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  2004-12-29-Hirsh-Peace Corps 

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2004 blog


Michael Hirsh to leave UJF
to direct Peace Corps in Peru
,  Dec. 29, 2004

Michael Hirsh, director of planning and allocations for the United Jewish Federation, will leave his position Jan. 9 to serve in the Peace corps as country director for Peru.

It will be the fourth Peace Corps tour for Hirsh, 60, who served as a volunteer during 1970 and 1971 in Punata, Bolivia. From 1980-83, he was the assistant country director in Ecuador, and from 1992-1997 was country director in the Dominican Republic.

In between those assignments, Hirsh had worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Columbia, Chile, Paraguay, Ecuador and Peru and also for the United Jewish Federation.

Hirsh has a 30-month contract, which may be extended another 30 months upon mutual agreement. He will be based in Peru's capital city of Lima, where he will supervise a staff now numbering 104 volunteers and 15 staff members.

Before he flies to Peru, he will spend a month in Washington D.C. for intensive briefings on the country whose President, Alejandro Toledo, was befriended as a boy by Peace Corps volunteers and encouraged to get the education that eventually took him to Stanford University. 

Between Toledo's boyhood and his presidency, the Peace Corps had been sidelined by the political troubles and guerrilla warfare that had bedeviled Peru. After assuming the presidency three years ago, however, Toledo invited back to his country the organization that had made such a difference in his own life.

Hirsh said that the Peace Corps in Peru will concentrate on projects with "multiplier effects." For example, peace corps volunteers will train Peruvians to become health promoters in their own villages. 

The volunteers will teach the health promoters about sanitation, AIDS prevention, controlling upper respiratory infection, family planning and other skills which they in turn can pass onto the people of their villages.

In the area of the environment, similarly, Peace Corps volunteers will teach locals about forestry management, soil conservation--a whole package of environmental techniques, Hirsh said.

As the Peace Corps director for Peru, Hirsh anticipates maintaining contacts with numerous San Diegans, among them members of the San Diego Peace Corps Association. That organization raises funds for "extra projects" that the Peace Corps may tackle. For example, said Hirsh, who has been an active member of the organization in San Diego, if a school is built , there may not be sufficient funds to equip its library--so on some occasions the association will raise funds to purchase books.

He also plans to maintain contact with the Jewish community. Already he has benefited by one San Diego connection. Rabbi Arnold Kopikis of Ner Tamid Synagogue once was the teacher at the Conservative Jewish seminary of Buenos Aires, Argentina, of Rabbi Guillermo Bronstein.

Bronstein today is the rabbi of the 1870 Union Synagogue, with which Hirsh plans to affiliate. Hirsh estimates that in a country of approximately 20 million people, 10,000 are Jews.
Donald H. Harrison