Peace Corps Director Outlines Agency’s Strategy for 21st Century
June 28, 2002New Mexico Seen As Important Source of New Peace Corps Volunteers
ALBUQUERQUE, NM, June 28, 2002—Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez outlined his vision for the Peace Corps of the 21st century while asking for support from the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) in meeting the Peace Corps' ambitious goal of doubling the number of volunteers serving worldwide to 14,000 by the end of 2007. This increase is seen as essential by the Bush Administration in order to support and strengthen the Peace Corps 41-year mission of providing trained men and women to developing nations, promoting a better understanding of Americans worldwide and fostering a greater understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans. Hispanics are seen as an important source of potential volunteers as the agency seeks to increase the overall number of minorities in its ranks from the current level of 15 percent, with Latinos representing less than four percent.
Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez told conference participants that currently 7,000 volunteers are serving in 70 countries, including the newest nation of the 21st century, East Timor, however, more and more developing countries were requesting Peace Corps volunteers. “From remote classrooms in Africa to mountain villages in Asia, to rainforests in Latin America and small hamlets in Eastern Europe, our volunteers are working and living side-by-side with peoples from all over the world in order to address the social and economic issues affecting the human condition.” Vasquez added, “ Peace Corps volunteers, through their quiet and dignified efforts, are some of America’s best goodwill ambassadors. America in the 21st century is more vibrant and more diverse than ever before and we are actively working to promote that same level of diversity within the ranks of our volunteers.” The Peace Corps will expand its outreach efforts to Hispanics and other minorities in order to accomplish its goal of diversity.
Since 1961, more than 165,000 volunteers have served in the Peace Corps working in such diverse fields as agriculture, small business and community development, education, environmental conservation, health and information technology. Over 1,400 former volunteers reside in New Mexico, 519 in Albuquerque. Currently, there are at least 40 Peace Corps volunteers from New Mexico says Director Vasquez, “New Mexico residents live in a bicultural world and the Peace Corps needs volunteers with these skills. The University of New Mexico has been a great resource for us, providing 229 volunteers since 1961 and we hope this support will grow.”
Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age (there is no upper age limit). Most programs require a college degree and all majors are welcome. Non-degreed applicants must have three to five years of experience in business, farming, ranching or a skilled trade. Peace Corps service is a two-year commitment. Its benefits include language and cultural training, medical and dental coverage, housing, as well as a monthly stipend and 24 vacation days a year. Volunteers may defer repayment of various student loans while serving.