This week, we celebrate the U.S. Peace Corps’ 60th anniversary. It was formally authorized by Congress on Sept. 22, 1961, with passage of the Peace Corps Act. Before that, President John Kennedy signed an executive order on March 1 to establish a new government agency to urge Americans to serve abroad. Three days later, Sargent Shriver became its first director, volunteers were rapidly deployed to serve, and in just under six years, Shriver developed programs in 55 countries with more than 14,500 volunteers.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteers have served in more than 60 countries located in almost every continent of the world, working in sectors that include agriculture, community economic development, education, youth in development and health.

I served as an English teacher from 1974-76 in Thailand. Emphatically, it changed my life and opened doors to a lifelong career in education and community engagement. Growing up in the rich diversity of Seattle, I yearned to work and live abroad. Subsequently, I worked many years in government contracts in Thailand, Washington, D.C., and Belarus, a challenging and rewarding career.

Peace Corps is soft diplomacy that changes diverse communities and opens doors to new opportunities. For more information see peacecorps.gov

Charlene Day, Samish Island