Peace Corps Director Visits Volunteers in Thailand

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 30, 2004 – Peace Corps volunteers are known for producing innovative income generating projects, and Director Gaddi H. Vasquez witnessed some of them – including a volunteer who has helped local women develop a peanut packaging business in the off-season – while visiting volunteers in Thailand last week.
photo of Thai women packaging peanuts
Thai women package peanuts, which they grew as part of an income generating project during the dry season.

During his stay, Director Vasquez also met with Peace Corps staff, officials of the Royal Thai Government, and U.S. Ambassador Darryl Johnson, who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand in the early 1960s.

Director Vasquez had the opportunity to meet with Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, the third child of Their Majesties the King and Queen of Thailand. During their visit, Princess Sirindhorn expressed her gratitude for the work of Peace Corps volunteers in her country and described her personal interest in development projects. The Princess has firsthand experience working and studying in the fields of health and hygiene, water resource development and agriculture and cottage industries.

Director Vasquez articulated the Peace Corps\' appreciation for the support of the Royal Family and the people of Thailand during the past 42 years.

"I cannot express enough gratitude for the privilege the Peace Corps has had in working with Thailand toward achieving the country\'s developmental goals," stated Director Vasquez. "The long history of the Peace Corps program in Thailand is due, in large part, to the successful partnership and collaboration with the Royal Thai Government and the people of this great country."

photo of Volunteer Valerie Leon showing Director Vasquez peanuts produced by the women\'s group in the community where she serves
Volunteer Valerie Leon shows Director Vasquez peanuts produced in the off-season by the women\'s group in the community where she serves.

Later in the week, Director Vasquez traveled to the Yasothon Province to visit community development volunteer Valerie Leon, where he learned about her work with the community\'s Peanut Snack Group. The project was launched two years ago during the dry season to allow local women to plant, harvest, roast, and sell peanuts, in the off-season, when they are not working in the rice fields. Director Vasquez watched a demonstration of the roasting and packaging process and sampled some of the peanuts.

Director Vasquez also met with Noah Barclay-Derman, a volunteer serving in the Hua Don village and Christine Kirwan who is serving in the village of Ban Phak Kha. Both volunteers work with the Tambon Administrative Organization (TAO), a government association which supports development activities that respond to the needs of local communities. In collaboration with TAO, the volunteers are promoting and encouraging sustainable community development projects.

The Thailand Peace Corps program, established in 1962, focuses on small business development and education. Currently, 86 volunteers serve in villages and towns across the country. The business development program began in late 2003, and assists farmers\', women\'s, and youth groups in setting up small businesses, and improve the quality of their products and services in rural areas. More than 5,000 volunteers havd improve the quality of their products and services in rural areas. More than 5,000 volunteers have served in Thailand since the program\'s establishment.

Since 1961, more than 171,000 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 two-year commitment.

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