Proposed cuts could impact U.S. Peace Corp volunteers

The Republican Party of the United States of America will vote on Tuesday on whether or not to cut US$19.1billion in international assistance and reallocate the funds, including funding for the Peace Corps in 2020.

On Wednesday, Representative Mark Walker from North Carolina submitted an amendment to the state, foreign operations and related programs (SFPOS) appropriations package.

“My amendment is simple. It is about prioritising domestic needs. It is about prioritizing families who are suffering.

“We need to put America first, and lead responsibly,” Mr Walker said.

But Representative Nita Lowey, the Appropriations Committee Chair from New York opposed the measure in the House, asking “how are these cuts in our national interest?”

“Smart use of global health, humanitarian and development assistance supports United States interest, builds greater global stability and supports American values,” Ms Lowey said.

“The gentleman’s amendment would not trim, but entirely cut all these investments including support to 14.7 million people receiving life-saving HIV treatment, including 700,000 children, 70 million children learning to read with U.S. assistance, 6.5 million refugees displaced by conflicts or natural disasters, and 7,200 Peace Corps volunteers serving as excellent representatives of the United States.

“Our national security is strongest when development, diplomacy and defence are equally prioritized. This am undermines US leadership and diminishes our engagement in the world.

“My friends I urge a no vote on the gentleman’s amendment.”

Samoa has seen nearly two thousand Peace Corp volunteers come and go, since the first group arrived in 1967. Today they are positioned across the country in schools supporting the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture with literacy and numeracy teaching, and special Peace Corp Response volunteers work in government and non-government organisations on policy and development. 

Peace Corps Worldwide, an organisation not formally associated with the Peace Corps or National Peace Corps Association, has urged its membership to contact their local congressperson to urge them to oppose the amendment before Tuesday's vote.

Speaking to Peace Corp volunteers about to start work in their respective schools in 2016, US Ambassador Mark Gilbert reminded the volunteers of their responsibility to their home country.

“If there is one point I’d like to drive home today it would be to remind you that you are the vanguard of U.S. engagement in Samoa. 

“Each one of you is a U.S. ambassador to the village in which you serve.  

“On behalf of the United States Government, I ask that you take your assignments seriously, and always remember that the work you are doing is making a difference in people’s lives every day.” 

The Peace Corps have yet to respond to a request for comment.

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