Peace Corps

Background Information

WHAT IS PEACE CORPS?

Peace Corps is a United States Volunteer Organization dedicated to grassroots development and economic growth in developing countries. It was officially created by the United States Congress in September 1961 under the leadership of President John F. Kennedy.

As the Peace Corps comes to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2011, more than 195,000 Americans will have served in over 139 countries as representatives of the United States commitment to helping people around the world achieve economic independence and sustainable development.

THE GOALS OF PEACE CORPS

Peace Corps provides technical assistance by sending qualified Volunteers to work on development projects requested by the host country. Peace Corps concentrates most its efforts on rural development and adheres to a philosophy of helping people help themselves, emphasizing the transfer of skills to host country counterparts and the use of appropriate technology. During a two year tour of service, a Volunteer is assigned to work on a specific project in agriculture, environment,health, small business development, and education or community development.

Peace Corps is not a political organization. The Volunteers are placed at the grassroots level to live and work directly with the people of the countries in which they serve. They are guided by the three goals set forth by President Kennedy in 1961 to help to promote world peace and friendship:

1. Help the people of the interested countries meet their needs for qualified people:

Peace Corps relies on the host country to select projects and decide what role the Volunteers will play in the host country’s development plan. Volunteers often work in close collaboration with other development organization such as non-governmental organizations (NGO) and donors under the direction of the relevant Government Ministries. Volunteer efforts complement the development strategy of host governments.

2. Promote a better understanding of Americans on behalf of other people of the world:

Volunteers reflect the diversity of the American people and therefore enable the people of the country where the Peace Corps serve to better understand the United States and its people. For many people in the developing world, the United States is forever linked to Peace Corps volunteer who served in their village or town. The friendship formed by working and living together are lasting bonds that continue across the continents.

3. Promote a better understanding of other people in the world on behalf of the Americans:

When Volunteers return to the United States, they become unofficial host country ambassadors. They share their understanding of the countries and people they have known for two years by speaking at schools, business and social organizations. Their pictures, artifacts and stories allow thousands of Americans to expand their understanding of other cultures and places.

President Kennedy on July 4, 1963: “Peace Corps Volunteers bring home important skills and experience which greatly enhance our knowledge of the world and strengthen our role in international affairs”

PEACE CORPS IN SWAZILAND

HISTORY

The first group of Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Swaziland in January 1969, a few months after its independence from Britain. During the following 28 years Peace Corps provided Swaziland with a total of 1400 Volunteers. The primary focus throughout most of this period was in secondary education (mathematics, science, English, agriculture and vocational training) and agricultural cooperatives. Due to budgetary constraints, in 1996 Peace Corps regretfully closed its program in Swaziland as it did in several other countries. In 2002, Peace Corps returned to Swaziland at the request of King Mswati III to assist in countering the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The Post reopened in early 2003 and the first group of Volunteers to implement the Community Health Project began their service in November 2003.

PRESENT STATUS

Approximately 62 Volunteers live in communities within the four regions of Swaziland.

For complete information on Peace Corps in Swaziland, visit the Peace Corps Swaziland website:

http://swaziland.peacecorps.gov/

PROGRAM

Community Health (HIV/AIDS) Education project: The Health Project strives to complement the Swaziland’s government’s efforts to decentralize health care services to community level. Volunteers primarily work to empower the village level Neighborhood Health Committees. Preventative health care is their primary emphasis, including HIV/AIDS.

Peace Corps sees a strengthening of collaboration and partnership with the Swazi government’s HIV/AIDS coordinating body, the National Emergency Response Council for HIV/AIDS (NERCHA). NERCHA is the coordinating and facilitating agency of the national multisectoral response to HIV and AIDS prevention, care and support including impact mitigation.  In collaboration with the former Ministry of Regional Development and Youth Affairs, NERCHA created 291 KaGogo Social Centres throughout Swaziland to promote local ownership and response to the pandemic. ‘KaGogo’ translates literally as ‘grandmother’s house’ and has the traditional connotation as a place of refuge – especially for children without parents – and a neutral ground for discussion of all family issues.
Peace Corps will support this initiative by posting Volunteers in communities to assist with the development of the KaGogo centers. Each centre’s activities are coordinated by a KaGogo Clerk, who will be the Volunteer’s counterpart. This strategic collaboration between Peace Corps and NERCHA is mutually beneficial to both agencies, enabling the Volunteer and the Clerk to work with each other, teach each other, and – by extension – provide greater support to the communities.

Beyond this collaboration with KaGogo centers, Volunteers will continue working where they have already been successful; that is, with a broad range of counterparts and beneficiaries in the health, education, and youth development sectors.  During service, Volunteers form partnerships with traditional and elected leaders, schools, non-governmental organizations, informal community groups, churches, and others.  Depending upon the needs of each community and the skills of the Volunteer posted there, a Volunteer may teach, mobilize resources, write proposals, coach youth, build organizational capacity, or provide other assistance.