that there are five of us on the staff we can teach all subjects in classes of thirty, whereas before I arrived five subjects were being taught in classes of sixty'.(48) In Tanzania, a UNA volunteer (veteran of the R.A.F) initiated the construction of fifteen landing strips, each half a mile long by twenty yards wide, to facilitate aerial spraying of cotton crops. Three more bottlenecks unclogged.
The changes in attitude brought about by the volunteers are as important for development as are their concrete achievements. For a pair of Corpsmen in Colombia, an aqueduct several miles long bringing fresh water to a mountain village is 'a thing of beauty ... not because they built it, but because they didn't have to'. Successful community developers, they had brought the villagers round to seeing the need for fresh water and to deciding that they themselves would meet that need.(49) Another Peace Corps volunteer, teaching in the Far East, worked long and hard to take his pupils beyond the tradition of rote learning. 'I was thrilled,' he reported, 'the first time a student raised his hand while I was lecturing and said: "Mr Clark, I would like to disagree with your last idea."'(50)
Other attitude changes may be less complex and more abrupt but they are just as crucial to the acceptance of development in tradition-orientated societies. 'As soon as we put the machine to work, an elderly Cuban ran after the combine' wrote a Soviet tractor driver. 'He kept running for a long time, checking to see if the cane was being cut neatly. Then, all of a sudden he shouted: "An end to the machete" and threw his knife to the ground.'(51)
Taken separately, neither concrete projects nor attitude changes are enough to ensure that the impact of volunteer work is more than 'spot benefits in a few isolated places'. Combined, they can create or strengthen institutions of change, imbuing the social fabric of underdeveloped countries with progress. That the majority of volunteers are in fact achieving such results is the main finding of a Measurement of Peace Corps Programme Impact in the Peruvian Andes conducted by Cornell University between 1962 and 1964. Three hundred and seven closely reasoned, single-spaced, typewritten pages point to 'a truly impressive record of Peace Corps volunteer achievement in the Peruvian Andes in a space of somewhat less than two years'.(52)
The rate of social advance 'in the communities where Peace Corps volunteers worked is two and four-fifths times as rapid as the base rate for [control] settlements where there were no volunteers'.(53) This success was owing to the ability of volunteers to create or strengthen institutions which would be capable of identifying and solving problems once the young foreigners had left. These organizations included schools, agricultural co-operatives, consumer co-operatives, credit unions, community workshops and similar social and economic bodies. Some volunteers --- about a fifth of the sample studied --- lacked the initiative and/or the talents required to create new institutional strength. On the other hand, the top two volunteers started over two score self-help associations on a long-range, self-sustaining basis. Most of them reinforced or established between one and three institutions.
A story going the rounds of volunteers tells of a worried Peace Corpsman 'who questioned the safety of the water placed before him by his host. When no one was looking, he tossed in a purification tablet. The water turned blue.'(54) Someone, as it were, is always looking. A volunteer's every gaffe --- and success - turns the water blue. What he says and does, how he says and does it, whether he snores, courts a village girl or says 'please' to his steward, is known, talked about and enlarged upon. A Canadian in Timbuktu is like a Malian in Moose law; neither had better drop an uncomplimentary postcard where locals looking for a fight will find it.
Strangely, those most sensitive to volunteer impact have often been their fellow citizens in the expatriate community. When an early English volunteer turned up at an Asian government reception in a sarong, the British community made such a hue and cry that they nearly had him expelled. Responding just as violently to a favourable article on voluntary service in the Economist, an expatriate wrote from Saudi Arabia:
It is galling for the professional teacher to be told by his students that Mr. So-and-so coaches games every day of the week ('Why don't you Sir?'), that Mr. So-and-so eats mealie meal and meat with us in preference to the more stolid European food ('Why don't you Sir?'), that Mr. So-and-so sleeps in a mud hut on a straw mat ('Why don't you Sir?'), and to crown it all, that Mr. So-and-so is only receiving a few shillings a week pocket money while 'Sir' has to put up with being constantly reminded that he is bankrupting Timbuktu in drawing £2,000 a year.(55)
Luckily for Mr So-and-so, other Europeans react less guiltily and more enthusiastically to volunteers. 'It might influence people who . . . sometimes discuss the idea of stopping all recruitment of young volunteer workers if they heard the story of the two volunteers 1 know most about', wrote a Danish UNRWA specialist of a pair of UNA science teachers who aided him. at the Ramallah (Jordan) Men's Teaching Centre for Palestine Refugees.
From the start they showed ability and willingness to do any job.... They worked hard to keep their laboratories in running order, repaired instruments and built teaching devices.
In the first semester we were short of one science instructor, so our volunteers became teachers and, despite the language barrier, were able to give students valuable guidance in experimental work. In the second semester we were able to make greater use of portable science kits with which teachers in schools without laboratories can demonstrate some 500 experiments.... This inspired our volunteers to produce a 50-page English-Arabic science dictionary ...
Providing they are the right kind of young people and if they have a chance to work creatively and are made to see that we need their help, we have in volunteers a powerful force to reinforce the efforts of the developing countries.(56)
Whatever doubts they may entertain about the political motives behind certain schemes (see Chapter 10), Third World nationals often distinguish between organizations and individual volunteers. 'The step we have been obliged to take,' declared a Guinean official on expelling all Peace Corpsmen from his country in November 1966, 'does not concern you personally but has been forced upon us by the political attitude of your government towards US.'(57) Naturally, individual volunteers tend to be judged on their degree of success in contributing to development. Iranian professors were delighted when a European Working Group team involved 200 student volunteers from Tehran in building 117 homes and adjoining stables in a pilot village. The Tanzanian Government has showed its appreciation by hiring a few volunteers to stay on after their service period as permanent staff on full contract terms.
Just as important, for officials and populations of host countries, is the attitude of volunteers. Some, it has been noted, 'are too narrow-minded to look beyond the walls of their own expertise, and a few succumb to the temptation of simply becoming absorbed in the life and activities of the European minority'.(58) One can expect these to be a minority, however. So successful was one French volunteer in establishing rapport with rural Senegalese that in a number of villages he was asked if he wouldn't like to settle down, marry a local girl and always work with the villagers. The reaction of many more, if not all, local people was summed up in a compliment paid to British volunteers in Malawi: 'These are a new kind of European. We feel they are our friends.'(59)
'Our main concern,' the director of a sending organization recently told the author, 'is to meet developing countries' needs on their terms. For us, giving volunteers an opportunity to serve God and country or otherwise and self-fulfilment simply doesn't. count. Yet our greatest moral responsibility is towards the young people we uproot. A few of those who have come back --- particularly those from the smaller less challenging countries of Europe --- simply haven't been able to re-adjust to societies which, as one of them put it to the author, 'do not face the daily excitement of surviving'. The vast majority are not alienated by their service period, but a year or two in a developing country does have a profound impact on the life of a twenty-one-year-old.
An important effect of voluntary service is that one learns about the life of a nation halfway around the globe by living it. The Peace Corps Act specifically provides that service will 'help promote ... a better understanding of other peoples on the part of the American people.'(60) Volunteers returning to their own county, state, Land or département often know less about its ethnology, history, and geopolitics than they do of the district in which they did their service.
'I remember how surprised I was,' wrote a Peace Corps girl from Liberia, 'to receive a letter asking me if the people I worked with were black or white. I can't remember when the sea of faces became familiar individuals, but ... I wasn't conscious that I was white and the community was black . . .'(61) 'Voluntary service,' a Quaker in India said, 'is seeing people as human beings instead of stereotypes which we don't even think we have.'(62)
While learning about a host nation many volunteers gain perspective on their own country and way of life. Some, we have seen, come home more critical than when they left and many have helped to shake up complacent societies by demanding and finding challenge in them. Others, like one British volunteer in Nigeria, 'learn to appreciate things more --the ordinary things. Every time I take a glass of cold water back home I shall appreciate it a lot more. And not only cold water from the tap. all the things you grow up taking for granted . . .'(63)
While their perception and appreciation of the world around them changes, volunteers also test and get to know themselves better. Coming from backgrounds of relative or absolute ease, they tend to find two years abroad in difficult conditions the hardest thing they have ever had to do. 'But,' most would agree with the Australian who wrote from a Pacific island, 'I am almost convinced that, as much because of the hard bits as in spite of them, it's been terrific.'(64)
An important lesson is self-reliance. Having taken what one Polish volunteer called 'a plunge into the unknown',(65) volunteers are on their own. Said one Peace Corpsman of his stint in Ethiopia:
The joy of it is that the responsibility is on the volunteer to make the right decision. If injury results, he might be asked to go home. But it is his decision on how to act, on what to say, to whom and when, with the potential of some sort of 'incident' hanging over his shoulder as he does it. It is responsibility like this that one does not get by remaining in East Cupcake, and it is. a powerful moulding force.(66)
It is easier to measure the impact on career choice than on volunteer knowledge of themselves or of the world. A before-and-after study of the first several thousand members of the Peace Corps to return home showed, firstly, that the experience aided nearly a quarter to come to a career decision. On applying, 34 per cent had no vocational goal. After service., only 12 per cent 'were still uncertain and many of these have general plans towards which they are taking graduate training'.(67) Even more important. service caused 54 per cent to make a major shift in career plans. The number wishing to work overseas rose from 8 to about 33 per cent, and those intending to teach increased from 25 to 30 per cent.(68)
While the percentage of those returning who planned to go into business, industry, health services. agriculture and crafts remained steady, the number opting for government service nearly doubled (from 11 to 20 per cent) and those choosing social service jumped from 4 to 11 per cent. Overseas work, government and social service --- these goals bear out the prediction made by a Peace Corps psychologist that 'the returning volunteer will not be happy to look back and say "I gave" but will rather be looking forward to the hope that he can find yet another way to give.'(69)
Most remarkable of all, perhaps, is the decision of 40 per cent of volunteers to continue their education immediately after terminating Peace Corps duty. On joining up many had decided they would never see the inside of a classroom again. Two thirds of the 40 per cent would now go on to advanced degrees while one third planned to return to a variety of institutions for undergraduate or special educational programmes. At 36 per cent the figure for returning British volunteers planning further education parallels Peace Corps results.(70) Thus, the effect of service on volunteers is not only to teach them what they still have to learn --- about the world, themselves and possible careers --- but also to make them want to learn it.
Returning from Cuba, nearly every one of the 250 young Soviets who took part in the 1965 sugar harvest sported a wildly coloured Havana shirt. From the volunteers' dispersal point in Moscow, these filtered out to the boys' native towns and villages in Moldavia, Kuban and the Ukraine. Fine conversation pieces, the shirts elicited first 'oohs' and 'aahs', then requests for anecdotes about Cuba, which led finally to serious talk about what the volunteers had done, where, how, with whom and so on. In this way the impact of service was disseminated across the Soviet Union. As programmes grow (50,000 Peace Corpsmen will have returned by 1970) the effect will be both wider and deeper. Already, however, sending countries are finding that long-term volunteer schemes are more of a two-way proposition than they ever thought possible.
Service organizations, channelling youngsters to overseas posts, where they are expected to know local languages and customs, have already affected academic choices and curricula. This is more evident in Scandinavia and the Low Countries than in Britain, which has a larger tradition of Afro-Asian studies and 'orientation'. Never have so many Swedes had to absorb so much Amharic and Ethiopian etiquette in so short a time. Never have so many Dutchmen had to learn so much Spanish and Latin American history on such a relatively limited budget. Twenty of the thirty tongues in which Peace Corpsmen receive instruction have never been taught in the United States before.
As institutions connected with governments or run by them, the major sponsoring bodies have caused raised eyebrows (and worse!) in partner or brother bureaucracies. A Peace Corps staff member may serve no longer than five years. This is to prevent ossification and ensure a continuous inflow of fresh men and ideas. There must have been apoplexy among old hands in the Defence Department when, during the 1965 constitutionalist uprising creative Corps thinkers allowed volunteers in the Dominican Republic to continue caring for all the victims --- including those wounded by Marine bullets.
The Swedish Volunteer Service, a national governmental body, financed by taxpayers' money, has not hesitated to engage foreign volunteers. Among non-governmental sponsors, too, there has been a blithe and healthy disregard for staid protocol. The President of the European Working Group Board is Princess Beatrix. But she was not asked --- and would not have agreed --- to be an honorary figurehead. 'We work as a team,' she says 'and no punches are pulled. I am just one of the committee.'(71) Running true to form, the Europe-orientated Group selected an Israeli as its Projects Manager.
The greatest impact of service on sending countries has so far been at neither the academic nor the institutional level. In providing help on a people-to-people basis. volunteer schemes have perhaps done more to awaken and mobilize popular interest in and support for development aid in the six years since the first Peace Corpsmen were sent out than all the One World propaganda and government-to-government schemes of the previous decade. As long as technical assistance was the high-level apanage of governments, even people in wealthy nations who were concerned about the situation could do little more than pay their taxes. Large-scale use of volunteers is changing powerless passivity into personal, albeit vicarious, participation. When you read in the papers that a hundred thousand Asians are starving you can write to your M.P., give a pound or two to charity --and hope for the best. When your neighbour's daughter writes from Africa that her pupils have neither pencils nor paper, you can be sure that the five pounds you send her will effect rapid and tangible improvement.
It is this sort of confidence that has caused all kinds of individuals and organizations to regard volunteers as ideal vehicles for transporting an amazing variety of paraphernalia and advice to developing countries. Books are one example and publishers have given generously knowing that, in the hands of volunteers, their volumes would be of immediate use. One VSO teacher wrote from Africa to every British publisher, received 2,000 books and, on return home, set up the Voluntary Overseas Library Service to supply other needy volunteers. The Encyclopaedia Britannica donated $10,000 worth of film-strips to the Peace Corps, and six major Canadian publishers gave 2,000 volumes to CUSO volunteers. Hamburg school-children collected enough money to give each Development Service volunteer the equivalent. of twenty marks' worth of books or other materials.
Labour, agriculture, commerce and industry have also taken an active interest. New Zealand Rotary Clubs support VSA's work in Thailand and twenty-seven Canadian companies donated cutlery to CUSO for volunteers posted to Africa, where only hard furnishings are provided, and pharmaceuticals for volunteers going everywhere. The Abbé Pierre's Swallow volunteers working with poor children in South America have arranged a European network of individual and institutional foster parents for children and sponsors for volunteers. A French lycée 'adopted' eight children and one volunteer in Buenos Aires, and contributed in one year 5,810 New Francs as well as medicines, clothing and toys.
Perhaps the most ingenious volunteer support agency of all is Volunteers for International Technical Assistance (VITA), as postal clearing house of 1,400 technicians in thirty-one countries who advise on problems submitted by volunteers and other development personnel. One of the 2,100 requests answered for American and European volunteers since 1960 came from a Peace Corps community developer in Turkey. He had animal waste and needed energy and pure fertilizer, he wrote. Thanks to advice from VITA, 'his' village now has a manure-fed methane gas purifier-generator.
'Twenty years ago you were considered a bit of a crank if you went on a short-term voluntary workcamp,' said a leader of the British branch of SCI in 1965. 'Today, long-term service is something of a status symbol among young people in the industrialized countries.'(72) Long-term service is 'in' and some organizers worry that modishness may jeopardize its future. Improvements, as we have seen and shall see in the next chapter, are needed. But long-term volunteering is no more of a fad than development itself. Middle-level volunteers will serve as long as the Third World continues to need, want and generally use them to good effect. Indeed, it is the users rather than the providers of volunteers who must ultimately judge them.
As if in answer to ex-President Eisenhower's benignly deprecatory 1960 prediction, the Government of India reported in 1965 on five years of Peace Corps work --- it could have been almost any organization in almost any country --- that the young men and women 'bring idealism, also science and technology. It is a genuine partnership for constructive work.... This is no juvenile experiment.'(73)
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