Peace Corps Albania Volunteers and Staff Meet Pope Francis

September 23, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 23, 2014 – Peace Corps Albania volunteers and staff had the distinct honor of meeting Pope Francis during his visit to Albania on Sunday. The pope’s visit was his first to another European country since becoming pope in March 2013.

Volunteers Susan Oupadia of Grand Junction, Colorado, and Katherine Avenetti of Yuma, Arizona, and Peace Corps Albania staff members Diana Djaloshi and Marsela Wahlberg shared brief greetings with the Pope as he entered the Presidential Palace of Tirana to meet with Albanian President Bujar Nishani.

In his remarks, Pope Francis spoke of “peaceful coexistence and collaboration” in Albania that brings him great joy. His message echoed Peace Corps’ mission of promoting world peace and friendship through mutual understanding.

“I am so grateful for the extraordinary opportunity to have met such an exemplary human,” said Avenetti, a graduate of The University of Arizona who has been living in Albania since 2013. “I am humbled by his dedication to serving the needs of his faithful, and encouraged by a leader who uses his position to lobby for world peace. I hope I can instill the same passion for humanity and humility in the young leaders of Albania's future.”

The volunteers and staff were joined by six Albanian girls ages 15-16 who recently participated in Peace Corps’ Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) National Conference in Durrës. The conference was a culmination of the first year of GLOW projects in Albania and brought together 34 girls and 9 adult leaders from 13 cities throughout the country. Over the past year, Peace Corps volunteers and their local counterparts have organized camps and girls clubs in more than a dozen Albanian communities to empower and educate young women.

“GLOW has been the highlight of my service,” said Oupadia, a graduate of Duke University who has been living in Albania since 2013. “Through GLOW, our hope is that people will see that girls are important and deserve recognition. Talk about empowerment and boosting self-esteem!”

Camp GLOW was first established in 1995 by Peace Corps volunteers in Romania to encourage self-confidence among women and girls by creating a safe and supportive environment for cultural exchange, individuality, creativity, leadership development and fun. Since then, volunteers in more than 60 Peace Corps countries have established GLOW camps.

About Peace Corps/Albania: There are 78 volunteers in Albania working in the areas of health, community economic development and English education. During their service in Albania, volunteers learn to speak Albanian. More than 560 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Albania since the program was established in 1992.

About the Peace Corps: As the preeminent international service organization of the United States, the Peace Corps sends Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world. Peace Corps volunteers work at the grassroots level with local governments, schools, communities, small businesses and entrepreneurs to develop sustainable solutions that address challenges in education, health, economic development, agriculture, environment and youth development. When they return home, volunteers bring their knowledge and experiences—and a global outlook—back to the United States that enriches the lives of those around them. President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961 to foster a better understanding among Americans and people of other countries. Since then, more than 215,000 Americans of all ages have served in 139 countries worldwide. Visit www.peacecorps.gov to learn more.

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