A great zest for life, a renewed sense of purpose, emotional connection and a gratifying feeling of giving back are reported by older Peace Corps Volunteers. John Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” still holds true. You can help the people of the world, your country – and yourself.”As an older volunteer, you know how to get results, how to motivate people,” Gordon Ross said of the Peace Corps. “It turned out to be a great experience.” His life experience as a construction manager and as a dad were a big advantage when he was sent Malawi, a little African country he’d never heard of, assigned to help fight jungle deforestation.
The 50+ program appreciates the wisdom, life skills and experiences of older volunteers. Miss Lillian, Jimmy Carter’s mother, joined at 70. Some volunteers are well into their eighties. It certainly isn’t right for everyone, but it seems to greatly enhance the lives of those who embrace it. Active groups of alumni of all ages stay connected and share stories and events.Currently, 406 Americans in the Peace Corps fall into the “50 and above” age category – about 5 percent of all those serving. The organization aims to increase the number.”You can do this,” Larry Badger, a retired newspaperman, told a crowd in Seattle made up largely of graying baby boomers. Badger was in his 70s when he was sent to Azerbaijan. He liked it so much, he now works as Peace Corps regional recruiter in Seattle. Older volunteers are a little slower when it comes to learning foreign languages, Badger conceded. But they bring other advantages, like an entrepreneurial approach to solving problems.Here’s what’s involved:
- Finances – Monthly expenses for all travel and daily needs are paid in accordance with the locale. In addition, at the end of service, a lump sum readjustment allowance of is given – $225 x each month of service.
- Health and Medical – During the application process, a thorough health evaluation is made. Comprehensive health, medical, prescription and dental coverage is provided. A COBRA type ability to continue health insurance coverage is offered after service.
- Length of Service– 27 months
- Safety – Director Ron Tschetter says the Peace Corps’ number one priority is the safety and security of every Peace Corp volunteer. Preparation for possible situations and training of the volunteers is a major part of the program. Of course the nature of service is being in unfamiliar environments.
- Language and Culture – Three months of intensive training plus continuing tutoring and networking are given. Flexibility and appreciation for learning new ways and meeting new people is key.
- Staying in Touch – Mail, phone of course, but the internet is in most places now. Friends and family can visit during your vacations.
To learn more visit www.peacecorps.gov (don’t forget the “s” on corps) Click on the 50+ Section for detailed information. It has great videos – President Kennedy inspires the Peace Corps, President Carter describes his mother joining at 70, and many 50+Volunteers program tell their experiences. (If your computer doesn’t play the videos click on “transcripts” to read the text for each video).
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