Peace Corps volunteers are in a people-to-people program. They are helpers at the grass-roots level. They learn languages; they are willing to go to the remote areas. Right from the beginning, volunteers were accorded none of the special privileges or courtesies generally expected by diplomats or others working overseas.
Volunteers went right into their assigned communities as members of those communities, learned the local language -- earning respect and cooperation. . . .
In 1985 -- as Americans watch the unfolding crisis in Africa, the face of hunger -- there is a new rush to volunteer.
In January, I made an appeal for 10,000 Americans with agricultural skills -- to iquire about Peace Corps service to volunteer to help (in Africa). We were besieged with calls from all over the country.
We asked for 10,000. I am proud to report that 20,000 responded. People are still willing to give two years of their lives -- two years away from their homes, families and comforts of living in the most prosperous nation in the world -- to prove that America is willing to give more than from its pocketbook.
I personally took some of those calls, from retiring farmers, young graduates and many Americans in their middle years, Americans who are still raising families and have commitments at home, but who wanted to find out about Peace Corps and prepare for the day when they too could join. A dozen Americans who called were over 81, and one was 99.