Since its establishment in 1961, the Peace Corps has sent Americans with a passion for service abroad on behalf of the United States to work with communities, creating lasting change. Of those volunteers, 30,418 California residents have served since the agency’s founding and there are 916 volunteers from the state currently serving worldwide, making California the top state when it comes to those with the highest number of Peace Corps volunteers.
"During my time leading the Peace Corps, I have seen the tremendous impact that volunteers have when they share their unique hometown perspectives with the communities they serve,” said Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet. “Volunteers represent our nation's rich diversity by coming from all corners of the U.S. They are able to share our nation's rich cultural heritage with communities around the world, leaving a legacy of peace and friendship that is timeless."
Californians make up a large percentage of the more than 225,000 Americans who have served in 140 countries worldwide as agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health and youth in development volunteers since President John F. Kennedy founded the agency nearly 60 years ago. This is the eighth consecutive year that California has bested the nation’s other 49 states – the state more than doubled New York’s volunteer output, which took the second place spot with 416 volunteers.
The Los Angeles/Long Beach/Santa Ana and San Francisco/Oakland/Fremont metropolitan areas made the list of top volunteer-producing metro areas for 2016. The Los Angeles metro area ranked No. 3 nationally, with 283 volunteers currently serving abroad. The San Francisco metro area, which produced 136 volunteers, took the No. 10 spot.
Volunteers make an impact in underserved communities across the globe through means which can include providing water security, improving health care, tackling gender norms and helping children become literate. California native and University of California, Davis, graduate Sarah Anderson has fulfilled lifelong dreams through her service with the Peace Corps, such as experiencing new cultures, learning a new language and contributing to overseas communities.
Anderson served in Nepal from 2014 to 2016, and was originally chosen for the food security program as a health volunteer. Thanks to her training from the Peace Corps, she was able to teach many agricultural projects such as oyster mushroom production. Inspired by the poor nutrition of children in her community, she wrote a project assistance grant and provided supplies for more than 100 local women to grow oyster mushroom colonies in their homes.
“It was an income development project, as well as a way to give people access to off-season crops,” said Anderson. “This is the first time the government has taken interest in oyster mushrooms in my community, and I was happy that they will be assisting farmers in the future.”
Peace Corps volunteers have the option to choose from a variety of programs. The two-year service program is geared toward college graduates, retirees, career changers or anyone looking to make a difference who are U.S. citizens at least 18 years of age ready to depart in nine to 12 months. There are also specialized, high-impact, short-term assignments, known as Peace Corps Response, which have a service time of three to 12 months and call for experienced professionals or returning volunteers. Physicians or nurses with an active U.S. license may also serve as part of the Global Health Service Partnership, which also includes short-term assignments with a service time of one year.
Volunteers are eligible for benefits including housing and living stipends, student loan forgiveness, transportation cost coverage, medical and dental benefits, career support upon returning home and graduate school benefits.
Those interested in applying for the Peace Corps are encouraged to learn more by visiting the Peace Corps website, https://www.peacecorps.gov/, where they can connect with a recruiter who can help with the application process and questions.