Peace Corps Benin Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Peace Corps celebrates four decades of service in West African nation

Cotonou, Benin, September 19, 2008 - Peace Corps Africa Regional Director Henry McKoy recently returned from the Republic of Benin where he participated in the 40th anniversary celebration of the Peace Corps program. The celebration, held on September 5, was attended by over 400 people, including the U.S. Ambassador to Benin, Gayleatha B. Brown, representatives of the Beninese government, Emile Derlin Zinsou, former President of Benin, current and former Peace Corps Volunteers, and Beninese citizens.

"The Peace Corps program in Benin has benefited from 40 years of continuous friendship and collaboration with the Beninese people," said Regional Director McKoy. "In my travels around the country, the Beninese people have been warm and welcoming, often expressing thanks for the hard work of Volunteers in their communities."

In addition to a speech by McKoy, the celebration included remarks from Ambassador Brown, Peace Corps Country Director Sheryl Cowan, and Joseph Howell, a returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Benin in PCV from 1969. There were also remarks made by Beninese officials and currently serving, Peace Corps Volunteers. The event included the swearing in of 56 new Peace Corps Volunteers.

In a formal meeting with Peace Corps officials the President of the Republic of Benin, Dr. Yayi Boni, commented that he is impressed and inspired by the sacrifice and dedication to service that Peace Corps Volunteer Americans have demonstrated throughout the forty years in his country. President Yayi also requested the assistance of the Peace Corps in initiating a national service program for Beninese youth based on the Peace Corps model.

In honor of the 40th anniversary of Peace Corps/Benin, McKoy visited several Volunteers, including Melissa Kadzik, who has a Masters of Public Health, demonstrated the processing of Moringa leaves (a local plant that helps mitigate malnutrition), and her work with a local clinic. Prior to the Peace Corps, there was. no health center nor school for the children in Kadzik\'s village.

McKoy also visited Peace Corps Volunteers Phoebe and Jeff Guevin, who work with local artisans, and Steven Myers. Myers works with the Millennium Challenge Corporation to support the Beninese arbitration and mediation system.

Peace Corps Volunteers first arrived in Benin, a West African country located between Nigeria and Togo, in 1968. Since then, nearly 1,800 Volunteers have served in over 200 villages throughout the country. At the start of the Peace Corps program in Benin, Volunteers worked in projects related to small farm grain storage, rice production and guinea worm eradicationa disease which no longer exists in Benin todayand secondary English education. Today the Peace Corps has 105 Volunteers serving throughout Beninese villages and communities, working in the sectors of community health and HIV/AIDS prevention, education, the environment, small enterprise development, and information communication technology.

To learn more about Peace Corps/Benin, visit the Where Do Volunteers Go? section of the Peace Corps website.

The Peace Corps is celebrating a 47-year legacy of service at home and abroad. Currently there are over 8,000 Volunteers abroad, a 37-year high for Volunteers in the field. Since 1961, more than 190,000 Volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries where Volunteers have served, including Benin. 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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