It’s never too late to join the Peace Corps

It’s never too late to join the Peace Corps

Do you have dreams of traveling? Do you strive to better the world or simply feel best when helping others? Look no further than the Peace Corps, an organization dedicated to helping communities across the globe.

The Peace Corps is a program that was founded in 1961 with the goal of helping countries interested in meeting their need for trained people, promoting a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served, and help to promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans, according to the Peace Corps website.

Bill Bridgeford, the senior recruiter for Peace Corps in Vermont, was happy to discuss the program in a Basement Medicine interview.

Bridgeford began his Peace Corps career as a volunteer and recalls listening to commercials for the organization even as young as four years old. “Back then, Peace Corps volunteers were heroes, you know, to see these young people getting on the plane to go change the world (was incredible),” said Bridgeford. He remembers thinking for most of his life that he would take advantage of a Peace Corps opportunity “one day,” and that day finally came in 2016, just a few months before his sixtieth birthday, when he got on a plane headed to North Macedonia. “I wasn’t the oldest volunteer in my group and I’m not the oldest volunteer that’s currently serving,” said Bridgeford, “I understand that we have a volunteer in their mid-eighties who is still out there going strong. There’s no upper age limit, which is great.”

Just about anybody over the age of 18 can become a Peace Corps volunteer, and there are a number of individuals who don’t even begin their Peace Corps careers until they are into their 80s, but there are certain attributes that make a person better equipped to succeed.

“There is no profile of the perfect Peace Corps volunteer,” said Bridgeford. “In fact, my view of things is that one of greatest strengths is the uniqueness of each one of our volunteers. (But) my answer is that a person needs a well developed sense of self and they also need a well developed awareness of how their actions and words impact others. You definitely need to have a sense of humor with yourself, with others, and sometimes with just the circumstances. You need to be gracious when things are going well, but also when things are not going so well. There are times when you really need to be kind to yourself as well to others. There’s definitely a sense of responsibility that we feel that it’s really an honor to be invited to serve as a volunteer and our host countries and our host communities and our host families and our host organizations – we have responsibility to each one of them. […] And I think that really basic human recognition of just decency and courtesy and kindness, those really form the underpinnings of what makes a good volunteer.” 

Each Peace Corps assignment is for 27 months, including three months of training in the host country. 

“Those first three months you’re in training, you’re actually considered to be a Peace Corps trainee,” said Bridgeford. “Your training basically breaks up into two buckets. One is language acquisition because you will become functionally fluent in the language spoken in your community and the other bucket is everything else. So you’re gonna get technical skills training related to your sector, you’re going to get all kinds of background briefings on on the country itself, and you’re going to get extensive briefings on Peace Corps in-country operations and procedures.” 

Peace Corps deploys volunteers in over 60 countries and those volunteers work within six different sectors: agriculture, environment, community economic development, health, education, and youth in development. While each of these sectors has specific goals, those goals and the means used to reach them are not necessarily set in stone.

“Within each one of those sectors there are multiple roles that we fill and those roles vary from country to country and community to community and even volunteer to volunteer, because each one of us brings a unique set of attributes to the table. So we can very often tailor that role so that it brings out our best strengths in service to the communities that we’re in,” said Bridgeford.

To become a Peace Corps volunteer, you must apply online at, but Bridgeford encourages everyone interested in applying to do so through an official Peace Corps recruiter like him.

“The application itself is not difficult to fill out, […] but we do recommend that you work with a recruiter because the vast majority of us have served as volunteers ourselves,” said Bridgeford. “We can speak about service, not only from the perspective of the facts, but also of what it was just like as a person, day to day serving in some place that is thousands of miles removed from where we came from. This is something that you really need to be well informed about before you make that decision for yourself. And that is really our job – to make sure that you are fully informed.”