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Peace Corps: Face the challenge, Make a difference

"We were invited to the White House before we left.  I remember President Kennedy saying, "It's now a reality.  You're going over there and good luck."

(Dennis Grubb in What you can do for your country, 1981)

During an impromptu speech while on the presidential campaign trail, John F. Kennedy challenged University of Michigan students to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries. 

From Microsoft to Malawi : learning on the front lines as a Peace Corps volunteer
Michael L. Buckler.
Lanham, Md. : Hamilton Books, c2011.
In this compelling narrative, Michael L. Buckler draws readers into the challenging, yet rewarding world of the Peace Corps. Inspired by his journals, the book recounts his life as a Peace Corps teacher after a heartbreaking divorce and a demanding legal career prompted him to make a change. Assigned to a village school in Malawi, Buckler opens his tiny home to three boys, embarking with them on a journey of cross-cultural discovery, personal sacrifice, and transformative growth. Determined to help his village, Buckler collaborates with community leaders to build a boarding school for girls. As momentum builds, a powerful bureaucrat tries to shut down the project and Buckler becomes discouraged. As he agonizes over whether to leave, the village takes matters into its own hands in a moving display of the persistent, courageous spirit of Malawi.
     
When the world calls : the inside story of the Peace Corps and its first fifty years
Stanley Meisler.
Boston : Beacon Press, c2011.
A complete and revealing history of the Peace Corps-in time for its fiftieth anniversary ¬  Since its inauguration, the Peace Corps has been an American emblem for world peace and friendship. Across the nation, there are 200,000 former volunteers, with alumni including members of Congress and ambassadors, novelists and university presidents, television commentators and journalists. Yet few Americans realize that through the past nine presidential administrations, the Peace Corps has sometimes tilted its agenda to meet the demands of the White House. Stanley Meisler discloses, for instance, how Lyndon Johnson became furious when volunteers opposed his invasion of the Dominican Republic; he reveals how Richard Nixon literally tried to destroy the Peace Corps, and he shows how Ronald Reagan endeavored to make it an instrument of foreign policy in Central America. But¬ somehow the ethos of the Peace Corps endured. In the early years, Meisler was deputy director of the Peace Corpsí Office of Evaluation and Research-and his unswerving commitment to write an unauthorized and balanced history results in a nuanced portrait of one of our most valued, and complex, institutions.
     
The insider's guide to the Peace Corps : what to know before you go
Dillon Banerjee.
Berkeley, Calif. : Ten Speed Press, c2009.
If you are interested in joining the Peace Corps, you probably have questions that run the gamut from "What is the application process like?" to "Is the Peace Corps effective as a development agency?" In this updated second edition, former Peace Corps volunteer Dillon Banerjee shares candid facts and insights about the experience in a practical question-and-answer format. With input from recently returned volunteers who served across the globe, this thorough guide presents valuable information including:
     
The unheard : a memoir of deafness and Africa
Josh Swiller.
New York : Henry Holt and Co., 2007.
""These are hearing aids. They take the sounds of the world and amplify them." Josh Swiller recited this speech to himself on the day he arrived in Mununga, a dusty village on the shores of Lake Mweru. Deaf since a young age, Swiller spent his formative years in frustrated limbo on the sidelines of the hearing world. So he decided to abandon the well-trodden path after college, setting out to find a place so far removed that his deafness would become irrelevant." "That place turned out to be Zambia, where Swiller worked as a Peace Corps volunteer for two years. There he would encounter a world where violence, disease, and poverty were the mundane facts of life. Spending his days working in the health clinic with Augustine Jere - a chubby, world-weary chess aficionado and a steadfast friend - Swiller finally found, he believed, a place where his deafness didn't interfere, a place where he felt at home. Until, that is, a nightmarish incident blasted away his newfound convictions."--BOOK JACKET.
     
River town : two years on the Yangtze
Peter Hessler.
New York : Harper Perennial, 2006.
PART I: Downstream --The city --Shakespeare with Chinese characteristics -- Raise the Flag Mountain -- Running -- The White Crane Ridge --The dam -- The Wu River -- Opium Wars --White Flat Mountain --Storm -- PART II: Summer -- The priest -- Chinese life --The restaurant owner -- Money -- The teacher -- Chinese New Year -- The land -- Spring again -- The river -- Upstream.
     
A life inspired : tales of Peace Corps service.
 
Washington, DC : Peace Corps : For sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. G.P.O., [2006]
  1. "Each Peace Corps volunteer's journey holds hundreds of stories. The collection in this book is a brief sampling of living a life inspired"--Foreword.
  2. Shipping list no.: 2006-0122-P.
  3. "January 2006"--T.p. verso.
  4. The map shows the 23 countries featured in the stories in A life inspired. It is not to scale.
  5. Forward -- Making a difference -- Life is calling -- Window to the world -- Becoming a Peace Corp volunteer.
     

Their overwhelmingly enthusiastic response to his proposal led to the founding of the Peace Corps in 1961.

The Peace Corps works to achieve three goals:  to provide trained volunteers for work overseas, to promote a better understanding of Americans among the people whom volunteers serve; and to increase Americans' understanding about the world and its peoples.  Although the goals have remained constant since its founding, Peace Corps has adapted to meet the changing needs of developing countries. 

The Peace Corps currently has over 8,000 volunteers in 74 countries around the world.  Volunteers work alongside local community members in education, community development, and agriculture.  Recently, the Peace Corps has developed new programs in HIV/AIDS awareness, information technology, and small business development.  Training and recruitment continues changes to meet the realities fo today's world.   In the words of Jody Olsen, past Peace Corp deputy director "our core stay strong, even as we evolve collectively into a much more diverse world."

Peace Corps volunteers serve a 27-month term.  They are provided with transportation to and from the country of service, medical and dental care, and a living allowance.  A four-year college degree is required for most, but not all, programs.

The chance to make a real difference in other people's lives is the reason most volunteers join the Peace Corps. But that is not the only benefit -- volunteers also have the chance to travel, learn a new language, experience other cultures firsthand, and develop career and leadership skills. 

Most Peace Corps volunteers agree that the experience is one of the most rewarding of their lives. 

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff