March 6, 2022 — The Peace Corps will begin sending volunteers abroad again later this month, resuming operations after it evacuated 7,000 members from more than 60 countries when the pandemic began, according to NBC News.
Redeployment will happen in a phased approach, with Zambia and the Dominican Republic receiving the first groups. The Peace Corps will send new and previously evacuated volunteers and is recruiting applicants for 24 countries.
In addition to primary assignments, all volunteers will be involved with COVID-19 response and recovery in each country. The organization will participate in Global VAX, a new initiative by USAID to accelerate U.S. vaccine delivery across the world.
“In the ’60s and ‘70s, it was smallpox vaccination; in the ’80s, Guinea worm eradication; since the early ’90s, malaria and HIV prevention,” Carol Spahn, CEO of the Peace Corps, said during a keynote address for Peace Corps Week 2022.
“We are part of these efforts at the last mile, reaching some of the most isolated and vulnerable populations,” she said.
Peace Corps Week 2022, which was celebrated during the first week of March, marked the 61st anniversary of the organization. Created by President John F. Kennedy in March 1961, the group has deployed 240,000 Americans to 124 countries.
The COVID-19 pandemic evacuation marked a first in the organization’s history, NBC News reported. During the two-year hiatus, the Peace Corps created a virtual service program to work with overseas partners and sent 150 volunteers to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help with the COVID-19 response in the U.S.
Later this month, the first volunteers in Zambia will work with the health ministry to provide COVID-related education and vaccine access, NBC News reported. Volunteers in the Dominican Republic will help communities address pandemic-related setbacks, such as literacy skills and school dropout rates.
Additional groups will be deployed to other countries in April, May, and June. People who are interested in applying can review the 24 host countries and requirements on the Peace Corps website. Volunteers will need to be fully vaccinated before being deployed.
The pandemic has disproportionately affected developing countries, and the Peace Corps estimated that development gains have been set back 10 to 25 years in some countries.
“The return of volunteers will be intentional, balancing the health and safety considerations of host communities and volunteers with the urgent need to contribute to immense development challenges,” Spahn said in a February newsletter.
The Peace Corps will also revamp its approach to addressing sexual assault, Spahn said, both in the U.S. and in host countries. The organization is developing a new framework to strengthen its Sexual Assault Risk Reduction and Response program, which will be published later this year.
The organization’s overall strategic plan will also focus on accountability, equity, and transparency, Spahn said. In February, the group submitted a plan to Congress that outlines new goals to expand partnerships with 13 Historically Black Colleges and Universities and review policies that block participation from underrepresented communities.
“This is not the same Peace Corps you know from 10 or 20 — or even two years ago,” Spahn said during the keynote address. “We have preserved the enduring ‘magic’ that brings us together again and again — after all these years — to support an agency and a mission we love and care about while fundamentally changing the pieces that make us better.”