History of the Peace Corps in the Eastern Caribbean
The Peace Corps entered the Eastern Caribbean in 1961, when St. Lucia became one of the first countries in the world to receive Volunteers. Since then, approximately 3,300 Peace Corps Volunteers have served on various island nations in the region. Volunteers were initially assigned to education, agriculture, health, youth, and community development projects. The contributions of Volunteers in these areas have provided strong and consistent technical support to the Eastern Caribbean for more than 40 years. Basic human needs programming in the 1970s encouraged health, special education, preschool education, teacher training, forestry, fishery, and livestock extension projects. The 1980s were a period that focused on four projects: education, health, agriculture, and small enterprise development. At the beginning of the 1990s, education, environment, health, and youth initiatives were priorities. Peace Corps/Eastern Caribbean has made significant progress since January 1991 to establish project-based programming and to provide focus to the program. After concluding an assessment of the program in 1993, efforts focused on developing partnerships with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and moving steadily away from formal education into educational projects targeting at-risk youth.
Peace Corps Volunteers currently serve in six island nations in the Eastern Caribbean: (1) Antigua and Barbuda, (2) Dominica, (3) Grenada, Carriacou, and Petit Martinique, (4) St. Kitts and Nevis, (5) St. Lucia, and (6) St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in the Eastern Caribbean
Programming on each island nation of Peace Corps/Eastern Caribbean is guided by the development priorities of the various governments and their ministries, as expressed in official plans and budget documents. With these partners, Peace Corps/Eastern Caribbean periodically reviews programming on each island nation to ensure continuing appropriate focus and direction.
At present, the major focus of Peace Corps /Eastern Caribbean is on improving the quality of life of disenfranchised and low-income communities by assisting in their transformation from recipients of aid into partners in change. Volunteer activities are aimed primarily at assisting communities in identifying, evaluating, and developing solutions to the many challenges they face. In responding to needs and priorities identified by their communities, Volunteers may be involved in a wide range of activities, including strengthening the capacity of community-based organizations and ministries working at the community level, raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and other chronic diseases, and enhancing educational and employment skills by emphasizing skills transfer in the areas of special education, literacy, and service learning. Peace Corps is considered by many government officials to be a leader in addressing the social and economic problems resulting from high unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse, and unhealthy lifestyle choices among community members in the Eastern Caribbean.
The integrated community development program in the Eastern Caribbean addresses community needs and provides Volunteers with the flexibility to find the projects and programs where community needs and Volunteers skills and interests intersect.. As a result, Volunteers are assigned to a community where they work directly with community stakeholders. In addition to a community placement, a few Volunteers may also be assigned to a specific organization or government agency. This, of course, requires careful planning and coordination to ensure that a Volunteer’s primary focus on the community is maintained.
While all Volunteers will address the needs of the community where they have been placed, Volunteers over time will find their special niche in the areas of health, youth development, business, organizational strengthening, education, and service learning. Volunteers may train teachers in special education methodologies or assist national governments in organizing special education services for their students. Volunteers with a passion for business may coordinate Junior Achievement activities and promote entrepreneurship among various groups in their community. Other Volunteers may apply the behavior change communication (BCC) methodology to develop communication products and community outreach programs targeting HIV/AIDS and other problems, such as teenage pregnancy or drug use.