Thinking of joining the Peace Corps? I often dreamed of joining the Peace Corps when I was a teenager, and I still may take the leap one day. Here are some interesting facts that surprised me about the Peace Corps:
A large majority of Peace Corps volunteers are female
I was surprised to learn that 63% of Peace Corps volunteers are female. I’m really impressed by all the brave and compassionate women who volunteer to make a difference overseas. The Peace Corps wasn’t always as attractive to women; in the 1960s 65 percent of the volunteers were men. Today over 4,000 women serve in the Peace Corps, and the Peace Corps has strong initiatives to help women in developing countries with education, health care, and self-empowerment. After their Peace Corps service overseas, many women return home to serve in other roles. Many former female Peace Corps volunteers go on to be educators, especially in inner-city schools.
President Jimmy Carter’s was in the Peace Corps
Lilian Carter, President Jimmy Carter’s mother, volunteered to serve in the Peace Corps as a nurse in 1966. At the time, Jimmy Carter was running for governor of Georgia, and Lilian Carter was a 67 years old, well off widow. Lilian Carter’s intention to join the Peace Corps shocked everyone, including her children. The Peace Corps was so surprised that they asked Lilian Carter to undergo a psychiatric evaluation before joining up. Miss Lilian (as she was known) ended up volunteering as a nurse in India until right after her 70th birthday. These days the Peace Corps awards an annual Lilian Carter Award to outstanding volunteers over 50 in the Peace Corps.
There are shorter volunteer terms
Back when I was considering the Peace Corps, I was surprised that it required a two year commitment. While regular Peace Corps volunteers still need to work for two years, professionals with ten years of work experience can do a shorter stint called Peace Corps Response. If you have technical, cross-cultural, or other specific skill sets projects need, you can volunteer from 3 to 12 months. This is a great opportunity for people who have always wanted to be in the Peace Corps but can’t take the time out for a two year commitment.
Married couples can serve together
While 93 percent of Peace Corps volunteers are single, married couples are welcome and able to serve together. In fact, most married individuals who volunteer for the Peace Corps volunteer with a spouse. Same sex couples are welcome to serve in the Peace Corps and are extended the same privileges as heterosexual couples, regardless of whether they are legally married in their home US state or not.
The country with the most volunteers is surprising
When I think of the Peace Corps, I think of people serving in Africa. While 40 percent of volunteers currently serve in Africa, the country that has had the most volunteers in the history of the Peace Corps is the Philippines. Over 8,700 people have served in the Philippines. In the 1970s, the Peace Corps focused on social and economic development in rural areas. From the mid-1980s to 1990s, Peace Corps volunteers mostly trained high school teachers and worked on industrial infrastructure.