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Peace corps: giving back to the world community

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By Ashley Fuller – Collegiate Staff

Every day, all over the world, families go without the basic necessities of survival. Poor school systems, unsanitary households, and lack of water are just a few of the things that people go without.

As I a kid I grew up with everything I needed but always wanted more, a new toy or clothes. However, as I grew up and met people from all over the world, I’ve realized that we grow up living in these cozy little cocoons. We forget that there are people suffering and need help. I used to complain when the hot water would run out in the shower but there are people who live without running water everyday, or with water that is not safe to drink at all.

I have been fortunate in everything that I have and feel that we have a responsibility to help those that can’t directly help themselves, so I decided to join the Peace Corps after I graduate. I think that is one of the greatest parts about the Peace Corps, you get to be a part of something bigger than yourself and learn through the struggles of other people. But it’s not just about learning through others struggles you get to learn about their joys also.

The Peace Corps started with Senator John F. Kennedy encouraging students at the University of Michigan to spend two years of their lives helping others in developing countries. Five months later, within weeks of his presidential inauguration, Kennedy started the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961.

Joining the Peace Corps is a huge decision. I’ve been considering it since I graduated from high school but never went through with it because I knew I wasn’t ready. Now I know it is what I want to do after I graduate. I’ve lived without cell service, immediate internet, or cable and I loved it, surprisingly. I know the situation I lived in wasn’t anything like the one I’m going to experience but I’m willing to do it.

Helping people and being around different cultures is something that I’m very passionate about. The outdoors is my calling, so I am hoping to get into the environmental program myself. By joining the Peace Corps not only does it help inspire people to better themselves so they can live the best possible life they can, but more than that it inspires the volunteers to do the same thing. When leaving the Peace Corp volunteers have an experience that they can carry with them for a lifetime. People need our help and as John F. Kennedy once said, “Things do not happen, things are made to happen”. I want to be apart of that change.

The Peace Corps looks for volunteers to fill positions in education, youth development, health, community economic development, agriculture, and environment.

Education is the biggest bracket that people volunteer in, with this option attracting 40 percent of applicants. There are a variety of programs available in the education field, like working in after-school programs and library development, or teaching biology or chemistry.

Health volunteers focus on getting back to the basics when it comes to health. They have a Water and Sanitation Extension program where they tap springs and help with the development of irrigation systems. The goal is to inform people of the knowledge they need to stay healthy and strive for a better life.

According to amfAR about 1.1 million people in Africa died of AIDS in 2013 and these deaths accounted for 73 percent of the total AIDS deaths worldwide. Peace Corps volunteers help teach HIV/AIDS awareness along with information about other sexually transmitted diseases in hopes to prevent the disease from spreading further.

The third largest category that people volunteer for is the environmental aspect, which includes programs like teaching environmental education and forestry. Peace Corp volunteers will learn to promote environmental awareness in the community they live in. Volunteers help communities create gardens and use natural resources.

Volunteers go through language, technical, and cross-cultural training. The Peace Corps wants to support and keep volunteers safe, having access to trained medical professionals and 8 to 12 weeks of pre-service training.

Pre-service training involves emerging participants into new environments by pairing with local families to learn the ups and downs of the community. Understanding the risks of being overseas, how to avoid unwanted attention, and safely using public transportation are also important.

Volunteers receive full medical and dental care while in service, this includes everything from prescriptions to hospital visits and will be alerted of dangerous areas. Sixty-five percent of Peace Corps Volunteers have access to the internet without traveling. And 48 paid days of vacation time are allowed a year giving volunteers the chance to travel to different countries or visit home.

Housing options depend greatly on the area chosen, and range from huts to apartments, but all housing arrangements must meet Peace Corps standards. The Peace Corps also provides a monthly allowance to pay for rent and basic necessities.

Becoming a volunteer is a 27-month commitment and volunteers must be at least 18 years old. A bachelor’s degree is required and degrees vary for different programs.

Successful volunteers must be ready to adapt quickly to changes. Living in a community where the culture can be completely different, it’s important to keep an open mind and be flexible.

The Peace Corps continues be a part of a volunteer’s life even after they return home. They also provide affordable health care that can continue after service. Transitioning back home can be tough and the Peace Corps has career centers and other offices that can help.

Through the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program volunteers are offered financial aid, scholarships, and stipends.

The Peace Corps has an eight-step application process and it is a good idea to apply six months to a year ahead.