Former Peace Corps Volunteers and Staff Participate in Iraqi Humanitarian Efforts

May 19, 2003

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 19, 2003 - Several former Peace Corps volunteers and staff are participating in the humanitarian efforts to rebuild Iraq. The former Peace Corps regional director of the Europe, Mediterranean and Asia region and five distinguished returned volunteers will be working with both governmental and non-profit organizations in the reconstruction of Iraq.

“These individuals reflect the spirit of Peace Corps, as their commitment to service has continued long after their days as a volunteer,” said Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez. “Returned volunteers and staff bring a unique level of character, skill, expertise, and compassion to their careers, and the Peace Corps is proud to have been a part of their development.”

Judy Van Rest, former Peace Corps Regional Director of the Europe, Mediterranean and Asia region, was recently named Senior Adviser to the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance at the Department of Defense. Van Rest will over-see governance issues in post-war Iraq. Formerly, Van Rest has held a variety of management positions in the federal government and with non-profit organizations.

The United States Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, Tony Hall, is working to secure new wheat, rice, and flour food aid to be shipped to Iraq. Since April 3, 2003, the United Nation's World Food Program has shipped over 120,000 metric tons of food aid into Iraq—enough to feed seven million people, or one quarter of the population, for one month. Ambassador Hall began his career as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1966, teaching English in Thailand.

Hall said, “I have been working with the UN's World Food Program(WFP) to make sure that Iraq's 26 million people have enough to eat. It is WFP's largest humanitarian operation in history, and the U.S. has been the most generous donor, to this project and to WFP overall. They are great at delivering food aid to those in need, and Iraq is no exception.”

John H. Limbert, Ambassador to Mauritania, served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Iran from 1964 to 1966. Limbert also serves as a Senior Adviser to the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. Limbert was named by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to coordinate efforts to recover cultural artifacts stolen during the war.

Michigan State President, Peter McPherson, was appointed to lead a team to revitalize the Iraqi economy. McPherson worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Peru during the mid-1960s. McPherson will work with the Ministry of Finance, and the central bank and nationwide banking network in Iraq.

Volunteering in Sri Lanka from 1994-96 inspired Tammie Willcuts to begin working in humanitarian efforts. Willcuts is now directing a humanitarian aid mission to Iraq for Save the Children, a Connecticut-based relief organization proving aid to victims of wars and disasters. Willcuts arrived in Kuwait on March 19, 2003, and began supervising relief projects in border towns of Iraq in early April.

Also traveling into Iraq with Save the Children, Congressman Christopher Shays was the first member of Congress to enter Iraq in early April. Congressman Shays, vice chairman of the House Government Reform committee, has committed his support to humanitarian aid efforts in Iraq and pledged to closely monitor the activities of aid organizations. Congressman Shays volunteered with his wife in Fiji from 1968 to 1970.

Since 1961, more than 168,000 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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