Peace Corps in South Africa
South Africa represents the 132nd country the Peace Corps has entered in its history. Since 1997, our work has been focused on literacy enrichment and HIV awareness and prevention in collaboration with the South African government.
The overall purpose of the Peace Corps South Africa program is to build capacity at the individual and organizational level in the rural primary schools and with civil service organizations (community-based organizations [CBOs], faith-based organizations [FBOs], nongovernmental organizations [NGOs], and partner governmental agencies [PGAs] that are dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS.
Projects in South Africa
Volunteers in the Literacy Enrichment Project (LEP) partner with educators throughout South Africa to support and improve the culture of teaching, learning, and service for students, teachers, and communities. Reading is one of the most fundamental skills that a child must learn. An individual’s literacy ability can impact his/her economic earning potential, health outcomes, and well-being of families. It is critical for children to develop literacy skills early in life. This includes a robust foundation grounded in learning environments that connect listening, speaking, reading, writing, and critical thinking to the social and emotional development of students. Literacy programs should also integrate simultaneous, continuous skill building for growth in both “learning to read” and “reading to learn.”
In the context of controlling HIV/AIDS, epidemic control is reached when the total number of new HIV infections falls below the total number of deaths from all causes among HIV-positive individuals. The HIV Awareness & Prevention Program for Youth project (HAPPY) addresses structural drivers to health inequality, such as poverty, gender inequality, and associated stigma, as well as strengthening organizational capacity, which is critical to successfully reaching epidemic control.
Peace Corps Response sends experienced professionals to undertake short-term, high-impact service assignments in communities around the world. Peace Corps Response Volunteers are expected to possess the technical skills needed to fulfill their assigned role with minimal training.
The Virtual Service Pilot connects qualified U.S. citizens with host country counterparts to meet partner requests in new ways – from supplementing on-the-ground Volunteer efforts to reaching regions where Volunteers cannot go. Participants collaborate virtually with counterparts to complete project tasks, donating 5-15 hours per week for 3-6 months.
History of Peace Corps in South Africa
The Peace Corps began exploring the possibility of working in South Africa after the successful transition from apartheid to a democratically elected government. During President Mandela’s visit in October 1994 to the United States, he invited the Peace Corps to set up a program in South Africa and focus on two of South Africa’s highest priorities—education and HIV/AIDS. During the visit, President Clinton announced the intention of the U.S. Government to send Peace Corps Volunteers to the Republic of South Africa. In December 1995, U.S. Vice President Al Gore and South Africa Deputy President Thabo Mbeki signed the Peace Corps country agreement with South Africa. An assessment team traveled to South Africa in March 1996 and identified education as the priority focus for Peace Corps.
In January 1997, the first group of Volunteers arrived in South Africa. This highly diverse cohort (known as SA-1) was the first group to focus on HIV/AIDS prevention. In September 2001, the next cohort arrived, which focused on education.
Since 1997, over 1700 Volunteers have served in South Africa. Both the Education and Health projects recently went through project framework assessments to ensure they remain in sync with the Government of South Africa’s strategic national plans and priorities.
To learn more about us, take a look at our most recent annual reports:
About the U.S. Government in South Africa
Visit the homepage of the U.S. Embassy in South Africa with links to all U.S. agencies operating in South Africa, including PEPFAR, USAID, and CDC.