Posts Tagged ‘Peace Corps’

The purpose of the Peace Corps

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Alanna examines the Peace Corps from a global health perspective:

You have to remember that it’s not an international development organization. It’s a US public diplomacy agency, and a powerful opportunity for personal growth and development. But you don’t join Peace Corps to do international development work, and the organization will tell you that itself.

The opportunity to experience life as though you were poor can give you powerful insight into development and its obstacles. It’s probably the equivalent of a graduate degree in development and what it may or may not mean. But Peace Corps volunteers don’t have the resources, support, or often knowledge to have a long-term impact on the problems they are experiencing. Once again, that’s not a criticism of the volunteers, or of the Peace Corps – it’s just not what the program is designed to do.

UPDATE: One of Alanna’s readers makes the point that the benefits of the Peace Corps are not necessarily found in tangible development results, but rather something much deeper:

I would argue [the Peace Corps] can help people do what the Twitterati, bloggers, and others in business and life have discovered helps them get the job done – form relationships with people that create goodwill over time – which consequently can inspire and support development.

As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali, I admit that only one person in my family and a few close friends had even heard of the country before I lived there.  Now, they all speak about Mali as if it were their own backyard, and the concentric circles of people that they are friends with all know about my experience.  By making the world seem a little bit smaller, there may not have been direct lives saved because I lived in a village for 2 years, but the ripple effect continues because those people want to participate in causes that they know something about.

Finding a do-gooding job in ‘this economy’

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

with the added energy and opportunities as a result of the Serve America Act, recently signed by President Obama

If you’re able to consider shorter-term positions that allow you to gain invaluable experience for very little pay, then this is a great time to look at national service programs such as AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps.

I would usually wholeheartedly agree that volunteer work abroad is a great way to accrue international/intercultural experience beneficial to an international career, and I still do, though at the moment with a much more reflective and critical eye than usual. More on what I mean and on the merits of international volunteerism very soon. [I'm also a little puzzled that the Stonesfiers consider the Peace Corps a "shorter term" opportunity, as the minimum committment is 27 months, a fact they note later in the article. Two-plus years hardly strikes me as shorter term.]

Anyway, also notable is the “follow the money”:

That’s right, even today’s nonprofit sector, with its belt tightening and consolidation, has significant activity that results in new job openings for the right candidates. So follow the philanthropic news. Set up an RSS feed or follow a site that aggregates the top nonprofit news, such as this one, to help you sort out what and who is giving and getting new grants…

Track USAID’s grants and contracts (a lot of their dollars go to U.S.-based organizations working overseas) via their press releases and other news feeds. If you see a new leader announced for a nonprofit you love, a merger announced between two nonprofits, a new strategy declared by a leader in your field, or any other news that might indicate a change in “business as usual,” then get going! They may need new qualified folks to get the job done.

Sister Cities International recently got a large new grant, and with it came a slew of new job openings. I think this and the Stonesfiers’ idea to track new grants at organizations where you might want to work qualifies as a practical example of how job searching in these fields (or any fields) is not simply about browsing open positions, but also paying attention to and being immersed in the broader events and issues of the sector.

Hat tip: reader Andrew Farrand at Georgetown SFS

Get your Master’s while in the Peace Corps

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

At a meeting yesterday of the Washington International Education Group at the American Council on Education, I came across a part of the Peace Corps that I assumed was new (because I hadn’t heard about it, of course) but has in fact been around since 1987: the Master’s International (MI) Program, in which Peace Corps volunteers can serve while pursuing a Master’s degree. Eric Goldman, manager of the MI program, explained that while the Peace Corps has no problem attracting volunteers for “generalist” positions (these are the typical PC volunteer, straight out of college), it needed a way to attract “skilled” volunteers who can tackle projects that require specific, higher-level skill sets. The MI program was their answer.

Here’s how MI works: first you apply to a participating graduate school (listed on the Peace Corps website). Once you’re accepted, you submit your application to the Peace Corps. Once you’re accepted in that, you’ll spend a year to a year and a half doing your graduate studies. From there you’ll spend the full 27 months abroad as a Peace Corps volunteer on a professional project that utilizes and expands on the skills you’re learning in grad school. You’ll then return to your school to finish up (thesis, final project, whatnot), finally descending upon the real world with both a graduate degree and a Peace Corps experience gleaming on your resume.

Sounds like a pretty decent deal. No word from Goldman on the competitiveness of this program (though he did mention that Peace Corps currently has “an abundance” of applications for generalist positions), but he did mention that they’re looking to expand the number of participating universities, as well as opportunities for financial assistance.