Peace Corps Overview
The Peace Corps was established by an executive order made by President John F. Kennedy in
1961 with the purpose:
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.
Notably as a Minneapolitan, it was Senator Hubert H. Humphrey who introduced the first bill to create the Peace Corps.
The verbiage in the 1961 act is still very evident in today’s Peace Corps mission:
To promote world peace and friendship by:
- Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their needs for trained men and women
- Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served
- Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans
Nearly 220,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps in 139 countries. There are currently projects in 63 countries, covering the following work areas: Education, Health, Environment, Community Economic Development, Youth in Development, and Agriculture. There are also Peace Corps Response programs, which function slightly differently than the traditional two-year programs. Programs vary based on country needs; Education and Health are the largest work areas with 37% and 24% of Peace Corps Volunteers respectively.
The only true requirements for a Peace Corps Volunteer are that they be a US Citizen of at least 18 years of age; there is no upper age limit. Various skills and expertise are sought after for different work areas. Even the requirement of a bachelor’s degree is not a true requirement in all areas, as non-degreed agriculture and forestry candidates can be competitive with more than one year of work experience in the field, and in some cases professional experience can fulfill the degree requirements.
Peace Corps in Colombia
Colombia was one of the original Peace Corps countries, and had volunteers from 1961-1981. The program was suspended in 1981 due to growing security and safety concerns, but was re-opened in 2010. My class, CII-8, is the fifth class of two-year Peace Corps Volunteers since 2010 (there have also been three Peace Corps Response groups). Peace Corps Volunteers in Colombia are currently in the Education and Community Economic Development sectors.
My program is Practical English for Success (PES). This means that my primary project is teaching English, focused on two major populations: teachers and students. Most of my focus is on teachers, helping them to improve their own English level as well as gain better teaching strategies and methodology (helping them with lesson planning, classroom management, sequencing classes, making classes more communicative and dynamic, etc). However, I also am focused on trying to make students, both in schools and in the community, engaged and motivated to learn English and improve their language level. In addition, I work with the community to develop other projects focused on the sectors listed in the Peace Corps Overview above.
My Peace Corps Service
I arrived to Colombia in January, 2016. For the first three months, I was in Pre-Service Training with my cohort members, during which time we had Spanish classes and technical classes to ensure we could effectively work in our communities as Volunteers. We were sworn in on April 16, 2016, and since then I have been at my permanent site on the coast outside of Barranquilla. I live with a wonderful host family in my community; my host mom is a third grade teacher at a local public school, my host dad is a security guard, my 22 year-old host sister is a doctor living in a rural southern town, my 18 year-old host sister hangs out at home, and our dog and her bird keep her company. All Peace Corps Volunteers receive monthly stipends to cover housing and living expenses, so I give them a portion of that each month for my room and the utilities I use, but since I love to cook, I purchase and make my own food. Since Peace Corps is a two-year commitment, I plan to be in country until March or April 2018.