Peace Corps volunteers promote peace through friendship

WASHINGTON – In honor of International Day of Friendship today, Peace Corps celebrates the special bonds forged between volunteers and community members. Proclaimed by the United Nations in 2011, International Day of Friendship highlights the importance of friendship as an essential part of life and crucial to building bridges between peoples of different countries and cultures.

Peace Corps promotes world peace and friendship through its three goals. Volunteers, who serve in host communities for two years, have the unique opportunity to develop personal connections with people of different backgrounds. Below are examples of how Peace Corps volunteers in Paraguay, China, Tonga and Macedonia have embraced Peace Corps’ mission and formed lifelong friendships with members in the communities where they work and live. 

Paraguay International Friendship Day
Yumiko (center) with friends Tamara and Nancy (photo courtesy of Yumiko Gely)


Volunteer Yumiko Gely of Colombia, Missouri, struggled to find friends in her community at first. Most other women her age were married and had children, and she was afraid she wouldn’t find anyone to relate to. Yumiko eventually met Tamara, a member of her community, and now has a lifelong friend. Though almost ten years apart in age, Yumiko and Tamara have similar interests and personalities. They co-teach a Zumba class and Tamara is the “godmother” of Yumiko’s dog. Yumiko says that she can be herself around Tamara. “She’s my best friend, my sister, and my person – and she will stay in my life for the rest of my life, as I will in hers.”

China International Friendship Day
Elizabeth (right) and Miranda present on their Choose Beautiful project (photo courtesy of Elizabeth Utset)


When volunteer Elizabeth Utset of Atlantic Beach, Florida, agreed to do a language exchange with Miranda, a student at the university where she works, she didn’t expect that it would start a lasting friendship. Since their first meeting, Miranda and Elizabeth have met every week to talk while eating Lanzhou lamian, or Lanzhou noodles, one of Miranda’s favorite foods. The two are even planning a body positivity and beauty conference to empower other women. Elizabeth says, “[Miranda] is one of the most passionate people I have ever met in my life, and I feel so lucky that we have both had to chance to learn and grow together!”

Tonga International Friendship Day
Jocelyn headed to the beach with Kiko (photo courtesy of Jocelyn Hill)


“You can have friends across ages,” says volunteer Jocelyn Hill of Worcester, Vermont. Jocelyn is best friends with her 8-year-old host bother Kiko. They help each other with language homework and are always having fun. Jocelyn and Kiko play cards, watch movies, dance to songs on the radio, and go for long evas, or “wandering walks” exploring their community. Jocelyn is excited to see how her little brother grows up and will miss him when she leaves Tonga.

Macedonia International Friendship Day
Haley and Stoilko take a selfie (photo courtesy of Haley Hogenkamp)


Volunteer Haley Hogenkamp of Celina, Ohio, has also fostered an intergenerational friendship with 77-year-old Stoilko, a member of her community. “No matter the language, no matter the age, I am further convinced that true friends can always manage to find each other,” she says of her friend. Stoilko is a history enthusiast and often goes on long strolls with Haley, telling her stories about the history of Macedonia and their city.

Do you have a story to tell? Share a story from your Peace Corps service, past or present, here.

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About the Peace Corps: The Peace Corps sends Americans with a passion for service abroad on behalf of the United States to work with communities and create lasting change. Volunteers develop sustainable solutions to address challenges in education, health, community economic development, agriculture, environment and youth development. Through their Peace Corps experience, volunteers gain a unique cultural understanding and a life-long commitment to service that positions them to succeed in today's global economy. Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, more than 230,000 Americans of all ages have served in 141 countries worldwide.

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