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David Weiss

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Peace Corps - 50 Years of Service and Legacy

Posted: 09/15/11 10:52 AM ET

As the Peace Corps celebrates its 50th anniversary, its approach to development and its work around the world remain more relevant than ever. Over the last five decades, the "Peace Corps model" has had a tremendous amount of influence on organizations working in the developing world. At CHF International, we are proud of this heritage. Our community-based approach, our grassroots engagement with the communities we serve, our model of cooperation and intercultural understanding - these are all concepts that were pioneered by the Peace Corps and are central to effective development.

In fact, CHF International has a special bond with the Peace Corps, as many of our own staff are Peace Corps alumni, both returned Peace Corps volunteers and Peace Corps staff, who have served in places as diverse as Namibia, Honduras, Sri Lanka and Bahrain. All of them bring to our organization the skills they learned while serving their country overseas and improving the lives of people in the developing world. They bring a strong commitment to building a better world, one project at a time. CHF also has a global agreement with the Peace Corps that enables us to utilize Peace Corps Volunteers in our program and projects.

Across society, the spirit of the Peace Corps lives in entrepreneurs, journalists, diplomats and government officials: Chris Matthews, host of Hardball; former U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd; and Reed Hastings, founder and CEO of Netflix, were all Peace Corps volunteers. They will tell you that much of their success can be attributed to the valuable lessons they learned while in the Peace Corps, where they came to understand the importance of international cooperation.

Today, as CHF approaches celebrating its own 60th anniversary, we are proud to be working with the Peace Corps again, in Rwanda. Under our global agreement with the Peace Corps, CHF's Rwanda team works with 15 Peace Corps volunteers who play a very important role within our organization and are engaged in different activities, such as teaching English to at-risk youth and building the capacity of our local partner organizations. Our programs focus on reducing the risk of HIV/AIDS and other health challenges of the most vulnerable populations in Rwanda by empowering local organizations, promoting health-seeking behavior, building family-level assets, increasing financial literacy and improving the livelihoods and food consumption of the very poor, especially women.

In the tumultuous world that we live in today, the model pioneered by the Peace Corps is more relevant than ever. A world which values cooperation and understands different cultures is a world that is likely to be more stable and prosperous. A world where we work on the grassroots level in partnership with local communities is a world which is far more likely to see sustainable development, owned by the people of those communities. For the U.S., as with any country, our best and brightest people are our most important exports and our best diplomats. And Peace Corps Volunteers, like CHF employees, bring back understanding of their countries to share with Americans.

Finally, on a personal note, the Peace Corps had a substantial impact on my life. As a teenager growing up in India, my family often had young Peace Corps Volunteers as guests in our home. I came to know a young man working at the American Embassy who took a special interest in the kids. That young man was Dick Celeste, who later became Director of the Peace Corps, for whom I worked as his Special Assistant. It was the start of my career, and what ultimately led me to where I am today.