But if a typical vacation for you doesn’t include government chaperoning, hand washing your clothes in a bucket, or your best friends being a host family that doesn’t speak a word of English, you might join the Peace Corps for a few other reasons than exotic relaxation.
US President John F. Kennedy first announced his desire to start the Peace Corps on the steps of the University of Michigan Union on October 14, 1960 at 2am to thousands of eagerly awaiting students. President Kennedy spoke of the opportunities the 1960s will present the United States of America and challenged Michigan students to support the US by contributing to the world. He asked the supportive crowd, “How many of you who are going to be doctors, are willing to spend your days in Ghana? Technicians or engineers, how many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives traveling around the world? On your willingness to do that, not merely to serve one year or two years in the service, but on your willingness to contribute part of your life to this country, I think will depend the answer whether a free society can compete. I think it can! And I think Americans are willing to contribute. But the effort must be far greater than we have ever made in the past.” Four and a half months later, President Kennedy officially started the Peace Corps and appointed his brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver as its first director.
Fifty years after its inception, the Peace Corps has grown to serve 139 countries with almost 200,000 volunteers. The organization currently serves more than 75 countries with about 4,000 new volunteers a year who each serve for a total of 27 months.
There are only three minimum requirements to submit an application to become a volunteer: (1) At least 18 years old (2) In good health (3) A U.S. Citizen. Competitive applicants are assessed on their educational/work background, language abilities, health restraints, placement flexibility and volunteer experience. The average application takes 6 – 12 months to complete.
The Peace Corps recruits volunteers in a variety of work areas including: Education – 33%, Youth and Community Development – 18%, Health and HIV/AIDS – 18%, Business and Information & Communication Technology – 17%, Agriculture – 8% and Environment 7%. There is no fee to become a volunteer. Benefits include: Travel to & from country of service, Medical & Dental care, monthly living allowance, language & technical training, 48 paid vacation days, over $6000 upon completion of service and Graduate School and Career opportunities.