Sophomore and education major John Williams said he plans to join the Peace Corps when he graduates, because he loves what the organization stands for.
“I love helping people. My life has always been volunteer service all the time. So I just love the Peace Corps,” Williams said.
According to Portney, the Peace Corps requires potential volunteers to be eighteen years or older, a U.S citizen and have a bachelor’s degree or five to ten years of training. Training can include farming, nursing, fishing or some other skill.
The Peace Corps can help with college and health expenses. According to Portney, after serving the required two years in the Peace Corps, volunteers are granted a transition fund of $7,400. Volunteers receive 18 months of free health insurance after their service, and certain student loans have the ability to be partially terminated. Volunteers can also attend certain graduate schools free of charge before, during or after their service.
Portney describes this as an experience of a lifetime.
“It’s a great experience. It’s a great stepping-stone to a wide variety of careers. Plus it looks great on resumes,” Portney said.
Like any other wide-scale organization, there have been several scandals involving the Peace Corps. Most recently, Kate Puzey, a 24-year-old Peace Corps volunteer from Georgia, was murdered while volunteering in Benin (West Africa). According to the Fallen Peace Corps Volunteers website, 296 volunteers have died while in service. Politics Daily writer Donna Trussel reported that of those 296, 23 have been murdered.
Regardless, Portney assures that the health and safety of the volunteers is the Peace Corps’ top priority.
“Less than 1 perfect of all volunteers report any type of crime every year. So that’s pretty good. We’d like it to be zero, but obviously things happen. There’s an inherent risk living overseas; an inherent risk anywhere really. We have safety and security officers on call [in each country] 24 hours a day,” Portney said.
If the country is at risk, Portney informed, the Peace Corps will immediately evacuate all volunteers.
“If they feel like there’s a problem they’ll get the volunteers out of there. Obviously you’ve heard about the Ukraine. All Peace Corps volunteers were evacuated a month ago. Most of those are in the process of being assigned to other countries right now,” Portney said.
According to Portney, there’s an average of 8,000 volunteers serving each year. Those volunteers range in age from 18 to 80.
“There’s no upper-age limit. We have a woman who’s 80-years-old in South Africa right now. I just interviewed a 74-year-old lady just a week ago,” he said.
Although Portney just started as a recruiter in September of 2013, he said that he really enjoys his job. Portney joined the Peace Corps at age 18 when he came across an intriguing information session, much like the one he gave at Armstrong. He served from 1988-1990 in the Republic of Congo, becoming the first American volunteer in his area. He describes his time there as extreme and adventurous.
For more information on the Peace Corps, you can talk to a recruiter at (855) 855-1961 or visit their website: peacecorps.gov