Sunday, May 16, 2010


Peace, in Arabic and Hebrew

If any one of you were among the 70 or so that attended Mary & Tom Mechtenberg's talk this Sunday afternoon on their experiences with Michigan Peace Teams, you are better personally informed about the troubles in the Middle East, and inspired by their insight, to take another step in some direction along your path towards international understanding. Thank you Tom & Mary.

From discussions with local people of all political persuasions comes an idea that encourages young and older, to do something positive and productive for our area, outbound to the rest of the world. This would set up a local agency to help answer the challenge, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." -JFK

PROPOSAL: Alternative Service Opportunity Foundation

• Local group with board and members--purpose to encourage and facilitate citizens of the St. Clair County area to enter national and international service/educational opportunities, such as AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, student exchange, and faith-based service programs.

• Since these organizations have few recruiters in our area, we would bring together members of our community who already have these alternative service experiences, and engage/train/assist them to do outreach in local colleges, high schools, and other public forums, helping young adults and adults to discern which organizations would be good opportunities for them, and then helping them to make the necessary connections.

• AmeriCorps and Peace Corps have financial supports for those who work in their programs, but many faith-based and community programs do not. The foundation could provide small scholarship assistance as incentive towards the practical needs of entering any of these opportunities.

• Board would meet monthly, raising funds for part-time director, and a small scholarship/supports reserve. The director would preside over the activity of volunteer recruiters; some stipend money could be considered. Activity and dollars available would expand in tandem.

• There are many excellent opportunities to learn foreign languages, encounter different cultures, and serve human needs both here in the U.S. and worldwide. Our young people and many retirees are ready and willing. In our area there are few recruiters, nor sign on bonuses, except for the armed services. Our purpose is to expand opportunities for alternative service.

• Some new opportunities that are particular to our area’s experiences {e.g. Port Huron sister city in Guatemala, Michigan Peace Teams, and Middle East—SC4, connections} could be created.

• A final objective. Act as advocates on the national scene, from our local example, for a renewed and multiplied investment in our young people’s positive engagement with the rest of the world. AmeriCorps and Peace Corps, especially, should receive vigorous funding support, and become great sources of national pride, and international interconnected accomplishment.

Please contact us if you're interest in this project. My wife Ande and I have been going to local high schools and SC4 once or twice a year, as alternative service recruiters, but much more is necessary.

"What is power? We see that power has always been used as a force of domination. It is the power of the strong over the weak: it is the power one finds in factories and even in churches. But power is valid only when it is the power of service. That is when power acquires its proper dimension." --- Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Argentina

The weapon of the soldier is the M-16. The weapon of the peacemaker is the learning of a foreign language.

Please see January 17, 2010 McCarthy's Weekly for more on the Peace Corps issue.


  1. Just wanted to thank you again for helping put together the Mechtenbergs' appearance. There is no substitute for first-hand experience by open-minded people. ... Voluntary national service, perhaps using the CCC as a model, is one of those great ideas that never seems to gain traction. Good luck to you.

  2. This Alternative Service group is a great idea! Very pragmatic with very good results that are long lasting... perhaps Ellen Rogers can help you?