Peace Corps Celebrates International Volunteer Day

December 8, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 8, 2009 The Peace Corps honored International Volunteer Day by hosting a symposium with Peace Corps staff and leaders from the domestic and international service community on December 4. The symposium addressed how service can be made a universal experience for young people worldwide.

The symposium featured a panel that included Senator Harris Wofford, a founding architect of The Peace Corps; Steven Rosenthal, Director of the Building Bridges Coalition and Founder of Cross-Cultural Solutions; Sonal Shah, Director of the White Houses newly-created Office on Social Innovation and Civic Participation; and Elena Suarez, Chief of Special Programs in the Office of External Relations at the Inter-American Development Bank.

Peace Corps Volunteers represent a legacy of public service that has become a significant part of Americas history and positive image abroad, said Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams in his opening remarks to the symposium. There is a flourishing and growing network of international agencies and groups working to expand opportunities and capacity for service among a global citizenry. Peace Corps aims to be a partner of choice in this movement, bringing to the table our nearly 50 years of experience in designing, managing, and delivering a corps of volunteers which has, in effect, been successful because of its partnership with and engagement of host community members in their own development. Director Williams remarks can be found in their entirety here.

Senator Wofford facilitated the panel discussion. He said, Imagine if volunteering citizen initiated volunteer service became the common experience of young people everywhere. We need to crack the atom of civic power of people power and find a way to tap the power of young people.

The event celebrated the role of Peace Corps Volunteers, host country partners and other agencies in enhancing volunteer opportunities for young people worldwide. The panelists discussed opportunities for growth, and innovation and the ways that government, international organizations, NGOs and the private sector can support volunteerism in countries worldwide.

White House Director of Social Innovation and Civic Participation Sonal Shah discussed how volunteer-related groups can share their resources and tools through open source solutions. This is a time where convergence of the corporate, nonprofit, civil society and government are coming together, Ms. Shah said. No one group can do it on its own but we can figure out how to build the strengths of different groups to bring together solutions.

In late 2008, The Peace Corps launched the V2 Volunteerism initiative, which seeks to support youth and community volunteers in the host countries where Peace Corps Volunteers serve. Peace Corps distributes the V2 Volunteerism Action Guide to Peace Corps volunteers worldwide. The document provides a framework to help Peace Corps volunteers and their partners assist young people to plan and implement change in their own local communities.

To read some of the remarkable stories about what happens when young people are given the opportunity and the skills to address their own needs, click here.

As Peace Corps approaches its 50th anniversary, its service legacy continues to promote peace and friendship around the world with over 7,600 volunteers serving in 75 host countries. Historically, nearly 200,000 Americans have served with the Peace Corps to promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of 139 host countries. Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment. To learn more about the Peace Corps, please visit our website: www.peacecorps.gov.

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