58 years later, the Peace Corps is still doing great work at home and abroad

Minnesota Return Peace Corps Volunteer Organization

 

On occasion when the subject of the Peace Corps comes up, someone will ask: “Is the Peace Corps still in existence?” 

The answer is an unequivocal yes. In fact, the U.S. government agency Peace Corps is thriving as it sends thousands of volunteers to over 60 countries across the globe every year. In the 58 years since its founding, 230,000 Peace Corps volunteers, some 6,000 from Minnesota, have served in 141 countries around the world.  

Volunteers have come from all walks of life, from small rural communities to vast cities. There may be hardly a town or city in America, including possibly yours, that has not had a volunteer serve. Coming home, they bring a new global perspective to their communities and America.

The Peace Corps has gone about its work of creating avenues for peace with little fanfare but with immense impact at home and abroad. Many former volunteers become active in their community in America upon returning from service. There are 170 Return Peace Corps affiliated groups in America, like the Minnesota Return Peace Corps Volunteer Organization (MNRPCV), with thousands of members working in various community programs, as well as raising funds to support programs abroad.

 

Founding

The idea of the Peace Corps and its name came from none other than Minnesota Sen. Hubert Humphrey. It was founded in 1961 during an unsettling era of the Cold War by President John F. Kennedy. 

During those years, the people of the world faced the frighteningly real possibility of nuclear war, as the U.S.S.R. and NATO faced off in the struggle for global influence. The U.S. Peace Corps was established during this tumultuous time as a way to win hearts and minds and promote world peace and friendship. In an increasingly interconnected world that faces challenges such as global pandemics, mass migration, and international terrorism, this mission of grassroots diplomacy remains more critical than ever.

A critical issue of concern to all Americans is overall funding for the Peace Corps. Due in part to its low profile, its funding has continually eroded to where only some 7,000 volunteers now serve in only 64 countries. This is a minimum of 5,000 less than the immediate requested needs of countries. 

In 2016, 24,000 Americans applied to the Peace Corps, but the existing budget only supported 8,000 new recruits. Regarding this situation, retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal said: “This gap represents democratic energy wasted and a generation of patriotism needlessly squandered.”

 

Funding

The Peace Corps needs your support to continue its tremendous mission. The current funding for the Peace Corps is $410 million, the same level that existed in 2016. Adjusted for inflation, this is a $25 million dollar decrease. The Trump administration has recommended cutting Peace Corps funding to $398 million. The current level of funding for the Peace Corps is said to be the same level of funding for a single wing on most fighter and bomber aircraft manufactured today for defense.

If you are a former volunteer, living in one of our Minnesota communities, or know of a family member who served or is serving, or if you are just interested in seeing this highly successful organization continue and expand its valuable work, we would like to have you contact your Congress members and express your support. 

March 1 was National Peace Corps Day, when hundreds of former Volunteers were in Washington, D.C., meeting with legislators in support of the Peace Corps. You can support this critical American institution by sending a brief email or letter to your senators and house representatives. For more information on finding your legislative contacts, sample letters to send, funding background information and talking points, go to www.advocacy.peacecorpsconnect.org/email-congress/#/42

If you do not use the internet and wish to fashion your own correspondence, you are also encouraged to contact your legislators by letter. If you desire more assistance on how to do this, you may contact the Minnesota Return Peace Corps Volunteer Organization at advocacy@mnrpcv.org or by correspondence at MNRPCV, Box 6413, Minneapolis, MN, 55406.

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