Two organizations with long resumes of helping the disadvantaged, the Peace Corps and Rotary International, are teaming their resources.
Peace Corps Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet and Rotary International General Secretary John Hewko, signed a letter of collaboration on Monday at Rotary’s Evanston headquarters, strengthening the groups’ cooperation in the United States and abroad, starting with a pilot project in three countries: the Philippines, Thailand and Togo in West Africa.
Peace Corps and Rotary volunteers will be encouraged to share resources and expertise. In addition. through the Peace Corps Partnership program, Rotary Clubs can provide small grants to support volunteers and their communities.
With more than 1.2 million members in more than 200 countries and geographic areas across the globe, “I believe Rotary has more member countries than the United Nations,” Hessler-Radelet said. “The missions of our two organizations reflect and reinforce each other. In our increasingly interconnected world, bringing the Peace Corps and Rotary together in common cause provides more opportunity than ever to leave a greater impact.”
Hewko said the partnership would allow the two to expand their work, which is already taking place at the grassroots level.
“Together we will work to improve lives and build stronger communities, and – in doing so – address many of the root causes of violence and conflict, such as poverty, illiteracy, disease and lack of access to clean water and sanitation,” he said.
Peace Corps and Rotary programs already overlap in more than 60 countries, officials said, and many Peace Corps volunteers join Rotary clubs upon their return.
“[This] really formalizes what we’ve been doing on the ground since 2006,” said Peace Corps Country Director Lauren Mamane, whose own contact with Rotary began as a volunteer in the late 1990s. One of her most memorable experiences involved administering polio vaccines, fighting the disease that Rotary has fought to eradicate the by 2018.
Rotary International President Ron D. Burton helped forge the connection during a Rotary meeting several years ago in Denver, after talking with some Peace Corps members who were seeking closer ties.
“The more contact and interaction Peace Corps volunteers have with Rotary Clubs during their years of service, the more likely they are to recognize Rotary as an attractive, lifelong outlet for their desire to serve humanity,” Burton said. “Those are exactly the kind of quality members our Rotary clubs are trying to recruit. Talk about a proverbial win-win.”
Peace Corps has partnered with various North American clubs, as well as clubs based in the three countries that will be the initial focus.
Already, through district grants from Rotary and connecting clubs in Togo with clubs in North America, “We’ve done school buildings construction. We’ve provided textbooks to over 700 students,” Mamane said.
Partnerships are “the way the world is moving,” Hewko said. “Everyone is realizing the name of the game is partner, to have one plus one equal three. Whether it’s Rotary with Peace Corps or Peace Corps with some another organization – the reality is you can’t do it alone. On polio and a whole slew of other issues, you have to work in partnerships.”