Today is the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy called on Americans to give two years of their lives in service to others as Peace Corps volunteers. Since then, over 200,000 volunteers have served in 139 countries. Today is also the launch of “Peace Corps Month”, with over 700 events around the world.

President Kennedy established the Peace Corps to promote world peace and friendship. The Peace Corps’ goals are to help the people of interested countries meet their need for trained men and women, to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served, and to help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

While volunteers continue to do important work like bringing clean water to communities and teaching children, today’s volunteers also work in areas like HIV/AIDS awareness, business development, and information technology. Volunteers provide technical training and support to groups and organizations that want to make better use of information and communications technology. They introduce people to the computer as a tool to increase efficiency and communication and to “leap frog” stages of development. Volunteers teach basic computer literacy skills, (e.g., word-processing, spreadsheets, basic accounting software, Internet use, and webpage development) and they introduce host communities to e-commerce, distance learning, and geographic information systems.

The Peace Corps turns 50