Always Wanted to Give Peace A Chance? Now You Can.

cameldrawncartRemember the Peace Corps? It’s still out there trying to make a difference, representing the best ideals of a generation that wanted to change the world. When President John F. Kennedy exhorted us to ask what we could do for our country, plenty of idealistic baby boomers picked up the banner to serve. From Christopher Dodd (now Senator from Connecticut) and singer-author Kinky Friedman, to presidential mother Lillian Carter, author Paul Theroux and Hardballer Chris Matthews, many heard the call and made the commitment to serve.

This government program to promote world peace and friendship, has enlisted more than 180,000 volunteers who have served in 138 countries. ambassadorCarThey teach English, promote HIV/AIDs awareness, and work on agricultural, environmental, small business and technology projects.

Now the Peace Corps is reaching out to baby boomers -- those that want to serve again, and those who missed their chance on the first go around. Volunteers over 50 years of age made up only 1 percent of the ranks until just recently, when their share jumped to 6 percent of the total.

Ads in AARP specifically target boomers, who are valued for their seasoned skills and life expereriences, especially useful in countries where age is respected. Besides a sense of adventure, many boomers are looking for non-traditional volunteer opportunities that are life-changing for them as well as the people they hope to help.

ambassadorCarOlder volunteers must still undergo rigorous medical screenings and are assigned only to countries where their medical needs can be met. You still cannot choose your assignment other than preferences for cold or hot climates, and some of the assignments can be rather remote locations, but the volunteers keep coming.

Many of the older volunteers apply as married couples, who in turn become parental figures to some of the young volunteers. Older volunteers report that the contact with younger people is a two-way street. Contact with twenty somethings can help sixty-somethings reconnect with their youth. As far as the Peace Corps is concerned, everyone gets the same modest living and travel allowance each month, and tajmahalthere are no special perks for senior volunteers.

Many boomers join the Corps in hopes of seeing more of the world and having a reason to learn a new language. They still have their idealism and have now reached a place in their lives when they can translate the ideals into action. Volunteers train for three months and then live and work abroad for two years. At the end of their service they receive $6,000 and 18 months of health insurance to help them make the transition once they are back home.

There’s even a program to bring back Peace Corps veterans for short-term assignments of three weeks to three months.

As boomers continue to search for purpose and adventure, the Peace Corps will continue to see out their maturity and experience -- an ideals match.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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