Peace Corps Volunteers have teamed up with Mexican scientists in an effort to improve water quality in central Mexico
In Matehuala, a mining and industrial center north of San Luis Potosi, a team of Mexican and U.S. specialists is completing an engineering study to help find less expensive ways of treating sewage, now being discharged into surface water, than at conventional waste treatment plants. A second Mexican-U.S. team is working with the state of Guanajuato to develop more efficient processes that can lower operating costs at 12 treatment plants. The inability of municipalities to adequately fund wastewater treatment plants throughout the country has limited their effectiveness, said team member Terry Gould. In Queretaro, another cross-border team is working on solutions to help the city sharply reduce the loss of water, now estimated at around 75 percent, in the crumbling pipes running under the city’s historic center. In León, Mexican and U.S. colleagues are assisting small companies in the shoe industry both in reducing pollution and in improving their ability to compete with cheaper products from other countries, including China and Brazil. The teams include staff members from a network of Mexican research and technical centers that specialize in transferring the latest technology to small and medium-sized businesses, government agencies and non-profit organizations. Their U.S. counterparts are the first Peace Corps volunteers to ever serve in Mexico.
“The Mexico program is the first for which the Peace Corps has recruited highly specialized, technically trained and experienced volunteers to work side by side with highly-skilled and specialized counterparts from the host country,” said Byron Battle, the country director for Mexico. “The objective is to contribute to job creation for Mexican citizens as well as to improve the country’s physical environment.”
Paul Ruesch, on leave from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regional office in Chicago, isn’t sure he’ll return to his job. In his 13 years as an environmental engineer, Ruesch said he has studied problems on all seven continents. Assigned to the CIATEC center in León, he is leading a work team that is dealing with oil spills and the contamination of irrigation water around the town of Tula, Hidalgo. “My eyes have really been opened now to what I feel are much more significant pollution problems than we face in the United States. In some regards I feel we are ‘splitting hairs’ in the United States in many facets of environmental issues. We are arguing over parts per trillion, billion and million when in many countries there are baseball size chunks of contaminants floating in rivers and visible particles of soot falling from the sky.” His experiences, Ruesch said, “have motivated me to apply my talent and experience in an international venue. I really appreciate the opportunity and platform that the Peace Corps has provided for me as a volunteer.” When asked what he thought would happen should CONACYT ask for more volunteers, Battle replied, “We believe there are tons of people in the United States who want to contribute and to use their skills working on real problems.” Read more.
Elio Henríquez writes: Five members of the Peace Corps, a U.S. government-sponsored organization accused of performing counterinsurgency activities in several countries in the past, have been incorporated as "volunteers" in strategic departments of ECOSUR
The presence of the "volunteers" has caused discontent and preoccupation among several of the 40 investigators of the scientific research center, fearing possible repercussions for the institution. Some of the investigators, who wish to remain anonymous, complained about the fact that the decision to incorporate members of the U.S. Peace Corps was taken by the ECOSUR management without previous consultation. According to their information, the five U.S.-Americans have been assigned since January 8, in the departments for informatics, networking and institutional development, which are considered "strategic".
The Peace Corps coordinator in Mexico, Byron Battle, confirmed that since January 8, five "co-operators" are working in the ECOSUR. He recognized that the association, which was originally created in 1961 and has currently 8000 "volunteers" distributed in 75 countries, has been accused of performing counterinsurgency activities in the past, but assured this to be "not true". In an interview in this city he commented that "suspicions" in this respect had been raised in some of the countries where the Peace Corps had maintained a presence, but "this isn’t true, if it was, we would have already cancelled the program". As he assured, the association had no relation to the State Department, although it is financed with government ressources approved by the Congress. Read more.
Caption: Byron Battle (above), Peace Corps' country director in Mexico says "We are not about promoting U.S. foreign policy, but to offer our people a chance to get to know other countries."
Aurora Illinois Mayor Tom Weisner (RPCV Solomon Islands) and his wife, Marilyn, plan to fly to Iguala de la Independencia along with 2nd Ward Alderman Juany Garza and Greg Salgado, a Hispanic civic leader to investigate a possible sister city arrangement
The mayor and Garza will poke around the city, eyeing its potential as a sister city. "We're very much in an early stage," Weisner said Monday. "This has kind of started out very informally. We thought it would be fun to go with Juany and her husband." Aurora residents from Iguala de la Independencia, and leaders from that city, have voiced interest in being a sister city, he added. But no decisions have been made, he stressed, and he wants to investigate a possible sister city arrangement with a community in India, too. "Understanding other countries and cultures is a good thing," said Weisner, who lived in the Solomon Islands with Marilyn in the Peace Corps. Read more.
Caption: Tom Weisner (above), Mayor of Aurora, Illinois served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Solomon Islands in the 1980's.