Peace Corps Director Visits Albania

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 9, 2005 – Visiting Albania for the first time since the Peace Corps program reopened in 2003, Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez met with government officials last week and witnessed firsthand the progress volunteers have made locally.

On Friday, the Director met with Albanian President Alfred Moisiu, Prime Minister Fatos Nano and U.S. Ambassador Marcie B. Ries. Director Vasquez shared information on the impact volunteers have had since the Albanian government signed an agreement with the Peace Corps in July 2003. He also explained how volunteers are launching initiatives in smaller communities that have yielded results, such as local tourism campaigns and leadership camps for Albanian youth.

"The people of Albania have welcomed Peace Corps volunteers into their communities with open arms. In less than two years, our volunteers have developed positive relationships and initiated projects that have already benefited Albania," said Director Vasquez.

Director Vasquez also visited some of the 46 volunteers who currently serve in Albania, in addition to the newest 24 trainees who will become volunteers in June. One volunteer, Joe Vadala, of Las Vegas, Nev., has created a children\'s reading room in the local library, complete with new books. With his background in law, Vadala, 40, is also helping a local urban planning institute develop a community plan and find housing for those who cannot afford a home. Another volunteer, Janette LeHoux, 24, of Salt Lake City, has assisted her community by helping to design eco-tourism projects.

As he traveled through Albania, Director Vasquez met with Sarah Bartfeld, and Terri Durst, both English teachers. In addition to her teaching duties, Bartfeld, of Navato, Calif., has helped her school obtain its first computer and begin an e-mail network for her colleagues to ask questions. Durst, of Ballwin, Mo., who works in a middle school, organized and moderates a womens club, whose members discuss current events and American culture while learning to speak English.

From 1992 through 1997, 156 volunteers served in Albania, working in the areas of secondary English teaching, small business development, and agro-forestry development. Having approved a new constitution in 1998, Albania has been transitioning into an open market economy, with Albanian officials and leaders taking measures to re-energize economic activity. The Peace Corps\' re-entry into the country in 2003 included an emphasis on helping to improve municipal and community development projects, as well as programs in education, health and HIV/AIDS prevention. To learn more about Albania, 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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