Sept. 22 is the 60th anniversary of the Peace Corps, the day President John F. Kennedy signed into law legislation creating the agency. With the stroke of a pen President Kennedy deepened our nation’s ability to live out key values – values like service, peace, sacrifice, commitment and learning from those we hope to serve.
Volunteers live with local families in their countries of service for more than two years at a time, working closely with communities while supporting agriculture, community economic development, youth development, environment, health and education sectors when and where invited. Over the last 60 years, nearly a quarter of a million Peace Corps Volunteers have made a tremendous contribution to the individuals and communities in which they served and to our planet.
But this anniversary is unlike any other. In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic required the evacuation of Peace Corps Volunteers from all 61 countries in which Americans were serving, and, as a result, we will observe the 60th anniversary without Peace Corps Volunteers in the field. This unprecedented moment has provided an opportunity to reflect on what the Peace Corps has accomplished and envision what should come next. During this pause, the National Peace Corps Association convened a series of nationwide conversations about the future of the Peace Corps in a changed world.
The community of returned Peace Corps Volunteers envisions an agency that, one, advances global peace and understanding, two, seeks innovative solutions to shared global problems, and three, responds to shifting expectations in the developing world. Countries in which we serve are asking us to return as soon as we can.
But returned and prospective Peace Corps Volunteers also want an agency that joins other serious institutions in addressing systemic racism, gender-based discrimination, and climate change – and they want an agency that genuinely listens to global partners so the institution can provide the best America has to offer.
We are proud to be counted among more than 2,285 New Mexicans who have served in the Peace Corps, joining more than 240,000 volunteers nationwide over these last 60 years. We are grateful to count ourselves among the 8 percent of Peace Corps volunteers over age 55. To learn more about New Mexican Peace Corps Volunteers, you can search this page: peacecorps.gov/stories/what-its-like-living-and-working-as-a-native-american-in-mongolia/ and here: tinyurl.com/489mm2xz.
We entered the Peace Corps hoping to bring our skills and commitment to communities around the world. Peace Corps’ simple yet powerful formula of making peace and friendship endures. We attest this “towering task” of service is so fulfilling that volunteers elect to return to the field over the course of their lifetime or choose to volunteer in retirement. The saying goes, "Peace Corps is the hardest job you’ll ever love."
You can join in celebrating the Peace Corps’ 60th anniversary and ensure its resurgence by urging your representatives to co-sponsor the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (HR 1456) and help deepen our nation’s commitment to service, peace, sacrifice, commitment, and, yes, humility—learning from others whom we hope to serve.
To all returned Peace Corps Volunteers, we thank you for your service. To anyone thinking about becoming a volunteer, your Peace Corps service is needed now more than ever.
Donna Marie served as an Education TEFL Peace Corps Volunteer in the Kyrgyz Republic from 2018-2020. She was evacuated due to the pandemic in March 2020. A Taos County resident, she is one of Peace Corps’ 55+ volunteers. There’s no age limit to becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer.
Anne Silver served as a Business Development Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine from 2002-2004. From 2005 to present she has continued her service as a Peace Corps staff member. Between assignments Anne returns to Arroyo Seco, Taos County.