Response to ‘Peace Corps needs oversight’

As a returned Peace Corps volunteer and the University of Minnesota’s on-campus Peace Corps representative, I would like to clarify and correct the outdated and inaccurate picture of the Peace Corps presented in a recent Minnesota Daily editorial. Over the last few years, the Peace Corps has undergone one of the most extensive reform efforts the agency has ever undertaken.

The Peace Corps has dramatically improved the quality of support it provides to volunteers, overhauled its technical training and programming and revitalized its recruitment and outreach. I hope your readers will explore the Peace Corps’ website and meet with me personally to better understand today’s Peace Corps.

There has been a broad culture shift at the Peace Corps. Working with nationally recognized experts in the field of sexual assault, the Peace Corps implemented a comprehensive program designed to reduce risks and improve the quality of the agency’s response when assaults occur.

Volunteers and staff now receive updated and expanded training on sexual assault awareness, risk-reduction strategies (like bystander intervention) and new reporting and response procedures. While we cannot eliminate every risk volunteers face, the Peace Corps is committed to providing world-class training, guidance and support to every volunteer so they remain safe, healthy and productive throughout their service.

Applicants can now apply through a new, shorter application and choose the countries and programs for which they’d like to be considered. To increase transparency, all current volunteer position openings are listed on the Peace Corps website, which enables applicants to find and apply for the position that best matches their skills, interests and professional goals.

The Peace Corps was an extremely formative experience for me — 3 ½ years of grassroots development work that gave me language, cross-cultural and leadership skills that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my career.

As a water, sanitation and hygiene volunteer, I facilitated the construction of dozens of sanitary bathrooms and educated students and adults on safe hygiene practices. I even extended my Peace Corps service a year to further strengthen that program and guide and assist new volunteers.

Now I bring that experience, global perspective and dedication back to our University.

Every day, I connect with University students who want to make a difference in the same way. There is no better time to serve with the Peace Corps and make a difference in the lives of others, in your community and in your own life.