Founded by President Kennedy in 1961, the Peace Corps has enabled thousands of Americans to serve abroad. If you’re thinking about a commitment to the Peace Corps, here are five reasons to sign up.

To Help Others

Peace Corps volunteers are driven by the need to serve others. They are typically placed abroad for commitments of 27 months, during which volunteers assist in local development projects.

These projects may deal with issues of food security, global health or gender equality. Volunteers partner with NGOs to ensure measurable results in the communities that they serve.

For example, one of the Peace Corps’ global health initiatives is the Stomping Out Malaria program. The initiative seeks to halt the spread of malaria through Africa. Volunteers partner with organizations like Malaria No More to support those who are endangered by the deadly but preventable disease.

To See the World

The mission of the Peace Corps is to promote world peace and friendship. Volunteers serve as citizen diplomats abroad and encourage international cooperation. For those who want to see the world, the Peace Corps offers a unique opportunity to live and work abroad.

Peace Corps volunteers spend several months overseas. Almost 150 countries have received volunteers to date and there are 64 countries that partner with the organization today.

Applicants can select up to three preferred locations and work sectors. It is also possible to select a “wherever I am needed” option that places volunteers in a location that would benefit the most from a Peace Corps placement.

After 27 months of service, volunteers are also given an $8,755 stipend (before taxes). This money can be used for travel once the period of service has ended.

To Grow as a Person

Peace Corps volunteers gain many different skills during their time of service. This can be useful for both personal and career development.

The Peace Corps opens new doors to other cultures that would be difficult to experience otherwise. For example, the organization provides instruction in a wide variety of languages.

The Peace Corps is also a great way to build a career. Volunteers learn leadership and teamwork, which are invaluable in almost every professional setting. Employers value cultural awareness and the ability to adapt to difficult situations.

For those looking to start a career in international development, the Peace Corps can be a great way to gain experience and make connections abroad.

To Help Defer Student Loans

Most Peace Corps volunteers are college graduates, which means a lot of volunteers will have some student loan debt. Those who serve in the Peace Corps are still solely responsible for these loans. However, they may qualify for a deferment on federal loans while serving in the Peace Corps.

Additionally, students with Perkins loans may qualify for a partial cancellation of these loans, depending on the length of their Peace Corps service as well as other considerations.

To Join a Growing Network of Returned Volunteers

The benefits of joining the Peace Corps don’t end after 27 months. Returning volunteers join a network of over 200,000 people who have completed their service.

This network can be used to keep in touch, meet other volunteers or to assist with reintegration back home. Returned volunteers who are looking for a job will find the network helpful as well.

– Kevin McLaughlin

Sources: Peace Corps 1, Peace Corps 2, Humanitarian Jobs
Photo: MIIS Communications