A Brief History…

3 May

**The following information was obtained from Peace Corps Wiki

The Peace Corps first opened a program in Peru in 1962.  Over the next 13 years, some 2,600 Volunteers worked in health and nutrition, city planning, social work, agricultural extension, agricultural cooperatives, savings and loan associations, elementary and secondary education, community development, and earthquake reconstruction (after the severe earthquake and landslide of 1970). Peace Corps’ departure from Peru in 1975 was due to political and economic instability.

In 2001, then-President Alejandro Toledo invited the Peace Corps to return. As well as seeing Peace Corps as part of his development plan for the country, President Toledo had a personal relationship with the Peace Corps. When he was young, his family had hosted a Volunteer in their home in Chimbote.  Volunteers taught him English and were instrumental in his attending college and graduate school in the United States.  President Toledo also worked at the Peace Corps training center in California, teaching Spanish while he was going to college.

Teams from Peace Corps headquarters made assessment visits to Peru in late 2001 and early 2002, and a country agreement was signed in Lima on March 23, 2002. Staff was deployed to Lima in May 2002. The first four Volunteers, third-year transferees from other Latin American countries, arrived in August 2002. They were followed by the first new group of Volunteers, who arrived for training in November and were sworn-in in February 2003. A second group arrived in September 2003. Since then, two new groups of trainees arrive to serve in Peru each year.

All Volunteers in Peru are required to live with a family during their entire service. Living with a Peruvian family allows volunteers to quickly integrate into the community and greatly enhances their safety and security. In addition, living with a family reinforces language and cross-cultural skills daily.

Volunteers sent to Peru today find that it is a poor country with significant development challenges.  According to USAID, 48 percent of the population lives below the official poverty line (U.S. $58 per month), with 18 percent living in extreme poverty (under U.S. $32 per month).  Peru is plagued by high unemployment (around 10 percent) and underemployment (estimated at 43 percent). Health indicators show that large sectors of the population suffer from nutritional deficiencies (24 percent of children are chronically malnourished), a high infant mortality rate (43 per 1,000 in rural areas), and limited access to basic healthcare services.

Learning about President Toledo’s personal connection to the Peace Corps Peru program was an eye-opener.  His experience alone stands as a testament to the power of the Peace Corps.  Would Toledo still have learned English, attended school in the US and reached his full potential to become president of his country without the help of the Peace Corps? We’ll never know, but probably not.  And that’s why he made it a priority to bring this program back to his country in 2002.

 

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