2006.03.29: March 29, 2006: Headlines: : US State Department: The Peace Corps, 45 and Growing, Plans To Serve More Nations

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The Peace Corps, 45 and Growing, Plans To Serve More Nations

The Peace Corps, 45 and Growing, Plans To Serve More Nations

John F. Kennedy's challenge continues to draw Americans to volunteer. Peace Corps volunteers -- current and past -- continue to fulfill John F. Kennedy's vision. They are helping to bring the world closer together.

The Peace Corps, 45 and Growing, Plans To Serve More Nations

The Peace Corps, 45 and Growing, Plans To Serve More Nations

John F. Kennedy's challenge continues to draw Americans to volunteer

By Kathryn McConnell
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- More than 45 years ago on the steps of a student hall at a university in the state of Michigan, then-U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy challenged Americans to give two years of their lives to act as global citizens and help people in countries of the developing world.

When Kennedy was sworn in as president months later, one of his first executive actions was to sign an order creating a "Peace Corps" on March 1, 1961.

Now concluding a monthlong observance of its 45th anniversary, the Peace Corps is looking to expand into countries "where volunteers have never had the opportunity to serve before," said Gaddi Vasquez, the agency's current director. (See related article.)

More than 5,000 Americans took the first exams to enter the corps, which since has become a world model of volunteerism. The first volunteers arrived in Ghana five months after Kennedy created the Peace Corps.


Through the decades, Peace Corps has continued to fulfill its three goals:
• To help the people of interested countries meet their need for trained workers;
• To promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served; and
• To promote a better understanding of other peoples among Americans.

Since the Peace Corps’ beginning, more than 180,000 have served as volunteers in a total of 138 countries. Alumni include members of Congress, diplomats, educators, business leaders, researchers, doctors, writers and contributors to society in many other fields.

Returned Peace Corps volunteers use the skills and experiences they gain overseas to become leaders, problem-solvers, and creative voices. Former volunteers possess a high level of confidence, independent judgment and crosscultural resourcefulness.

The Peace Corps experience is reflected in its popular messages to potential volunteers -- from the original "The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love," to the current "Life is Calling: How Far Will You Go?"


The people who join the Peace Corps reflect the rich diversity of the United States in race, ethnic background, age and religion, and possess a wide range of physical abilities and professional skills. They come from all geographical regions and all walks of life. Each brings a unique perspective.

"I can honestly say that I am not the same person I was before becoming a Peace Corps volunteer. I am a better person. I am able to see all sides of an issue or situation. My views on life and people . . . are multifaceted and global," says Nicki Hendrix, a 35-year-old Californian who was the first African-American woman ever to live in her host village in Armenia.

She said she has used her neighbors' unfamiliarity with people of African descent to teach that the United States is an ethnically diverse country.


The 1970s was a period of maturation for the Peace Corps. Despite budget constraints, volunteers were serving in 69 countries by the end of 1974. The Peace Corps was working more closely with developing nations to plan and select projects meeting countries' specific needs.

Volunteers became known to have a significant "multiplier effect" -- transferring their talents to host country nationals who, in turn, share these skills with their fellow citizens.

As the Peace Corps matured so did its volunteers. In the 1970s, the average age of a volunteer was 27; 5 percent were over 50 years old.

In 1981, Congress passed legislation making Peace Corps an independent government agency. By the Peace Corps' 20th birthday, nearly 98,000 volunteers had served in 88 countries.

In 1989, Peace Corps established World Wise Schools, a program that enabled students in U.S. classrooms to correspond with volunteers serving overseas in an effort to promote international awareness and cross-cultural understanding. By the end of the year, more than 550 schools were participating in the program. Returning volunteers still participate in the continuing World Wise Schools program as guest speakers.

The 1990s witnessed several historic events involving the Peace Corps:

In 1990 the first volunteers to serve in Eastern Europe departed the United States for Hungary and Poland; in 1992, the first group of volunteers to serve in the former Soviet Union departed to work in small-business enterprise projects in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania; in 1993, the first group of volunteers to work in China departed to serve as English teachers.

The Peace Corps launched the Crisis Corps in 1995. This program allowed volunteers who had returned to the United States to provide short-term assistance during natural disasters and humanitarian crises.

In the 1990s, volunteers began to have access to new technologies that brought to them teaching and technical materials and ways to stay in contact with their families.


Throughout its history, the Peace Corps has kept volunteer safety its top priority. When conditions in a country raise safety or security concerns, the agency suspends and sometimes closes operations in the country. In March, the Peace Corps withdrew volunteers from Bangladesh for safety reasons.

Currently there are more than 7,800 volunteers serving in 76 countries. The oldest current volunteer is 79.

On March 29, the Peace Corps announced a partnership with Cambodia March 29 that will bring American volunteers to the Southeast Asian country for the first time in the agency's history. (See related article.)

Peace Corps volunteers -- current and past -- continue to fulfill John F. Kennedy's vision. They are helping to bring the world closer together.

More information is available on the Peace Corps Web site.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

When this story was posted in May 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Contact PCOLBulletin BoardRegisterSearch PCOLWhat's New?

Peace Corps Online The Independent News Forum serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
It's Official: Vasquez nominated to FAO Date: April 25 2006 No: 881 It's Official: Vasquez nominated to FAO
Exactly one week ago we predicted that Director Vasquez would soon be receiving a major ambassadorship. Today the White House confirmed that Vasquez will be the new Representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture replacing Tony Hall.

PCOL Comment: Director Vasquez, let us be the first to thank you for your service to the Peace Corps, congratulate you on your new appointment, and wish you good luck in your future endeavors. Although we have had our differences over the years and we opposed your nomination in 2001, we think you are leaving a solid legacy of accomplishment and have served the Peace Corps well.

Initiatives and Accomplishments: Vasquez's major initiatives and accomplishments since becoming Peace Corps Director include: an agreement with Mexico in 2003 to host volunteers, sending RPCVs to work domestically in Hurricane relief after Katrina, emphasis on recruitment of minorities and of community college graduates, upgrading Peace Corps' infrastructure especially IT upgrades in the online application tracking process and the Volunteer Delivery System, an emphasis on safety and security of volunteers including the creation of a Situation Room at Peace Corps Headquarters, modifying Peace Corps' "Five Year Rule" for employment, and the expansion of the Peace Corps to its highest level in 30 years. He is the third longest serving Peace Corps Director after Loret Ruppe Miller and Sargent Shriver.

Top Stories and Breaking News PCOL Magazine Peace Corps Library RPCV Directory Sign Up

The Peace Corps Library Date: February 24 2006 No: 798 The Peace Corps Library
The Peace Corps Library is now available online with over 40,000 index entries in 500 categories. Looking for a Returned Volunteer? Check our RPCV Directory. New: Sign up to receive PCOL Magazine, our free Monthly Magazine by email. Like to keep up with Peace Corps news as it happens? Sign up to recieve a daily summary of Peace Corps stories from around the world.

Interview with a Hit Man Date: April 25 2006 No: 880 Interview with a Hit Man
RPCV John Perkins says that for many years he was an "economic hit man" in the world of international finance whose primary job was to convince less developed countries to accept multibillion dollar loans for infrastructure projects that left the recipient countries wallowing in debt and highly vulnerable to outside political and commercial interests. In this exclusive interview for "Peace Corps Online," Colombia RPCV Joanne Roll, author of Remember with Honor, talks to Perkins about his Peace Corps service, his relation with the NSA, "colonization" in Ecuador, the consequences of his work, why he decided to speak out, and what his hopes are for change.

PC Program in Chad temporarily suspended Date: April 14 2006 No: 872 PC Program in Chad temporarily suspended
Director Vasquez announced the temporary suspension of the Peace Corps program in Chad on April 14 and that all 29 Peace Corps volunteers have left the country. With a program dating back forty years (See Page 4 of the April 1966 "Peace Corps Volunteer"), RPCVs hope that volunteers can return to Chad as soon as the situation has stabilized. Congratulations to the Peace Corps for handling the suspension quickly and professionally.

Peace Corps stonewalls on FOIA request Date: April 12 2006 No: 869 Peace Corps stonewalls on FOIA request
The Ashland Daily Tidings reports that Peace Corps has blocked their request for information on the Volkart case. "After the Tidings requested information pertaining to why Volkart was denied the position — on March 2 — the newspaper received a letter from the Peace Corps FOIA officer stating the requested information was protected under an exemption of the act." The Dayton Daily News had similar problems with FOIA requests for their award winning series on Volunteer Safety and Security.

PCOL readership increases 100% Date: April 3 2006 No: 853 PCOL readership increases 100%
Monthly readership on "Peace Corps Online" has increased in the past twelve months to 350,000 visitors - over eleven thousand every day - a 100% increase since this time last year. Thanks again, RPCVs and Friends of the Peace Corps, for making PCOL your source of information for the Peace Corps community. And thanks for supporting the Peace Corps Library and History of the Peace Corps. Stay tuned, the best is yet to come.

History of the Peace Corps Date: March 18 2006 No: 834 History of the Peace Corps
PCOL is proud to announce that Phase One of the "History of the Peace Corps" is now available online. This installment includes over 5,000 pages of primary source documents from the archives of the Peace Corps including every issue of "Peace Corps News," "Peace Corps Times," "Peace Corps Volunteer," "Action Update," and every annual report of the Peace Corps to Congress since 1961. "Ask Not" is an ongoing project. Read how you can help.

PC announces new program in Cambodia Date: March 29 2006 No: 849 PC announces new program in Cambodia
Director Vasquez and Cambodia's Deputy Chief of Mission Meng Eang Nay announced a historic new partnership between the Peace Corps and the Kingdom of Cambodia that will bring volunteers to this Southeast Asian country for the first time. Under King Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen, Cambodia has welcomed new partnerships with the U.S. government and other U.S. organizations.

Top Stories: March 23, 2006 Date: March 23 2006 No: 846 Top Stories: March 23, 2006
Peace Corps celebrates 45th Anniversary 9 Mar
Celeste joins Stonebridge International 21 Mar
Spain plans Peace Corps 20 Mar
Rita Botts learns about living in layers in Ukraine 18 Mar
Melanie Boyer writes "About Last Night" 17 Mar
Pat Waak files campaign complaint 15 Mar
Tom Bissell is a 'Yooper' 15 Mar
Toledo keeps Peru's dispute with Yale in the public eye 14 Mar
Lack of teachers for 'Critical Languages' 14 Mar
Keith and Jenny Gelber met as PCVs in Zambia 10 Mar
Bush presents award to Amber Davis-Collins 9 Mar
Brian Singer founded Project Zawadi 9 Mar
Christopher R. Hill speaks on East Asia in Transition 9 Mar
Edmund Hull says patience will win war on terrorism 7 Mar
Miriam Gray reconnects with Brazil RPCV after 40 years 5 Mar
Ashley Tsongas keynotes Women's Week Breakfast 5 Mar
Sari Long says PC has much to teach us 3 Mar
Dana Priest calls for Peace Corps for the 21st Century 4 Mar
Vasquez says PC needs to be more racially diverse 4 Mar
Peace Corps Fund ready for first round of grants 2 Mar
Shriver Peaceworkers Celebrate 12 Years 1 Mar
White House plans to close Americorps NCCC Program 1 Mar

Peace Corps suspends program in Bangladesh Date: March 16 2006 No: 827 Peace Corps suspends program in Bangladesh
Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez announced the suspension of the Peace Corps program in Bangladesh on March 15. The safety and security of volunteers is the number one priority of the Peace Corps. Therefore, all Peace Corps volunteers serving in Bangladesh have safely left the country. More than 280 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Bangladesh since the program opened in November 1998. Latest: What other newspapers say.

Invitee re-assigned after inflammatory remarks Date: March 21 2006 No: 839 Invitee re-assigned after inflammatory remarks
The Peace Corps has pulled the invitation to Derek Volkart to join the Morocco Training Program and offered him a position in the Pacific instead after officials read an article in which he stated that his decision to join the Peace Corps was in "response to our current fascist government." RPCV Lew Nash says that "If Derek Volkart spoke his mind as freely in Morocco about the Moroccan monarchy it could cause major problems for himself and other Peace Corps volunteers." Latest: Volkart reverses stance, takes new assignment in Paraguay.

RPCV admits to abuse while in Peace Corps Date: February 3 2006 No: 780 RPCV admits to abuse while in Peace Corps
Timothy Ronald Obert has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a minor in Costa Rica while serving there as a Peace Corps volunteer. "The Peace Corps has a zero tolerance policy for misconduct that violates the law or standards of conduct established by the Peace Corps," said Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez. Could inadequate screening have been partly to blame? Mr. Obert's resume, which he had submitted to the Peace Corps in support of his application to become a Peace Corps Volunteer, showed that he had repeatedly sought and obtained positions working with underprivileged children. Read what RPCVs have to say about this case.

Military Option sparks concerns Date: January 3 2006 No: 773 Military Option sparks concerns
The U.S. military, struggling to fill its voluntary ranks, is allowing recruits to meet part of their reserve military obligations after active duty by serving in the Peace Corps. Read why there is opposition to the program among RPCVs. Director Vasquez says the agency has a long history of accepting qualified applicants who are in inactive military status. John Coyne says "Not only no, but hell no!" and RPCV Chris Matthews leads the debate on "Hardball." Avi Spiegel says Peace Corps is not the place for soldiers while Coleman McCarthy says to Welcome Soldiers to the Peace Corps. Read our poll results. Latest: Congress passed a bill on December 22 including language to remove Peace Corps from the National Call to Service (NCS) military recruitment program

Why blurring the lines puts PCVs in danger Date: October 22 2005 No: 738 Why blurring the lines puts PCVs in danger
When the National Call to Service legislation was amended to include Peace Corps in December of 2002, this country had not yet invaded Iraq and was not in prolonged military engagement in the Middle East, as it is now. Read the story of how one volunteer spent three years in captivity from 1976 to 1980 as the hostage of a insurrection group in Colombia in Joanne Marie Roll's op-ed on why this legislation may put soldier/PCVs in the same kind of danger. Latest: Read the ongoing dialog on the subject.

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Story Source: US State Department

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