I might have played my get out of jail fee card a bit early by joining the Peace Corps when I did. When I left America, everything was fine. Now, all I hear about, from both Azeris and American media online, is that we’re in crisis mode (or in Azeri cree-sees). The prospect of reentering the American economy jobless and homeless freaks me out and makes me think, “If only there was an interesting way for me to spend a couple years riding out the economic downturn while adding an interesting experience to my resume.” And apparently I’m not the only one.
“We are seeing our numbers go up every month, and I expect an increase in applications and inquiries in 2009,” said David Leavitt, Peace Corps spokesman at the Atlanta regional headquarters. “Nationally, the number [of applicants] is up 16 percent,” he said.
Sounds like volunteerism is on the rise. I’d like to attribute it to an increased sense of community fostered by Obama, but more likely, people are unemployed and don’t know what to do. The rise in applicants isn’t just for kids out of college either. From CNN:
Applications for the Peace Corps from adults over 50 have spiked 44 percent in 2008 compared to 2007, driven largely by the weak economy and a campaign launched in 2007 to lure mature volunteers.
The more people in the Peace Corps, the better I say. But an expanding PC program needs and expanded budget, because opening up and expanding programs on a preexisting budget AND a dollar that has lost a lot of its value overseas means a lot of cutting and scraping at PC posts around the globe. We’ve felt it here in PC Azerbaijan, and my group got lucky. The new PCVs that arrive after I leave are really going to feel it. A rise in applicants to the PC, for whatever reason, will hopefully bring more funding to the program.
EDIT: Eli, who I guess is going to be a volunteer in Azerbaijan, posted a link to a website that aims to expand the Peace Corps in the comments. Thanks.