Peace Corps Volunteers:

Bringing the World Back Home

by Mark D. Gearan Director of the Peace Corps

When President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, he saw it as a new way for Americans to serve our country and, at the same time, help the people of the developing world build a better future for themselves, their children, and their communities. Today, there are 6,500 Peace Corps Volunteers serving in 84 to countries around the world. There are 2,200 Volunteers serving in 28 African nations. And President Clinton has urged Congress to join him in a bipartisan effort to expand the Peace Corps to 10,000 Volunteers by the year 2000. These Volunteers represent some of the most enduring values of the American people-citizen service, altruism, and a dedication to the cause of peace.

Peace Corps Volunteers work with their counterparts on grass-roots development projects in education, health, the environment, small business development, and agriculture. An equally important part of every Volunteer's service in the Peace Corps is to strengthen our country's understanding of other peoples and cultures by "bringing the world back home." Volunteers live in their overseas communities for two years, often in remote villages far from any other American; they learn to speak more than 180 languages and dialects; and throughout their service, Volunteers become immersed in the local culture, where they learn about the rich histories and traditions of the people they serve.

When Volunteers bring this experience back home to communities across our country and share it with their families, friends, students, and professional colleagues, they make an important contribution to our understanding of the world beyond our shores. As our world become smaller and our ties with other people expand, this cross-cultural experience becomes more important than ever.

The following essays are written by men and women who have served as Peace Corps Volunteers in the African countries that President Clinton will visit. The essays reflect in different ways the essence of the Peace Corps experience: people of very different cultures learning about one another, building the bonds of friendship, and working together to help build a better future. I urge to read these essays and share them with your children and your students so that they, too, can experience the world through the eyes of a Peace Corps Volunteer.

I invite you to read other essays written by Peace Corps Volunteers who served in Africa and other parts of the world. To learn more about the Peace Corps and how to become a Volunteer, please visit our web site.

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