History of the Peace Corps in El Salvador

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History of the Peace Corps
Since 1960, when then Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries, more than 182,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in 138 countries all over the globe.

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The Peace Corps was invited to El Salvador and sent its first Volunteers in 1963. Over the next 15 years, more than 1,500 Volunteers worked in 15 to 20 different sectors, serving primarily as counterparts to government agencies and offices. In 1980, the increasing violence prior to the civil war led the Peace Corps to close its offices. The destruction of economic and social infrastructure during the war set El Salvador back to 1950s levels in most economic and social indicators. The 1986 earthquake destroyed much of what the war did not, especially in San Salvador. Moreover, widespread migration led to the breakdown of many social and family institutions and particularly affected youth and the environment.

History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in El Salvador

The government of El Salvador invited the Peace Corps to return to El Salvador in 1993. The first Volunteers arrived later that year. They were asked to increase the capacity of local people in several priority areas identified by the government and later affirmed by civil society in the Plan de Nación, or National Plan, presented in 2000. The National Plan is a blueprint for national development, and Peace Corps programming is consistent with its priorities. The role of Peace Corps Volunteers remains to build capacity in local people and institutions.

Currently, approximately 120 Volunteers serve in four primary project areas: agroforestry and environmental education, municipal development, rural health and sanitation and youth development.

Agroforestry and Environmental Education Volunteers educate farmers about sustainable soil conservation and integrated pest management practices that incorporate environmentally friendly applications, diminish the use of chemicals, and improve soil fertility. They also teach the youth, farmers and organizations of their communities to preserve, protect, and enhance the environment in which they live.

Rural health and sanitation Volunteers work with community groups and international organizations to increase access to potable water and improve sanitation for rural residents. Volunteers also educate people on the dangers of HIV/AIDS and other health-related subjects.

Municipal development Volunteers work with local governments to improve service delivery to citizens and to increase citizen participation. Volunteers assigned to municipalities assist in meeting the public service demands of the communities, while helping communities to articulate their needs to their municipal representatives. Volunteers have also begun to introduce their communities to disaster planning and mitigation techniques to better prepare them for crisis situations arising from natural disasters.

Youth development Volunteers collaborate with youth leaders, parents, teachers and local institutions as part of an integreated approach to address issues of youth development.

Volunteers promote activities for youth to expand their critical thinking ability and foster their capacity to make sound decisions and to demonstrate moral, social, emotional, physical and cognitive competence. The program is designed to address challenges youth face both in the home and at work to help them develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes to become active, contributing members of their communities.

Volunteers in all projects are also involved in cross-cutting themes including gender awareness, HIV/AIDS education, environmental education and information technology. In addition, Volunteers undertake a myriad of secondary projects in the communities where they live and work. In all of these projects and activities, Volunteer’s counterparts are government and non-governmental organizations and people from the community. As always, the Peace Corps’ efforts are focused on the less fortunate.

Assignment History

Sector Assignment Beg. Yr End. Yr
Agriculture Ag Extension 1998 2007
Animal Husband 1972 1996
Animal Husband Lg 1973 1973
Apiculture 1974 1974
Crop Extension 1962 2001
Soil Science 1993 1993
Business Business Advising 1969 2008
Business Development 1994 1996
Computer Science 2004 2008
Cooperatives 1977 1994
NGO Advising 2001 2008
Urban and Regional Planning 1997 2007
Crisis Corps Crisis Corps 1999 2007
Education English Teacher 1966 2006
English Teacher Trainer 2006 2007
Fisheries Fresh 1993 1993
Industrial Arts 1970 1978
Prim-Ed/Teach Trn 1976 2005
Special Ed/Gen. 2005 2007
Univ. English Teaching 2007 2007
Environment Comm Forestry Ext 1995 1998
Environmental Ed. 1993 2007
Forestry 1993 2007
Protected Areas Management 1993 1993
Health Envir. and Water Resource 1974 2007
Health Degreed 2008 2008
Health Extension 1998 2008
Home Econ/Ext. 1978 1978
Hygiene Ed/Sanitation 1994 2008
Master's International Masters Internationalist 1994 1994
Other Flexible App 1971 1976
Unique Skill 1976 1995
Youth and Community Development Commun. Serv/Deg. 1997 2008
Youth Development 2002 2007