Peace Corps Director Travels to Bangladesh, Visits Volunteers

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 19, 2005 Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez returned from Bangladesh this week, where he met with government officials and witnessed the progress of volunteers, who have initiated projects ranging from confidence instilling Tae Kwon Do classes to classes that teach the disabled the life skills to be self-supporting.

Reflecting on his visit at a press conference during his last day in Bangladesh, Director Vasquez commented, "The time I have spent in Bangladesh has been very rewarding and fulfilling. I had the opportunity to meet with volunteers and see them at work in their communities and to visit with local leaders who expressed their gratitude and deep appreciation for the efforts of the volunteers."

During his visit, Director Vasquez held several informal discussions with volunteers and traveled to their sites to hear from the people they assist. He also met with the Minister of Education Dr. Osman Farruk, the Minister of Youth and Sports Fazlur Rahman, and Foreign Affairs Advisor Reaz Rahman to discuss how the Peace Corps can continue to assist the country in youth development and education initiatives.

"I take great pride and credit for the revitalization of the Peace Corps program in Bangladesh," stated Minister Farruk. "The volunteers have integrated quite well into their communities. They are very well liked and respected because of their dedication and commitment to the people of Bangladesh."

As part of his travels through this nation of more than 140 million, Director Vasquez visited the work sites of many volunteers including T.J. Walker. Walker is currently serving as a teacher at the Rani Bilashmoni Government Boys High School, where he focuses much of his time teaching English. Employing many creative techniques, Walker employs an interactive approach to learning. Introducing a new theme each week, Walker uses role playing as a way for students to apply their new vocabulary to real life situations. Walkers enthusiasm for his work is palpable and is reflected in the rapid success of his students, according to his colleagues.

Volunteer Evelyn Ackermans primary project is teaching English at a middle school in Chittagong. Ackerman is also focusing on her secondary project as co-organizer of a Tae Kwon Do class with Grand Master Hae Keun Parker, a South Korean national. As a student of Mr. Parker, Ackerman has earned her red belt, but more importantly serves as a role model for the students, especially the young women, since Tae Kwon Do instills discipline, focus, respect, confidence and strong character. These attributes are the cornerstone of the art, explained Ackerman, and also key components for international development.

"Peace Corps Bangladesh has opened my eyes to the world, instilled confidence, challenged my values, given me invaluable international experience and allowed me to grow close to devout Muslims, which is crucial post 9/11, when Islam is so misunderstood," said Ackerman.

Director Vasquez also had the opportunity to meet volunteer Eden Strunk at Nurture Hospital, a facility that treats and trains the disabled to be self-supporting.

"Edens work and that of her counterparts at Nurture Hospital is nothing short of amazing," stated Director Vasquez. "Many of the patients have suffered severe injuries, but thanks to the leadership, dedication, creativity, and talent of the staff many patients are on the road to recovery and are using their skills as a means to support themselves."

Strunk teaches English at the hospital and is also involved in a womens sewing group. With her support, the group received a commission to sew traditional Bangladeshi shalwar kameez for the new Peace Corps volunteers arriving in August. The shalwar kameez is a traditional form of dress worn by Bangladeshi women, and volunteers wear them to conform to culturally appropriate styles.

The Peace Corps entered Bangladesh in November 1998. Peace lturally appropriate styles.

The Peace Corps entered Bangladesh in November 1998. Peace Corps temporarily suspended the program in October 2001 and re-opened in August 2002. Currently 102 volunteers are serving in Youth and Community Development and Teaching English as a Foreign Language. More than 220 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Bangladesh since 1998. To learn more about Bangladesh, please visit the Where Do Volunteers Go? section.

Since 1961, more than 178,000 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 27-month commitment.

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