You've probably seen them on TV and in the movies, but what do you really know about the Peace Corps? These volunteers are truly unsung heroes, giving sacrificial service on behalf of their country, fostering good will, and promoting understanding wherever they go. As previously implied, most folks don't have an accurate understanding of the scope of what they're all about.
Here are a few facts that you may or may not know:
The Peace Corps was founded in the early 1960s as the result of a challenge made by Senator John F. Kennedy to students at the University of Michigan to rise to a mission of service by living and working in developing countries.
According to PeaceCorps.org, the organization has a three-fold mission which has remained in place since the very beginning of its history:
"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 Americans."
The Peace Corps is a federal agency. Their primary focus is on "world peace and friendship," according to official statements published by the agency.
Peace Corps volunteers work for sustainable change in the host countries which request their technical assistance in seven major areas: Education, health, environment, community economic development, youth in development, and other areas as needed/identified. Peace Corps volunteers are the United States' unofficial ambassadors to the world abroad. Through their service to other countries they build lasting and significant relationships, foster a positive image of America, and create global understanding between residents of their host country and the United States.
Peace Corps volunteers generally serve for two years following their initial training. During the span of the organization's history volunteers have served in the Philippines more than in any other country.
Although the Peace Corps rarely receives a lot of publicity, the quiet work that it does behind the scenes is an essential service that not only benefits the host countries that it serves, but the home country-the United States of America-that it represents.
Kudos to the many volunteers who have made their time of service to the Corps not just about carrying out a job well done, but about a lifestyle of working to ensure that the world is constantly evolving into a better place.
[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 05/20/2014 (no longer published there).]