Peace Corps Director Visits Nicaragua, Signs Agreement to Expand Programs

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 6, 2006 Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez and President Enrique Bolaos signed a ceremonial agreement to establish an English teaching program in Nicaragua, during a visit that also included swearing in the latest group of volunteers, touring volunteer sites, and attending the annual conference of country directors in the Inter-America region.

The agreement establishes a Teaching English as a Foreign Language program, which will bring 18 new volunteers to the country\'s secondary schools. A strong supporter of the Peace Corps in Nicaragua, President Bolaos complimented the Peace Corps for meeting the needs of the people of Nicaragua and thanked Director Vasquez for establishing a program to teach English language skills to secondary school teachers. President Bolaos requested the new English program during Director Vasquez\'s visit to Nicaragua in 2004.

"The 25 years of service by Peace Corps volunteers in Nicaragua represents a milestone of achievement and success that will now be expanded to include a new opportunity of learning for teachers and trainers," said Director Vasquez.

While in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, Director Vasquez swore in 21 new community health education volunteers. U.S. Ambassador Paul Trivelli and Secretary General of Education Dr. Enrique Alvarado also participated in the swearing-in ceremony.

Following his visit to the capital, Director Vasquez traveled to Chinandega, where he met with volunteer Ernesto Merlos of Ocean Springs, Miss., who works in small business development. Merlos outlined his techniques for teaching business classes to secondary school students in his host community, as well as his work in English language training. Later, Director Vasquez learned about the projects of 16 other volunteers who are working in various program areas in the region.

Director Vasquez also traveled to Leon, where he met with ten volunteers, including Sandy and Kelly Banks, of San Clemente, Calif., a couple teaching environmental education in primary schools in Nagarote. They spoke with Director Vasquez at their home about their progress, as well as the unique situations they face as a Peace Corps couple.

Currently, there are 167 Peace Corps volunteers serving in Nicaragua. The Peace Corps began service in the Central American nation in 1968 and continued until 1979. In 1991, the program reopened with a special focus on developing new areas of service within Nicaragua in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education. To date, over 1,500 volunteers have served in Nicaragua. To learn more about Nicaragua, please visit the Where Do Volunteers Go? section.

The Peace Corps is celebrating a 45-year legacy of service at home and abroad, and a 30-year high for volunteers in the field. Since 1961, more than 182,000 volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 138 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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