First Volunteers return to service in January 2021

The Eastern Caribbean will be the first to welcome back Volunteers.

By WorldView Staff

 

The big news out of Peace Corps HQ on October 14: Volunteers will begin returning to service in January 2021. The Eastern Caribbean will be the first to welcome back Volunteers. “Our decision to return to the field follows months of extensive preparations and review, and I am extremely grateful to the many staff and host country partners who contributed to this effort,” said Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen. “I also salute the evacuated volunteers who are joining us as we take these first steps to resume operations and begin the celebration of our 60th anniversary.”

 

“Our decision to return to the field follows months of extensive preparations and review, and I am extremely grateful to the many staff and host country partners who contributed to this effort.”

—Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen

 

This news comes after more than eight months of uncertainty, with Americans who have been invited to serve as new Volunteers still on hold. What about other programs and regions? 

One answer, on the Peace Corps website as of mid-October: “Due to the complexity of the COVID-19 pandemic and its fallouts in every post, we cannot address timing yet.” Though more news may be coming throughout the fall. Right now, plans for return include COVID testing and 14 days of quarantine when Volunteers arrive in the country where they are serving — with a caveat that quarantine periods may vary from country to country.

Peace Corps has posted general estimates for when Volunteers might return to service globally: either mid-2021 or late 2021, depending on region and sector. A crowdsourced list on a Facebook group for evacuated Volunteers (featured in our summer edition) has listed returns to service country by country, specifying which month — from January to November.

Other ways Peace Corps expects service to change: Initial cohorts will be small, sites near a medical unit, travel restricted. (See Jody Olsen’s remarks from the Peace Corps Connect to the Future Global Ideas Summit for more.) Another factor in the answer: Many of the 61 countries in which Volunteers were serving have not experienced the severity of pandemic that has hit the United States. Some Pacific island nations where Peace Corps Volunteers were serving have reported zero cases of COVID-19.

Universities in the United States offer some lessons in the complexity of opening up programs again. Some have managed to keep the virus in check; others have not, and have had to shut down in-person teaching.

 


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