The Description of Service or DOS was originally designed as the Personnel record for each individual Peace Corp Volunteer’s service. It was used to verify service for employment and university applications as well as other needs for documentation of service. Initially, in early days, all terminating Volunteers in a specific group, received the same general description of program activities. However, at a certain time, which I have not yet been able to determine, the DOS became a V0lunteer’s own record of his or her First Goal program activities. It was written by the Volunteer and countersigned by the Country Director. The Office of Freedom Information Act reports there are over 190,000 DOS electronically catalogued and are available to the Volunteer and anyone else.
For more information DOS policy, visit: https://files.peacecorps.gov/documents/MS-285-Policy.pdf?_ga=2.162855740.1630460103.1599702479-1120743076.1599057042
The detail now required proves how historically valuable these documents are. Here are the instructions for preparing such a detailed document as described from the above Peace Corps files:
“4.1 Collection of Information
At least three months before a Volunteer’s completion of service (COS), or at the time of early termination in-country, the Country Director should provide information in writing regarding preparation of the DOS in accordance with this Manual Section. See Attachment A for an optional model.
Returned Volunteers who are applying for employment, graduate school, or for training programs often find it useful to have their experience quantified (how many persons affected, hours involved, bridges built, gardens planted, fish ponds developed, students taught, and so forth).
4.1.1 DOS for Teachers
Volunteers who have been teachers should include the following information in three pages or less:
- (a) Supervising authority (e.g., Minister of Education);
- (b) On-the-job supervisor (e.g., principal, department chairman);
- (c) Type and level of school, name of school, district, region and country, and U.S. equivalent.
- (d) Size of school (number of students and teachers);
- (e) Dates of beginning and ending of school year (day and month);
- (f) Total number of school days in the school year and number that Volunteer taught;
- (g) Subjects/grades taught and students/hours in each class;
- (h) Special difficulties encountered and overcome (e.g., prepared students for Cambridge School Certificate);
- (i) Extracurricular activities;
- (j) Secondaryprojects;
- (k) Results of foreign language aptitude test at close of service; and
- (l) Special awards or commendations.
4.1.2 DOS for Non-Teachers
Volunteers who have not been teachers should include the following information in three pages or less:
- (a) Supervising authority (e.g., Minister of Commerce);
- (b) On-the-job supervisor (e.g., District Officer);
- (c) Type of project (e.g., Urban Community Development);
- (d) Level of work and title (e.g., supervisor, engineer, nutritionist);
- (e) Any teaching or training responsibilities;
- (f) Size of community or number of persons involved in a project;
- (g) Special difficulties encountered and overcome;
- (h) Secondary projects;
- (i) Results of foreign language aptitude test at close of service; and
- (j) Special awards or commendations.
4.2 Preparing the DOS
An original DOS and two copies should be prepared on good quality Peace Corps official letterhead. …
( I have omited the instructions on including personal information – JR)
Review of the DOS
The DOS is an official Peace Corps statement of a Volunteer’s service, and although usually drafted by the Volunteer, the Country Director may require changes before approving it. The Country Director must sign and date all copies of the DOS.
4.4 Distribution of DOS
The Country Director will return a copy of the DOS to the Volunteer before the Volunteer leaves the post. Original copies of each DOS shall be scanned, grouped alphabetically by name, and saved in the format “Last Name, First Name, Country Code, COS Year”, and emailed to the Office of Third Goal and Returned Volunteer Services (D/3GL) at email@example.com. One copy of the DOS is filed at post for a period of one year.
The DOS will be maintained as an electronic document kept by D/3GL in accordance with the Peace Corps’ records retention schedule. D/3GL will release a copy of the DOS to the Volunteer or anyone else upon request. No Social Security Number (SSN) or partial SSN shall appear on a DOS, and any SSN data will be redacted before any DOS is released.”
The Freedom of Information Act Officer, Virgina Burke, July 21, 2020 emailed the following information about the collection of DOSs.
“Now anyone can submit a FOIA request for an individual person or a list of RPCVs who served, or for a Description of Service (DOS). We have a spreadsheet of this going back to the beginning. If you would like a copy of this, just submit a FOIA request for the All RPCV roster list from FOIA case # 19-0033.”
“We have a good number of the DOS records, but we don’t have every DOS on every RPCV going back…We withhold certain details in the DOS, usually if it’s a third-person request. For instance, I withhold service site location within the country, and other persons named in a DOS, such as a local school principal or a priest. We withhold in-country location details to keep both the RPCV, other PCVs, and the country host nationals safe. This protects the RPCV from potential identity theft or “phishing” techniques (someone pretends to have worked with you during your service). Withholding site locations also protects current PCVs, the host country nationals, or students at a school site location from being a potential target of some kind.”
RPCVs can request their own DOS by using the RPCV Portal: Here is the link:
These Descriptions of Service are essential to establishing the history of Peace Corps and its all important First Goal.
Thank you to Ms. Burke for her very specific instructions and her always helpful response. Thank you, also, to Alana de Joseph, Producer of the Peace Corps documentary “A Towering Task” and her team for information about locating these important files.