Ecuador Recognizes Peace Corps for Over Forty Years of Volunteer Service

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 28, 2003 – Today, Ecuadorian Ambassador Raul Gangotena – on behalf of the President and government of Ecuador – recognized the contributions Peace Corps volunteers have made to the people of Ecuador by presenting the U.S. Peace Corps with the National Order of Merit.

Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez and returned Peace Corps volunteers who served in Ecuador accepted the medal for the National Order of Merit (La condecoracion de la orden nacional al merito en el grado del cabellero al Cuerpo de Paz). The National Order of Merit is awarded for outstanding service to the nation in public administration, national or foreign diplomacy, literature, or the arts.

“Peace Corps-Ecuador is one of our longest running and most successful programs, and on behalf of the Peace Corps community, we are honored to accept recognition in the National Order of Merit as a token of respect for the partnership Peace Corps has created with the people of Ecuador,” said Director Vasquez. “As we carry forth our partnership, we hope to continue to help the citizens of Ecuador improve their lives – as they continue to enrich the lives of our volunteers.”

In addition, the government of Ecuador sent over 1,000 roses to commemorate the occasion. Playing the national anthems for both countries was Brass Band del Ecuador, under the direction of Jorge Pachacama. The brass band, made up from an ensemble of young Ecuadorians, has traveled throughout the United States, Europe and Ecuador. They also played a short selection of songs from Ecuador.

The first group of 47 volunteers arrived in Ecuador on August 7, 1962. Since that time more than 5,700 volunteers have served there. Current volunteer projects include agriculture, natural resource management, rural health and youth at risk. One of the Peace Corps most successful projects has been the Community Banking Project, which has allowed community members to open savings accounts and take out short-term loans in over 100 communities.

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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