News / USA

At 50, US Peace Corps Still Draws Volunteers

President John F. Kennedy gives a personal farewell message to Peace Corps volunteers in the White House Rose Garden August 28, 1961, before their departure the following day for assignments in Africa
President John F. Kennedy gives a personal farewell message to Peace Corps volunteers in the White House Rose Garden August 28, 1961, before their departure the following day for assignments in Africa

Alex Gordon volunteered in the Peace Corps in the early 1990s. He has a box full of keepsakes from the more than two years he spent building a rural school in Paraguay.

“Yeah it brings back a whole lot of memories,” he admits.

Gordon says volunteering in the Peace Corps is about more than doing good in the world.

“It gives you the confidence that you can really do anything,” he explains.

Like volunteering again. Two decades, Gordon is rejoining for another stint and this time he will go to Liberia.



President John F. Kennedy created the Peace Corps in 1961. He told new volunteers on the South Lawn of the White House that America’s reputation in the countries they were going to would depend to a large extent on them.

“And if you can impress them with your commitment, to freedom, to the advancement of the interests of people everywhere, to your pride in your country and its best traditions, and what it stands for, the influence may be far-reaching,” Kennedy said.

Since then, more than 200,000 volunteers have worked in countries all over the world.

One of those was Aaron Williams, who is now the Peace Corps director.

“Everywhere I go, Jerome, I find that the leadership met a Peace Corps volunteer many, many years ago and that had a really positive impact, a transformative experience in their lives - prime ministers, presidents, cabinet officials, leaders of large companies in the countries where we serve,” Williams notes.

PEACE CORPS FACTS

About the volunteers

  • Over 200,000 Americans have served
  • 8,655 current volunteers/trainees
  • 60% women, 40% men
    19% minorities 7% over 50


Peace Corps supporters say it furthers America’s foreign policy goals at an infinitesimal cost compared to the U.S. military budget. But President Barack Obama has not kept a campaign promise to double the organization's size and Congress is proposing tens of millions of dollars in cuts.

Still new volunteers keep signing up. Supriyah Shah is a student at George Washington University where she works in local community service while waiting for her posting.

She says recent American media reports about the rape and murder of a volunteer in West Africa don’t scare her.

“It’s kind of dangerous to be a woman anywhere,” she says.

Supriyah's friend Matt Francolino is also a new volunteer. He spent last summer living much like he will in the Peace Corps - in a rural village in West Africa, with no electricity or running water.
“It was the best two months of my entire life!" he exclaims. "And I wondered to myself how is that possible? I didn’t have my cell phone, no computer access, and I realized there were so many more important things that I was looking for in life.”

Volunteers say living with families in those villages is part of what makes the Peace Corp different from other humanitarian organizations - and say they take away at least as much from the experience as they give.

Peace Corps Timeline


Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid