Survey: Peace Corps Alums Say Program Helps U.S. Image, But Falls Short in Development Goals

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A Peace Corps volunteer teaching in Nepal

To mark the Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary, Civic Enterprises and the National Peace Corps Association commissioned an independent survey of past volunteers to find out what their experiences were like and what they think their participation achieved.

Peace Corps volunteers, who must spend at least two years serving overseas, reported that their participation helped people around the world gain a better understanding of America, but was less effective in helping train the workers needed in those communities. More than 11,000 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) were surveyed. (See a PDF of the survey here.)

(PHOTOS: Sargent Shriver and the Peace Corps)

According to the report, RPCVs said that peace, more than development, has been the organization’s overriding purpose. An overwhelming majority (82%) of RPCVs think their service helped foster a better understanding of the U.S. in the communities they served, and 93% think the Peace Corps has improved America’s image globally.

They responded that the least achieved goal was helping fulfill the communities’ needs for trained workers. Less than one-third felt confident that they had achieved their individual assignment goals, which might have been related to the fact that only 25% thought their assignments were “well defined.”

But working with the Peace Corps was still a good experience for 98% of RPCVs, and nearly all said they would recommend Peace Corps to their children, grandchildren or close friend. Interestingly, only 4% said that feeling unsafe was a major problem.

According to the report, President John F. Kennedy originally envisioned sending 100,000 volunteers abroad annually. But today’s reality comes up short — the organization only has about 8,600 volunteers right now.

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