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Are you a teacher who can’t find a class to teach? Are you a gardener or builder without a job? Are you employed but hate your job selling widgets to the masses?

Well the Peace Corps wants you!

Maybe.

The Peace Corps workers are volunteers who bring American know-how to places all over the world that need it, from from Asia to Central America, and from Europe to Africa. The Peace Corps has been in operation for almost 50 years, with more than 7,000 volunteers serving at any given moment.

But, just because you think you can build a hut or you like camping doesn’t mean the Peace Corps will hire you to be a volunteer.

Applying for the Peace Corps is a fairly extensive process that begins with filling out an application that asks you everything that a regular employer doesn’t usually ask such as: Remember back to your first playground experience. Why did you want to play on the playground? What games did you play?

The application asks questions about your work and volunteering experiences and requires a lot of diligence in reporting any hobbies or activities, because those skills could be useful to the Corps. There are also two essays to write.

After sending in the application, you will be contacted to set up an interview where recruiters try to use it to weed out applicants who aren’t likely to complete their term of service, and also get a feel for the areas where the applicant’s interests and skills could compliment the Peace Corps’ goals.

Selected applicants are then nominated by their recruiter to join the Peace Corps. However, there’s still a long way to go. The nominee must clear medical and legal hurdles. Certain medical conditions preclude entry into the Peace Corps, while some may restrict the nations the nominee can work in or delay entry into the Corps until the condition has gone away and if you have really, really bad credit they might take a pass on you.

If you’re still set on joining the Corps and they like you, you’ll receive an official invitation to join the Peace Corps, with just 10 days to decide whether to accept or decline. The invitation will include general information on the nominee’s deployment - and sometimes vague hint of the region of the world where you might be sent and a description of your volunteer job. You’ll receive a departure date, an appointment for a pre-departure orientation, and then you’ll be sent off for the three-month, in-country training period.

Although an applicant’s interest in serving in a particular part of the world is taken into consideration, the Peace Corps’ ability to use a particular person’s skills in a given region is higher priority. In other words, the Corps will send you where they need you. Just because you’re dreaming of the beaches in Bali, doesn’t mean you’ll end up there.

Volunteers serve for 27 months. Your living accommodations are provided for the entire time, and you will receive a stipend to use as spending money. In addition, volunteers receive $6,000 when they return to the United States to help them transition back into life at home.

Some of the benefits of joining the Peace Corps are:

Experience. Rather than waiting out the economy unemployed or in a job outside of your field, this could be a unique option for those who need to build experience for their careers (or before applying to a graduate program).

Student loan deferment. Some federal loans are eligible for deferment during Peace Corps service, and Perkins loans can be partially cancelled for Corps service.

Graduate program affiliations. Peace Corps has affiliation with several universities that allow you to either take part in the Master’s International Program where your service counts towards your master’s degree, or the Fellows/USA program, which provides eligibility for generous scholarships upon your return from service.

So, if you’re ready to leave your friends and family for a job that gives back in a big, big way, give the Peace Corps application a try – and don’t forget to write!

To learn about volunteering for the Peace Corps: www.peacecorps.org

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