50 Years of Peace Corps: Celebrating Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

History of Peace Corps

The United States Peace Corps marked its official 50th Anniversary on March 1, 2011. By executive order of President John F. Kennedy in 1961, the establishment of Peace Corps gave American citizens the opportunity to serve abroad in two- to three-year assignments with the support of the U.S. Government.

Over 200,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have since served in nearly 140 countries in program areas such as Youth and Community Development, Health, Business and Information and Communication Technology, Agriculture, Environment, HIV/AIDS, and Food Security.

Peace Corps focuses on three simple goals as an organization:

  1. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

St. Lucia was one of the first countries selected to host Volunteers during Peace Corps’ inaugural year, establishing the program within the Eastern Caribbean region in 1961. St. Vincent and the Grenadines joined the Peace Corps network in 1967.

Peace Corps and St. Vincent and the Grenadines

On April 4, 2011, a diverse group of 11 Americans became the newest cohort of Peace Corps Volunteers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, sworn in by Country Director Kevin Carley. There are now a total of 32 Volunteers serving throughout the country, from Chateaubelair to Owia to Union Island. The initiatives currently being undertaken focus mainly on education, youth empowerment, and community building, with each Volunteer attached to a school, non-governmental organization, or community based organization. Some notable projects with Volunteer involvement include JEMS, the National Volleyball Association, the 4H program, and Marion House.

During a recent trip to St. Vincent, Leonette Jn Pierre, Regional Training Director for the Eastern Caribbean, was a featured guest on the March 20th Peace Corps program on NICE Radio. While discussing Volunteer projects Ms. Jn Pierre emphasised Peace Corps’ lasting effects in a range of critical areas: “Volunteers are doing programs and activities that are sustainable. The Volunteers have helped a lot in terms of literacy, developing libraries, building capacity and strengthening organizations.”

However, for Associate Peace Corps Director Cuthbert James, the effect of Peace Corps Volunteers stretches far beyond any project plans or grant proposals. In reflecting on Peace Corps’ greatest overall achievement James states simply, “I think it’s those relationships that Volunteers have built with locals. People have so many great stories. And the stories you hear are not about building buildings or these massive projects. They are always about the relationships with the Volunteers.”

James himself has his own personal repertoire of stories about Peace Corps Volunteers who have made an indelible impact on his life. His first interaction was with a Volunteer who served as his music teacher at the formerly Troumaca Ontario Secondary School in 1973.  Thirty-eight years later, James now leads the Peace Corps program in SVG and has been personally involved in the greater part of the organization’s 50-year history.

For him, one of the greatest lessons learned through his Peace Corps tenure has been about the diversity of the American people. “There are lots of assumptions about America,” he says. “[Peace Corps] has helped me to appreciate the diversity and to not make assumptions. It’s also helped me to work with people of different levels and backgrounds.”

James also has been witness to the personal growth Volunteers experience as a result of their service: “Each Volunteer has a contribution to make, no matter how they feel when they come in. I’ve seen it over the years. Volunteers come in and they are able to find within themselves a lot of skills they didn’t realize they had before.”

James, along with Everlyn Matthews and Jeffrey John, make up the team that manages the Peace Corps program in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Providing Volunteers with administrative support, professional guidance, and cultural insight are just some of the work they carry out from the headquarters in New Montrose. Says James, “I am the primary support staff for the Volunteers here, but I’m also Vincentian. I have to show appreciation for what Volunteers have come to my country to do.”

50 Years of Peace Corps: Celebrating Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

A 50th Anniversary celebration will take place on Friday, April 15th at Peace Memorial Hall in Kingstown. Exhibits featuring Volunteer projects, hands-on activities for children and adults, and the history of Peace Corps will be on display from 9a.m.-4p.m. An awards ceremony to recognize community partners will begin at 5p.m. Admission is free and all are invited to attend.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tequila
    Apr 13, 2011 @ 20:35:45

    Great blog camille- you guys continue to do good around the world, it would shine out:)

    Reply

  2. Lilian Lapidario Aragon
    Apr 13, 2011 @ 21:28:39

    I am very proud of you and all the volunteers out there. Thank you volunteers for making this world a better place.

    Reply

    • Adelina Philipsen
      Jan 08, 2013 @ 11:03:41

      Organizations like these specially those established around the period of world wars must be always remembered. The peace we enjoy today is the fruit of their consolidated offers.

      Reply

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