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Peace Corps
Logo of the United States Peace Corps
Agency overview
Formed March 1, 1961; 54 years ago (1961-03-01)
Headquarters Washington, D.C
Annual budget $379 million (2014 fiscal year)[1]
Agency executive Carrie Hessler-Radelet[2], Director
Website www.peacecorps.gov

The Peace Corps is a volunteer program run by the United States government. The stated mission of the Peace Corps includes providing technical assistance, helping people outside the United States to understand American culture, and helping Americans to understand the cultures of other countries. The work is generally related to social and economic development. Each program participant, a Peace Corps Volunteer, is an American citizen, typically with a college degree, who works abroad for a period of two years after three months of training.

Volunteers work with governments, schools, non-profit organizations, non-government organizations, and entrepreneurs in education, hunger business, information technology, agriculture, and the environment. After 24 months of service, volunteers can request an extension of service.[3]

The program was established by Executive Order 10924, issued by President John F. Kennedy on March 1, 1961, announced by televised broadcast March 2, 1961, and authorized by Congress on September 21, 1961, with passage of the Peace Corps Act (Pub.L. 87–293). The act declares the program's purpose as follows:

To promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps, which shall make available to interested countries and areas men and women of the United States qualified for service abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help the peoples of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower.

From 1961 to 2015, nearly 220,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps and have served in 140 countries.[1]



John F. Kennedy greets volunteers on August 28, 1961

Following the end of World War II, various members of the United States Congress proposed bills to establish volunteer organizations in developing countries. In December 1951 Representative John F. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) suggested to a group that "young college graduates would find a full life in bringing technical advice and assistance to the underprivileged and backward Middle East ... In that calling, these men would follow the constructive work done by the religious missionaries in these countries over the past 100 years."[4]:337–338 In 1952 Senator Brien McMahon (D-Connecticut) proposed an "army" of young Americans to act as "missionaries of democracy".[5] Privately funded nonreligious organizations began sending volunteers overseas during the 1950s. While Kennedy is credited with the creation of the Peace Corps as president, the first initiative came from Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, Jr. (D-Minnesota), who introduced the first bill to create the Peace Corps in 1957—three years before the University of Michigan speech. In his autobiography The Education of a Public Man, Humphrey wrote,

There were three bills of particular emotional importance to me: the Peace Corps, a disarmament agency, and the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The President, knowing how I felt, asked me to introduce legislation for all three. I introduced the first Peace Corps bill in 1957. It did not meet with much enthusiasm. Some traditional diplomats quaked at the thought of thousands of young Americans scattered across their world. Many senators, including liberal ones, thought it silly and an unworkable idea. Now, with a young president urging its passage, it became possible and we pushed it rapidly through the Senate. It is fashionable now to suggest that Peace Corps Volunteers gained as much or more, from their experience as the countries they worked. That may be true, but it ought not demean their work. They touched many lives and made them better.[6]

Peace Corps headquarters at 1111 20th Street, NW in downtown Washington, D.C.

Only in 1959, however, did the idea receive serious attention in Washington when Congressman Henry S. Reuss of Wisconsin proposed a "Point Four Youth Corps". In 1960, he and Senator Richard L. Neuberger of Oregon introduced identical measures calling for a nongovernmental study of the idea's "advisability and practicability". Both the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee endorsed the study, the latter writing the Reuss proposal into the pending Mutual Security legislation. In this form it became law in June 1960. In August the Mutual Security Appropriations Act was enacted, making available US$10,000 for the study, and in November ICA contracted with Maurice Albertson, Andrew E. Rice, and Pauline E. Birky of Colorado State University Research Foundation[7] for the study.[8][9]


John F. Kennedy first announced the idea for such an organization during the 1960 presidential campaign, at a late-night speech at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, October 14, 1960, on the steps of the Michigan Union. He later dubbed the proposed organization the "Peace Corps." A brass marker commemorates the place where Kennedy stood. In the weeks after the 1960 election, the study group at Colorado State University, released their feasibility a few days before Kennedy's Presidential Inauguation in January 1961.[10]

Critics opposed the program. Kennedy's opponent, Richard M. Nixon, predicted it would become a "cult of escapism" and "a haven for draft dodgers."[11][12][13]

Others doubted whether recent graduates had the necessary skills and maturity. The idea was popular among students, however, and Kennedy pursued it, asking respected academics such as Max Millikan and Chester Bowles to help him outline the organization and its goals. During his inaugural address, Kennedy again promised to create the program: "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country".[14] President Kennedy in a speech at the White House on June 22, 1962, "Remarks to Student Volunteers Participating in Operation Crossroads Africa", acknowledged that Operation Crossroads for Africa was the basis for the development of the Peace Corps. "This group and this effort really were the progenitors of the Peace Corps and what this organization has been doing for a number of years led to the establishment of what I consider to be the most encouraging indication of the desire for service not only in this country but all around the world that we have seen in recent years".[15] The Peace Corps website answered the question "Who Inspired the Creation of the Peace Corps?", acknowledging that the Peace Corps were based on Operation Crossroads Africa founded by Rev. James H. Robinson.[16]

Physical text copy of the Executive Order establishing the Peace Corps
Executive Order 10924
John F. Kennedy's announcement of the establishment of the Peace Corps

Problems playing this file? See media help.

On March 1, 1961, Kennedy signed Executive Order 10924 that officially started the Peace Corps. Concerned with the growing tide of revolutionary sentiment in the Third World, Kennedy saw the Peace Corps as a means of countering the stereotype of the "Ugly American" and "Yankee imperialism," especially in the emerging nations of post-colonial Africa and Asia.[17][18] Kennedy appointed his brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, to be the program's first director. Shriver fleshed out the organization with the help of Warren Wiggins and others.[7] Shriver and his think tank outlined the organization's goals and set the initial number of volunteers. The Peace Corps began recruiting in July 1962; Bob Hope cut radio and television announcements hailing the program.

A leading Peace Corps critic was U.S. Representative Otto Passman of Louisiana's 5th congressional district, based about Monroe. Critics called Passman "Otto the Terrible" for trying to thwart the program by reducing its funding to minimal levels. Ultimately, it would be President Nixon, who despite his previous skepticism rescued the Peace Corps after 1969 from Passman's congressional knife.[19]

Until about 1967, applicants had to pass a placement test of "general aptitude" (knowledge of various skills needed for Peace Corps assignments) and language aptitude.[citation needed] After an address from Kennedy, who was introduced by Rev. Russell Fuller of Memorial Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, on August 28, 1961, the first group of volunteers left for Ghana and Tanzania. The program was formally authorized by Congress on September 22, 1961, and within two years over 7,300 volunteers were serving in 44 countries. This number increased to 15,000 in June 1966, the largest number in the organization's history.[20]

The organization experienced controversy in its first year of operation. On October 13, 1961, a postcard from a volunteer named Margery Jane Michelmore in Nigeria to a friend in the U.S. described her situation in Nigeria as "squalor and absolutely primitive living conditions."[21][22] However, this postcard never made it out of the country.[22] The University of Ibadan College Students Union demanded deportation and accused the volunteers of being "America's international spies" and the project as "a scheme designed to foster neocolonialism."[23] Soon the international press picked up the story, leading several people in the U.S. administration to question the program.[24] Nigerian students protested the program, while the American volunteers sequestered themselves and eventually began a hunger strike.[22] After several days, the Nigerian students agreed to open a dialogue with the Americans.

Fragment of a 1965 in-country identification card


In July 1971, President Richard Nixon, an opponent of the program,[11][12][13] brought the Peace Corps under the umbrella agency ACTION. President Jimmy Carter, an advocate of the program, said that his mother, who had served as a nurse in the program, had "one of the most glorious experiences of her life" in the Peace Corps.[25] In 1979, he made it fully autonomous in an executive order. This independent status was further secured by 1981 legislation making the organization an independent federal agency.

In 1976, Deborah Gardner was found murdered in her home in Tonga, where she was serving in the Peace Corps. Dennis Priven, a fellow Peace Corps worker, was later charged with the murder by the Tonga government.[26] He was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and was sentenced to serve time in a mental institution in Washington D.C. Privan was never admitted to any institution, and the handling of the case has been heavily criticized. The main criticism has been that the Peace Corps seems to have worked to keep one of its volunteers from being found guilty of murder, due to the reflection it would have on the organization.[27]


Although the earliest volunteers were typically thought of as generalists, the Peace Corps had requests for technical personnel from the start. For example, geologists were among the first volunteers requested by Ghana, an early volunteer host. An article in Geotimes (a trade publication) in 1963 reviewed the program, with a follow-up history of Peace Corps geoscientists appearing in that publication in 2004.[28] During the Nixon Administration the Peace Corps included foresters, computer scientists, and small business advisors among its volunteers.

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed director Loret Miller Ruppe, who initiated business-related programs. For the first time, a significant number of conservative and Republican volunteers joined the Corps, as the organization continued to reflect the evolving political and social conditions in the United States. Funding cuts during the early 1980s reduced the number of volunteers to 5,380, its lowest level since the early years. Funding increased in 1985, when Congress began raising the number of volunteers, reaching 10,000 in 1992.

Peace Corps trainees swearing in as volunteers in Madagascar, April 26, 2006

After the 2001 September 11 attacks alerted the U.S. to growing anti-U.S. sentiment in the Middle East, President George W. Bush pledged to double the size of the organization within five years as a part of the War on Terrorism. For the 2004 fiscal year, Congress passed a budget increase at US$325 million, US$30 million above that of 2003 but US$30 million below the President's request.

As part of an economic stimulus package in 2008, President Barack Obama proposed to double the size of the Peace Corps.[29] However, as of 2010, the amount requested was insufficient to reach this goal by 2011. In fact, the number of applicants to the Peace Corps have declined steadily from a high of 15,384 in 2009 to 10,091 in 2012.[30] Congress raised the 2010 appropriation from the US$373 million requested by the President to US$400 million, and proposed bills would raise this further for 2011 and 2012.[31] According to former director Gaddi Vasquez, the Peace Corps is trying to recruit more diverse volunteers of different ages and make it look "more like America".[32] A Harvard International Review article from 2007 proposes to expand the Peace Corps, revisit its mission and equip it with new technology.[33] In 1961 only 1% of volunteers were over 50, compared with 5% today. Ethnic minorities currently comprise 19% of volunteers.[1] 35% of the U.S. population are Hispanic or non-White.[34]

In 2009, Casey Frazee, who was sexually assaulted while serving in South Africa, created First Response Action, an advocacy group for a stronger Peace Corps response for volunteers who are survivors or victims of physical and sexual violence.[35][36] In 2010, concerns about the safety of volunteers were illustrated by a report, compiled from official public documents, listing hundreds of violent crimes against volunteers since 1989.[37] In 2011, a 20/20 investigation found that "more than 1,000 young American women have been raped or sexually assaulted in the last decade while serving as Peace Corps volunteers in foreign countries."[38]

Current countries[edit]

  Countries served by Peace Corps Volunteers as of 2009.[39]
  Countries formerly served.[40]
Prime Minister George Cadle Price and a Peace Corps volunteer, Belize, 1976

As of 2009, Peace Corps Volunteers are working in 68 countries:[39]

  • Dominican Republic
  • Eastern Caribbean (Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines[citation needed])
  • Jamaica[41]
Central America and Mexico
  • Belize
  • Costa Rica
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras (suspended in January 2012[42])
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama[43]
South America
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Guyana
  • Paraguay
  • Peru [44]
Eastern Europe and Central Asia
  • Albania
  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Georgia
  • Macedonia
  • Moldova
  • Ukraine
  • Kosovo [45]
  • Kyrgyz Republic [46]
North Africa and the Middle East
  • Jordan
  • Morocco
  • Tunisia [47]
  • Benin
  • Botswana
  • Burkina Faso
  • Cameroon
  • Ethiopia
  • The Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Kenya
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia (temporarily suspended in July 2014)
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Mali (suspended in 2012)
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Niger (suspended in January 2011)
  • Rwanda
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • South Africa
  • Swaziland
  • Tanzania
  • Togo
  • Uganda
  • Zambia[48]
  • Cambodia
  • China
  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • Mongolia
  • Nepal
  • Philippines
  • Thailand[49]
Pacific Islands
  • Fiji
  • Micronesia and Palau
  • Samoa
  • Tonga
  • Vanuatu[50]


Eradicating malaria in Africa[edit]

The Corps launched its initiative to engage volunteers in malaria control efforts in 2011. The initiative, which grew out of malaria prevention programs in Peace Corps Senegal, now includes volunteers in 24 African countries.[51][52]


The Corps offers a variety of environmental programs. Needs assessments determine which programs apply to each country. Programs include effective and efficient forms of farming, recycling, park management, environmental education, and developing alternative fuel sources.[53] Volunteers must have some combination of academic degrees and practical experience.

The three major programs are Protected-Areas Management, Environment Education or Awareness, and Forestry.

In Protected areas management, volunteers work with parks or other programs to teach resource conservation. Volunteer activities include technical training, working with park staff on wildlife preservation, organizing community-based conservation programs for sustainable use of forests or marine resources, and creating activities for raising revenue to protect the environment.

Environment Education or Awareness focuses on communities that have environmental issues regarding farming and income. Programs include teaching in elementary and secondary schools; environmental education to youth programs; creation of environmental groups; support forest and marine resource sustainability; ways of generating money; urban sanitation management; and educating farmers about soil conservation, forestry, and vegetable gardening.[54]

Forestry programs help communities conserve natural resources through projects such as soil conservation, flood control, creation of sustainable fuels, agroforestry (e.g., fruit and vegetable production), alley cropping, and protection of biodiversity.[55]

Peace Corps Response[edit]

Peace Corps Response, formerly named the Crisis Corps, was created by Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan in 1996.[56] Gearan modeled the Crisis Corps after the National Peace Corps Association's successful Emergency Response Network (ERN) of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers willing to respond to crises when needed. ERN emerged in response to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.[57] On November 19, 2007 Peace Corps Director Ronald Tschetter changed Crisis Corps's name to Peace Corps Response.[58]

The change to Peace Corps Response allowed Peace Corps to include projects that did not rise to the level of a crisis. The program deploys former volunteers on high-impact assignments that typically range from three to twelve months in duration.

Peace Corps Response volunteers generally receive the same allowances and benefits as their Peace Corps counterparts, including round-trip transportation, living and readjustment allowances, and medical care. Minimum qualifications include completion of at least one year of Peace Corps service, including training, in addition to medical and legal clearances. The Crisis Corps title was retained as a unique branch within Peace Corps Response, designed for volunteers who are deployed to true “crisis” situations, such as disaster relief following hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions and other catastrophes.

Education and Languages[edit]

The Peace Corps website makes available resources for teachers in the US and abroad, under the name of Coverdell Worldwise Schools. Resources include lesson plans, audio lessons in seven languages, guest speakers, and classroom-to-classroom correspondence.[59]

Laws governing the Peace Corps[edit]

Executive orders[edit]

Peace Corps was originally established by Executive Order, and has been modified by several subsequent executive orders including:

  • 1961 – 10924 – Establishment and administration of the Peace Corps in the Department of State (Kennedy)[60]
  • 1962 – 11041 – Continuance and administration of the Peace Corps in the Department of State (Kennedy)[61]
  • 1963 – 11103 – Providing for the appointment of former Peace Corps volunteers to the civilian career services (Kennedy)[62]
  • 1971 – 11603 – Assigning additional functions to the Director of ACTION (Nixon)
  • 1979 – 12137 – The Peace Corps (Carter)[63]


Federal laws governing the Peace Corps are contained in Title 22 of the United States Code – Foreign Relations and Intercourse, Chapter 34 – The Peace Corps.[64]

Public laws are passed by Congress and the President and create or modify the U.S. Code. The first public law establishing Peace Corps in the US Code was The Peace Corps Act passed by the 87th Congress and signed into law on September 22, 1961. Several public laws have modified the Peace Corps Act, including:

Code of Federal Regulations[edit]

The Peace Corps is subject to Federal Regulations as prescribed by public law and executive order and contained in Title 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations under Chapter 3.

Limitations on former volunteers[edit]

Former members of the Peace Corps may not be assigned to military intelligence duties for a period of 4 years following Peace Corps service. Furthermore, they are forever prohibited from serving in a military intelligence posting to any country in which they volunteered.[74]

Time limits on employment[edit]

Peace Corps employees receive time-limited appointments, and most employees are limited to a maximum of five years of employment. This time limit was established to ensure that Peace Corps' staff remain fresh and innovative. A related rule specifies that former employees cannot be re-employed until after the same amount of time that they were employed. Volunteer service is not counted for the purposes of either rule.[75]

Union representation[edit]

Non-supervisory domestic employees are represented by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3548. The Federal Labor Relations Agency certified the Union on May 11, 1983. About 500 domestic employees are members. The current collective bargaining agreement became effective on April 21, 1995.



In July 2013, President Barack Obama nominated Carrie Hessler-Radelet as the 19th director of the Peace Corps. Since 2010, Hessler-Radelet had served as Peace Corps Deputy Director and Acting Director. From 1981-83, she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Western Samoa with her husband, Steve. On June 5, 2014 the United States Senate confirmed her nomination.

Director Service Dates Appointed by Notes
1 R. Sargent Shriver 1961–1966 Kennedy President Kennedy appointed Shriver three days after signing the executive order. Volunteers arrived in five countries during 1961. In just under six years, Shriver developed programs in 55 countries with more than 14,500 volunteers.
2 Jack Vaughn 1966–1969 Johnson Vaughn improved marketing, programming, and volunteer support as large numbers of former volunteers joined the staff. He also promoted volunteer assignments in conservation, natural resource management, and community development.
3 Joseph Blatchford 1969–1971 Nixon Blatchford served as head of the new ACTION agency, which included the Corps. He created the Office of Returned Volunteers to help volunteers serve in their communities at home, and initiated New Directions, a program emphasizing volunteer skills.
4 Kevin O'Donnell 1971–1972 Nixon O'Donnell's appointment was the first for a former Peace Corps country director (Korea, 1966–70). He fought budget cuts, and believed strongly in a non-career Peace Corps.
5 Donald Hess 1972–1973 Nixon Hess initiated training of volunteers in the host country where they would eventually serve, using host country nationals. The training provided more realistic preparation, and costs dropped for the agency. Hess also sought to end the down-sizing of the Peace Corps.
6 Nicholas Craw 1973–1974 Nixon Craw sought to increase the number of volunteers in the field and to stabilize the agency's future. He introduced a goal-setting measurement plan, the Country Management Plan, which gained increased Congressional support and improved resource allocation across the 69 participating countries.
7 John Dellenback 1975–1977 Ford Dellenback improved volunteer health care available. He emphasized recruiting generalists. He believed in committed applicants even those without specific skills and instead training them for service.
8 Carolyn R. Payton 1977–1978 Carter Payton was the first female director and the first African American. She focused on improving volunteer diversity.
9 Richard F. Celeste 1979–1981 Carter Celeste focused on the role of women in development and increased women and minority participation, particularly for staff positions. He invested heavily in training, including the development of a worldwide core curriculum.
10 Loret Miller Ruppe 1981–1989 Reagan Ruppe was the longest-serving director and championed women in development roles. She launched the Competitive Enterprise Development program, the Caribbean Basin Initiative, the Initiative for Central America and the African Food Systems Initiative.
11 Paul Coverdell 1989–1991 G.H.W. Bush Coverdell established two programs with a domestic focus. World Wise Schools enabled U.S. students to correspond with overseas volunteers. Fellows/USA assisted Returned Peace Corps volunteers in pursuing graduate studies while serving local communities.
12 Elaine Chao 1991–1992 G.H.W. Bush Chao was the first Asian American director. She expanded Peace Corps' presence in Eastern Europe and Central Asia by establishing the first Peace Corps programs in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and other newly independent countries.
13 Carol Bellamy 1993–1995 Clinton Bellamy was the first RPCV (Returned Peace Corps volunteer) (Guatemala 1963–65) to be director. She reinvigorated relations with former volunteers and launched the Corps' web site.
14 Mark D. Gearan 1995–1999 Clinton Gearan established the Crisis Corps, a program that allows former volunteers to help overseas communities recover from natural disasters and humanitarian crises. He supported expanding the corps and opened new volunteer programs in South Africa, Jordan, Bangladesh and Mozambique.
15 Mark L. Schneider 1999–2001 Clinton Schneider was the second RPCV (El Salvador, 1966–68) to head the agency. He launched an initiative to increase volunteers' participation in helping prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, and also sought volunteers to work on information technology projects.
16 Gaddi Vasquez 2002–2006 G.W. Bush Gaddi H. Vasquez was the first Hispanic American director. His focus was to increase volunteer and staff diversity. He also led the establishment of a Peace Corps program in Mexico.
17 Ron Tschetter September 2006 – 2008 G.W. Bush The third RPCV to head the agency, Tschetter served in India in the mid-1960s. He launched an initiative known as the "50 and Over," to increase the participation of older men and women.
18 Aaron S. Williams August 2009 – September 2012 Obama Aaron S. Williams became director on August 24, 2009. Mr. Williams is the fourth director to have served as a volunteer. Williams cited personal and family considerations as the reason for his stepping down as Peace Corps Director on September 17, 2012.[76]
19 Carrie Hessler-Radelet September 2012 – present Obama Carrie Hessler-Radelet became acting Director of the Peace Corps in September 2012. Previously, Hessler-Radelet served as deputy director of the Peace Corps from June 23, 2010, until her appointment as acting Director.[77] She was confirmed as Director on June 5, 2014.

Inspector General[edit]

The Peace Corps Office of Inspector General is authorized by law to review all programs and operations of the Peace Corps. The OIG is an independent entity within the Peace Corps. The inspector general (IG) reports directly to the Peace Corps Director. In addition, the IG reports to Congress semiannually with data on OIG activities. The OIG serves as the law enforcement arm of the Peace Corps and works closely with the Department of State, the Department of Justice, and other federal agencies OIG has three sections to conduct its functions:

Audit – Auditors review functional activities of the Peace Corps, such as contract compliance and financial and program operations, to ensure accountability and to recommend improved levels of economy and efficiency;

Evaluations – Evaluators analyze the management and program operations of the Peace Corps at both overseas posts and domestic offices. They identify best practices and recommend program improvements and ways to accomplish Peace Corps' mission and strategic goals.

Investigations – Investigators respond to allegations of criminal or administrative wrongdoing by Peace Corps Volunteers, Peace Corps personnel, including experts and consultants, and by those who do business with the Peace Corps, including contractors.[78]

From 2006–07, H. David Kotz was the Inspector General.[79]

In the News[edit]

The Peace Corps has recently been in the news that past few years because of a meeting of the House Foreign Affairs Committee where a few women shared their experiences with violence and sexual assault. At this meeting, it was found that between 2000-2009 there have been several cases of rape or attempted rape. That's about 22 women who are sexually assaulted a year. The case of Kate Puzey came back up during the meeting. Peace Corps has gained attention in the media for their directors being attacked for how they have handled situations. Kate Puzey's mother was one to make a comment at the meeting about how badly the situation was handled with her daughter and that's why it had a terrible outcome. One woman claimed that the director blamed her for getting raped, while other women have also had the blame put on them.[80]

In 2009, the most recent year reported, 69% of Peace Corp crime victims were women, 88% were under 30, and 82% were Caucasian. 15 cases of rape/attempted rape and 96 cases of sexual assault were reported for a total of 111 sexual crimes committee against female Peace Corps Volunteers. This was all shared on ABC news 20/20. a majority of women who join the Peace Corps are in their mid twenties. In 62% of the more than 2,900 assault cases since 1990, the victim was identified as being alone....In 59 percent of assault cases, the victim was identified as a woman in her 20s. Media and news began reporting all these numbers and facts.[81]

The Peace Corps has also been in the media for the topic of abortion. Women who have been raped in foreign countries while volunteering have wanted to get abortions. They then realize that Peace Corps will not help them with that. Peace Corps volunteers get paid $200 to $350 a month. Abortions can typically cost around $470. This makes it difficult for women who want an abortion while in the Peace Corps.[82]

It has been prohibited, since 1979, for federal funds to cover abortion costs for Peace Corps volunteers. Even in instances of life endangerment, rape and incest, volunteers are not financially covered. 433 Peace Corps volunteers were interviewed and it hit news that many thought the funding ban on abortion coverage should be lifted. This was a two month interview with no eligibility restrictions Abortion is such a controversial topic, that just made this that much more difficult for the Peace Corps to handle. Volunteers do receive health care, including prescription medications, routine examinations, and emergency care, free of charge. These services are provided in-country through a Peace Corps Medical Officer. Peace Corps volunteers don't make much money, which adds to this issue in the news. The abortion topics has something to do with the Peace Corps because when volunteers have gotten pregnant for any reason, they can no longer be volunteers and plenty of them want to remain volunteering. Plenty of volunteers have this same story.[83]


Critics and criticisms of Peace Corps include Robert L. Strauss of Foreign Policy.,[84] an article by a former volunteer describing assaults on volunteers from 1992 to 2010,[85] an ABC news report on 20/20,[86] an Huffington Post article on former Peace Corps volunteers speaking out on rapes,[87] About.com's article on rape and assault in the Peace Corps,[88] and a Congressional Research Service report titled "The Peace Corps: Current Issues".[89]

In the Reagan Administration, in 1986, an article in the Multinational Monitor looked critically at the Peace Corps.[90] On a positive note, the writer praises the Corps for aspects saying that it is "not in the business of transferring massive economic resources. Rather it concentrates on increasing productivity and encouraging self-reliance in villages that are often ignored by large-scale development agencies," and notes the "heavy emphasis on basic education" by the Corps. "Many returned volunteers complain that the Peace Corps does little to promote or make use of their rich experiences once they return...[A] Peace Corps volunteer is sent in...[to] relieve...the local government from having to develop policies that assure equitable distribution of health care...During the early years there were many failures in structure and programming...Some critics charge that the Peace Corps is only a somewhat ineffective attempt to counter damage done to the U.S. image abroad by its aggressive military and its unscrupulous businesses...Many observers and some returned volunteers charge that, in addition to public relations for the United States, Peace Corps programs serve to legitimize dictators...When he began evaluating the Corps in the 1960s, Charlie Peters found "they were training volunteers to be junior diplomats. Giving them a course in American studies, world affairs and communism...Although it seems unlikely that the Peace Corps is used in covert operations, wittingly or not it is often used in conjunction with U.S. military interests...In a review of the Peace Corps in March the House Select Committee on Hunger praised the agency for effective work in the areas of agriculture and conservation, while recommending that the Corps expand its African Food Systems Initiative, increase the number of volunteers in the field, recruit more women, and move to depoliticize country dictatorships."

The author suggests that "the poor should be encouraged to organize a power base to gain more leverage with the powers-that-be" by the Peace Corps and that "The Peace Corps is the epitome of Kennedy's Camelot mythology. It is a tall order to expect a small program appended to an immense superpower, to make a difference, but it is a goal worth striving for."

In December 2003, a report by the Brookings Institution praised the Peace Corps but proposed changes.[91] These include relabeling Peace Corps volunteers in certain countries, greater host country ownership, reverse volunteers (have volunteers from the host country in the U.S.), and multilateral volunteers. The Brookings Institution wrote that a mandatory "one-year service commitment [for the Baby Boom generation] could make the Peace Corps more attractive to older Americans, possibly combined with the option of returning to the same site or country after a three-month break" and customized placement to a specific country would increase the amount of people volunteering.

In a critique by The Future of Freedom Foundation,[92] James Bovard mixes history of the Peace Corps with current interpretations. He writes that in the 1980s, "The Peace Corps’s world-saving pretensions were a joke on American taxpayers and Third World folks who expected real help." He goes on to criticize the difference in rhetoric and action of Peace Corps volunteers, even attacking its establishment as "the epitome of emotionalism in American politics." Using snippets of reports, accounts of those in countries affected by the Peace Corps and even concluded that at one point "some Peace Corps agricultural efforts directly hurt Third World poor." At the end of the article, Bovard noted that all Peace Corps volunteers he had talked with conceded they have not helped foreigners ... but he acknowledges that "Some Peace Corps volunteers, like some Americans who volunteer for religion missions abroad, have truly helped foreigners."

BoingBoing editor Xeni Jardin describes criticism of the agency's response to assault: "A growing number of ex-Peace Corps volunteers are speaking out about having survived rape and other forms of sexual assault while assigned overseas. They say the agency ignored their concerns for safety or requests for relocation, and tried to blame rape victims for their attacks. Their stories, and support from families and advocates, are drawing attention from lawmakers and promises of reform from the agency". Among 8,655 volunteers there are on average 22 Peace Corps women reported being the victims of rape or attempted rape each year.[93][94]

In popular culture[edit]

Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention have a song named "Who Needs the Peace Corps?" on their 1968 album We're Only in It for the Money.

In popular culture, the Peace Corps has been used as a comedic plot device in such movies as Airplane!, Christmas with the Kranks, Shallow Hal, and Volunteers or used to set the scene for a historic era, as when Frances "Baby" Houseman tells the audience she plans to join the Peace Corps in the introduction to the movie Dirty Dancing.

The Peace Corps has also been documented on film and examined more seriously and in more depth. The 2006 documentary film Death of Two Sons, directed by Micah Schaffer, juxtaposes the deaths of Amadou Diallo, a Guinean-American who was gunned down by four New York City policemen with 41 bullets, and Peace Corps volunteer Jesse Thyne who lived with Amadou's family in Guinea and died in a car crash there.[95] Jimi Sir, released in 2007, is a documentary portrait of volunteer James Parks' experiences as a high school science, math and English teacher during the last 10 weeks of his service in Nepal.[96] James speaks Nepali fluently and shows a culture where there are no roads, vehicles, electricity, plumbing, telephone or radio.[96] The movie El Rey, directed and written by Antonio Dorado in 2004, attacks corrupt police, unscrupulous politicians and half-hearted revolutionaries but also depicts the urban legend of Peace Corps Volunteers "training" native Colombians how to process coca leaves into cocaine.[97]

In the 1969 film, Yawar Mallku/Sangre de cóndor/Blood of the Condor, Bolivian director Jorge Sanjinés portrayed Peace Corps volunteers in the camp as arrogant, ethnocentric, and narrow-minded imperialists out to destroy Indian culture. One particularly powerful scene showed Indians attacking a clinic while the volunteers inside sterilized Indian women against their will. The film is thought to be at least partially responsible for the expulsion of the Peace Corps from Bolivia in 1971. Peace Corps volunteer Fred Krieger who was serving in Bolivia at the time said, "It was an effective movie – emotionally very arousing – and it directly targeted Peace Corps volunteers. I thought I would be lynched before getting out of the theatre. To my amazement, people around me smiled courteously as we left, no one commented, it was just like any other movie."[98]

In 2011, ESPN Fantasy Sports included a new fantasy football league, Pick your Poisson, that was made up of 10 Peace Corps Cameroon volunteers. This fantasy league was quickly thrown into the forefront of fantasy sports culture worldwide and has loosely influenced the television series, The League. The Pick your Poisson fantasy league has grown in following each year since 2011 and is currently the only active fantasy league in which official Vegas odds are produced for each team each week. The Pick your Poisson league is noted for its high and consistent level of competition, and is often used as a guide that other fantasy enthusiasts follow. After four complete seasons only one member has never made the playoffs.

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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35240 news items

Wall Street Journal (blog)

Wall Street Journal (blog)
Fri, 27 Mar 2015 13:56:48 -0700

Ms. Thompson, 32, said the symptoms began during her Peace Corps service in Africa, where she took the antimalarial drug mefloquine. In a lawsuit filed earlier this week in Washington, D.C., Ms. Thompson alleges the federal volunteer program ...

New York Times

New York Times
Fri, 13 Mar 2015 06:44:27 -0700

Like Rotary, the Peace Corps is also working to enlist older American volunteers. The corps, established in 1961 by an executive order signed by President John F. Kennedy, is still predominantly a younger person's game, but 7 percent of its volunteers ...

CBS News

CBS News
Sun, 08 Mar 2015 13:50:18 -0700

AMMAN, Jordan - The U.S. Peace Corps said it is temporarily suspending its program in Jordan because of the "regional environment," highlighting growing security concerns among some foreigners after Jordan raised its profile in the battle against ...
New York Times
Mon, 09 Mar 2015 19:27:18 -0700

The Peace Corps has temporarily suspended its volunteer program in Jordan because of regional instability, officials said. All 37 volunteers have left Jordan amid turmoil and terrorism in neighboring countries, Samir Dahshan, safety and security ...

Council on Foreign Relations (blog)

Council on Foreign Relations (blog)
Wed, 25 Mar 2015 11:03:30 -0700

Beyond repackaging and rebranding, the White House also added 650 new Peace Corps volunteer positions specifically tasked to work on girls' education. At nearly 10 percent of the Peace Corps' current size, these new volunteers are not insignificant.

Michigan Tech News

Michigan Tech News
Tue, 24 Mar 2015 14:00:00 -0700

Weather disasters rarely hit the Upper Peninsula. Snow falls in abundance, sure, but it's nothing compared to the devastation many others have faced due to Mother Nature. Two Peace Corps Master's International (PCMI) students at Michigan Tech have ...

Dallas Morning News

University of Denver Magazine
Fri, 27 Mar 2015 13:15:00 -0700

“I am proud of the Korbel School's partnership with the Peace Corps,” says Christopher Hill, dean of the Josef Korbel School and a returned Peace Corps volunteer who served in Cameroon. “Our Master's International program combines the knowledge and ...

Education World

Education World
Thu, 26 Mar 2015 10:48:45 -0700

Michelle Obama is currently on a five-day trip to Asia to promote the U.S.-led education initiative "Let Girls Learn," a community-based program to be run by the Peace Corps that is meant to help girls in the developing world stay in school. Before ...

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