Peace Corps

Topics: Peace Corps, Third World, John F. Kennedy Pages: 6 (2249 words) Published: October 22, 2010
Peace Corps
“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich,” said President John F. Kennedy during his inaugural speech on January 20, 1961 (Weitsman15). Unlike presidents before him, Kennedy had a desire to reform the American attitude of ignorance and apathy towards the world, leading him to challenge a “new generation of Americans” to join “a grand and global alliance” (Weitsman 15). This “global alliance” was intended to combat tyranny, poverty, disease, and war and later became an organization now known as The Peace Corps (Weitsman15). First established in March 1961, The Peace Corps became exactly what Kennedy had envisioned: an organization that would send American volunteers to work with citizens of Third World countries to help their societies prosper and succeed. Furthermore, it would promote world peace by creating international friendships and awareness (Weitsman16). However, what Kennedy did not envision was a generation who, despite its altruistic ideals, was fearful of joining the organization because of health and safety concerns. Nevertheless, this mindset was and continues to be what prevents many young college graduates from participating in such a life-changing experience. Concerns for self-protection often prevent potential volunteers from joining the Peace Corps, but the education and preparation that the Peace Corps provides makes the organization much safer than most people imagine. Because joining the Peace Corps is a huge sacrifice to many, having plenty of questions and concerns before doing so is completely normal. The most common concern is one’s physical well being. The chance of a volunteer getting sick at one point or another during his or her two years is almost guaranteed. “Being in a developing country often means exposing yourself to a host of weird diseases, parasites, and other ailments, which can be very discouraging for someone who otherwise really wants to join the Peace Corps” says Dillon Banerjee, a former Peace Corps volunteer (PCV) who served in Belo, Cameroon from 1994 to 1996 (Banerjee 60). The prevalence of AIDS and other diseases, such as Malaria and Tuberculosis, in Third World countries has created much concern among potential PCV’s. “As of late 2003, 29 million Africans were living either with AIDS or HIV, and seven thousand Africans die from AIDS-related diseases each day” (Egendorf 10). Though less life threatening, worms are another prevailing concern to those considering joining the organization. Depending on where a volunteer is stationed, their chances of getting a worm or two may vary. It is more likely to get worms in Africa, South and Central America because of the climate and lack of clean water (Banerjee 62). Nevertheless, Banerjee, being stationed in Africa, managed to get through his two years worm-free. Although, not all volunteers may be so fortunate. Rest assured, the Peace Corps takes theses health concerns quite seriously and does what is needed to help prevent these risks from happening. To do so, The Peace Corps has developed a “four-tiered system for ensuring that all volunteers are placed in safe environments and given adequate medical training and services” (Banerjee 62). The first of these tiers is a type of “screening process” where all applicants identify any pre-existing medical conditions or requirements that may demand for special placement or prohibit them from joining all together. “If for example, you [a volunteer] are allergic to bees, you may be disqualified from serving in tropical regions and therefore sent to some place like Hungary or Nepal” (Banerjee 66). Thus, the odds of a volunteer becoming irritated by any pre-existing health problem during his or her service are already reduced. Secondly, the Peace Corps hires as many certified doctors, nurses, and physicians’ assistants needed to staff their field office. Meaning, at least one of the above-mentioned medical personnel will be...
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