Benefits of the Peace Corps: An Introduction to Self-Sufficient Living

Volunteering abroad via the Peace Corps may be just the hands-on introduction to self-sufficient living you've been looking for.


| March/April 1978



Peace Corps Experience

A scenes of Barbados during Patricia and Wayne Cleary's time there where they received an introduction to self-sufficient living.


PHOTO: WAYNE CLEARY

You may or may not be looking for a way to [1] travel abroad, [2] help people of another country help themselves, [3] learn self-sufficient living skills, and at the same time, [4] earn a sizable chunk of the money you'll need to start your own homestead. If you are interested in doing these things, however, I'd like to let you in on a deal that's awfully hard to beat. I'm referring to the Peace Corps.

Wayne (my husband) and I have been Peace Corps volunteers for the past two and a half years; 30 months that have meant a lot of changes for both of us. Thanks to the amazing benefits of the Peace Corps, we've acquired, literally, scores of self-sufficiency skills, salted away a worthwhile amount of money, and achieved a sense of direction and self-confidence that we might never have found if we had not ventured abroad (all while doing a good turn for some folks who needed our help). The Peace Corps has — in short — paid priceless dividends for us. It could well do the same for you.

About the Peace Corps

The Peace Corps' goal is threefold: [1] helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women, [2] helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served, and [3] helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans. Since its founding in 1961, the Peace Corps has sought to achieve these aims by recruiting — and sending overseas "optimistic, adventurous, concerned men and women who want to make things better for some of the poverty-ridden peoples of the world" (according to the Peace Corps Handbook, Eighth Edition, 1973).

When you join the Peace Corps, you sign up for a minimum of two years' duty. During those two years, you'll live under what most people would call primitive conditions (just how primitive depends on what country you go to), and you'll be paid a modest (by U.S. standards) monthly wage. (Our allowance came to around $200 per month per person.) More often than not, you'll be far from electricity and running water, and chances are good that the only people you'll deal with who'll speak English will be your fellow Peace Corps volunteers. Admittedly, then, the Peace Corps is not for everyone. If you think that the life of a P.C.V. (Peace Corps Volunteer) may be what you're looking for, though, you could well find — as we have — that the benefits greatly outweigh any inconveniences involved.

How and Why We Decided to ‘Take the Plunge’

Back in March of 1974 — before we ventured abroad — my husband and I were dissatisfied, goalless members of middle-class society. Wayne had a good-paying job and our home contained all the creature comforts we needed (and then some), but we both had a strong gut feeling that we were on the road to nowhere. That's when we decided to write to ACTION (Washington, D.C. 20525), the government agency that administers the Peace Corps and VISTA, the Corps' domestic equivalent.

We filled out our applications to join the Peace Corps and — with fingers crossed — sent them in, half-expecting to be turned down. Three months later, much to our delight, we received an invitation to go to the Yemen Arab Republic with Wayne as a community developer and me as a health educator.





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