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close this bookPeace Corps in Special Education and Rehabilitation (Peace Corps)
View the documentForeword
View the documentThe authors
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the documentMethodology
View the documentClassifying Peace Corps programs addressing the needs of disabled persons
Open this folder and view contentsSelected country reviews
close this folderCritical factors influencing the effectiveness of Peace Corps' efforts in special education and rehabilitation
View the document1.0 Programming factors
View the document2.0 Recruitment factors
View the document3.0 Training factors
View the document4.0 Support factors
View the document5.0 Post-service factors
View the documentAlternative programming considerations
View the documentReferences
View the documentAppendix I - Country overviews
View the documentAppendix II - Volunteers with disabilities: experiences, issues, and recommendations
View the documentAppendix III - Peace Corps country survey
View the documentAppendix IV - Returned volunteer survey
 

5.0 Post-service factors

Peace Corps is an agency with frequent beginnings and endings. In any given three-month period, there may be as many as one thousand people leaving Peace Corps service and another one thousand beginning. In addition, the staff of Peace Corps is constantly changing as individuals complete the maximum five-year term of employment. In this sense the Peace Corps more closely resembles, at the organizational level, a university than a government agency.

While many associated with Peace Corps feel a special sense of pride during this, its twentieth anniversary, very few people have a true "sense of history" about Peace Corps.

An example of this phenomenon was discovered by the authors in compiling this special education and rehabilitation report. We discovered that only a small number of people were aware that Peace Corps had a substantial history of work to benefit disabled people. Virtually everyone has been surprised at the observation made by the authors that Peace Corps has a more extensive record of international technical assistance to benefit disabled people than any other agency or organization in the world. Former volunteers who worked in special education and rehabilitation projects have no sense of being part of a coordinated global effort related to disability. Consequently, the Peace Corps organization as a whole has not been able to take full advantage of the cumulative knowledge of its volunteer alumni.

The Post Service Factors described below are perhaps less critical to the effectiveness of individual volunteer assignments than to the effectiveness of the overall effort of Peace Corps in activities to prevent disability and rehabilitate disabled people. However, these factors are especially important if Peace Corps is to take full advantage of the opportunity to learn from and expand the impact of its experience and knowledge.

5.1 Networking Returned Volunteers

Critical Factor: Taking advantage of the experience of former volunteers in disability-related projects

As Peace Corps begins its third decade of global service, we note that more than 80,000 men and women have worked two years or more in the developing countries of the world. The authors of this report were not able to determine exactly how many of these have worked in disability-related projects, but the number exceeds two thousand. It is very disappointing and surprising that so little is known about their efforts.

Each new group of volunteers working in special education and rehabilitation has to make its own way and learn its own lessons with little benefit from the experience of those who have faced the same challenges. When volunteers in the same projects or similar projects overlap in service, there is a better sense of completion for the outgoing volunteer and a greater sense of continuity for the new volunteer.

In general, the authors think the Peace Corps does a poor job of terminating its volunteers and completing their projects. The volunteers need to tell their story, to pass on what they have learned, to feel a part of a larger effort which is not ending with themselves. In the past five years, ICE has taken a proactive role in facilitating the exchange of just this kind of information by encouraging Peace Corps Volunteers to put their experiences into writing, documenting it in an accessible, central location and sharing it.

Considerations, Suggestions, and Recommendations:

• At the very least, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers in special education or rehabilitation should be asked to write a description of their work, accomplishments, disappointments, learnings, and recommendations to others contemplating international service through the Peace Corps or any other organization. A single file of such self-evaluations could be kept at the Peace Corps, or preferably, special arrangements made with a national resource center like the National Rehabilitation Information Center, or the ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped Children.

• Increase the linkages between returned volunteers and current volunteers working in similar projects. New volunteers always seem to need teaching materials, books, and professional supplies.

• Create special councils of former volunteers who are now members of professional groups and encourage them to activate more support for Peace Corps efforts within the professional group. For example, the Council for Exceptional Children has approximately 60,000 members. There are probably several hundred members who are former Peace Corps Volunteers. A special Peace Corps support group could be set up to communicate with current volunteers, provide publications, and generally recognize and encourage the work of current volunteers.

5.2 Extending Collaboration with other Organizations and Agencies

Critical Factor: Peace Corps' efforts in special education and rehabilitation would benefit greatly from increased collaboration with other organizations and agencies

The Peace Corps has reached a new level of maturity with its twentieth anniversary. Its programming is more thoughtful and its strengths and weaknesses are fairly well known in the host countries and within the agency itself.

However, the Peace Corps still appears to occupy a solitary position between the formal developmental programs (e.g. A.I.D., the World Bank, and the United Nations Developmental Programme) and the private voluntary organizations (PVOs). Peace Corps has human-power in a wide variety of areas. It is, however, generally unfocused and spread out. Very few people within Peace Corps itself have a grasp of "the big picture". Virtually no one outside of Peace Corps has any idea of the scope of Peace Corps' efforts relating to disability. The staff of Peace Corps, like that of many other organizations, gets caught up in the minute of everyday life and ends up talking only to each other. This should change.

Considerations, Suggestions, and Recommendations:

• Sector specialists and ICE have made significant strides in collaborating and communicating with other organizations and agencies and should be encouraged by Peace Corps management to continue these efforts.

• In the disability area, a staff liaison should be designated to collaborate with both governmental and non-governmental international programs and projects. For example, the National Institute on Handicapped Research (NIHR) staff convenes a quarterly meeting of leaders of major international rehabilitation organizations to share information and enhance each other's projects. Peace Corps should be represented there.

• Peace Corps should carry out more actual programming with other international development programs. The PVO groups sometimes collaborate with individual volunteers in-country, but formal joint programming seems quite rare.

• Peace Corps should consider some inexpensive "cross-fertilization" techniques such as one-month staff exchanges. For example, an OPTC staff member could spend one month in New York working with Rehabilitation International. Later in the year, an Rl staff member could work one month in the Peace Corps/Washington office or in a specific Peace Corps project needing technical assistance.

5.3 Evaluation of Assignments and Projects

Critical Factor: Evaluation procedures help to facilitate information sharing and ensure the utilization of volunteer experience and expertise in disability programming

Extensive formal evaluation of disability-related projects would be time consuming and costly, but much valuable information regarding the dynamics of disability in developing countries becomes inaccessible or lost without evaluation systems in place.

Peace Corps has always been a forward-looking organization. The next program, the next volunteers, the new emphases are constantly being stressed. So much occurs through the experience of thousands of volunteers that it becomes a monumental task to evaluate individual assignments or projects in any systematic manner.

However, once an area of operation has been identified such as fisheries development, small industry development, or special education and rehabilitation, it then becomes possible to create some simple but specific evaluation tools to generate information for an interested target audience. There is such a target audience for disability-related projects and Peace Corps' experience with disability can be more broadly shared.

Considerations, Suggestions, and Recommendations:

• Peace Corps should develop simple evaluation formats for individual assignments, disability projects, and country programs. The results of such formats should be made available to other organizations and researchers. In the disability-related evaluations, the Peace Corps itself need not be the depository of data but rather some national clearinghouse, such as the National Rehabilitation Information Clearinghouse (NARIC). Technical assistance in the development of the evaluation formats could be solicited from other governmental agencies such as the National Institute on Handicapped Research.

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