Educating and Engaging the American People
Unique to U.S. foreign assistance programs, volunteer-centered development creates a constituency among the American public. These volunteers return home and share their experiences, generating more cross-cultural understanding and an appreciation for U.S. global development. USAID and VEGA spelled out the vision for the program in the first award, which was to: “promote increased international volunteerism among qualified Americans, leveraging foreign assistance funding and spreading appreciation of American volunteerism and its contributions to a modern foreign assistance program, both at home and abroad.” This will also result in increased understanding of the vital role foreign assistance plays in our national security. This connection between the VEGA LWA and the American people is not lost on members of Congress who are pleased and proud to have their constituents engaged and serving in U.S. development through the VEGA LWA.
“The work of American volunteers has made an impact for people in developing nations worldwide, and I have been proud to work with them and organizations like Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA) wherever possible. I appreciate the volunteers and advocates being honored here today. VEGA’s network of skilled volunteers greatly furthers the impact of USAID’s meaningful work.”
—Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
“These generous volunteers offer their valuable time and expertise to not only promote growth and opportunity, but also share the best of American values and innovation around the world.”
— Representative Gerald Connolly (D-VA)
Both members of Congress spoke at VEGA’s International Volunteer Day Capitol Hill Event 2017.
On September 7, 2017, the Senate Appropriations included language in report that accompanied the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) that directs USAID to develop a policy to incentivize incorporating volunteers into agency-wide programming. It states:
“Volunteers. —The USAID Administrator shall develop an agency-wide policy that attributes additional merit to proposals and applications that include the use of skilled U.S. and local volunteers (including, as appropriate, the use of the Peace Corps Response Corps and U.S. Government retirees) to implement a broad range of locally-driven development activities. The administrator shall consult with the Committee on such policy not later than 120 days after enactment of the act.”
At the writing of the final report for the VEGA LWA, Congress had yet to enact appropriations for FY18 (except for Continuing Resolutions extending FY17 funding levels through January 19, 2018).