After sudden pandemic evacuations, the Peace Corps has returned to overseas duty.

As it promises to be a leader in issues like diversity, transparency, and sexual assault, the organization is looking for volunteers.

After sudden pandemic evacuations, the Peace Corps has returned to overseas duty.

After suspending all operations, the Peace Corps will begin redeploying volunteers in late October. This is a historic first for the Peace Corps.

Two years later, Peace Corps volunteers will reenter service in a gradual approach. The first cohorts will be received by Zambia and the Dominican Republic, as well as new and evacuated volunteers. Carol Spahn, Peace Corps CEO, stated in prepared remarks Thursday.


 

She said that the organization is currently seeking applicants to 24 countries. They must pass a final approval test a month before they can receive volunteers. All volunteers will participate in Covid response in each country, in addition to their primary tasks.

"In the 1960s and 1970s, it was smallpox vaccine; in the 1980s, Guineaworm eradication; and since the early 1990s, HIV prevention and malaria. Spahn stated that we are now preparing to respond to Covid-19, and that the "Covid crusaders" incoming will be part of history.

"We are part in these efforts at the final mile, reaching the most vulnerable and isolated populations."

This is the 61st anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's creation of the Peace Corps to provide international economic and social development assistance. The Peace Corps, which has sent 240,000 Americans in 124 countries to provide assistance, has been subject to criticism from its volunteers . These issues range from diversity and equity, mental health support, and other topics that the Peace Corps will be focusing on when it rebrands itself and re-enters global community.

During its hiatus the Peace Corps launched a pilot program for virtual service, developed the work of partners overseas and sent more than 150 volunteers to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in support of the U.S. Covid response.

First volunteers will be working with the Zambian health ministry to promote vaccination access and provide Covid education. Volunteers in Dominican Republic will help communities overcome the challenges caused by the pandemic.

Olivia Diaz (25), had only two months of service left and had just signed a third-year extension. She was evacuated from Zambia in 2021. She will be one of the first volunteers to go back to work in Zambia, working on community conservation and reforestation.

She told NBC News that she doesn't consider it to be uprooting her life. Instead, she said, "I don’t see it as a way of losing my life as much as I feel roots both here in Tucson and those that extend across to Zambia." "I am returning to strengthen the roots of connections made there."

Although the Peace Corps is back in action, many of the evacuated volunteers stated that they will not be returning because they would have to take a 27-month commitment without any guarantee they could return to the same country or village they were in before.

Emily Goff, who was serving in the mid-service in Zambia during the pandemic, fled and is now working at a New York City women's mental healthcare shelter.

The 29-year old said that she feels very settled and couldn't handle getting up and going out. "It took me several months to adjust and feel comfortable in the culture and work during my time in military service. I have definitely lost that momentum."

Khaina Cole (28-year-old volunteer for Evacuation Madagascar) said that she hoped the organization would shrink to strengthen the bonds between volunteers, U.S.-based staffers, and people from the host countries.

Cole stated that many Peace Corps volunteers experienced depression because of isolation and culture differences. However, they were afraid to ask for help from Peace Corps. He also said that there were only two therapists available to volunteers in three countries.

Goff stated that she hopes that the Peace Corps will have used the past two-years to reexamine its policies and structures.

She stated that the agency's handling of sexual assault and mental illness needs to be improved.

Thursday's announcement by the Peace Corps indicated that it will rethink its approach to sexual assault prevention and treatment.

Spahn stated that he could not tolerate any sexual violence in America or in other countries.

She stated that the overall strategy plan for the organization will be focused on accountability, equity, and transparency.

Spahn stated that this is not the Peace Corps you knew 10-20 years ago, or even two years ago. Spahn said, "We have retained the enduring magic" that brings us together again after all these years to support an agency whose mission we love and care about and fundamentally change the parts that make us better."

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