Short on Volunteers, Peace Corps to Change

Applicants will get to choose where they serve

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 15, 2014 8:55 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Peace Corps has been around for more than half a century, but recently, it's been facing some hurdles. The number of applicants who completed their applications dropped 34% between 2009 and 2013, when roughly 10,000 people finished the process, and the number of volunteers is now at a decade-plus low, the Washington Post reports. Multiple reports of sexual assaults in host countries has hampered recruitment, but the arduous application process is also seen as an obstacle: The application period typically lasts a year, and the printed application itself was more than 60 pages, the AP reports.

That process is now changing, in what director Carrie Hessler-Radelet calls "the most extensive reform effort our agency has ever undertaken." Among the changes: an online application designed to be completed in one hour rather than eight, with the overall time frame from application to potential acceptance shaved to six months. Volunteers will also be able to choose the country in which they'd like to serve—a major shift. (Previously, applicants could only identify preferred countries.) "I loved when you applied that you were willing to go anywhere in the world, but that aspect is not for everyone," says a former volunteer.

Peace Corps Country Director Emily Untermeyer talks to volunteers during an informal meeting at the Paraguay's Peace Corps office in Asuncion, Monday, Nov. 18, 2013.
Peace Corps Country Director Emily Untermeyer talks to volunteers during an informal meeting at the Paraguay's Peace Corps office in Asuncion, Monday, Nov. 18, 2013.   (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)
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