The Peace Corps began as a result of Congress desiring to help spread Democracy in the aftermath of WWII. In December of 1951, Representative John F. Kennedy suggested to a group of young college graduates that they could make a difference helping underdeveloped nations in the Middle East. He was not alone in this suggestion to young American college graduates, but it would take several years for this dream to develop.
In 1957 Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, JR. introduced the first bill to create the Peace Corps at the encouragement of the President. While it did not go over well, it did begin the move toward to the creation of The Peace Corps.
In 1960 JFK gave a speech at the University of Michigan during his Presidential campaign. He later put forth the name of “Peace Corps”. Executive Order 10924 was signed on March 1, 1961 by President John F. Kennedy bringing the Peace Corps into being under its first director Sargent Shriver (Kennedy’s brother-in-law).
It took until September 22 of that first year for Congress to authorize the program and within two years over 7,300 volunteers were serving in 44 foreign nations. By June of 1966 a record number of volunteers was achieved and has yet to be beaten at 15,000 volunteers.
The program experienced controversy in that first year, but continues to evolve today. It has developed and changed with each new President over the years. Today it has volunteers in 68 countries helping fight disease, build homes and teaching diverse topics. Volunteers are mostly young and predominantly female.
Did you know the historical information above? How about these interesting facts?
- To date 131 countries have been served by over 210,000 Americans
- The typical volunteer has a college degree and gets 3 months training for their assignment.
- A volunteer works for a period of 27 months.
- Volunteers receive a stipend (pay) equal to the average resident in the community served.
- Volunteers get full medical, dental coverage
- 2 Vacation days per month.
- Deferment of student loans and even possible forgiveness of those loans.
Being a volunteer with the Peace Corps is far more than it appears on the surface. It is work experience that has benefits that can last a lifetime.