The 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps
By: Jeninne Lee St. John, FastCompany.com
November 1, 2010
Fifty years ago this month, President John F. Kennedy gave a name to his idea to send Americans abroad “to encourage mutual understanding between Americans and other cultures of the world.” A look at the numbers behind the venerable Peace Corps.
The FIRST group of volunteers, 51 strong, arrived in Ghana on August 30, 1961.
Since 1961, more than 200,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps.
7,671 volunteers now serve in the Corps. In 1966, there were more than 15,000 in the field.
The Peace Corps’ operating budget this fiscal year is $400 MILLION, about 1% of the federal government’s foreign-operations budget.
Peace Corps volunteers here been trained in more than 250 local languages.
60% of ACTIVE Corps members are women.
Today, the Corps works in 77 Countries Over its history, the organization has served in 139 nations.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings did a TWO-year Corps stint teaching math in Swaziland.
More than 60 universities including Cornell, Johns Hopkins, and Virginia, participate in the master’s international program, which combines a tour in the Peace Corps with a master’s-degree curriculum.
SIX current members of congress-Senator Christopher Dodd as well as FIVE Representatives-are returned volunteers.
28% of applicants to the Peace Corps are subsequently invited to serve. 7% of Peace Corps volunteers serve with their spouse.
The average age of a Peace Corps volunteer is 28. 14% are over the age of 30 while 7% are over 50. During their 27 months of service, Peace Corps volunteers are paid according to local standards in the country where they serve. They receive two vacation days per month of service, as well as a transition stipend of $7,425 at the end of a tour. The oldest volunteer in Peace Corps history was Arthur Goodfriend of Honolulu, who was 87 when he completed his second tour in Hungary in 1994.
The Oldest current volunteer is 85 and working in Morocco.
A version of this article appears in the November issue of Fast Company.
And thanks to Jocelyn Craugh Zuckerman ( Kenya 1991-93) for alerting me to the issue of Fast Company. Nothing gets by this woman!