The Vermont Cynic

UVM – a Big Piece of the Peace Corps

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With 693 alumni serving as Peace Corps volunteers since the program’s establishment, and 16 serving currently, the University of Vermont is one of the greatest contributors to the pro-gram.

The Peace Corps, established in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, is a government funded volunteer orga-nization. Its primary goal, according to the Peace Corps Web site, is to “promote world peace and friendship.”

Volunteers are currently sent to 77 different countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, South America, Central America, the Middle East and the Pacific Islands.

Volunteers are only sent to countries that have specifically asked for aid.

The volunteers are placed in a variety of fields, from education to agriculture, healthcare to business development. Volunteers are usually placed in a sector in which they have had some experience.

Ninety-six percent of volunteers have at least an undergraduate degree. The average age is 28 years old, with the oldest volunteer being 79 years old. The minimum age is 18. There are currently approximately 7,800 volunteers and trainees.

Applying to the Peace Corps is a lengthy and competitive process according to the Peace Corps Web site. Averaging nine months.

The first step is the application. After the application is reviewed, there is an interview. If the interview goes well and there is an opening, the applicant will be nominated to join a specific assignment area.

At this stage the applicant can be told the geographic region in which they will be stationed, but not the specific country.

The third step is qualification. All information and the applicant are reviewed and evaluated. If everything works out in this stage, the applicant moves into the final step: invitation.

Once invited to join the Peace Corps, the applicant has 10 days to respond. Then, four weeks before their departure date, they will be told exactly where and when they will be going.

After leaving for the program, the applicant will spend approximately three months in intensive language and skill training in their new country.

Once finished with the training they will spend two years volunteering in the assigned country, with 48 vacation days at their disposal, and all travel, living and medical expenses covered.

Volunteers can live with a family or live in their own space. They will become a part of the community, according to UVM’s Peace Corps representative Amanda Richardson. The Peace Corps makes sure all volunteers are safe, happy, and healthy.

Once in the Peace Corps, there is no way to tell what the experience will be like. “No two experiences are alike,” Richardson said. “Where some people live in thatched huts and have to dig their own toilets, others live in well equipped houses with internet.”

UVM will be hosting a returned vol-unteer panel on Thursday, April 19 at 6:30 p.m. in Billings March Lounge.

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UVM – a Big Piece of the Peace Corps