Guatemala Honors Peace Corps for Over 40 Years of Service with National Award

GUATEMALA CITY, March 17, 2004 – Today, Guatemalan President Óscar Berger Perdomo paid tribute to the contributions Peace Corps volunteers have made to the people of his country by presenting the Peace Corps with the national “Orden del Quetzal.”

photo of Director Vasquez and President Berger Perdomo
Director Vasquez watches as President Berger Perdomo places onto the Peace Corps flag the Orden del Quetzal medal and pin.
Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez accepted the honor – and the medal that accompanies the “Orden del Quetzal” – on behalf of all the former and current volunteers, and Peace Corps staff who serve in Guatemala. The “Orden del Quetzal” was established to recognize the merits of those who have rendered distinguished services – either domestically or internationally – to strengthen the friendship, harmony and goodwill between Guatemala and other states.

“For over forty years, volunteers have taken home with them the gratitude of the Guatemalan people with whom they work. From today on, they will also take home with them the gratitude of the government of Guatemala,” said Director Vasquez. “We appreciate the hospitality of the Guatemalan people, the enthusiasm with which they receive our volunteers, and their serious engagement in the work of the volunteers.”

President Perdomo hosted the ceremony at the National Palace in Guatemala City. The ceremony was attended by senior dignitaries that included the Guatemalan Minister of Foreign Affairs Jorge Briz Abularach and U.S. Ambassador John R. Hamilton, in addition to many of the current volunteers and members of the Peace Corps staff. As is custom in receiving the honor, Director Vasquez tipped the Peace Corps flag to the President, who then pinned the medal onto the flag of the agency.

Peace Corps has had a continuous presence in Guatemala since the signing of a partnership agreement on December 28, 1962. Presently, over 240 volunteers work in the areas of agriculture, the environment, health, small businesses and rural youth opportunities. Since the program began, close to 4,000 volunteers have developed innovative projects across the country to assist the people of Guatemala, including: the creation of the Healthy School Project, whose structure, organization and documents have supported the work of the Ministries of Education and Health; recovery projects of the marine turtle; and the introduction of various agriculture and forestry projects in areas ranging from cottage greenhouses to livestock marketing extension to the establishment of model beehives.

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 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 two-year commitment.

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