We all know about the Peace Corps. It’s that organization that empowers independence, helping others and pushing the world forward. Oh, and it’s probably the biggest adventure you’ll ever experience in your life.
The Peace Corps began in 1961 and so far nearly 220,000 Americans have served. At lease 23,000 Americans apply each year to volunteer in one of 65 countries and over 6,800 volunteers and trainees participate annually. Volunteers serve as America’s tool to supply skills that improve the lives of people in communities all around the world.
“The Peace Corps is a life-defining leadership opportunity and a great way to launch a career.” –Peace Corps
Below, 13 facts that’ll make you love the Peace Corps
1.Volunteers work where their own skills match a need.
There are 7 fields in which volunteers can choose to work including Agriculture, Youth in Development, Environment, Community Economic Development, Health, Education and Peace Corps Response.
2. The length of service is two years plus pre-service training.
This is a big chunk of time. Although it may seem scary to drop all professional obligations and go off the grid literally, it is so much more fulfilling than volunteering for a week or a month. Before beginning the two years of service, volunteers are required to participate in a training program. Volunteers will live with host families to be fully immersed in the culture. Throughout the full two years, volunteers will learn the language and gain cultural awareness.
3. There is no upper age limit.
You must be 18 years old to be eligible for service but most volunteer’s range in age from 20-79! The application process can be a little competitive depending on the year. You must also apply 6-12 months in advance of the date of your departure.
4. There is no fee to participate… and you get paid!
Unlike most volunteer opportunities there is no need to pay for the volunteer experience. The Peace Corps covers all costs for transportation and living. And, yes, you do get paid. Volunteers are given a living stipend that enables them to live in the community. Volunteers will also receive a total of 48 vacation days over the two years. The cost of transportation is covered as well.
5. Volunteers will live in the community they serve.
Housing varies from the community including rural environments and urban communities. Volunteers will either live with a local family, co-worker or by themselves. All housing arrangements meet standards for safety and suitability.
6. There are Peace Corps offices and staff in each country. This allows for safety and security of volunteers.
Each community has a Peace Corps office and staff managed by a director. Staff members include medical personnel, program managers, a safety and security coordinator, and trainers.
7. There is accessible contact and communication with friends and family abroad.
Over 91% of volunteers have cell phones. Access to communication can very greatly from community to community but the Peace Corps makes sure to have contact with each volunteer no matter what. If a family emergency arises, volunteers are allowed a leave period and pays for the volunteers travels.
8. Financial assistance is offered for graduate school programs.
Returning volunteers are offered a reduced tuition, assistantship, and stipends at more than 90 participating campuses.
9. You Can Combine Graduate School and Peace Corps.
Through the Master’s International program it is possible to pursue graduate school while participating in the Peace Corps. To participate you will begin studies on campus, go abroad to volunteer, then return to finish your degree. While volunteering abroad, you will work on projects related to your graduate school studies.
10. Full medical and dental coverage is provided.
There is a medical officer and medical facilities in each country that provides complete care and covers related medical expenses.
11. Don’t worry about student loans!
Deferments exist for federal programs. Within the Department of Education’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, volunteer service is considered “qualifying employment.” Additionally, there is a 15-70% cancelation benefit for volunteers with Perkins loans.
12. Transition funds and job search services.
Volunteers are provided $8,000 (pre-tax) to help with the adjustment to life back home. The Peace Corps also provides assistance to jobs and education opportunities that use their field experience for professional opportunities.
13. Employment within the Federal Government after service.
Volunteers who return to the states automatically receive one year of noncompetitive eligibility for employment in the federal government. If a volunteer meets the minimum requirements for a job position the volunteer will not have to go through the standard competitive process of a job interview.