One Year after Reopening, China Program Making a Difference

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 1, 2005 This week, Peace Corps volunteers in China celebrated the swearing-in of the largest group of volunteers ever, as 57 Peace Corps trainees took the oath to serve in the Peoples Republic of China. The volunteer corps includes representatives from 24 states and five married couples.

Upon reentering China last year, Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez commented that the relatively rapid re-entry into China is a testimony to the strong support the Chinese government has for the work of volunteers. The fact that China so quickly has returned to volunteer levels similar to those seen in previous years is an extension of that testimony, said Vasquez.

As these new volunteers are sworn-in to serve in China, I remember the words of the great Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who said, the wise man does not lay up his own treasures. The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own. It is a testament to the Peace Corps and the volunteers who serve whom I know fully understand these words of Lao Tzu. The Peace Corps is a community which gives and in turn is honored by the treasures we receive of friendships, learning and cultural exchange with the people of China, said Peace Corps Director Vasquez.

The Peace Corps, known in China as the US-China Friendship Volunteers, is sponsored by the China Education Association for International Exchange. Deputy Secretary General of CEAIE, Yang Meng, opened the ceremony with her remarks, followed by words of encouragement by American Consul General Jeffrey Moon and the Peace Corps staff.

Consul General Moon from the American Consulate in Chengdu administered the oath for each volunteer. The volunteers have been training in China for eight weeks and will assist the nation as English teachers in 44 institutions of higher education, including universities, medical and law schools, and technical colleges. The 57 volunteers will be joining their fellow volunteers already in country in sharing ideas and methodologies with Chinese educators.

Volunteer Devon Van Dyne, of Washington, represented the new volunteers with a speech in Chinese. In her remarks, she acknowledged the universities for providing the opportunity to serve: To the universities we will be joining in the next few days, thank you for inviting us and welcoming us here. We have left our friends, our families and our homes to be a part of your communities, to share with you and your students our energy and enthusiasm for teaching. We are grateful for the opportunities you are giving us not only to teach, but to learn from you as well. Today, we commit to you the best we have to offer, and we are excited to begin a friendship that will last for years to come."

After the speeches, all volunteers gave a performance featuring Chinese songs and a skit, followed by a luncheon.

In July 2004, Peace Corps resumed operations in the Peoples Republic of China. Peace Corps program in China was temporarily suspended on April 5, 2003. The program began in 1993, when volunteers were sent to assist with a teacher-training project. The new group will join the more than 40 volunteers currently in country. Since the program began, 334 volunteers have served in China. To learn more about China, please visit the Where Do Volunteers Go? 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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