Peace Corps Director Visits Volunteers in Panama

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 12, 2006 Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez explored the villages and rural areas of Panama to learn about the projects that are making a difference to the people, while meeting with volunteers and dignitaries during his tour of the country. Additionally, he signed an agreement that will expand the science education program.

Before signing the agreement, Director Vasquez met with Panamanian President Martin Torrijos. President Torrijos took the opportunity to express his gratitude for the work of Peace Corps volunteers.

Panama would like to accept more Peace Corps volunteers in all areas, said President Torrijos. The work that they do and the inter-cultural exchange they provide is impressive.

Director Vasquez also met with Education Minister Miguel Angel Caizales and U.S. Ambassador to Panama William Alan Eaton. Director Vasquez and Education Minister Caizales signed an agreement for a new Peace Corps program in Panama. Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) is a worldwide hands-on, primary and secondary school-based education science program that will benefit students in the Central American country.

The establishment of the GLOBE program represents a new era of opportunity for the Peace Corps to expand its collaboration with the government of Panama, said Director Vasquez. The 23-year history of Peace Corps in Panama is rich with success and achievement. With this new program, we usher in a new phase of Peace Corps work.

While traveling through Panama, Director Vasquez met with numerous volunteers like Mike Chapuran of Bloomington, Ind., who is working on a community water project in the Cerro Iglesia, Comarca Ngobe-Bugle region. Chapuran has obtained grant money to complete the system and organized groups in the community to implement the project successfully. During his 18 months of service in Panama, Chapuran has been living in a house built by a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1960s.

In Ella Pur, Panama Este, Director Vasquez learned about the artisan goods of the Ember people after traveling via cayuco to the site of Josh Rooke of Honeoye Falls, N.Y. Cayucos are a type of longboat or canoe used throughout Panama. During the visit, Director Vasquez learned that Rooke is working with his community to help coordinate an integrated development project to promote tourism for the village. At the same time, he is helping the local artisans improve their products and connect them to potential customers.

Currently, there are 122 Peace Corps volunteers serving in Panama. Volunteers are working in the areas of sustainable agriculture systems, community economic development, environmental health, community environment conservation and health and HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. Since the programs inception in 1963, the Peace Corps has sent more than 1,500 volunteers to Panama. To learn more about Panama, 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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