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Peace Corps Essay, Research Paper

The Peace Corps is a volunteer service, in which Americans are sent to help undeveloped and extremely poor countries. The volunteers stay in these host countries for two years. They live with the people, in many times poor conditions, and serve and work together with the people of the country. In doing this, the Peace Corps have three major goals: 1) To provide volunteers who give to the social and economic development of interested countries. 2) To promote a better understanding of Americans among the people who the volunteers serve. 3) To strengthen Americans? understanding about the world and its people. Most of all, the organization promotes world peace, and understanding between America and all the other nations and people of the world. It is a United States government agency, and is funded by tax dollars. How did the Peace Corps come to be? It is a very difficult political web of happenings, but can be summed together pretty easily; In the early1960?s the young people of the nation had grown tired of sitting around, they believed America was becoming snobbish and conceited. They wanted change; they wanted to change the world. Then the first sight of that chance came. President Kennedy went to the University of Michigan on October 14, 1960 (though the Peace Corps was originally established on March 1, 1961). In his speech that day, he asked a group of ten thousand students present: “How many of you are willing to spend ten years in Africa or Latin America or Asia working for the US and working for freedom?” This idea, the idea that later became the Peace Corps, gave the chance to quench this thirst for change, and more importantly, action. ?The Peace Corps oath of allegiance for many of us has meant a lifetime pledge of public service, of community concern, and of international awareness. Finding myself now with the opportunity to lead the Peace Corps constitutes a moment of rare fortune.? [Mark L. Schneider

Shriver Hall, Peace Corps Headquarters, Washington, D.C. January 7, 2000]

As a people to people organization, the Peace Corps has depended upon the dedication and commitment of individual Americans for two years, in countries that have requested them. The Peace Corps seeks out people with skill and the dedication to use their skill to help others. It takes a huge amount of commitment because volunteers are placed in the same poor environments as the native citizens. These places usually have no electricity or running water, things that we often taken for granted. “It was an enormous culture shock. One moment I was watching the Sonics game in Chicago and the next, I?m in a little hut in Kenya watching a woman milk a cow.” [Melvin Smith, a Peace Corps veteran in Kenya from 1993, 1995] However, the Peace Core was not created to let Americans shock and dare themselves but instead to export America?s potential and brilliance. It trys to find people like Melvin Smith who gave up the luxuries and comfort of his home for a life in a developing country with a dedication to make a difference in their society.

Senator Hubert Humphrey and Congressman Henry S. Reuss mainly masterminded the plan behind the Peace Corps. However, Kennedy was the person who expressed it. He did so at his speech at the University of Michigan, and many other speeches, including his inaugural address. Especially with his famous line: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” (today this line is kind-of a motto for the Peace Corps). Also, in March of 1961, after being elected president, Kennedy did as he promised, and gave the executive order creating the Peace Corps. Less than half a year later volunteers were already being sent to Ghana. By the end of 1961, the Peace Corps grew to serve a dozen countries, and had close to a thousand volunteers. ?We have Peace Corps Volunteers serving in the poorest towns of Bolivia, Benin, and Bangladesh as well as rural villages of South Africa, Slovakia and the Solomon Islands. Everywhere they serve, they have a common purpose and common goals. President John F. Kennedy explained that purpose as contributing to world peace and international understanding. The goals were three-fold. First, to improve the lives of people in developing countries, particularly among the poorest communities. The second goal was to convey an understanding of the people of the United States, our values and our ideals, through the friendships and relationships that develop by living and working side by side with the people of other lands. The third goal was the flip side of the cross-cultural coin?Peace Corps Volunteers would convey here in the United States a personal knowledge of other people, other cultures, and other realities when they return.? [Remarks by the Honorable Mark L. Schneider Director of the Peace Corps, Yale University-April 12, 2000]

Within the next few years, the number of countries with programs more than doubled, and in 1966, the number of volunteers reached the highest in history of over 15,000. In 1981, it celebrated its 20th anniversary, and received congratulations from President Reagan. By this point it had had programs in 88 countries, and build up almost a hundred thousand former students. In 1989 the “world wise schools” plan was put in place. This plan had elementary and junior high classes going with the volunteers to the countries, to help promote worldwide awareness. In 1995, a new form of the Peace Corps, the Crisis Corps, was created to help nations in cases of emergencies.

Today the Peace Corps continue to help countries in need, and to promote world peace. The volunteers continue to help countries in the areas of agriculture, education, health, and trade. However, today they are also helping countries in the areas of teaching English, business, city planning, youth programs, and even the environment. The education is at 40 percent, the environment is 17 percent, health is 18 percent, business is at 13 percent, the agriculture is 9 percent, and there is 3 percent of other. These are the current percentages of learning or helping that the Peace Core is working on. The total amount of volunteers and trainees throughout history is 155,000, and they have served 134 countries. The current number of volunteers and trainees is 7000. 61 percent of that is women, the other 39 percent is male; 93 percent of these people are single, and 7 percent are married. The average age of a Peace Corps volunteer is 28 years old with the median being 25 years old. The oldest volunteer in the Peace Core is 79. Of the Peace Corps volunteers, 82 percent are undergraduates, and 13 percent have graduated in studies or have degrees. The budget for this year (2000) is $244 million.

The regions in which most of their effort is concentrated are Africa, South America, the Pacific, Asia, the former Soviet Union, the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe. President Clinton plans to try to get the Peace Corps an increase in funding of about twenty percent. If he is able to, it is hoped that within the next few years the number of volunteers can be raised to ten thousand, and that the Peace Corps could have programs in the new Crisis Corps programs. Then they could help an even greater number of countries; this extra money could also help with Crisis Corps. Peace Corps volunteers go and help countries suffering from current disasters by working through non-governmental agencies, relief agencies, and development agencies. A part of the Peace Corps that is not fully pointed out is the people of countries who have or are receiving aid through the Peace Corps, they gain new knowledge to improve their lives, but they also have to want to do it for themselves. With any luck these people can put the knowledge into use, and combined with the nonstop aid of the Peace Corps, can give power to themselves to improve their lives, but hopefully also improve the lives of others.

Without the Peace Corps, the world would not have one of the great opportunities to grow together. One volunteer can affect just one person in his/her host country. Yet, that person who becomes enriched with new knowledge and hope can infuse that into his family, who slowly will introduce this into their village, and at some point the entire country. All the while America, through the volunteers, is improving affairs with other countries, while other nations are able to do the same; with both parties learning so much about each other, and through each other. As far as I can see, this is nothing but a good cause. I think that the main goal of the Peace Corps is a worldwide understanding between all people. For all the countries and people they have helped, that they will one day do the same for others; and as long as the Peace Corps is around, we know that at lest we are moving in that direction.

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