6,000 Former Volunteers Visit Schools Nationwide for Peace Corps Day 2002

Director Vasquez Celebrates with School Visit; Overseas Calls Reach 30 Volunteers

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 1, 2002—Today on Peace Corps Day, held in honor of the anniversary of the day that President Kennedy signed the Executive Order establishing the Peace Corps in 1961, more than 6,000 former Peace Corps volunteers shared their overseas experiences with approximately 500,000 students nationwide, and Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez joined former volunteers at a public elementary school in Washington D.C. to talk about the importance of international volunteerism and cross cultural understanding.

In remarks to students and teachers at the Marie H. Reed Learning Center, Vasquez said, “Now, more than ever, Americans need to know more about the people, culture, and customs of other countries around the world. By telling their stories on Peace Corps Day and throughout the year, former Peace Corps volunteers are strengthening the ability of Americans to better understand the world, themselves and others.”

Following the all-school assembly, Vasquez joined program organizer, teacher and former volunteer Mary Nasibi (Liberia 1965-67) and several students for an overseas telephone call with Peace Corps Cameroon volunteer Vincent Baxter for a 30-minute conversation.

Twenty former Peace Corps volunteers also took part in the Marie Reed program by giving classroom presentations about their experiences overseas.

Immediately following the school program, Vasquez spoke to Peace Corps headquarters staff in the first of several addresses about his vision for the agency. Vasquez described his pleasure in meeting with several returned volunteers during the morning activities and talked about how pleased he was to be at Peace Corps and how he looked forward to getting to know members of the staff.

Vasquez also expressed confidence that the agency could reach President Bush’s goal of doubling the number of volunteers over the next five years and increasing the number of Peace Corps countries. “Because it is Peace Corps Day, we have a lot to celebrate. These are good times for the Peace Corps. It is a priority for the administration. Fifteen thousand volunteers in five years is achievable, and we are going to do everything in our power to make that happen,” stated Vasquez, before a packed room.

Vasquez provided a brief update for the staff on recent meetings with ambassadors to Costa Rica and the Kyrgyz Republic and announced that assessment teams will be leaving in the near future for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. He also detailed the importance of his impending trip to join the teams in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and then spoke about continuing on to meet with representatives in China and Peru. In Peru he will join Peru’s President Toledo and U.S. President Bush when they sign the bilateral agreement for Peace Corps volunteers to return to Peru on March 24, 2002.

Director Vasquez relayed that recent life-defining events, including the honor of being nominated for Peace Corps director by President Bush, recent major surgery and rehabilitation followed by a harrowing escape from the White House on September 11th , were motivation for him to want to make a significant contribution to the country and to the world. “I can think of no better place than to be here, to be with you and to work with you here at Peace Corps,” added Vasquez.

In addition to the thousands of former volunteers speaking in classrooms and organizing events in their communities, other highlights of Peace Corps Day on March 1 included:
More than 30 currently serving Peace Corps volunteers spoke via telephone call with classrooms in the United States.
Ukraine Peace Corps staff and volunteers celebrated Peace Corps Day by giving presentations in their communities, hosting an English language and cultural fair and other activities.
Six former volunteers shared their Peace Corps experiences with 600 American students who are participating in the Institute for Shipboard Education’s Semester at Sea program, aboard the S.S. Universe Explorer. On Peace Corps Day, the S.S. Universe Explorer was between South Africa and Mauritius and the entire day was filled with Peace Corps-related activities.

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