A Different Kind of Peace Corps: The Mexico program
Within the Peace Corps, there are 75 different countries* where a volunteer might be placed. While all are unique, one of the newest programs – Mexico – is purportedly pretty different from the rest. It is akin to a charter school or a pilot program in some ways. Allow me to explain:
Your typical Peace Corps post is in a rural location with a volunteer who works within the local community. This typically results in small-scale, immediate, and direct change/development. In Mexico, volunteers are placed in State and Federal level offices with the goal of attaining a wide-ranging impact. Comparatively, change/development is likely less immediate and somewhat more indirect in scope. These positions were explained to me as analogous to positions within the US EPA.
The following blurbs were gathered from the Peace Corps Mexico website.
Program origins: Peace Corps México is a relatively new program that began in 2004. The initiative to bring Peace Corps to Mexico originated in 2001 when President Fox and President Bush signed the Partnership for Prosperity, an agreement that envisioned several initiatives to strengthen cooperation between Mexico and the U.S. This agreement opened the door for formal collaboration between the Peace Corps and Mexico.
In 2006 Peace Corps’ second partnership was signed with the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, which is a large federal umbrella organization made up of many agencies. Of these, Peace Corps works directly with three: CONANP (the equivalent of the National Park Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service), CONAFOR (the equivalent of the U.S. Forest Service), and State Delegations (each state has a federal office).
- Environmental Education: Organizations and communities will strengthen their performance, planning and implementation of environmental education and awareness programs
- Natural Resources & Environment Management: Organizations, CBOs and communities will strengthen their performance, planning and implementation of recommended protected area, natural resources and environment management programs
- Administration, Information, Communication & Technology: Organizations will improve their performance, planning, implementation of administrative, information, and communication processes, tools and technology to manage Mexico’s environment
The program is very selective. Most volunteers in Mexico have Masters or Doctorate degrees and a minimum of three years of professional experience, many with over 30 years of experience. This is in stark contrast to most other PC programs where the average volunteer is 28 years old, with many volunteers fresh out of a Bachelor’s program.
Selectivity results in a more complex hiring process as well. My application had to go through additional hoops along with the typical Peace Corps requirements. PC Mexico’s partner organizations within the Federal Government require final approval of all volunteers, and they are also in charge of selecting the placements for each volunteer. Ideally, this ensures that the volunteer has experience and education tailored to the site partner’s needs.
In my case, my resume was sent to Mexico on two separate occasions – September 2011 and June 2012 – for PC Mexico approval. In June, it was passed to Mexico’s Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources for their staff to review and approve my application for a phone interview. After that interview, they selected a specific position and site that matched their needs with my experience. Only then could I get an invitation to serve as a Peace Corps Mexico volunteer.
* Actual number changes. 75 was the number of partnering countries in 2012.