The Peace Corps
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The Peace Corps

Established by President Kennedy on March 1, 1961 and authorized by Congress on September 22, 1961 with passage of the Peace Corps Act, the mission of the Peace Corps is three-fold: to provide technical assistance, help people outside the United States to understand US culture, and help Americans understand the cultures of other countries.

The Peace Corps is an American volunteer program run by the United States Government, as well as a government agency of the same name.

Established by President Kennedy on March 1, 1961, and authorized by Congress on September 22, 1961 with passage of the Peace Corps Act, the mission of the Peace Corps is three-fold: to provide technical assistance, help people outside the United States to understand US culture, and help Americans understand the cultures of other countries.  Generally, the work is related to social and economic development.

Concerned with the growing tide of revolutionary sentiment in the Third World, Kennedy saw the Peace Corps as a means of countering the stereotype of the "Ugly American" and "Yankee imperialism," especially in the emerging nations of post-colonial Africa and Asia.

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The Peace Corps Act states the program's purpose as follows: "To promote world peace and friendship through a 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 peoples of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower."

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Each program participant (Peace Corps Volunteer) is an American citizen, typically with a college degree, who will work abroad for a period of two years after a three-month training program. Volunteers work with governments, schools, non-profit organizations, non-government organizations, and entrepreneurs in education, hunger, business, information technology, agriculture, and the environment. After the twenty-four month period of service, volunteers can request an extension of service.

Since 1961, over 200,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps and have served in 139 countries and regions of the world including: Afghanistan, Armenia, Baltics Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burkina, Faso, Cameroon China, Colombia, Congo (Zaire), Costa Rica, Cote D'Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Eastern Caribbean, Ecuador, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Honduras, India, Iran, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Liberia, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritania, Micronesia, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Romania, Samoa, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe.

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The Peace Corps offers a variety of environmental programs.  Needs assessments determine which programs best apply to each country, with programs designed to include effective and efficient forms of farming, recycling, park management, environmental education, and developing alternative fuel sources. Volunteers must have some combination of academic degrees and practical experience (90% have at least an undergraduate degree).

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The Peace Corps’ three major programs are: Protected-Areas Management, Environment Education or Awareness, and Forestry.

In Protected-Areas Management, volunteers work with parks or other programs to teach resource conservation. Volunteer activities include technical training, working with park staff on wildlife preservation, organizing community-based conservation programs for sustainable use of forests or marine resources, and creating activities for raising revenue to protect the environment.

Environment Education or Awareness focuses on communities that have environmental issues regarding farming and income. Programs include teaching in elementary and secondary schools, youth environmental education programs, development of environmental groups, support of forest and marine resource sustainability, generating money, urban sanitation management, and educating indigenous farmers about soil conservation, forestry, and vegetable gardening.

Forestry programs help communities conserve their natural resources through projects such as soil conservation, creation of sustainable fuels, flood control, agroforestry (fruit and vegetable production), alley cropping, and protection of biodiversity.

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Currently, there are approximately 8,655 Peace Corps volunteers and trainees, with a 60% female to 40% male ratio, whose average age is 28--though volunteers over the age of 50 constitute 7%.   According to former director Gaddi Vasquez, the Peace Corps is hoping to recruit a more diverse range of volunteers of different ages and make it look "more like America.”  Ethnic minorities currently comprise 19% of volunteers, while 35% of the US population are Hispanic or non-White.


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Comments (5)

A very worthwhile organisation and comprehensively described in this article. Excellent.

Thanks, Marion.

On my travels around the world I have met one or two people that belong to this organization, they do a very good job often in difficult circumstances.

How I wish to join this group before. Excellent description James.

Thanks for the comments, guys. Much appreciated.