In 2011, the Peace Corps celebrated 50 years of service promoting peace and friendship throughout the world. Since 1961, the Peace Corps has shared with the world America's most precious resource—its people. Peace Corps Volunteers currently serve in 77 countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Europe, and the Middle East. Collaborating with local community members, Volunteers work in areas like education, youth outreach and community development, the environment, and information technology.
Coming from all walks of life and representing the rich diversity of the American people, Volunteers range in age from college students to retirees. Every Peace Corps Volunteer's experience is different. From teaching English to elementary school children in Zambia to launching a computer learning center in Moldova to promoting HIV/AIDS awareness in South Africa to working on soil conservation in Panama, Volunteers bring their skills and life experiences to where they are needed most.
The Peace Corps traces its roots and mission to 1960, when then-Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries. From that inspiration grew an agency of the federal government devoted to world peace and friendship.
Since that time, more than 200,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have been invited by 139 host countries to work on such diverse issues as AIDS education, information technology, and environmental preservation.
Three simple goals comprise the Peace Corps' mission:
Since 1960, when then-Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries, more than 182,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in 138 countries all over the globe. They've been teachers and mentors to countless children. They've helped farmers grow crops, worked with small businesses to market products, and shown women how to care for their babies. More recently, they've helped schools develop computer skills, and educated entire communities about the threat of HIV/AIDS.
After a day of campaigning for the presidency, John F. Kennedy arrived at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor on October 14, 1960, at 2:00 a.m., to get some sleep, not to propose the establishment of an international Volunteer organization. Members of the press had retired for the night, believing that nothing interesting would happen.
But 10,000 students at the University were waiting to hear the presidential candidate speak, and it was there on the steps of the Michigan Union that a bold new experiment in public service was launched. The assembled students heard the future president issue a challenge: how many of them, he asked, would be willing to serve their country and the cause of peace by living and working in the developing world?
The reaction was both swift and enthusiastic, and since 1961, more than 182,000 Americans have responded to this enduring challenge. And since then, the Peace Corps has demonstrated how the power of an idea can capture the imagination of an entire nation.