Peace Corps

At his inaugural address on 20th January, 1961, President John F Kennedy challenged the people of the United States with the statement: "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."

Kennedy also wanted the young people of the country to help the undeveloped world and announced the establishment of the Peace Corps. This a scheme that intended to send 10,000 young people to serve in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Kennedy argued that this "practical, inexpensive, person-to-person program will plant trust, good will and a capacity for self-help" in the underdeveloped world.

John F Kennedy and members of the Peace Corps (1961)
John F Kennedy and members of the Peace Corps (1961)

Congress approved Kennedy's scheme and agreed that $30 million would be spent in its first year. Members of the Peace Corps were expected to serve for two years. Open to people over 18, members were paid $75 a month. Although some members of the Peace Corps have been in their sixties, the great majority have been aged 20 to 35.

Peace Corps workers are only sent to nations that request them. Members are expected to learn the host country's language and to live in local communities. The United States government pay travelling expenses and in its first year over 3,000 people served abroad. The budget for 1965 reached $115,000,000 and enabled the funding of 14,000 volunteers.