Share Your Peace Corps Experience

How to Share Your Peace Corps Experience: Community Access TV

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers have undergone one of the most unique experiences in their lives. Most RPCVs, even if they felt that they were not 100% successful in their placements, participated in an outstanding humanitarian program, received an intercultural education, interacted with interesting and intelligent people worldwide, developed their self-actualization, and made a difference in the lives of many people in their host country.  

RPCVs have the opportunity-- and the responsibility-- to bring home the Third Goal of Peace Corps and share their unique Peace Corps experiences with their family, colleagues, and the general public. There are three major media available to us, such as writing Peace Corps related articles, op-ed pieces and letters to the editor for local, regional, or national print media.

Secondly, most communities have local radio stations that have talk shows that encourage call-ins on various topics. It is extremely important to develop a rapport with the local “jock” so that you can help him/her put the Peace Corps and international issues on the agenda. Also, you should try to be a guest on the show every few months, or more often, if possible. 

A third very progressive, inexpensive and readily available medium available to get out the Third Goal of the Peace Corps message would be to start your own television program on either a Community Access T-V (CATV) or PBS station. Obviously, the CATV route would be easier, cheaper and more feasible. Most CATV operations provide the equipment, technicians, and studio at no expense. The moderator simply arranges for the guests to appear. 

The following overview describes a CATV program that I began in Frankfort, Kentucky in 1994 that has focused on educating the community about international issues, many of which include Peace Corps experiences.

Overview of "Frankfort's Global Connection"

The globalization or internationalization phenomenon is rapidly sweeping across both the public and private sectors. Virtually every state, community, organization, and profession is developing--to varying degrees-- interactions and programs with counterparts in other areas of the world. "Frankfort's Global Connection" (FGC) was created to assist people in Frankfort and central Kentucky to better understand this concept. (The Global Connections Program is now aired in Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky, with an offshoot in Miami Beach).

Frankfort's Global Connection is a one-hour, locally produced, internationally-oriented program that is aired on the Frankfort Channel 10’s community access television station (CATV) on Tuesday evenings from 7-8:00 p.m, and re-run on Wednesdays at 9 a.m. The program has featured guests who are involved in a wide range of local/international activities. The first few programs in mid-l994 highlighted a panoply of issues, spanning from a slideshow on the United Nations agencies’ services and how they assist Kentuckians; to an interview with RPCVs who just returned to Kentucky; and a session with a Kentucky state senator who was selected to be part of the UN Election Monitoring Team in South Africa in 1994 for the first all race, democratic elections.

Other programs have emphasized Kentucky's international trade initiatives; Kentucky State University and the University of Kentucky's international educational activities; Kentucky's ties with Europe, Latin America, China, Japan, and Taiwan; the local Rotary Club's international exchanges; the Frankfort Chapter United Nations Association; and the Sister Cities and Kentucky Ecuador-Partners Programs. Several programs were discussions with the Deputy Director of the PC and regional PC reps from the Chicago Office.

So, now, if you are excited about doing your own t-v program, following are 11 Tips on how to develop an international TV program. Before visiting with the manager of the local CATV station to discuss your innovative concept: 

  1.  a) Brainstorm: Jot down 10-20 potential interviewees and their international/local topics; and, b) identify a producer/moderator (normally select someone who has a broad knowledge of international/local issues).
  2. Determine your t-v program's most logical format: length (30 v. 60 minutes); weekly, bi-weekly or monthly; quantity of moderator involvement; and whether the program will be Peace Corps specific (which is a hard sell) or a more generically based, internationally oriented program that would have a wide range of topics. You may want the local RPCV group to be your sponsor.
  3. Contact your local cable access localized educational system and/or statewide educational T-V station managers to explain your proposal. Start at the TOP, work your way DOWN.
  4. When negotiating with the station manager(s), present your proposal, indicate that you are providing a pro bono public service for the community, indicate that there is a tremendous void of international information (which there always is), indicate that you could be both the producer and moderator (if necessary), and be flexible, flexible, flexible.
  5. Reference "Frankfort's Global Connection" as a prototype of a successful internationally oriented program that can provide a major service to the community.
  6. Begin slowly. If the station manger is unconvinced, attempt to do one or two pilot programs to gauge the community's reaction.
  7. Once you are on the air, do not spend hours and hours (ad infinitum and ad nauseum) trying to know more than your guests. Your broad background in international issues will carry you through. Simply remember to ask the old perennial standbys: Who? What? Why? Where? When? How?
  8. Do not spend too much time researching a particular issue, country, or agency. It is helpful to allocate about 30 minutes to getting some basic information, e.g. population, size of country, major industries, role of Peace Corps or UN agencies, etc. so that you can inject key information if the conversation lags and to demonstrate you have a working knowledge of the issue.
  9. Insert some information (maybe only 2-5 times) about the Peace Corps and the UN in EVERY program, regardless of the topic. Literally every international issue involves the UN and the Peace Corps can be included in a generic manner.
  10. Last but not least, draft a few critically important questions (approximately 10-20) and develop appropriate background information. Do not rush through your questions; however, follow-up on the interviewee's responses and pursue additional lines of thinking.
  11. There should be an internationally/locally oriented t-v program aired on every cable access and PBS station in the country. Let's get them on the air. 

The prototype of Frankfort's Global Connection is quite unique because it is the only program of its type produced in Kentucky--and, perhaps, in the US and many other areas of the world. For additional information, contact FGC's moderator and producer Bill Miller (Peace Corps, DR-25) at 111 Shelby Street, Frankfort, KY, 40601, 502-223-0512, 502-875-9914 (fax), e-mail: millerkyun@aol.com.