Congressional Delegation Meets With Peace Corps Volunteers

{'html': "WASHINGTON, D.C., October 8, 2003 – Peace Corps volunteers shared their stories – of the daily triumphs and challenges of working in Central American communities – with members of the House of Representatives during a delegation visit to Guatemala and Costa Rica recently. The delegation included Reps. Jim Kolbe of Arizona, Pete Stark of California, Mike Thompson of California, Candice Miller of Michigan and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon.

In Guatemala, the representatives met with eight volunteers to discuss projects volunteers have initiated, including showing farmers how to effectively use environmentally friendly pest control management methods and teaching local residents to practice healthy hygiene and nutrition habits. Some of the volunteers highlighted their partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in developing sustained agriculture efforts and local income generating projects.

After hearing volunteer stories, Rep. Kolbe, who chairs the Appropriations Committee’s Foreign Operations Subcommittee, praised the volunteers for their efforts. “Peace Corps volunteers are America’s true ambassadors,” said Rep. Kolbe. “It is heart-warming and inspirational to hear the Peace Corps volunteers talk about both their work and their connection to their communities. Volunteers have a significant role to play in helping promote a more positive image of America, a task that is critically needed in today's world.”

Representatives were especially interested to hear that volunteers felt safe at their sites due to the measures Peace Corps takes to ensure volunteer safety, including providing training seminars on safety and assessing each site individually. The volunteers demonstrated their acclimation into the culture, which is one of the major factors in staying safe, by sharing with the lawmakers some of the local greetings in the Mayan language.

The delegation also visited Costa Rica to learn firsthand the impact volunteers make in that country. Ten volunteers shared their experiences that include helping communities to create local associations and groups and developing skill-building programs in communities.

Guatemala Peace Corps Country Director Cynthia Threlkeld said the visit was a great morale booster to the volunteers, as they appreciated the opportunity to share their stories and be received by members of Congress in such a respective and supportive manner.

Since 1961, more than 170,000 volunteers have served in the Peace Corps, working in such diverse fields as education, health, HIV/AIDS education and awareness, information technology, business development, the environment, and agriculture. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a two-year commitment.

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