The Peace Corps is a volunteer program run by the United States government. The program sets out to help those living outside of the United States understand American culture. Volunteers perform a series of different tasks in a variety of areas including education, environment, community economic development, and health. Volunteers travel the world and work in countries from Asia to Central America and from Europe to Africa. They go to a series of places ranging from governments and schools to local businesses and organizations in order to address a variety of needs in education, health, technology, etc. Although many have heard of the Peace Corps, there are many lesser-known facts about the organization. Here are five facts you might not know about the Peace Corps.
1. Former President John F. Kennedy did not start the Peace Corps. Many people think Kennedy was the first to introduce the concept of a Peace Corps, but he was not. In 1957, former Senator Hubert Humphrey from the state of Minnesota was the first to suggest the Peace Corp. He introduced a bill that would create the organization, but it did not pass. However, during his 1960 presidential campaign three years later, Kennedy mentioned the idea of a Peace Corps while giving a speech at the University of Michigan, and once he was elected as President, he signed an executive order officially created the Peace Corps.
2. It was a solution for those trying to avoid the draft. The introduction of the Peace Corps happened to be at the same time as the Vietnam War, and one of the critiques of the organization coming from many, including former President Richard Nixon, was that the organization would serve as a safe haven for those attempting to avoid being drafted.
3. Several well known figures have volunteered with the Peace Corps. Bob Vila, home improvement television personality, volunteered in Panama from 1971-1973. Political commentator and MSNBC news anchor Chris Matthews served in Swaziland from 1968-1970. Former US Senator Christopher Dodd served in the Dominican Republic from 1966-1968.
4. Many Peace Corps volunteers have written books about their experiences. Volunteering in the Peace Corps is certainly a unique experience and a great opportunity to help people, and many of the organization’s volunteers have written books to share their stories. George Packer is an American journalist most notable for his work with The New Yorker, and his book entitled “The Village of Waiting,” chronicles his experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo.
5. Much like with any positive thing, the Peace Corps is not without its scandal. In 2011, the Peace Corps faced serious allegations accusing the organization of being fully aware of, yet not acting upon, the rape and sexual assault of American women serving overseas. Another criticism of the organization is that it is merely a way to improve the image of the United States of America, but it does not actually fulfill its goals around the world.
Deciding to join the Peace Corps is both a serious and honorable decision. Those interested can apply on the Peace Corps website.