Since the 1950s, international volunteering in the US has been an institutionalized form of service, aid, and diplomacy. There are currently as many as tens of thousands of US citizens who are volunteering their lives to serve in a foreign country.

The purpose of this research was to explore the perceptions of US Peace Corps volunteers’ experiences in their host communities, and what may characterize “transformational” service by answering the research question, “What role (s) do international US volunteers see themselves as playing in international development in their host communities?” This research used a case study approach to explore different aspects of fifteen currently serving volunteers and their experiences, as well as the opinions of three Thai Peace Corps staff about the volunteering experience from their perspective. Data was collected through ethnographic observation and semi-structured, open-ended email interviews with volunteers and Thai staff.

The research concluded that while each individual volunteer experience is unique, personal, and very challenging, positive social transformation does in fact occur from both the volunteer and host community perspective. The findings of this research also support the need for a more in depth look at social justice and racism in international volunteering, and how that may or may not translate into quality training and placement for volunteers and potential host communities.


Growth and Development | Politics and Social Change | Work, Economy and Organizations