Peace Corps Director Salutes Current and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers on International Volunteer Day
December 5, 1997Washington, D.C., December 5, 1997—In the spirit of International Volunteer Day today, Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan saluted the thousands of current and returned Peace Corps volunteers for their contributions to communities around the world and here in the United States. In 1985, the United Nations General Assembly declared December 5 as "International Volunteer Day" to honor the accomplishments of volunteers and volunteer organizations. "This day serves to remind us of the importance of encouraging and participating in volunteer activities in our communities," said Gearan. "As a leading international volunteer agency, the Peace Corps has contributed a great deal to developing nations, and has helped other countries establish their own volunteer organizations, which I believe will be our ultimate legacy." Gearan said he is pleased that Peace Corps has been able to assist a number of countries start their own volunteer corps, in places such as Mali, the Czech Republic, Chile, and Papua New Guinea. Just today, at a ceremony to swear-in new Peace Corps volunteers in Malawi, the Vice President of Malawi will announce the formation of a new volunteers corps there. Other International Volunteer Day events that Peace Corps volunteers and staff will participate in today include roundtable discussions on the role of volunteerism in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, a tree-planting ceremony in the Philippines, cleaning up a children's park in Samoa, and staffing a booth on volunteerism at a busy market in Kiribati. Gearan also emphasized the contributions made by returned Peace Corps volunteers, who provide a "domestic dividend" by using their overseas experience to make a difference in the lives of people here at home. "Whether it's providing community health care, teaching kids to read, organizing youth activities, serving in local parent-teacher organizations or spending time with the elderly in nursing homes, returned Peace Corps volunteers understand the value of service and make a tangible difference in the lives of thousands of Americans," Gearan said. Today, more than 6,600 Peace Corps volunteers serve in 87 countries around the world, working to fight hunger, prevent the spread of AIDS, protect the environment, teach children, promote health and nutrition, and start small businesses. Since 1961, more than 150,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps.