Established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, the United States Peace Corps is a humanitarian volunteer organization made-up of thousands of people not unlike you who dedicate a chunk of their lives to helping those in developing third-world countries all over the world. With a majority of their volunteers in Africa, the Peace Corps currently services 65 countries on almost every continent. It is, in my opinion, a great organization that provides services that those in developing countries wouldn’t get if not for the organization.
From Idea to Reality
A decent portion of the population is familiar with the fact that President Kennedy founded the Peace Corps, but it was actually Senator Hubert Humphrey, a democrat from South Dakota, who first proposed the idea in 1957, going so far as to bring a bill to the floor. The bill didn’t pass, however, which moved the topic off the radar until young President Kennedy reignited the idea in 1960, where it would be dubbed during a speech as the Peace Corps.
A Growing Group for Good
Since its foundation, the Peace Corps has sent its volunteers to over 139 countries all over the world, with a primary focus on education in Africa. Like many charitable organizations, the Peace Corps has refused to turn a blind eye to the excruciating need seen throughout Africa, from dire hunger to ravaging disease.
Coming in second, but with half as many volunteers, is Latin America. This region features more plight than I think many Americans realize, focused considerably around intense poverty. The Peace Corps provides education in these regions, but also on health care, which is often another dire need.
How the Volunteers Help
As said, education is by far the greatest resource that the Peace Corps provides, though it is followed by healthcare, environmental care, economic development, youth development, and even agriculture. When in country, the Peace Corps coordinators identify where the greatest help is needed, and hand select and train a group of dedicated volunteers who spend years in the area helping in those areas, as well as multitasking in different areas that would be helpful for the community.
Sacrifice of the Family
This story is somewhat personal for me, as my late Grandmother joined the Peace Corps while at the ripe age of 70. Never being one to let something like age get in the way of doing great things, she jumped in head first into a small country on the border of the Ukraine called Moldova.
While she was donating her time to teaching children English, her family which included myself and my Mother, were forced to often go weeks without any word from her. We knew that she was over there doing good things for the people, and for the world, but make no mistake that it isn’t only the volunteer that is sacrificing when someone joins the Peace Corps, their family is sacrificing their loved one as well. That is likely why 93% of all Peace Corps volunteers are single.
In a time when most government agencies are squeezing the belt as tight as they can, it brings me solace personally to see that between 2013 and 2014 the budget for the Peace Corps has actually increased by over $20 million to $379 million per year. That comparatively small number pays for the transportation, training, and a small stipend for 7,209 volunteers and trainees in the program, their health care during their tour, as well as a bit of administrative stuff as needed.
Further Reading and Sources:
Peace Corps Website
Peace Corps Website – Fast Facts