Yesterday I saw an article by the Brookings Institution regarding updating the Peace Corps (PC)for the 21st century. They actually have a few related articles: (http://www.brookings.edu/search.aspx?doQuery=1&q=peace%20corps)
There are currently about 8,000 volunteers serving in the the PC, and starting in January 2009, in just about four months, I hope to become one of them! The PC was born during the cold war, and "created to win hearts and minds in the non-aligned developing countries."
I was "nominated" (the first step to PC acceptance) in February, and after a verrry lengthy medical clearance process (think of every test/exam you can have, and multiply that by two, and then add in the all the bureacratic forms, and time to snail mail it, and that's what I had to go through). I'm currently awaiting my "invitation" (step two) where I will find out my exact country and area of service. I've been told little details of this process so far, but I do know that I will be placed in Central/South America and should be departing in mid-January. Although it's subject to change, I will probably be working in healthcare education or perhaps community development. Yesterday, they said I have about 4-6 more weeks until I'll know for sure.
I'm very excited, but also nervous. It's been a long process, and a lot of patience has been required. I'm not very good at making decisions that affect my future, when my future is dependent on something so unclear. I've been trying to keep busy in the meantime-graduating, finding an internship here in D.C., and that has helped a lot so I'm not constantly waiting by the phone for the placement office to call.
This article that I saw, and related ones on the website really solidified my thoughts about joining. It's a difficult thing to commit to: 27 months in another country. Right now that feels like a lifetime! But after talking to many returned PC volunteers and hearing about what an exceptional program it is, and how valuable the experience is, I know it's what I want to do.
These recent articles on the PC, and recent talk by both presidential candidates on the PC are making me really excited to leave. Everyone seems to agree that a critical challenge for the next president of the US will be to convince the rest of the world that we are more interested in being a reliable partner than a military superpower. Reversing the negative attitudes that have built up over the past few years in other countries towards the U.S. will be something that the PC can have a significant role in. In 1966, there were around 16,00 volunteers, and currently, it's half that size. Both presidential candidates agree that we need to scale up the size of the volunteer force.
I'm really excited that people are beginning to talk about this kind of thing. It shows that we have a real interest in our reputation abroad, and know that interdependence is key to a successful nation.
I do think that one of the things they'll have to do to increase participation in the PC for the future would be to make the application process a little shorter and more transparent.... (sense the annoyance...)
I'll let everyone know as soon as I do about my placement! I'm hoping for South America, but at this point, I'm really open to anything. I think I can learn from wherever I am placed.