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Dominica weekly is a personal weblog about the nature island of Dominica.


This post was guest blogged by Dan Tanner of dan-ruth-tanner.com

To begin, I wish to state that I am writing about the permanent, salaried, US-based Peace Corps bureaucracy, not the dedicated volunteers who have served and are serving in Dominica and other countries. In fact, we are friends with a former Peace Corps volunteer who is godmother to a young lady we know, and together we’ve been trying to get her a visa so that she can spend half of her summer school vacation with us and half with she and her husband as an educational and culturally enriching experience for this excellent student.

Here is the background: I am 67 and retired. I have degrees in electronic engineering and physics and secondary education, and am accredited to teach physics, science, and mathematics at grades 7 through 12 in both Massachusetts and New Jersey. I also have about 80 percent of the credits toward a master’s degree in business administration and over 45 years of experience in the computer industry. Thinking that I would like to contribute to science and mathematics education as a volunteer in Dominica, where my wife and I have built a house (in Calibishie) and plan to retire to and live in permanently, I attempted to volunteer in the Peace Corps for that purpose.

I made it clear that I do not want the stipend that the Peace Corps pays its volunteers and also would not need or accept any Peace Corps-paid transportation. I explained that we have a house to live in and planned to go there anyhow, and that we have been going to Dominica frequently ever since 1987, and have had Dominicans as guests in our home here too. I stated that my only reason for wanting Peace Corps association was my belief that such affiliation might make appeals to groups in the US to send books and/or classroom science apparatus to Dominica more effective than if I tried to be a lone non-affiliated volunteer.

My initial encounter with the local Peace Corps bureaucrat in Boston was a big disappointment. I had researched the Peace Corps’ Web site and discovered that Dominica is not listed on it, but is rather lumped in the catch-all category of “Eastern Caribbean”. The Web site says that family and village ties throughout the area are “weak”; while I know that Dominica has strong, loving families and vibrant, interdependent villages. I called the Boston office and found the bureaucrat had never head of Dominica and insisted that the Peace Corps had never sent any volunteers there – despite the fact that I actually named some for her.

Then, after she did some checking, she advised me that the Peace Corps had only one mission in Dominica, and that was AIDS education. I told her that I knew that children in government schools knew about the danger of AIDS and how to avoid it. She then told me that the Peace Corps could not send anyone to work in an area that the government had not asked for (but she could not or would not say what Dominica was requesting) and that in any event volunteer science or mathematics education would be unacceptable because “Dominica lacks the necessary infrastructure”. (In other words, no sense trying to help, the country is too bad off anyhow!)

Finally, she fell back on the real bureaucratic excuse the Peace Corps would ultimately use to reject my volunteer application – I was requesting to serve in a particular place and the Peace Corps solely determines where its volunteers serve. (But a past volunteer who had served in Dominica and who had that as her initial goal got around the issue by contacting the head Peace Corps person then in Dominica, whom she knew, and getting him to request a volunteer who had a résumé precisely matching hers in her application. Unfortunately, I don’t know who presently heads the local Peace Corps office in Dominica, so I could not adopt that strategy.) I should also point out that although the Peace Corps asserts that it is overwhelmed with volunteers, this and other bureaucrats nonetheless make frequent government-paid junket “recruiting” trips.

I have been rejected because I have stated where it is that I would like to serve. I have been told that “I should live in a grass hut with a dirt floor and no electricity or running water like the natives” and would not be able to use my house. To that I replied that most Dominicans live in houses and have running water and electricity, and that in my house I could use the Internet, a telescope, a microscope, books, and more of my time to help students; but that had no effect.

I appealed my rejection to the Washington DC Peace Corps office and have received a denial of appeal letter from the DC-based bureaucrat on the same basis. I also contacted my local representative in Congress’ office and the matter was assigned to one Ms. Gladys Rodriquez-Parker who was supposed to follow-up on my behalf. When the final rejection letter arrived today I called for Ms. Parker at my Congressman’s local office and was told that she was going to be out until after the end of May, and that she know of the rejection but had decided to “let the Peace Corps tell me”.

This is the way the US government bureaucracy works. (The enemy of freedom is not tyranny; it is simply an effective bureaucracy.) I had hoped, naïvely, that Ms. Parker would contest the matter on the basis of the senselessness of the Peace Corps’ bureaucratic pretext, but I’d failed to recon with the fact that our Congress is also a bureaucracy, and if there’s anything that bureaucrats do exceedingly well it is to close ranks.

If you support me in this, please send an e-mail to Gladys.Parker@mail.house.gov. Thank you.

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