Peace Corps Director Makes Historic First Trip to Azerbaijan

Washington, D.C., May 6, 2004 – Four months ago, Azerbaijan welcomed its first 25 Peace Corps volunteers to work in education related programs. On April 30, Gaddi H. Vasquez became the first Peace Corps Director to visit the country when he arrived to meet with the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev. Director Vasquez also visited with several volunteers, and saw firsthand the positive impact they are already having on their communities.

"The Peace Corps is proud of this first group of volunteers, as they are paving the way for future generations of volunteers in Azerbaijan," said Director Vasquez. "By living in Azerbaijani communities, they are the pioneers for building mutual understanding between the U.S. and Azerbaijan and will be able to share their experiences with Americans when they return from their two years of service."

During his tour of the country, Director Vasquez met with President Aliyev at the Presidential Palace and discussed future opportunities for the Peace Corps in Azerbaijan. President Aliyev expressed his profound appreciation for the currently serving Peace Corps volunteers and mentioned his desire to see Peace Corps programs in Azerbaijan expand in the future beyond English education.

Director Vasquez also met with the U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Reno Harnish, who swore in the first group of volunteers on December 12, 2003. In addition, Director Vasquez met with several members of the government who have worked with Peace Corps staff to bring volunteers into Azerbaijani communities, including the Minister of Education Misir Mardanov.

photo of Andrea Darrington teaching her second graders the names of animals in English.
Andrea Darrington teaches her second graders the names of animals in English.
During his visit, the Director visited the sites of two volunteers who have already made tremendous strides in teaching English to their students. Peace Corps volunteer Andrea Darrington of Stillwater, Minn. is teaching English at a secondary school in the small community of Salyan where 900 of the 1,200 students had expressed an interest in learning English as a second language. Andrea has started an English language club to achieve this goal and is helping English instructors prepare their lessons.

photo of Director Vasquez with Andrea and students

The students in Andrea\'s class came in on the weekend to meet Director Vasquez.

Director Vasquez’ next visit was with Fazail Alishov, the Head of the Executive Committee in the Neftchala Region. Mr. Alishov, who is hosting three volunteers in his region, expressed enthusiastic support for the Peace Corps.

After the meeting, the Director traveled to a local school where he met with the three volunteers. There, the volunteers’ students performed an English language presentation that included several renditions of traditional American songs and a dramatization of Cinderella by the sixth grade class.

The first group of Peace Corps volunteers assigned to Azerbaijan are introducing new teaching techniques and improving the quality of spoken English among the citizens of Azerbaijan. The volunteers primarily focus their efforts on training and teaching English as a foreign language in rural secondary schools. The next group of volunteers is scheduled to arrive later this summer. The Peace Corps has also established successful programs in many of Azerbaijan’s neighummer. The Peace Corps has also established successful programs in many of Azerbaijan’s neighboring countries.

Since 1961, more than 171,000 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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