Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter Visits the Kingdom of Swaziland

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 23, 2007 Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter traveled through the Kingdom of Swaziland over the past five days visiting Peace Corps Volunteers and staff and meeting with government officials.

Swaziland is a country rich in history and tradition, and Peace Corps Volunteers are working at the grassroots level to help the Swazi people in their response to HIV/AIDS, said Director Tschetter. Our Volunteers are working in a variety of ways to teach prevention methods and provide support for the orphans and vulnerable children affected by this deadly pandemic.

All 37 Peace Corps Volunteers serving in Swaziland work exclusively on HIV/AIDS projects. Swaziland has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world with over 33% of the population estimated to be HIV positive. The Peace Corps operated in Swaziland from 1969 to 1996, and, after a brief hiatus, Volunteers re-entered the country in 2003.

Director Tschetter met with several government officials including the Prime Minister of Swaziland, Themba Dlamini. Prime Minister Dlamini is very familiar with the Peace Corps because a Volunteer, Alexandra Edwards, of Pa., lives in his community. The Director also met with Deputy Prime Minister Constance Simelane, and the Director of the National Emergency Response Council for HIV/AIDS, Dr. Derek von Wissell.

Our Volunteers see the devastation HIV/AIDS causes in Swaziland every day, but they are making a difference, said Director Tschetter. I visited a school where young ladies who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS are now back in school thanks to President Bushs Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and other Volunteers are working with communities to educate young people about the disease and to encourage testing.

Peace Corps Volunteers Lindsay Hayek of New Jersey and Kristin Wetzler of Kansas are working together at a high school with female orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). Girls in Swaziland often cannot afford to pay for school once one or both of their parents die from AIDS, but Lindsay and Kristin are helping to bring many young girls back to school through PEPFAR funding.

Peace Corps Volunteer Megan Guetzko has raised money from her community back in Iowa through the Peace Corps Partnership program to build a new pre-school for OVC in her Swazi village. Men and women from Megans village are donating materials and labor to the project and in essence are helping to build the new school. Megan, Lindsay and Kristin are just three examples of the dedication and initiative that Peace Corps Volunteers are putting into their work in Swaziland.

The Peace Corps is celebrating a 45-year legacy of service at home and abroad. Since 1961, more than 187,000 Volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries where Volunteers have served. 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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