No Hard Knocks for Peace Corps in Downturn

Obama, recession boost interest in volunteer group
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 2, 2009 8:12 AM CDT
Peace Corps volunteer Colin Doyle, 23, sits relaxing with his host family under their house at a village in Kampong Cham province, Cambodia, Feb. 22, 2007.   (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – During a commencement address last month, Barack Obama singled out the Peace Corps as an American institution dedicated to "opportunity, equality, and freedom." As the Los Angeles Times reports, the president's glowing praise—combined with Obama-era idealism and a weak job market—has contributed to a 16% jump in applications to join the volunteer agency.

Participation in the Peace Corps, founded by JFK, dipped in the 1980s but is flourishing again, and the organization is returning to former warzones like Rwanda and Liberia. "It's refreshing and uplifting to witness this sort of outpouring of American idealism again," said one professor, a former volunteer. Yet volunteers aren't blind do-gooders; one woman in Panama said she's extending her tour for a year because back home "it's so difficult to find a job." (Read more Peace Corps stories.)