Every day, millions of citizens around the world feel a need to channel their social and moral values through occupation. Some of them choose professions connected with helping people. Others participate in social movements or become members of charitable and nonprofit organizations. Sociologists define this sort of social commitment (altruism) “as behavior that is motivated primarily out of a consideration another’s needs rather than one’s own” (Kallman, 2015, p. 73). Founded in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps volunteer program unites about 230,000 Americans, who are driven by the idea to change the life of millions of people in the world for better promoting social and economic development through technical assistance.
The Peace Corps is an agency run by the United States government that train and send volunteers to work and live in communities worldwide. According to the report made by Curt Tarnoff (2016), volunteers “serve at the grassroots level in villages and towns across the globe to meet its three-point legislative mandate of promoting world peace and friendship by improving the lives of those they serve” (p.1). Since 1961, over 230,000 volunteers have served in about 140 countries. Currently, volunteers are engaged in six sectors: agriculture, environment, community economic development, health, education, and youth in development.
Agriculture volunteers aim at helping small-scale farmers to increase production and food security. They assist farmers in introducing technologies that prevent soil erosion, minimize the use of pesticides, and replenish the soil. Concerning environmental goals, Peace Corps volunteers teach principles of ecological awareness to members of local communities, encouraging them to conserve the local environment.
Peace Corps members are also engaged in helping communities to create economic opportunities. Volunteers frequently teach business owners to develop and market their products. Promotion of basic hygiene, nutrition, water sanitation, maternal and child health in communities is the highest priority as well. The Peace Corps organization introduces HIV/ AIDS education and prevention projects. At the same time, there are programs created to support community members who have been already affected by HIV/ AIDS (Glass, Cochran & Davidson, 2015, p. 1150). The most significant program area of the organization is education. Peace Corps’ teachers work in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools.
In addition to their primary work, volunteers get involved in other work activities in the communities, such as teaching English and youth sport. Peace Corps volunteers have been assigned to library projects throughout the history of the program. Researchers claim that “in the early years, professional librarians were recruited and assigned to work in public and academic libraries in such places as Botswana, Colombia, Fiji, and Morocco” (Constantinou, Miller, & Schlesinger, 2016, p.148). As cross-cultural and intercultural skills are vital for successful Peace Corps service, recruiters and placement officers estimate the suitability of potential candidates for the service, as well as evaluate if they can live and work abroad for twenty-seven months.
The Peace Corps is an organization with a long and significant history. For many years, thousands of Americans have been trained to participate in volunteer activity, which encourages and enables the growth, development, and well-being of millions of people across the globe. As the work of the Peace Corps members covers almost all vital social spheres, their efforts are of great importance and cannot be overestimated.
Constantinou, C., Miller, M.J., & Schlesinger, K. (Eds.). (2016). International Librarianship: Developing professional, intercultural, and educational leadership. New York, NY: SUNY Press.
Glass, N., Cochran, W., & Davidson, P.M. (2015). Transformational experiences a key to improving global health: The role of the Peace Corps. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 24(9-10). Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jocn.12821.
Kallman, M. E. (2015). Material, emotional and professional dynamics: Idealism, commitment and self-regulation in the Peace Corps. In: FX. de Vaujany, N. Mitev, G.F. Lanzara, & A. Mukherjee (Eds.) Materiality, rules and regulation. Technology, work and globalization. (pp. 73-99). London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Tarnoff, C. (2016). The Peace Corps: Current issues. (CRS Report RS21168). Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.