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Trip to Africa
Peace Corps Volunteers:

Bringing the World Back Home

by Mark D. Gearan Directorof the Peace Corps

When President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, he saw it as a newway for Americans to serve our country and, at the same time, help the people of thedeveloping world build a better future for themselves, their children, and theircommunities. Today, there are 6,500 Peace Corps Volunteers serving in 84 to countries around the world. There are 2,200Volunteers serving in 28 African nations. And President Clinton has urged Congress to joinhim in a bipartisan effort to expand the Peace Corps to 10,000 Volunteers by the year2000. These Volunteers represent some of the most enduring values of the Americanpeople-citizen service, altruism, and a dedication to the cause of peace.

Peace Corps Volunteerswork with their counterparts on grass-roots development projects in education, health, theenvironment, small business development, and agriculture. An equally important part ofevery Volunteer's service in the Peace Corps is to strengthen our country's understandingof other peoples and cultures by "bringing the world back home." Volunteers livein their overseas communities for two years, often in remote villages far from any otherAmerican; they learn to speak more than 180 languages and dialects; and throughout theirservice, Volunteers become immersed in the local culture, where they learn about the richhistories and traditions of the people they serve.

When Volunteers bring this experience back home to communities across our country andshare it with their families, friends, students, and professional colleagues, they make animportant contribution to our understanding of the world beyond our shores. As our worldbecome smaller and our ties with other people expand, this cross-cultural experiencebecomes more important than ever.

The following essays are written by men and women who have served as Peace CorpsVolunteers in the African countries that President Clinton will visit. The essays reflectin different ways the essence of the Peace Corps experience: people of very differentcultures learning about one another, building the bonds of friendship, and workingtogether to help build a better future. I urge to read these essays and share them withyour children and your students so that they, too, can experience the world through theeyes of a Peace Corps Volunteer.

I invite you to read other essays written by Peace Corps Volunteers whoserved in Africa and other parts of the world. To learn more about the Peace Corps and howto become a Volunteer, please visit our web site.

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