Ceremonies to Mark Peace Corps’ Closing of Programs in the Baltic States

June 17, 2002

Washington, D.C., June 17, 2002—After ten years of partnership with the people of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the Peace Corps will commemorate the programs’ closures with ceremonies this week.

“The closure of these programs has been planned for several years, reflecting each country's impressive success during the transition from Communist rule to democratic government and open economies,” said Gaddi Vasquez, Director of the Peace Corps.

To celebrate the occasion, each country will have a ceremonial closing of post: Latvia’s ceremony will occur June 19, Estonia’s takes place June 20 and Lithuania will hold its ceremony June 21. About 200 returned volunteers, current volunters and their co-workers and former staff are expected to participate in these ceremonies.

Prime Minister Siim Kallas of Estonia and Prime Minister Aldris Berzins of Latvia will be the key note speakers at their respective ceremonies. Minister of Education Monkevicius will represent the government of Lithuania. Judy Van Rest, Regional Director for Europe, Mediterranean, and Asia, will represent the Peace Corps at each of these ceremonies.

The programs in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were started in 1992, shortly after formal independence from the Soviet Union was completed. These were the first of the former Soviet Republics to invite Peace Corps volunteers to be involved in their transition. A total of 555 people served as volunteers in the three countries: 198 in Latvia, 194 in Lithuania, and 163 in Estonia. The volunteers worked as TEFL teachers and as advisors to small enterprise development centers and in non-governmental organizations.

During the past 41 years, 165,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps.

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