Most people have heard of the Peace Corps, but some may not really know what it is. This is a small attempt to give people a background on the Peace Corps in general and the program that I will be doing. For more information, visit peacecorps.gov.

The Peace Corps is a volunteer program run by the United States Government and funded by Congress as part of the national budget. (I’ve been joking that your taxes are paying for my program!). It was founded in 1961 (50 year anniversary!) by President John F. Kennedy. He announced the program at the University of Michigan, asking: “How many of you who are going to be doctors, are willing to spend your days in Ghana?”

The Peace Corps defines its goals as follows:

  1. To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  2. To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  3. To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of all Americans.

There is a pre-conceived notion among some people that the Peace Corps is only for recent graduates and only in rural Africa and only for things like Health and Education. I probably don’t help with this pre-conceived notion (because that’s exactly what I’m doing), but the truth is that there are probably just as many Business Development volunteers in Bulgaria and Agriculture volunteers in Nicaragua as Health volunteers in Benin. If you’re the kind of person who likes statistics, you can get your fix here. There are currently almost 9,000 volunteers in 77 countries. It should also be mentioned that the Peace Corps only sends volunteers to countries whose governments have asked for volunteers; America doesn’t just decide that another country needs help.

The number one question I get asked (after “Where is Benin and how do you pronounce it?”) is “Do they pay you?” Well, the short answer is yes. I get a monthly stipend that will allow me to settle in, eat, travel, and live at the level of the people that I will be serving. In other words, it’s sort of a net-zero situation: I get payed but I don’t make any money. So it is really a volunteer program, but unlike other volunteer programs, I don’t have to pay to participate.

Now onto my specific program: I will be working as a Rural Community Health Advisor in the Republic of Benin (Wondering where in the heck that is? See the “Where?” section). My job has three specific goals:

  1. Improved child health and nutrition
  2. Improved maternal health and nutrition
  3. Disease prevention and treatment – specifically diarrhea, malaria, and HIV/AIDS

Other than that, I don’t have many specifics yet. For instance, I don’t know precisely where in Benin I will be or whether I will be working primarily in clinics or schools or with NGOs. I’ll let you know when I know more!


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