THE BLOG
06/25/2013 09:35 am ET Updated Aug 25, 2013

Global Service in the 21st Century

Next week, the mountain air in Aspen will be electric with powerful ideas about service in the 21st century. In today's interconnected world, international volunteer service is building the careers of highly trained, culturally competent new leaders -- the kind of leaders our country needs to succeed in the global economy.

That's where the Peace Corps comes in. Peace Corps is using cutting-edge technology to help communities around the world solve their most pressing problems while building a workforce that prepares America for the future. I'm honored to represent the more than 8,000 Americans currently serving as Peace Corps Volunteers as a participant in the 21st Century National Service Summit, the signature lead-in event to the Aspen Ideas Festival.

Right now, Peace Corps Volunteers are training youth entrepreneurs in the Dominican Republic, creating virtual communities of practice to address food security in West Africa, and improving access to digital technology in Ukraine. They are building bridges between our country and others -- helping us to see the world in new ways and helping others to solve some of their most difficult development challenges.

At the same time Peace Corps Volunteers are serving their host communities, they are investing in their own future by learning new languages, developing cross-cultural competence, building new technical skills and managing complex multi-cultural environments. In other words, they are becoming global leaders.

Our Peace Corps Response program provides opportunities for skilled Americans with more experience who want to launch an international career to serve in shorter-term assignments around the world. And our newest program, the Global Health Service Partnership, a collaboration with Seed Global Health and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), sends doctors and nurses to Tanzania, Uganda and Malawi to save lives by teaching in medical schools, nursing schools and teaching hospitals, and strengthening local health systems.

The Peace Corps is rooted in the values that led President John F. Kennedy to found the agency in 1961, but we are also adapting to a rapidly changing world. Today, our Volunteers blog, Skype, text and tweet. They install solar-powered computer labs and link local farmers to global markets using cell phone technology. They help connect HIV-positive women to services that can prevent transmission of the virus to their newborns and assist their communities in addressing climate change.

In rural Senegal, Peace Corps Volunteer Ian Hennessee reduced malaria incidence more than 90 percent in his village through proactive detection and treatment of malaria using low-cost rapid diagnostic tests. Through a strategic partnership with the President's Malaria Initiative and the Senegalese National Malaria Control Program, Volunteer Anne Linn will build on Ian's success by rolling out this active case detection model in 20 villages over the next three months. In Namibia, Volunteers Rashid Khan and Jennifer Moore designed a system to use widely available cell phone text message technology to communicate timely, accurate, youth-friendly information on difficult topics such as HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and domestic violence to adolescents at risk.

Peace Corps Volunteers receive rigorous technical training that enables them to develop skills needed in today's -- and tomorrow's -- global economy. Their service provides the kind of life-defining leadership skills that are in high demand by today's employers. In fact, a groundbreaking new report from the Corporation for National and Community Service demonstrates that volunteer service in organizations such as Peace Corps, AmeriCorps or VISTA can significantly increase job opportunities and enhance career potential.

We are deeply invested in 21st century service because Peace Corps has never stopped at the water's edge. Our Volunteers bring their knowledge and skills back home with them and enrich American communities in every corner of our country. The Peace Corps' returned Volunteer network is more than 210,000 strong and is made up of men and women from diverse backgrounds who continue their lives of service in all 50 states.

The Peace Corps uses the tools and technologies of the 21st century to make a difference in communities around the world. At the same time Volunteers help host countries bridge the digital divide, they develop the skills and global competence our country needs to guide it into the future. There has never been a better time to serve.

This post is part of a collaboration between The Huffington Post and The Aspen Institute, in which a variety of thinkers, writers and experts will explore the most pressing issues of our time. For more posts from this partnership, click here. For more information on The Aspen Institute, click here.

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