Promoting the Cause of Peace
By Zulay Carrillo on Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
“Do the Peace Corps if you want to serve this country and you want to live the goals of the Peace Corps.” – Chris Austin (Kenya 2003-05)
Congressmen Sam Farr (CA-17), Mike Honda (CA-15), John Garamendi (CA-10) and Tom Petri (WI-4) enlightened the minds of staff and interns today at the Peace Corps’ Annual Capitol Hill Recruiting Event for Congressional Staff and Interns. The Congressmen touched base on why it is important to join the Peace Corps and work overseas in a developing country. All Congressmen agreed that prospective Volunteers should be passionate and curious about different cultures. They also mentioned the Peace Corps is a significant way of learning history, culture and similarities between countries and most importantly a real challenge.
The theme this year for the recruiting event was “Promoting World Peace and Friendship.” Hearing the various stories from the Congressmen, the Director of the Peace Corps, Aaron S. Williams, and President of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Group in Washington, D.C., Chris Austin, inspired just that, world peace and friendship. Their enthusiasm about the Peace Corps radiated to the crowded room throughout the event and many people asked questions about the culture shock, learning a different language, and how Peace Corps volunteers make a difference in their country of service.
Each member of Congress was first allowed to speak a few words about their experience in the Peace Corps. The stories they shared were both touching, inspiring, and/or hilarious! Congressman Farr explained how he helped his Colombian community build a soccer field without ever seeing one before! Congressman Honda told stories of reconnecting Peace Corps Volunteers with members of the community they served.
While they are overseas, Peace Corps Volunteers aren’t representatives of the American government but representatives of the American people. They return to the United States with a different perspective of the world and realize how much there is to do within the U.S. to make others aware of global issues. “Most Peace Corps Volunteers will return to work in service organizations and other international affairs programs,” says Congressman Petri (Somalia, 1966-1967).
Since its establishment in 1961, the Peace Corps has adapted and responded to the numerous issues of an ever-changing world. Peace Corps Volunteers are faced with some of the toughest challenges across the world including health education, economic development, youth development, and agriculture. Through their leadership and creativity, Peace Corps Volunteers have made a difference in over 139 countries over the past 51 years.
The Peace Corps traces its roots to former President John F. Kennedy, when he challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country and the cause of peace. The now federal government agency continues to live by this principle of peace by sending volunteers to developing countries for 2-year terms. Not only has the Peace Corps become an essential part of American history but it has also continued to show the positive impact it is creating around the world and even here in the United States. Or as Congressman Sam Farr said, “I’m still a Peace Corps volunteer at heart; I’ve just changed my barrio (hometown).”