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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, May 22, 2024

REMARKS BY PEACE CORPS DIRECTOR CAROL SPAHN AT THE SWEARING-IN CEREMONY FOR THE LATEST GROUP OF PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS IN ARMENIA

REMARKS AS PREPARED:

Peace Corps Director Carol Spahn: “Barev!” (Hello!) It is so wonderful to be here with all of you today to help send off the newest group of Peace Corps Volunteers to serve here in Armenia.

First off, thank you for sharing that beautiful music with us. I’m so impressed! How about another round of applause?

I am so honored to be here with you all and would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Honorable Minister Martirosyan, Ambassador Kvien, Peace Corps Country Director Joanne Fairley, the Peace Corps staff, and all of our partners who are here today for their dedication to deepening the connection and partnership between the Peace Corps and the people of Armenia.

It is a relationship that goes back more than three decades to Armenia’s earliest days as an independent country.

When our first Volunteers arrived in the winter of 1992, it was a time of transition for a young nation facing shortages in everything from food to electricity to heat. A nation recovering from a devastating earthquake and fighting a war.

I began my own service as a Volunteer in Romania in 1994, as the entire region began the long process of rebuilding and reshaping in a post-Cold War world. And while it was a difficult time, it was also a time of enormous hope and promise. The future was wide open and the Armenian people’s to forge and shape. We are enormously grateful for the opportunity to have partnered with and walked alongside the people of Armenia.

It is a journey and partnership that we didn’t take for granted. Our deep connections, forged over the decades and reinforced in the lifelong relationships that have been formed, are a gift.

We know that nothing has the ability to bring about change or continue to push progress forward like the human connection and shared sense of purpose that is at the heart of work together. They are the foundations of a strong global community – built one relationship at a time.

And through every interaction, every conversation, every bit about life in Armenia that they embrace and every part of their own lives in the United States that they share in return, our Volunteers are strengthening those foundations.

I would like to recognize all of the A28s here today, who were the first group to return to Armenia after the long 3-year gap caused by the global pandemic. This is a critical moment in time. Thank you for accepting the invitation to help shape how we engage, as America, in this post-COVID world where so many aspects of how we engage with each other continue to evolve. Thank you for your perseverance, resilience, strength of character and dedication to the mission of the Peace Corps that you have demonstrated throughout your time here.

Yesterday, we had the honor of meeting with President Khachaturyan, who was mayor of Yerevan when Peace Corps came to Armenia in 1992. He said, “to understand each other we must see each other,” and he challenged us as we look toward the future “when Armenia youth are brought up on the ideals of independence— they will be the great driving force to develop Armenia.” This is a powerful call to action.

When you all came together 12 weeks ago from across the United States – Washington State and Louisiana, Utah, Vermont, California, even Alaska – would you image that the president would one of your biggest champions.

In just a few weeks, I will celebrate my 30th reunion for Group IV of Peace Corps Romania. It was an eclectic and impressive group – and the intensity of our experience together has bonded us together for life and linked us forever to the future of our host country.

While I did not see progress in very obvious ways during my service, it is so clear n now – 30 years later that the small part that each of us played mattered.

As you navigate the ups and downs of the next few years, as you challenge yourselves and each other, cherish the gift of friendship, of curiosity, of learning, and of challenging yourselves.

You have already immersed already yourselves in Armenian language, culture, and traditions.

But this is only the beginning of a journey that will inspire you to go deeper, to seek understanding, to question your own perceptions and how you interact with the world. I urge you to keep approaching every moment on this journey with the same humility, curiosity, empathy, and open heart that has served you so well these last 12 weeks.

And know that your presence and engagements across difference has the power to inspire hope, ignite change, and build a more just and equitable world.

In a world often marked by division, distrust, discord and disconnection – even though we are more technologically connected than ever before – we need as many of those sparks of inspiration, hope, and authentic human connection now more than ever.

My signature line is that “life begins at the end of our comfort zone”. I must admit I am a little jealous as you get out there into this beautiful and warm country.

May your time here in Armenia be filled with unforgettable memories and boundless opportunities for growth and discovery. And may the bonds of friendship and fellowship that you forge continue to inspire and fill you with hope and strength long after your service comes to an end.

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