First Group of Volunteers Leave for Sri Lanka to Assist with Post-Tsunami Rebuilding Efforts

June 22, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 22, 2005 For the first time ever, the Peace Corps will send a team of Crisis Corps volunteers to Sri Lanka, when the first of 30 Crisis Corps volunteers begin leaving today to help the people of Sri Lanka recover from last year's devastating tsunami.

The first group of volunteers will arrive in country on June 24, followed by a second group on June 30, and subsequent groups to follow in mid-July. These Crisis Corps volunteers will join forces with international charity organizations active in disaster relief efforts. Due to their prior Peace Corps and professional experiences, the volunteers have the skill sets to provide invaluable resources to the recovery efforts.

"The idea behind Crisis Corps is to help those across the globe who most need assistance. The government of Sri Lanka and the organizations involved have provided us with their full cooperation to make this happen exactly when the people need our help the most," said Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez.

The arrival of the volunteers will be the first since the Peace Corps program in Sri Lanka closed in 1998. The Peace Corps carefully evaluated the conditions in Sri Lanka and decided that it would be appropriate to send the Crisis Corps volunteers to serve.

Eight of the volunteers will work with the Christian Children's Fund and World Vision, assisting the organizations as they work to rebuild communities. In their efforts, the volunteers will help to build permanent shelters and work to ensure that water supplies are sanitary. The remaining three volunteers are all civil engineers who will work with the Christian Childrens Fund to design new reconstruction projects and improve existing projects.

The government of Sri Lanka estimates that more than 30,000 citizens died in the tsunamis that killed more than 176,000 people in 11 countries. Some 500,000 Sri Lankans lost their homes.

Crisis Corps volunteers will put their lives in America on hold to aid the victims of last December's devastating tsunami in South East Asia. Here are a few members of the Crisis Corps volunteers heading to Sri Lanka.

Darren Defendeifer Virginia
Although Darren Defendeifer returned from his Peace Corps experience in Nepal less than ten months ago, he is again answering the call to service by working with World Vision. From 2002 to 2004, Defendeifer, 34, was a business extension volunteer with the Peace Corps, where he taught organizational development, management, and marketing techniques to local social welfare organizations. He has also worked in the fields of education and finance. Defendeifer received a bachelor's degree in commerce and business administration from the University of Alabama and a masters in business administration from Old Dominion University.

Debbie DeVoe California
Deborah DeVoe, 36, of Walnut Creek, Calif., first served in the Marshall Islands as a Peace Corps education volunteer in the early 1990s. DeVoe has served with the American Red Cross' Disaster Services both locally and nationally. As vice-chair of her local chapter's Disaster Services group, she coordinated response to the Montana wildfires of 2000. Following the September 11 attacks, she provided training to those assisting in an information call center. Before joining Crisis Corps, DeVoe worked as a freelance writer and editor, and her work has appeared in local and national newspapers and on the award-winning salon.com. DeVoe received a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California at Berkeley.

Greg Hoelscher California
Using his extensive international development and business background, Greg Hoelscher will serve with World Vision coordinating tsunami relief projects. Hoelscher served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand in the early 1990s, where he worked with the Ministry of Public Health to build water sysn Thailand in the early 1990s, where he worked with the Ministry of Public Health to build water systems in rural villages. Before joining the Crisis Corps, Hoelscher worked as an independent contractor with the U.S. Agency for International Development. As a contractor for USAID, Hoelscher worked to develop internet services in Romania and to develop and secure funding for communications technologies in Afghanistan. Hoelscher received a bachelor's degree in finance and economics from the University of San Francisco. He has also received a master's in international accounting and finance from the London School of Economics.

Laura Kane Georgia
Laura Kane, an Atlanta resident, has the skills and cultural knowledge to make an immediate impact in Sri Lanka because she previously served there from 1984-86 as a Peace Corps volunteer. Like many in the first group, she will work with the charity organization World Vision to ensure that tsunami relief projects are implemented successfully. During her previous experience in Sri Lanka, Kane taught English to local students and teachers. She has also worked in Calcutta, India, where she volunteered at a hospice center for terminally ill patients and with Rotary International's polio vaccination program. Before joining the Crisis Corps, Kane, 49, worked with the Fulton County, Ga., school system as a special education instructor. Kane received her teaching credentials and a master's degree in education from Georgia State University.

Kevin Mackey Washington, D.C.
Kevin Mackey, of Washington D.C., is traveling to Sri Lanka to work with the charity organization World Vision to build permanent shelters, ensure that water supplies are sanitary, and establish education and youth development programs. Mackey, 28, will use his experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin from 2002-04 to help organize World Vision's disaster relief efforts. As a volunteer, Mackey taught business classes to local communities and worked with local finance institutions to help villagers start their own push-cart businesses. Working as an AmeriCorps tutor in eastern Iowa, Mackey taught English classes to immigrant students, in addition to providing tutoring for other classes. Mackey was also an intern at the U.S. Department of State in Nicaragua. Before joining the Crisis Corps, Mackey worked at Peace Corps headquarters in the Office of Planning, Budget, and Finance. He holds a bachelor's degree from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, in international studies, Spanish, and French.

Charlotte Zeamer California
Charlotte Zeamer, 32, first served in Sri Lanka as a Peace Corps community development and education volunteer from 1996 to 1998. As a Crisis Corps volunteer, Zeamer will advise and train the Christian Childrens Fund's district coordinators and staff and will also assist them with budget management. Previously, Zeamer was a program specialist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Space Research. She has also worked in a variety of education fields, serving as an English teacher in Thailand and Nepal and as a study abroad advisor in the United States. Zeamer has a bachelor's degree in English language and literature from Bard College in N.Y. She also has a master's degree in international and intercultural management from the School for International Training.

Nearly 600 returned Peace Corps volunteers have taken the opportunity to use their invaluable skills and experience to address ongoing community needs in over 30 different countries since Crisis Corps' inception in 1996. Crisis Corps volunteers work on short term projects, utilizing the skills they learned as Peace Corps volunteers and in post service careers. To find out more about the Peace Corps' Crisis Corps program, please visit the Crisis Corps section.

Since 1961, more than 178,000 volunteers have served in the Peace Corps, working in such diverse fields as education, health, HIV/AIDS education and prevention, 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 27-month commitment.

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