Peace Corps volunteers change lives in service



    Peace Corps officials claim their service is the toughest job volunteers will ever love.

    The Peace Corps opens doors and changes the lives of its volunteers around the globe, said Sharon Fuller, Peace Corps recruiter.

    It calls itself a people-to-people organization, relying on the dedication and individual commitments of American men and women for a duration of two years, in countries requesting their specific fields of expertise.

    Kathy Nelson, a Peace Corps alumna and BYU graduate, worked for the Ministry of Education and Culture in Latvia. As an education volunteer, she taught English as a foreign language from June 1992 until June 1994.

    “After graduation, I decided I was not ready to face corporate America. I didn’t know what my strongest values were or what I wanted out of life. I wanted answers to my questions, so I picked up one of those cards off the wall, and it really has made the difference in my life,” Nelson said.

    Nelson’s situation is not unique for Peace Corps volunteers. According to the Peace Corps, 92 percent of the volunteers are single and under the age of 30. A college bachelor’s degree is required to even apply to become a Peace Corps volunteer, and 18 percent of those applicants also have graduate degrees.

    Janet Jenson, a former BYU librarian, served in the Peace Corps from 1972 until 1975. She served one year in the Caribbean and two years in Nepal. Jenson spoke of her adventures in Nepal at the Homecoming Spectacular Devotional Oct. 6.

    “The culture is fascinating — their religious ceremonies, the people — everything. I even had the opportunity to hike up to Mount Everest’s base camp,” Jenson said.

    Inside the organization, there are 11 regional offices, which all respond to the central headquarters based in Washington D.C. Its annual fiscal budget from the federal government is $226 million.

    “The Peace Corps creates love and good will between different peoples. I’m still in touch with the friends I met there; they have great ideals,” Jenson said.

    Since March 1, 1961, more than 150,000 Americans have served as Peace Corps volunteers in more than 132 countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, Central and South America and the Pacific. Peace Corps has composed a legacy of service that has become part of America’s history.

    “We are responding to and fulfilling the specific technical requests of countries around the globe, and we will continue to do so,” Fuller said.

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