First Lady to Visit Peace Corps Volunteers in Chile
April 14, 1998Washington, D.C., April 14, 1998—First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will visit with Peace Corps volunteers in Chile when she travels with President Clinton to South America this week for the Summit of the Americas.
On Saturday, Mrs. Clinton will visit several Peace Corps volunteers to dedicate a renovated cultural center in Temuco, Chile. On Sunday, she will give the keynote address at a ceremony in Santiago to celebrate the partnership between the Peace Corps and Chile. More than 40 former Peace Corps volunteers will travel from all over the United States and Chile to attend the ceremony on the grounds of the U.S. Embassy.
"We are delighted that the First Lady will meet with our volunteers in Chile," said Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan. "She has been a strong supporter of the Peace Corps, and I can think of no more appropriate speaker to celebrate the spirit of friendship and understanding that exists between Peace Corps volunteers and the people of Chile."
Gearan noted that President and Mrs. Clinton met with many volunteers in Africa last month. The First Lady has also met with Peace Corps volunteers in more than a dozen countries, as well as hosted the send-off of a new group of volunteers to Jordan last year.
In September, the last of the more than 2,400 Peace Corps volunteers who have served in Chile since 1961 will leave the country. Chile's vibrant economy, the return to democratic rule and the recent establishment of Servicio Pais, a national volunteer service for young professionals similar to AmeriCorps, has made it easier for Peace Corps to make a decision to end its program in Chile and focus on countries that are less developed, Gearan said.
Peace Corps volunteers have contributed to Chile's development over 28 years of service. In the early 1960s, many parts of the country were severely deforested. A Peace Corps volunteer helped begin the reforestation program in the southern part of the country, and today, millions of trees have been planted and wood is one of Chile's main exports. Another major export, fish and shellfish, grew rapidly with the assistance of many Peace Corps volunteers over the years.
Since the Peace Corps' return in 1991, after a nine-year absence, two of its major achievements have been in municipal management and community planning. Some Peace Corps volunteers worked with Chilean teachers to develop a primary school curriculum for environmental education, which is being used in more than 15 municipalities and will be reprinted and distributed nationwide.
Currently, about 6,500 Peace Corps volunteers are working in 84 countries to help fight hunger, bring clean water to communities, teach children, protect the environment, start new businesses, and prevent the spread of AIDS. Since 1961, more than 150,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps.