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Questions and Answers (part two)

What is the Peace Corps all about, anyway?

Most people tend to have a vaguely positive impression of the Peace Corps, but couldn't really tell you what it does, exactly. Some people I've talked to think it's some kind of anti-war group, and others think it's a institution for cultural imperialism. Both are inaccurate.

First, let me show you where the Peace Corps operates today, and then I'll explain its philosophy.

You better appreciate this map; it took me a long time to fill in all of these countries.
The darkly shaded countries are the ones in which the Peace Corps currently works, and the lightly shaded countries are sites of past projects. Often, volunteers are pulled out a country if the political situation is getting too hairy, but will be replaced after relative stability is reached. Notice that North America, Australia, Japan, and Western Europe are excluded. Also note that almost all other countries have at one time or another been included (noticably absent is Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, and several Middle-Eastern countries).

As you might have guessed by now, the Peace Corps necessarily involves itself in developing countries. There are actually three goals of the Peace Corps:

  1. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
In other words, it's part cultural exchange, part trained volunteerism. As to the trained men and women, they can be almost anything: engineers, doctors, farmers, and teachers are all common Peace Corps roles.

Volunteers (PCVs) go through an initial training period in a group before being assigned their individual site placements. At that point, they typically serve alone. My impression is that, as a Youth Developer (YD), I have a higher chance of having a site-mate.

PCVs are typically issues mountain bikes at their site, as they are not supposed to be driving. We get a living allowance that will cover food and housing (about the same quality food and housing that the community enjoys - we don't want to be the rich American living in the small mansion on the corner).

Although it is possible to drop out early (quitters!), the full Peace Corps term is 27 months. In addition to the primary project which is assigned by my superiors, I am expected to complete a secondary project in this time, a project that is completely my own. This, by the way, is really exciting.

Any questions about the Peace Corps? Leave them in the comments. Or come ask me. If you want.
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