The Peace Corps was first invited to Liberia in 1962, and more than 3,800 Volunteers served in the country until the civil war in 1990. During the 27 years of operation until the program was suspended due to the civil war, Volunteers served in every facet of Liberia’s development efforts with emphasis placed on education, agriculture, rural development, and health. The first group of 94 Volunteers was comprised predominantly of primary education teachers. The education program grew to support Volunteers working as elementary and secondary classroom teachers, teacher trainers, vocational/technical instructors and curriculum developers. Agricultural Volunteers worked as foresters and economists and participated in crop production projects. The government and people of Liberia have always been highly receptive to Peace Corps, and at one point, there were nearly 400 Volunteers in Liberia at the same time.
The Liberian civil war claimed the lives of more than 200,000 Liberians and further displaced a million others into refugee camps in neighboring countries. The initial war ended in 1995 but problems continued when prominent warlord Charles Taylor was elected as president in 1997. Taylor's autocratic and dysfunctional government led to a new rebellion in 1999. The conflict intensified in mid-2003, and as international and American pressure increased for him to resign, Taylor finally sought asylum in Nigeria. There was a peaceful and orderly presidential election held in the fall of 2005, when Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard-trained economist, became the first elected female head of state in Africa.
In a 2006 visit to President Johnson-Sirleaf by former U.S. Ambassador Booth, the President requested the re-establishment of a Peace Corps program in Liberia focusing on education. In March 2008, Peace Corps sent temporary staff to begin the process of opening Peace Corps Response in Liberia. Permanent staff soon followed and by July 2008 including a Country Director, Director of Management and Operations, and Medical Officer were on the ground. The first group of 12 Peace Corps Response Volunteers arrived in October 2008. The first group of 15 Peace Corps Volunteers to serve a full two-year period of service arrived in July 2010. This group, and the following inputs, served as math and science secondary school teachers, and Volunteer generalist math teachers were placed in junior high schools.
Peace Corps Liberia has enjoyed a positive relationship with the Government of Liberia since the re-opening of the program in 2008. The Ministry of Education provides funding for housing accommodations to Peace Corps Volunteers, and the government donated the use of the Presidential Lodge in Margibi County, Doe Palace, as a training center for Peace Corps’ use. The center officially opened on July 1, 2011, with a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by several high-level government officials. The Government of Liberia’s support transcends monetary and in-kind contributions, and former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has personally shown great support to the program through meeting with Volunteers on travels up-country and attending most swearing-in ceremonies and close of service workshops.
In December 2013, the Ebola outbreak began in West Africa. The first reported case of Ebola in Liberia was in March 2014 and Peace Corps Liberia evacuated all volunteers. During the Ebola crisis, Peace Corps staff provided support to the Center for Disease Control in the area of community engagement, and education which increased confidence in preventive measures and care.
Liberia was declared Ebola free in 2015 and Peace Corps Liberia brought two cohorts of Response Volunteers to build the foundation for the arrival of the traditional 2-year Volunteers. The Ministry of Health requested support for the new community health program. PCVs trained, mentored and worked directly with community health workers across the country. In March of 2020 Peace Corps evacuated all Volunteers, worldwide, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Volunteer activities halted in Liberia and hope to resume in May of 2023.https://www.peacecorps.gov/documents/1723/Annual_Report_2017-_standard_quality.pdf