• In praise of the Peace Corps

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    What would the world be like if there were no Peace Corps? The organization has done so much for so many people for more than half a century.

    Our country is one nation that has reaped untold benefits from hosting volunteers of this worthy organization since the early 1960s.

    The Peace Corps is a creation of the administration of one of the most popular US presidents of recent decades – John F. Kennedy.

    The volunteer program is run by the US government to provide technical assistance; help people outside the US understand American culture; and help Americans understand the cultures of other countries.

    The Peace Corps was born of a grand vision – to promote world peace and friendship. This it would accomplish by sending young men and women as unofficial ambassadors of the US to the peoples of the world.

    It may be said that the program has succeeded in a big way, and will continue to do so in the years and decades to come.

    Although launched during the Kennedy presidency, the concept of the Peace Corps had been percolating in the minds of other American leaders in the post-World War II years. The basic concept was for the United States to send to the rest of the world “missionaries of democracy”, as one proponent recommended.

    Critics of the program, however, claim that it is nothing more than a tool of American imperialism. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Since its inception, the program has accepted some 210,000 Americans and deployed them to 139 countries. Among the countries that welcomed and continues to welcome Peace Corps volunteers is the Republic of the Philippines.

    For the most part, the American volunteers have been warmly welcomed by the communities that they sought to serve. In some cases, the volunteers opted to remain in the country for good. In other cases, some of the volunteers ended up marrying Filipinos.

    The overwhelming majority of Peace Corps volunteers, however, returned to the US with the fondest memories of the time they spent in the country. They would invariably head for jobs in the “real” world such as politics, business or the academe.

    Building and strengthening character
    No doubt, their character were formed and strengthened by the time they spent in foreign shores, the Philippines included.

    Not all the volunteers had happy experiences, however. The saddest fate was that of a female volunteer, who was raped and killed in Baguio City a few years ago. Authorities arrested and secured the conviction of the felon.

    Despite this tragedy, the US did not cease or suspend the sending of volunteers to the country.

    It is difficult not to admire the young men and women who join the program. One requirement is that a Peace Corps volunteer must be a college graduate.

    It is no secret that getting a college education is quite difficult in the US.

    For one, the cost of a quality education is unbelievably high. Yet the volunteers willingly surrender one year of their lives which should be their most productive living in relative poverty – at least by US standards – and working under the most difficult of circumstances.

    No wonder then that Peace Corps volunteers have always been considered as modern-day American heroes.

    Off to the Philippines
    This year, 73 new volunteers were assigned to the Philippines. They carry with them the reputation built over the decades by their predecessors.

    They will find that this country is far different from what it was in the early 60s.

    The Philippines today is one of the biggest countries in the world in terms of population. By the end of this year, the number of Filipinos is likely to hit 100 million.

    More importantly, the Philippines is slowly but steadily moving out of Third World status. If the country’s economy progresses as expected, the time will soon come when there will no longer be any need for the US to send Peace Corps volunteers to the country.

    If and when that day arrives, there will still be hundreds of past volunteers who will hopefully speak well of this country, and be happy at the thought that the poverty that was so prevalent decades ago has been solved.

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