Peace Corps Director Visits Volunteers in Eastern Caribbean

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 1, 2005 Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez completed a tour of the Eastern Caribbean this week visiting volunteers, staff, and government officials on the Islands of Dominica, St. Lucia and Grenada.

In Dominica, Director Vasquez met with Dominica President Nicholas J.O. Liverpool and his cabinet ministers, as well as Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit. During the visit, the president, prime minister and cabinet staff discussed the work of Peace Corps volunteers in Dominica. Youth development is a priority for volunteers in Dominica, where many of the nations youth have limited opportunities. The Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Human Resource Development has credited Peace Corps volunteers efforts to "build a more optimistic future" for Dominica.

Later, Director Vasquez met with all 20 Peace Corps Dominica volunteers and visited some of their projects and the projects of prior volunteers, including the Coal Pot, a small health and beauty business started by a Peace Corps volunteer six years ago. The Coal Pot began as a Peace Corps youth skills training program in the city of Grand Bay. Now, six locals run the business, which sells all-natural, handmade products to buyers throughout the Caribbean.

"The success and continued growth of Coal Pot illustrates the positive impact volunteers have on their host communities," said Director Vasquez. "Peace Corps volunteers help the people in their communities embark on a life of opportunity, and in the case of Coal Pot, enabled these young women to build a business that is sustainable long after the Peace Corps volunteer left and which will most likely continue for generations to come."

Visiting Dominicas Carib Territory, home of the nations indigenous people the Carib Indians, Director Vasquez stopped at the sites of Peace Corps volunteers Rosemary Bonett and Linda Colfax, who serve in the local primary school and at the territorys health center.

From Dominica, Director Vasquez traveled to St. Lucia, where he met with acting Prime Minister Mario Michel, Minister of Education, Human Resource Development, Youth and Sports and discussed the contributions of Peace Corps volunteers in special education programs. Due to the efforts of volunteers on several of the Eastern Caribbean islands, the regions ministries of education now focus more attention on addressing special needs issues at the classroom level and in teacher training. The result is more active recruitment of teachers who specialize in this field.

Director Vasquez also met with the Head of State, Governor-General, Dame Pearlette Louisy, to discuss the Peace Corps work in youth development. Volunteers work in programs similar to 4-H and in community centers, where they train youth in life skills and promote self-esteem and creative expression through art and music.

From St. Lucia, the director traveled to Grenada, where he met the Head of State, Governor General, Sir Daniel Williams, who is an advocate of education and community development and who has a keen interest in the activities of the Peace Corps. Director Vasquez also spent time with U.S. Ambassador Mary Kramer and Rebecca Rohrer, the Caribbean regional program director for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to discuss Grenadas hurricane recovery process. In early September 2004, Hurricane Ivan directly struck Grenada, killing dozens of people and damaging nearly 90 percent of homes and businesses. Through an alliance with USAID, many of the 18 Peace Corps volunteers in Grenada have aided the nations reconstruction efforts.

To see some of the recovery efforts firsthand, Director Vasquez visited one of the alliances post-hurricane projects, the JAMS Furniture Cooperative. Peace Corps volunteer Micah Strand works with local community members to create home and office furniture, a service that provides affordable furniture to Grenadians, as well as a source of incomefurniture, a service that provides affordable furniture to Grenadians, as well as a source of income and skills training for local workers who were displaced after the hurricane.

More than 3,000 Peace Corps volunteers have served in the Eastern Caribbean since the programs inception in 1961. Currently, 110 volunteers serve on the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Volunteers are especially active in youth development and education. Peace Corps volunteers provide skills training, HIV/AIDS education and health services. Volunteers also assist local governments and communities in developing information technology and disaster preparedness programs. To learn more about the Eastern Caribbean, 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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