Peace Corps Director Visits Volunteers at Sites in Bulgaria

May 5, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 2005 – Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez recently visited Bulgaria, where he met with volunteers, staff and Ambassador James W. Pardew, in addition to attending the Europe, Mediterranean and Asia Peace Corps country directors' annual conference.

"This is my second visit to Bulgaria in two years, and both times I've been impressed by the hospitality and graciousness of the people," stated Director Vasquez. "The Peace Corps volunteers in Bulgaria continue to be successful and have a meaningful experience in large part because of the people and the relationships they have developed within their communities."

Director Vasquez had a chance to meet with several Peace Corps volunteers and visit their sites. One was Genevieve Garrett, of Florence, Miss., who at the age of 25 has already volunteered in Bangladesh, India and at home in Mississippi before joining the Peace Corps. Garrett's previous work in Mother Teresa's Calcutta orphanage and with AmeriCorps helped prepare her for her assignment in the Peace Corps as a youth development volunteer.

Garrett took the opportunity to discuss the many projects she is managing, including after school activities that incorporate art, strategies to obtain higher education, community clean-up projects, and other life skills training for children at the local orphanage and in the minority community. Garrett also detailed her work as the director of Camp GLOW, a summer camp for young girls to realize their worth and potential in life.

On Wednesday, Director Vasquez visited Bonnie Drenik from Cincinnati, Ohio, who is a community organizational development volunteer. Drenik's prior achievements include 20 years of experience in development work, which have proven to be a tremendous asset for her community. As a Peace Corps volunteer, Drenik is involved in numerous projects and was able to give Director Vasquez a tour of one of them. The Territorial Organization of Science and Technical Unions is one of the nongovernmental organizations Drenik is assisting. Their current project, an information technology lab, has led to the creation of an education and re-qualification center. The center offers courses in information technology, languages, business and other requalification programs to under-employed young adults. Director Vasquez met with the students participating in the program and had the opportunity to see firsthand how instrumental Drenik has been in the success of the center.

Like Drenik and Garrett, most Peace Corps volunteers in Bulgaria work in community development, education and youth development projects. Today, there are 163 volunteers and 50 trainees serving in Bulgaria. The Peace Corps opened its Bulgaria program in 1991, and more than 700 Americans have served the country's citizens. To learn more about Bulgaria, 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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