A little over 50 years ago, the Peace Corps was formally instated and since then this world famous service organization has sent more than 215,000 volunteers to 139 countries. They send American volunteers to tackle the most pressing needs of citizens around the globe. As the name implies, the Peace Corps is dedicated to spreading peace and friendship around the world but there is a lot people don’t know about them.
Here are 5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Peace Corps:
The Peace Corps has served as muse for over 1000 volunteers turned authors.
Maybe it’s the youth and hopeful spirit of the average volunteer or the fact that writing a book about life changing experiences is just what you are supposed to do. Either way, more than 1000 Peace Corps alumni have turned their experience into a published book. Maybe you have heard of Paul Theroux or Peter Hessler? Not their most famous works but you can read their expatriate observations and those of a thousand others.
The Peace Corps can be particularly dangerous for female volunteers.
In 2011 the ABC news series 20/20 ran an investigation that showed that more than 1000 American female Peace Corps volunteers had either been raped or sexually assaulted while serving overseas. Adding to the shock of the high number is the fact that many victims claimed that these attacks were known to the organization who did nothing to protect them and sometime went as far as blaming the women for the attacks. Director Aaron Williams was forced to testify before Congress and pledged to reform the Peace Corps.
Richard Nixon claimed the Peace Corp was a favorite escape for draft dodgers.
When presidential candidate John F. Kennedy proposed the Peace Corp the Vietnam War was in full swing and being drafted was a real fear for many young men. College students were huge supporters of the Peace Corp proposal and Kennedy’s opponent, Richard Nixon, labeled the program a haven for draft dodgers. This was interesting because Peace Corp service was no guarantee against being drafted. It wasn’t until 1967 that Director Jack Vaughn started making a case to exempt corps volunteers from the draft.
The Badgers do it better… or I should say they do it more.
The 2014 rankings of top volunteer-producing colleges (with at least 90 alumni as current volunteers) put The University of Wisconsin-Madison Badgers at number one. Western Washington University topped the medium school ranking and Gonzanga University was the top volunteering small school. Historically Berkley and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have the highest number of alumni volunteers with 3,544 and 3.070 respectively as of 2013.
Nepotism was alive and well in the beginnings of the Peace Corps.
When President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, he didn’t search far from home when picking someone to head up his new program. Sargent Shriver, the first director, was in fact Kennedy’s brother-in-law. After his appointment far from home Sargent would be as he traveled 350,000 in the first three years, visiting 35 countries and contracting dysentery three times.
If you are interested in more information you will find that the Peace Corps is more social than your average 50 year old. You can connect with them just about everywhere by checking out their fact sheet.