The Peace Corps is a volunteer programme run by the United States government with a mission to provide social and economic development in developing countries. The project was started by President JF Kennedy 56 years ago to foster the idea of peace and friendship between US and partner countries. It provides technical assistance while promoting mutual understanding between Americans and local communities in developing countries. Peace Corps allows American citizens to volunteer to work in developing countries by adapting the culture to share their skills with learning communities in developing countries.

Peace Corps is a project run by federal government of US with a bilateral framework that works through a mutual cooperation with government, non-profit organizations, non-government organizations, and entrepreneurs in education, business, information technology, agriculture, and the environment. Peace corps is a network of 70,000 employees working under an annual budget of 398 million US dollars as of 2018. Peace Corps has served in 141 countries and plays a key role in maintaining cordial relations between nations through academic and cultural exchange.

Pakistan had been part of Peace Corps programme until the mid 1990s, but the programme then ceased to continue. Academia Magazine takes a look into the Peace Corps activity in developing countries and how it helps promote development in communities.

Peace Corp official Anastasia Steinbrunner explains the structure and working capacity of Peace Corps. She is a teacher from the US with an experience of fifteen years and has worked for US federal government-run projects and has been associated with both public and private secondary school education. Her take on outdoor education, environmental education, literature and literacy have been the key areas that she has extensively contributed to in developing countries as a Peace Corps official. She has written curriculum and programmes for organizations like Clear Water Marine Aquarium, Florida in the US and Peace Corps in Jamaica.

‘Peace Corps is a unique branch of US federal government at heart it is a person to person exchange of knowledge, skills and understanding, it does not directly donate aid or fund projects rather it creates a platform for US citizens to go in rural communities to serve a specific function,’ said Steinbrunner. Peace Corps’s function may be related to environment, literacy and health to develop understanding between US and developing countries.

How do you become partners with Peace Corps?

Countries that are interested in being part of Peace Corps participate in capacity building among their citizens have to reach out to the organization. Steinbrunner said there was a semi-formal handshake that was required by the US and requesting country. “Peace Corps doesn’t go to countries on volunteering basis and works only with governments,” she said. These requesting countries are assessed by the state department since they prefer to work in rural areas of the developing countries that are largely isolated. So if Pakistan wants to be part of Peace Corps, it could be requested by the government for the development of rural areas of Pakistan.

 

What are the tools and priorities of Peace Corps to work in developing countries?

“Culture integration is the most important aspect in host countries; it requires embedded volunteers to understand the cultural and social context of their host countries,” Steinbrunner said. Peace Corps require its members to become part of their communities so a friendly mission could be shared. “We want US citizens to understand the challenges, the opportunities and desires of the community and help facilitate their goals rather than imposing the ideas from US government, we only offer guidance so people from local communities could solve problems with respect,” she added.

 

How does Peace Corps guide or train people from developing countries?

The main areas of Peace Corps is language and cross culture. “Before volunteers even enter the communities, they are made to understand the context and thus trainings are conducted by skilled host country nationals” Steinbrunner said. “At Peace Corps it is important to adapt the local perspective, it also immerses in cultural experiences like theater, points of interests, literature, social activity and language integration so the volunteers and officials are be able to work in developing countries.”

What is the largest area that Peace Corps works with and how does it work?

“The largest area is education, in Jamaica. The focus was on primary school education, literacy and capacity building,” Steinbrunner told The Academia. Volunteers are asked to do pull out sessions with weakest or at-risk students in school by direct tutoring. “Individual attention and tutoring can be very difficult, often impossible, but that is why PC teachers take charge to help children exceed expectations, we use readings to instigate the desired results,” she added.

How challenging was the Peace Corps project in Jamaica?

“Peace Corps Jamaica is one the longest running projects, it is a place where PC has found a lot of success.  peace Corps worked for skill building, HIV AIDS intervention, Agroforestry, Environmental Protection, youth development and education sector,” said Steinbrunner. “Many cultural challenges prevail too but members of Peace Corps continue to adapt culturally to solve these problems.”

“It is sometimes difficult to understand the intervention from a person-to-person perspective; a lot of work is singular. Helping a single child counts for me like helping a child read, a farmer to use more environmental friendly practices,” she added. “Many of my friends teaching at Peace Corps were the children taught by Peace Corps initiatives. It is good to see how much impact the programme can have. A child taught years ago becomes a teacher to serve the same purpose,” Steinbrunner said.

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