Peace Corps, agency of the U.S. government, whose purpose is to assist underdeveloped countries in meeting their needs for trained manpower. The Peace Corps was established in 1961 by executive order of President Kennedy; Congress approved it as a permanent agency within the Dept. of State the same year. Peace Corps volunteers serve for two-year periods. Currently volunteers serve in more than 70 countries in such areas as agriculture; the teaching of languages, mathematics, and science; vocational training; business and public administration; and natural resource development. In 1981 the Peace Corps was made an independent agency. The program now also sends volunteers to the former Soviet-bloc nations and Communist nations and tries to attract more people with technical training or special skills, particularly in agriculture. In 2005 volunteers were deployed in the United States for the first time, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
See R. Carey, The Peace Corps (1970); B. K. Ashdoranner, A Moment in History: The First Ten Years of the Peace Corps (1971); L. Carter, Away from Home (1977); T. Z. Reeves, The Politics of the Peace Corps and Vista (1988); K. Schwarz, An Oral History of the Peace Corps (1991).