Submitted by eschneider on Thu, 03/03/2022 - 13:38
AmeriCorps staff

Spotlighting Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Who Continued their National Service Journey 

Happy Birthday, Peace Corps – from your domestic partner in service.

On March 1, 1961, just three months into his presidency, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps. The bold idea of an international volunteer organization was first mentioned at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor after then-Senator Kennedy was campaigning for the presidency on October 14, 1960. During his remarks at 2 a.m. to more than 10,000 students, the senator issued a challenge: 

“How many of you who are going to be doctors, are willing to spend your days in Ghana? Technicians or engineers, how many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives traveling around the world? On your willingness to do that, not merely to serve one year or two years in the service, but on your willingness to contribute part of your life to this country, I think will depend the answer whether a free society can compete. I think it can! And I think Americans are willing to contribute. But the effort must be far greater than we have ever made in the past.” / John F. Kennedy

Following this speech, 1,000 students signed a petition to serve abroad. Two weeks later, Senator Kennedy proposed “a peace corps of talented men and women.” After becoming the president and receiving more than 25,000 letters responding to his call to serve, President Kennedy signed an executive order establishing the Peace Corps.

JFK signing Executive Order creating Peace Corps

In August 1961, President Kennedy welcomed the inaugural group of volunteers to serve in Africa to the White House before they departed. Tanganyika, Ghana, and Colombia were the first countries to participate. 

For more than 60 years, the Peace Corps has promoted world peace and friendship in 142 countries. 

And during the pandemic they did not stop serving. Over the past two years, the Peace Corps continued its development work led by the agency’s counterparts and overseas staff members, virtual service, and the second-ever domestic deployment in the US to aid in the COVID-19 response alongside FEMA.  

And aside from all this service, did you know many Returned Peace Corps Volunteers come back from their service ready to continue their national service journey with AmeriCorps? And many that had to leave service early overseas due to the pandemic, chose to keep serving in AmeriCorps. 

Like Kieran. He began his two-year service in Madagascar as an English teacher. He taught sophomore classes, each with nearly 60 students. In addition to lesson planning and evaluating students’ progress, he also privately tutored anyone interested. However, due to the pandemic, Kieran left Madagascar and returned to the US only 18 months into his service.

AmeriCorps member Kieran on Peace Corps Service
AmeriCorps Member Kieran with students

Wanting to do something more, Kieran joined AmeriCorps and served with the VISTA program in North Kansas City with KidSight MO, a children’s vision screening nonprofit that specializes in providing follow-up care and financial assistance to kids who have potential vision problems. While serving Kieran said, “The impact of my service has been positive. I work with truly wonderful people doing great work! COVID makes things difficult, but I am happy to be where I am.”   

AmeriCorps member, George Austin smiling

George Austin, an AmeriCorps member serving with FEMA Corps as a team leader in Southern Region joined AmeriCorps after serving in the Peace Corps.

“My Peace Corps service helped me prepare for my AmeriCorps NCCC service by preparing me to become more self-sufficient and thus allow me to become more independent,” said George. “Peace Corps is an incredible experience, and doing AmeriCorps beforehand is a great steppingstone into Peace Corps.” 

Sage was selected to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique as a community health and youth services promoter starting in April 2020. But due to the pandemic, never deployed. After the disappointment of having her service term canceled, Sage contacted a former professor who recommended AmeriCorps. She serves with the VISTA program with CASA of Yellowstone County in Billings, Mont. In this role, Sage recruited Native American and culturally competent mentor matches for Native American children who have been removed from their homes. Sage recruited 16 volunteers to serve 14 youth in need, expanding their families’ access to services addressing educational, housing, and mental health needs. 

AmeriCorps member Sage working at CASA booth

“Serving as an AmeriCorps member has given me the chance to serve a new community in ways that I would not have imagined for myself,” said Sage. “My work challenges me and gives me the opportunity to work with a group of amazing people."

Astin joined the Peace Corps after her AmeriCorps service with the State and National program. She served at Social Capital Inc in Woburn, Mass., at the James L. McKeown Boys & Girls Club. She supported the After the Bell program, an afterschool program featuring mentoring youth and leading specific activities   focused on the environment and engineering. 

In the Peace Corps she served in Nkob, Morocco, as a yaouth development volunteer in a Dar Chabab (translated to ‘Youth House’). Her main focus, in collaboration with Moroccan counterparts, was to create, schedule, and implement engaging activities like doing arts and craft, skits, and English classes.  

“My time with AmeriCorps inspired me to continue serving with the Peace Corps because of the natural next step in community development,” said Astin. “I had just spent my AmeriCorps service within a community, new to me, and I was able to succeed by learning from others and sharing my skills and ideas. I was eager to see if my experience could translate in a foreign country.”  

Astin in Morocco

These are just four examples of Americans who stayed on their national service journey through both Peace Corps and AmeriCorps. There are so many more out there. 

Did you successfully complete both a full-time service term or its equivalent in AmeriCorps, and the Peace Corps or Peace Corps Response? Learn more and apply for the Harris Wofford Joint Service Award.  

Americans serving in Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, or both come together to meet the moment and step up for those in need, even when there are considerable challenges. We are thankful for all the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who bring their service experience with them when they join the AmeriCorps team. Please join us in wishing Peace Corps a happy birthday. 

AmeriCorps is keeping the national service celebration going in the month of March. Join us in celebrating AmeriCorps Week. 

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