Friday, July 13, 2007

Mourning the M-Bag

Mom, do you remember sending me that mail bag full of books a few years back? Imagine, a whole bag full of books, magazines, PRINTED MATERIAL arriving – and you get to keep the bag too! (Just roll your eyes at the drunken post office workers when they tell you that you have to return it).

Well, sadly, that beautiful M-Bag is suddenly a thing of the past. The US Postal Service has eliminated M-bag service as we knew it – that cheap, slow way to send a large amount of media almost anywhere. Now, rates are set to more than triple, meaning a lot of PCVs and other overseas workers and projects won’t be able to benefit from these projects in the future.

A lot has been said in a lot of places about the impact this decision will have on small volunteers and projects – I won’t say more, but will simply ask that if you are willing to support those of us who benefit from big bags full of books that arrive in obscure some several months later, much to the delight and even elation of the recipient, consider following the link below. You can sign the petition to voice your support for leaving a few inexpensive means of doing a whole lot of good in this over-priced world. Please support something that gives back so many times over for what the initial investment is. Even if you never use it – know that somebody in some corner of nowhere will be glad they can still get a whole bunch of books (and a great, heavy duty bag!) delivered for cheap!

For more info about this from the PC community, read on below…

----- Forwarded Message ---- Subject: Connecticut RPCV E-News July 2007

Connecticut RPCV E-News

Important Action Item!!

Recent US Postal Service changes will impact many programs, projects and people who rely on media materials mailed to overseas locations. Here is the link that announces the "demise" of the US Postal Service surface Media-Bag (M-Bag) rates as we know them. "To make it easier for customers to mail letters and packages worldwide, the Postal Service (USPS) has simplified the eight main International Mail products into four." This means that the air mail rate for M-Bags - the only option available as of May 14 - is $3.70/lb, eleven pound minimum. What used to cost $11.55 will now cost $40.70 - a significant increase and one that impacts many Peace Corps Volunteers, literacy programs, and libraries, etc. who rely on having books and print matter mailed to them! Following are 4 things YOU can do - critical actions that may help rectify this change. Please act NOW! (Thanks Shannon Bown & Lance Cole/Friends of Malawi for sharing the following...)

1.) The NPCA Advocacy Director is setting up some meetings with the appropriate Congressional staff to voice our concerns and communicate the impact of this change. There will be 3-5 participants on "our" side. Meetings will be in early July. 2.) Today, we started an online petition, asking that the surface M-Bag be reinstated. The URL is Could you sign the petition? Please make a "comment" about how you have used M-Bag, and the impact these books have. Also, identify yourself as a "Friend of Ukraine", RPCV, relative of a former PCV in Malawi, or whatever! The USPS manager in charge of Global policy is going to be checking the petition daily. That's why comments are so important; and identification of the signer is so important. He can start getting a feel for the impact of this change, by the people effected, and the comments made. 3.) Please ask all of your colleagues, friends, family, etc. to sign the petition. (They don't need to have sent M-Bags or received M-Bags to sign the petition). We need to get 100s of people to sign this! 4.) We have started a Yahoo Group, to keep us all in touch on what is going on, what we have heard, what we are doing, etc. Please join us. If you're interested, you can join the group by addressing a message to Thanks for your support...we expect this to be a long journey. Please, write to your senators and representatives. Share this info with friends and family - take action! Ginn (& Mark) Pulver Ukraine 2005-2007

Postal Changes threaten local CT organization serving Peace Corps Volunteers

Darien Book Aid Plan, formed in 1949, began sending free books to Peace Corps volunteers when it began. There have been various arrangements for the books to get to the volunteers over the years. A normal year will see Book Aid sending between 22,000-25,000 pounds of books to between 300-500 PCVs. In many cases, Book Aid has been the only agency that responded to a PCVs plea for books.

Book Aid is a low-key operation that raises money for the postage and the few expenses associated with the mailings. Up until May of 2007 when the US Postal Service eliminated the surface M-bag method of shipping books, all PCVs got the books they requested. While they certainly fell short of what could stock a library, often the books made a huge difference in the PCV's effectiveness at their site.

Book Aid has been left with a challenge to continue this service with a finite amount of funds for shipping. For now, we are continuing to send books at a rate that is triple the rate prior to May 14, 2007. We are committed to continuing to send books and will do so until our money runs out. Then, we will have to gently fold our tent and wish the best to the PCVs of the future, most of whom will be without the one agency that actually always came through for them.

(I began this one-year job in 1986. Time flies. Peggy)

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