Peace Corps Reaches 40-Year High in Number of Volunteers

8,655 Americans serving as Peace Corps volunteers in 77 host countries

WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 28, 2010 More Americans are serving as Peace Corps volunteers than there have been since 1970, when more than 9,000 volunteers were working in 59 countries. As of September 30, 2010, 8,655 Peace Corps volunteers are serving in 77 host countries. This represents a 13 percent increase over 2009 when 7,671 Peace Corps volunteers were serving in 74 host countries.

I am honored to announce the creation of an additional 1,000 volunteer positions in 2010, complementing our goal to increase overseas leadership opportunities, Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams said. Every day, Peace Corps volunteers strive to make a difference and have improved the lives of millions of people not just in communities around the world, but also in their local communities in the United States once they return home. This is the legacy of President Kennedys concept of international service, an idea that continues to capture the imagination of thousands of service-minded Americans today.

In anticipation of strategic growth, Peace Corps has strengthened its capabilities to accommodate and support an increase in volunteers and volunteer support services. The agency continues to pay special attention to identifying and preparing volunteer work sites, infrastructure, security and health support, staffing at overseas posts, and training for volunteers and staff.

Several factors contributed to the agencys growth: the expansion of current programs, the addition of new programs and an increase in volunteers extending the length of their service. The Peace Corps responded to an increase in host country requests for volunteers, principally because of an increase in resources. FY 2010 marked the largest operating budget in the agencys history: $400 million. The distribution of volunteers is roughly equal across three geographic regions. Volunteers work across six main sectors of service; education remains the largest program sector for volunteers.

The agency completed a comprehensive agency assessment in June 2010, creating a blueprint for Peace Corps to pursue quality improvement measures which will strengthen agency performance and ensure strategic growth. Strategic growth takes into account not only an increase in volunteer numbers, but also the myriad of factors and conditions that affect and enable Peace Corps volunteers to have a successful, safe and productive service experience.

2010 Data:

All figures are based on fiscal year data as of September 30, 2010. Peace Corps captures this data by completing an annual data analysis of the agencys on-board strength as of the end of the fiscal year.

  • Peace Corps volunteers reflect the diversity of our country. The average age of a volunteer is 28; 7 percent of volunteers are over the age of 50; and the oldest volunteer currently serving is 86. Nineteen (19) percent of volunteers are minorities and 60 percent are women. Ninety (90) percent of volunteers hold at least a bachelors degree.

  • Peace Corps received an increase in the operating budget. In 2010, $400 million was allocated to Peace Corps programs. In 2009, Peace Corps budget was $340 million.

  • Due to an increase in requests for volunteers from host countries, more than half (51) of Peace Corps posts increased their size over the previous year. The three Peace Corps posts that grew the most were: Rwanda by 210 percent (from 29 to 90 volunteers), Georgia by 125 percent (from 28 to 63 volunteers), and Ethiopia by 94 percent (from 52 to 101 volunteers).

  • Nearly 200 more volunteers decided to extend the length of their service in 2010, when compared with 2009. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment. However, many volunteers request to extend their service time to allow for the completion of a project or initiative. Many of these third-year extension volunteers also help train incoming groups of volunteers.

  • Nearly 200 volunteer positions were created at newly opened posts. In 2010, Peace Corps opened new programs in Colombia, Indonesia and Sierra Leone; and re-opened the suspended program in Madagascar.

  • More than 200 Peace Corps Response volunteers served overseas in 34 countries. Peace Corps Response provides opportunities for returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCVs) to undertake short-term, high impact assignments in various programs around the world. Total volunteers in this program increased by 171 percent over 2009. For more information on Peace Corps Response, click here.

  • In 2010, the agency received nearly 13,500 applications for volunteer positions. There are more Americans applying to serve with Peace Corps than there are positions available. Roughly one in three applicants will serve with a Peace Corps program overseas.

  • Successful 2010 applicants are generally matched to a program position with a departure in 2011. Peace Corps prioritizes the personal elements of the recruitment and placement process, which matches the skills and interests of applicants with the availability of positions and resources overseas. Applicants are encouraged to plan ahead and apply nine months to a year in advance of their target departure date.

Volunteers by Region:

  • Africa Region: 3,168 Peace Corps volunteers serve in 28 countries (37 percent of all volunteers).

  • Inter-America and the Pacific Region: 2,772 Peace Corps volunteers serve in 29 countries (32 percent of all volunteers).

  • Europe, the Mediterranean and Asia Region: 2,715 Peace Corps volunteers serve in 20 countries (31 percent of all volunteers).

Volunteers by Program Sector:

  • Education: 3,183 volunteers (37 percent)

  • Health & HIV/AIDS: 1,900 volunteers (22 percent)

  • Business Development: 1,207 volunteers (14 percent)

  • Environment: 1,146 volunteers (13 percent)

  • Agriculture: 375 volunteers (4 percent)

  • Youth Development: 450 volunteers (5 percent)

  • Other: 394 volunteers (5 percent)

About the Peace Corps: President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961 by executive order. Peace Corps will commemorate 50 years of promoting peace and friendship around the world through 2011. Historically, more than 200,000 Americans have served with the Peace Corps to promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of 139 host countries. Today, 8,655 volunteers are working with local communities in 77 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.

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