BY MATT BODENSCHATZ
As Monica Antonazzo travels to South Africa on Thursday, she and about 40 other Peace Corps volunteers will join 7,810 already overseas.
“We’re at a 30-year high right now,” said Molly Jennings, public affairs specialist for the Peace Corps. “We’ve had 182,000 total volunteers since 1961.”
The Peace Corps has volunteers in 75 countries. African countries have the most volunteers, with Latin American countries coming in second and Eastern European and Central Asian countries coming in third.
“You can apply online, and (you) must be 18 years of age and a U.S. citizen,” Jennings said. “Volunteers take part in two years of service and three months of training within the country (where they will work), where they learn the language and safety precautions.”
After training, Antonazzo said volunteers are split up and sent on their way.
“They don’t tell you your specific location until after training, but my area (of expertise) is AIDS and HIV prevention, so I could be in a hospital, school, community center or women’s shelter,” she said.
Though they are put in their own communities, volunteers are close enough to other volunteers to communicate regularly during their time abroad.
If not, Antonazzo said she might get too lonely.
“I’m sure there will be times when I am very lonely,” she said. “But I hope I’ll be able to travel freely when I am there.”
Jennings said the Peace Corps has become more popular thanks to former volunteers who take the time to speak about their experiences.
“It seems very positive,” she said. “I always hear great stories. Most people have been very pleased and felt it was beneficial to them in the long run.”