Peace Corps; Volunteers; Experiences
JESSICA COHEN (Political Science) Humans of the Peace Corps: URI Edition Sponsors: Kathleen Maher (Honors Program), Nancy Stricklin (Office of the Provost)
The Peace Corps is a volunteer organization that was established in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy. The Peace Corps’ overarching mission is to promote world peace and friendship. It achieves this by “helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women and helping to promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people served”. Volunteers have helped with major global issues such as fighting hunger and protecting the environment, while also making an impact at the local level within the community they serve. They educate and inspire community members with their service and involvement, and create lasting bonds between the host nation and the United States. Since its start, more than 235,000 Americans have served as volunteers (PCVs). PCVs range from newly-graduated college students to older adults, and each volunteer has a unique story that is worth sharing. After graduating, I plan to apply to volunteer with the Peace Corps. URI has had a long history of producing PCVs and, in fact, the university once housed the Rhode Island office for the Peace Corps. Today, URI is one of the topranked producers of PCVs, and is one of 120 universities that offers the Peace Corps Prep Program, which provides undergraduate students with a framework to develop core competencies which are highly valued in PCVs. For my Honors project, I am presenting a range of profiles and experiences of PCVs. Inspired by the popular “Humans of New York” book and social media page, I created my own “Humans of the Peace Corps” book. The book features various Peace Corps volunteers, all of whom are URI-affiliated. Each page shares a profile of the volunteer I interviewed, based upon a set of questions I asked them. The questions range from why they joined the Peace Corps to the most challenging part about volunteering. I realized that the best way to find out more about what it is like to be in the Peace Corps would be to talk with actual volunteers. I wanted to hear the good, the bad, the ugly, and the life-changing moments each volunteer had to share, so that I could better understand what this commitment entails. Another goal of this project is that the book may serve as a resource for URI students enrolled in the Peace Corps Prep Program. My hope is that they will be able to see their future selves in the profiles of past URI alumni, faculty, and staff who volunteered. From my interviews, I was able to see my future after URI. I was able to see connections and similarities between all the volunteers, even if they did not know each other. I saw how life-changing the Peace Corps was to each volunteer and how much the experience meant to them. I hope “The Humans of the Peace Corps” reflects this and does each volunteer justice.