Through the Decades

In 2021, the Peace Corps commemorates 60 years of international peace, friendship, volunteerism, and service. Over 240,000 Americans have served in more than 140 nations. Enjoy a closer look at the milestones that have shaped the Peace Corps.


October 14, 1960

In a 2 a.m. campaign speech, then-Senator John F. Kennedy challenges University of Michigan students to contribute two years of their lives to help people in countries of the developing world.

“How many of you who are going to be doctors, are willing to spend your days in Ghana?” Kennedy asked, and then stated, “I think Americans are willing to contribute. But the effort must be far greater than we have ever made in the past.”

March 1, 1961

President Kennedy signs Executive Order 10924, establishing the Peace Corps.

June 1961

Tanganyika I, Colombia I, and Ghana I begin training for Peace Corps service. Peace Corps training activities are conducted at U.S. colleges, universities, and private agencies. Many trainees head to Puerto Rico, the Rocky Mountains, and other locations for field-training activities

August 30, 1961

The first group of Peace Corps Volunteers, Ghana I, arrive at Accra Airport and, shortly afterward, begin their service as teachers.

September 22, 1961

Congress passes the Peace Corps Act, giving it the mandate to “promote world peace and friendship” through a mission statement that the Peace Corps continues to adhere to and promote.

September 1964

National Geographic magazine features Peace Corps Volunteers on its cover.

June 1966

More than 15,000 Volunteers are serving in the field. Historically, this is the highest number of Peace Corps Volunteers serving at one time.



Peace Corps holds a poster design contest to celebrate the 10th anniversary and the iconic flag and logo are introduced.

July 1, 1971

With Executive Order 11603, President Nixon folds the Peace Corps into a new federal volunteer agency called ACTION. However, the Peace Corps' original Congressional mandate remains unchanged.

October 1977

Carolyn Robertson Payton is the first female and the first African American to be Peace Corps Director.

May 16, 1979

President Carter signs an executive order that grants the Peace Corps full autonomy.


December 29, 1981

Peace Corps becomes an independent federal agency.

January 1983

With the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) the longest-serving Peace Corps Director, Loret Miller Ruppe, establishes the Small Project Assistance (SPA) program. Today, SPA funds aid activities in over 40 Peace Corps posts.

January 1985

Peace Corps Director Loret Miller Ruppe signs a letter of agreement establishing the Coverdell Fellows Program with founder Dr. Beryl Levinger.

September 1985

A first in Peace Corps history, more women enter service than men.


Barbara Jo White (RPCV/Dominican Republic, 1987-1989) creates the first World Map Project. Volunteers continue to use the project as an educational tool worldwide.


Paul D. Coverdell establishes the World Wise Schools program (WWS) to connect American educators in classrooms with Peace Corps Volunteers around the world.



The first group of Peace Corps Volunteers to serve in Central and Eastern Europe depart for Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and the Slovak Republic.

October 1993

Carol Bellamy (RPCV/Guatemala, 1963-1965) becomes the first RPCV to be appointed as Peace Corps Director.


The first Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) is established in Romania. Camp GLOW continues to encourage young women to be leaders in their communities.

December 1995

Peace Corps sends three Volunteers to Antigua to rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Luis. This pilot program, originally known as Crisis Corps, later becomes Peace Corps Response and provides short-term, focused, humanitarian service to countries worldwide.

February 1997

Thirty-three Peace Corps Volunteers depart to work with teachers in post-apartheid South Africa.


May 2003

The Peace Corps commits an additional 1,000 Volunteers to fight HIV/AIDS as part of legislation signed into law.

September 2005

For the first time, Volunteers are deployed domestically when Crisis Corps assists relief operations in the Gulf Coast region following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

June 2007

Peace Corps launches Peace Corps Prep.

January 2009

After leaving the country during the 1994 genocide, Peace Corps returns to Rwanda and Volunteers begin working in secondary education and HIV/AIDS education and prevention.


Joseph Acaba became the first returned Peace Corps Volunteer to serve as a NASA astronaut, making his first trip to space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.

December 16, 2009

President Barack Obama signs H.R. 3288 – an omnibus appropriations package that includes $400 million for Peace Corps operations in fiscal year 2010, the agency's largest budget appropriation from Congress.



Peace Corps re-opens three historic programs in Colombia, Indonesia, and Sierra Leone and surpasses 200,000 Americans who have served as Peace Corps Volunteers.


The Peace Corps commemorates 50 years of promoting world peace and friendship with special events in the U.S. and throughout the world.

July 2011

The Peace Corps is one of three featured programs at the free Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The curated exhibition commemorating the Peace Corps' 50th Anniversary runs from June 30 – July 11, 2011.

November 15, 2011

The Peace Corps signs a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that officially partners the agency with Grassroot Soccer in a consolidated effort to make a difference in local communities and combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.

July 2014

The Peace Corps receives 17,336 applications for two-year service positions in fiscal year 2014 – a 22-year high for the agency.

March 3, 2015

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama announce a powerful U.S. Government initiative aimed at expanding access to education for girls around the world through Let Girls Learn. Because the initiative reflects the mission of Peace Corps so well, the agency eventually begins a close collaboration with the First Lady to address barriers to education for girls in host communities.

October 2015

Peace Corps receives nearly 23,000 applications from Americans wanting to serve abroad. This breaks a 40-year record for the number of applications received.

June 1, 2016

The Peace Corps unveils a refreshed brand platform including an updated logo and a bold new website.

February 7, 2018

Aboard the International Space Station, Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba (RPCV) of NASA discuss life and research on the complex during an in-flight educational event with members of the Peace Corps gathered in Washington, D.C.

March 2020

For the first time in Peace Corps history all volunteers are evacuated from their posts due to the COVID- 19 global pandemic.