Peace Corps Director Visits Volunteers in Macedonia

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 10, 2005 – Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez met with volunteers across the Republic of Macedonia this week, as he completed a two week trip to the Balkans.

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 Republic of Macedonia Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski and Minister of Education Aziz Polozani to discuss how the Peace Corps can continue to assist the country.

"Like America, the Republic of Macedonia is comprised of diverse people and traditions. It demonstrates real progress when Macedonians so openly invite our volunteers into their communities to share their traditions and better understand all people," said Director Vasquez.

As part of his travels through this country of 2 million people, Director Vasquez met with education volunteer Meg Pierce, of San Diego, and the students from her English club. Teaching in a multi-ethnic school, Pierce, 25, is helping her students learn English. To honor their heritages, the students greeted the Director in three different languages.

Director Vasquez also visited volunteer Julie Karpenko from Carpinteria, Calif., who works with the agency Polio-Plus. Karpenko, 26, is helping Polio-Plus advocate for persons with disabilities.

The Peace Corps first entered the Republic of Macedonia in 1996, and since then, more than 190 volunteers have served there. The Peace Corps suspended and quickly re-opened the program in 1999 and in 2001 due to instability in the region. Over the years, volunteers have assisted Macedonian citizens as the country transitions to a market-based economy. Volunteers in the Republic of Macedonia serve as community development specialists, business advisors, educators, and environmental management and education specialists. Currently, 58 volunteers serve in the country. To learn more about the Republic of Macedonia, 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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