The Peace Corps stands ready to support the next generation of dedicated volunteers who are committed to serving their country in the cause of peace and believe in the importance of grassroots community development. ~ Aaron S. Williams, Current Peace Corps Director
The Peace Corps community is celebrating Peace Corps Week this week March 1- 7. This year's celebration marks the 49th anniversary of the Peace Corps, founded on March 1, 1961, when President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order establishing the agency.
As Peace Corps approaches its 50th anniversary (next year!), its service legacy continues to promote peace and friendship around the world with 7,671 volunteers serving in 76 host countries. Historically, nearly 200,000 Americans have served with the Peace Corps to promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the host countries.
At present, Peace Corps Volunteers have served in 139 countries building strong bonds with their host nations, promoting development at the grass roots, and helping unlock the potential in every human being. Their efforts in agriculture, business development, education, health, the environment, and combating HIV/AIDS have improved the lives of countless individuals in communities around the world.
Returning with a wealth of experiences, Peace Corps Volunteers bring a deep knowledge of other cultures and traditions back home.
[Note: the information above has been copied and slightly paraphrased from 2 sources: Peace Corps' news release and from President Obama's letter of greetings to those celebrating Peace Corps week]
Reflecting on the continued existence of this wonderful program, I feel that I am still serving as a PCV in Kenya.
I used to wonder about what the "Peace Corps experience" would be like. I would ask myself, am I living the PCE? Having some of the luxuries that I have: electricity, running water, regular internet access - is this the PCE?
Certainly when the Peace Corps was started not all of the volunteers were able to enjoy some of the luxuries that some of us are able to enjoy today - but that does not mean that we're not really living the true PCE.
Taking into consideration that throughout the past 49 years of the Peace Corps existence, technology has changed a great deal. With the change in technology, the needs and challenges of PCVs has also changed over time. With these changes, the PCE has also changed to meet the new needs and challenges of communities where PCVs continue to inspire change, peace, and understanding.
Having this understanding in mind, I continue to do the best I can to inspire the members of my community to bring about positive change in the community (as well as future communities they may end up moving/traveling to).
Being an inspiration to others can be tricky at times - sometimes I may feel ill, or lazy, or 'homesick' thinking about some luxuries I had access to that I took for granted while I had access to it. And yet I persevere. I am still here and I will continue to do my best to inspire members of my community each and every day I am here.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak to approx 130 youth about the importance of volunteering within the community.
Today, I am teaching a class on HIV/AIDS.
Next week, I will again teach classes on computer literacy and HIV/AIDS.
Yet the information can be taught by anyone. In fact, many of my colleagues at the school could teach the classes I teach.
The difference with me teaching these classes is me; my presence.
I've come to see that my presence is a source of inspiration to my students and other members of my community.