The highly motivated and spirited team of Peace Corps volunteers that we see today, is the result of the untiring and relentless efforts taken by the then-senator John F. Kennedy. Know more about it in the following paragraphs…
A voluntary organization set up by the US Government, the Peace Corps employs volunteers from across the USA, and sends them to different nations that are in need of skilled manpower in areas requiring development.
The following declaration issued under ‘The Peace Corps Act’ presents before us the perfect picture of the Peace Corps’ mission:
To promote world peace and friendship through Peace Corps, which shall make available to interested countries and areas men and women of the United States qualified for service abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help the people of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower.
The institution works in areas such as education, environment, agriculture, business, and information technology. The tasks set before the volunteers are carried out in tandem with the schools, local governments, businessmen, and non-governmental organizations.
The Peace Corps was established on March 1, 1961, and was actualized on September 22 in the same year, when the Congress passed ‘The Peace Corps Act’.
At present, the Peace Corps operates in 76 countries with 7,876 individuals volunteering on 70 different posts. The major tasks undertaken by today’s volunteers are:
- Providing clean water to needy communities
- Creating awareness in the field of HIV/AIDS
- Development of information technology
- Business development
All these activities are given due consideration. However, HIV/AIDS tops the priority list in countries like Botswana and Swaziland, where the volunteers are entirely devoted to prevent this pandemic.
Work Till Date
The work started off by sending geologists to Ghana. Till date, 60,000 volunteers have served in 46 countries in Africa alone. The EMA region, which comprises of Europe, the Mediterranean region, and Asia, has enjoyed the service of 48,250 volunteers. The Inter-America and Pacific region, also known as the ‘IAP’ has received the aid of 73,000 young Americans.
The Peace Corps volunteers have also been the ‘ambassadors’ of the USA. They try to portray a good image of the USA in the third world. Critics have tagged the attempts of Peace Corps ‘a way to foster neocolonialism’.
With demonstrations taking place against the USA the world over against its capitalist and imperialist policies, the government is trying to rebuild its tarnished image. For the same reason, the former President of USA, George W. Bush decided to increase the expenditure on it. The current President, Barack Obama too, supports the enhancement and improvement of the Peace Corps organization.
Like any other organization, the Peace Corps faced some problems in the beginning. A few volunteers complained about the unsatisfactory hygiene and hostile climatic conditions in their work environment. The volunteers were once accused of being America’s spies, by the students of Ibadan University in Nigeria.
The program has faced criticism within the USA, too. Opposition leaders claimed that the program would facilitate ‘draft dodgers’, people who try to evade the conscription policies of a government.
Some Interesting Facts
Notable facts and records regarding the Peace Corps are as follows:
- The number of volunteers to have worked under the program is 1,95,000
- The average age of the volunteers is 27 years, while the median age is 25 years.
- Out of the total number of volunteers, 60% are females and 40% are males. The percentage of unmarried volunteers is 94%!
- At least 90% of the volunteers are undergraduates.
The seeds of the organization were sown during Senator John F. Kennedy’s speech in 1960, when he addressed the students of the University of Michigan. He appealed to them to serve the poor folk of the third world.
This devoted and dedicated workforce, developed by America, exemplifies its potential and commitment to serve the poor and the undeveloped.