Most of us have heard of the Peace Corps, and know they travel the world to promote world peace. They do this three ways:
- By helping the people of interested countries meet their need for trained men and women;
- By helping to promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people they serve;
- By helping to promote a better understanding of other people on the part of Americans.
But what other information about them is out there? Here are five myths about the Peace Corps explained, that you may not know.
1. President John F. Kennedy both conceptualized and created the Peace Corps.
According to Time Magazine, the original idea for the Peace Corps actually came from Senator Hubert Humphrey in 1957. He introduced the first bill for it, but that bill never passed. Three years later, Kennedy revitalized the idea, and then signed it into existence via executive order in 1961, after his election. Later on, Congress formalized the Peace Corps so it would be an autonomous government agency.
2. The Peace Corps is a front for the CIA.
That’s a persistent myth that never quite dies. The Time Magazine article discusses how Peace Corps volunteers get ingrained in the cultures of the countries in which they volunteer, so they often learn things that could be useful to our government. That makes it easy for conspiracy theorists to believe that it’s just a front for the CIA.
However, the Peace Corps has never been associated with the CIA. In fact, the CIA has a very strict policy against using Peace Corps volunteers for their purposes, because it could put them in danger. Besides that, Peace Corps service bars people from employment in any U.S. intelligence agencies.
3. Peace Corps volunteers don’t get paid.
In general, when we volunteer for something, we aren’t paid. Non-profits depend heavily on volunteers because a lot of their revenue comes from donations, which severely limits their income. However, according to Chad Chernet, who’s a Peace Corps recruiter for central and northern Florida, Peace Corps volunteers to get a cost of living allowance, commensurate with the cost of living in the area to which they’re sent.
Peace Corps volunteers also receive $7,425 after the end of their 27 months of service, before taxes, to help with their transition back home. So while Peace Corps volunteers don’t get paid a standard wage or salary, it’s incorrect to say they don’t get paid.
4. Peace Corps volunteers live in huts with no modern conveniences, let alone Internet service.
Current Peace Corps volunteer Ashley Bostrom says that they don’t all live in huts. They also don’t necessarily have zero modern conveniences. That includes Internet service. This volunteer currently serves in Ethiopia, which she says has one of the worst telecommunications networks in the world. She lives in a concrete structure, where she can re-watch episodes of Once Upon a Time if she likes, but also spends her time teaching literature to Ethiopian children.
5. The Peace Corps was a haven for draft dodgers.
Because it was Kennedy who signed the Peace Corps into existence, Richard Nixon predicted it would become “a haven for draft dodgers,” according to Peace Corps information in the National Archives. To avoid that eventuality, Peace Corps volunteers got a draft deferment, but they weren’t exempt and could still find themselves drafted into the military and sent to Vietnam.