Peace Corps Turns 50; International Service 'Grows Up'

Oct 27, 2010, 14:52 ET from Cross-Cultural Solutions

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Oct. 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Peace Corps recently kicked off its 50th anniversary year and Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS) and other leading organizations gathered to commemorate the milestone, reflect on the impact and influence of the Peace Corps, and discuss the state of international volunteering, 50 years later.

Peace Corps leaders and returned volunteers, advocates for the field of international service, and hundreds of students gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's speech at the Michigan Student Union, the speech which lit the spark for the Peace Corps to be created. The 50th anniversary is also symbolic for the maturing of a field which now includes hundreds of non-profit and corporate initiatives that provide service to communities worldwide.

As one example of the ripple effect of the Peace Corps, CCS — a non-profit which itself has organized 25,000 volunteers — was established in 1995 after its founder, Steve Rosenthal, spent just a week alongside a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya.

"The impact of the Peace Corps could never be communicated concisely... but I think we all know it's profound," Rosenthal said. "50 years later, international volunteering is in a new place. We are a mature field... we have a field of proven impact."

A National Symposium on the Future of International Service was included as part of the events at the University of Michigan. The symposium brought together leaders from the government, non-profit, and corporate sectors to discuss the current landscape of service options, present research on the impact of international service, and contemplate its future.

"While the idea of international volunteering was new 50 years ago, today, it's become the norm," said Sonal Shah, Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation. "The generation coming through college now see themselves as global, not local."

The symposium was sponsored by the University of Michigan, the Brookings Institution and the National Peace Corps Association, and supported by the Building Bridges Coalition — a consortium of leading organizations working collaboratively to promote the field of international volunteering. Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams commented on that spirit of collaboration.

"We don't see other international volunteering organizations as competitors — we want as many Americans as possible to engage in our interconnected world," he said.

However, volunteering abroad is not just an American phenomenon. CCS attracts a global pool of volunteers, representing over 99 countries, with large participation from Canada, the UK, and Australia. Also, on the first day of the Peace Corps 50th celebration, the UK Prime Minister announced the International Citizen Service, an initiative similar to the Peace Corps, that will begin sending volunteers overseas next year.  

About CCS

CCS ( was founded in 1995 and operates volunteer programs in 12 countries around the world in partnership with sustainable community initiatives. As a not-for-profit organization with no political or religious affiliations, CCS brings people together to work side-by-side while sharing perspectives and fostering cultural understanding.

SOURCE Cross-Cultural Solutions