By Brian Morelli, The Iowa City Press-Citizen
Interest in the Peace Corps is increasing at University of Iowa, the university’s Peace Corps representative said.
So far this fall, 123 people have attended information sessions, local representative Meredith Mahy Gall said. The next information session is at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 1 in the International Commons of the University Capitol Centre.
“It is definitely increasing. With the Peace Corps itself, participation is increasing,” Mahy Gall said. “I think there is a renewed interest in the U.S. in community service.”
There are 8,655 active Peace Corps volunteers stationed in 77 nations around the world. Participation is at a 40-year high, she said. UI has 585 alums that have served in the Peace Corps, and 32 are currently serving, she said.
The Peace Corps is celebrating its 50-year anniversary next year. According to the Peace Corps website, its roots and mission are traced to 1960, when then Sen. John F. Kennedy “challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries.”
Applications from those interested in joining the Peace Corps are submitted to a regional office in Chicago, and Mahy Gall interviews local applicants. The commitment is for 27 months, including three months of training in the host country.
Mahy Gall has interviewed five people so far this fall, she said.
The time from applying to starting service is nine to 12 months, which is a more rapid turnaround than it had been, she said. This allows “more volunteers to be put into the field more quickly,” said Mahy Gall, who served in Botswana from 1995 to 1997.
At the information session, people can hear stories of volunteers who have returned to the U.S., see a video highlighting volunteers in service and learn about the application process and the benefits. Some benefits include paid living expenses, full health and dental coverage while in service, transportation to and from the host country, graduate school advantages and a $7,425 readjustment allowance upon completion, Mahy Gall said.
The Peace Corps provides an opportunity for people to become immersed in another culture for an extended period of time, exchange goodwill between nations and gain valuable professional experience for graduating students looking for something to do after college, Mahy Gall said.
“It is promoting peace on a person-by-person basis,” she said.