People often ask, “What is the Peace Corps?” President John F. Kennedy created this governmental agency in 1961 to promote peace and encourage friendship in developing countries. The organization offers a great opportunity to respond to President Kennedy’s inspirational challenge to “ask what you can do for your country.” Volunteers can use their talents to improve the living conditions in the areas where they serve. Since its formation, approximately 200,000 Peace Corps volunteers have served in almost 140 countries. They have helped local populations with agriculture, education, healthcare, and business development projects.
While the Peace Corps limits enrollment in order to recruit the best possible candidates, there are approximately 8,000 people training or on assignments around the world at any given time. The application process can take as long as 12 months. Peace Corps workers are a diverse group from all over the country. Most are young, educated, and single. Volunteers must be at least 18 years of age. The average age of workers is 25, and approximately 95 percent have at least an undergraduate degree. More than half are women, and nearly 17 percent are ethnic minorities.
The Peace Corps has opportunities in all fields of study. Volunteers are placed into policy areas that match their skills and interests before being sent to their final destination. They can work on conservation efforts and educate farmers on land management projects, such as how to increase crop production, which reduces the need for pesticides. Individuals can work on healthcare and medical assistance projects that include HIV/AIDS education and awareness. Volunteers with technical experience can help with IT infrastructure projects while other individuals can oversee projects that dig wells and plan irrigation and water purification systems. Business majors can train entrepreneurs, develop marketing strategies, and assist local community development initiatives.
There are a number of benefits associated with volunteering for the Peace Corps. One is the possibility of receiving graduate-level credit through Masters International. In addition to a small stipend and medical benefits, volunteers may be entitled to a deferment on their student loan payments for the duration of their assignment. Not only do volunteers gain valuable work and technical knowledge, they also achieve a better understanding of different cultures and language skills that are invaluable in today’s global economic and cultural environment. When their service is over, volunteers receive financial assistance to aid the transition to a life outside of the Peace Corps.
Image credits: peacecorps.gov, smcm.edu