Peace Corps Director Visits Volunteers in Zambia

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 27, 2004 – Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez visited volunteers and the Vice President of Zambia last week, completing a two-week trip to Africa that also included visits to South Africa and Botswana.

In the southern province town of Kalomo, Director Vasquez visited education volunteer Aiyisha Castillo and her counterparts at the District Education Office. Castillo is working on a new initiative called "Learning at the Taonga Market," an interactive radio program developed and supported by education volunteers that covers school curriculum in a fun and engaging manner.

The Director also met with two groups of volunteers, where he answered questions, learned specifics of the volunteers\' various projects, and discussed the HIV/AIDS initiative, which has been strengthened by the recent $418,000 allocation to Peace Corps/Zambia through President Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The new HIV/AIDS funding has been earmarked to help volunteers mobilize and train community members through collaborations with Neighborhood Health Committees and the Ministry of Health.

"The progress volunteers have made here in Zambia, with the support of the national and local governments, is very promising," said Director Vasquez. "My hope is that these new funds and our volunteers\' continued great work will make Zambia a success story and model in the fight against HIV/AIDS."

Later in the week, Director Vasquez met with Zambian Vice President Nevers Mumba, who has been a strong advocate of Peace Corps and delivered the keynote address at PC/Zambia’s 10th anniversary celebration in April. Director Vasquez thanked the Vice President for the Zambian government’s continued support and for helping to make Zambia one of Peace Corps’ most successful posts.

"The zeal of the young people is apparent in Peace Corps volunteers, who come as Americans but leave as ambassadors to Zambia," said Vice President Mumba. "We stand shoulder to shoulder together."

The Zambia Peace Corps program, first established in 1993, has quickly become one of Peace Corps’ larger African posts. Currently, 144 volunteers serve in the areas of water and sanitation, education, wildlife conservation and health and HIV/AIDS awareness. The program began with the arrival of 12 water and sanitation volunteers in 1994 and rapidly expanded into other areas, including HIV/AIDS education and prevention, to help stem the virus which now infects an estimated 16 percent of the population. Since 1994, nearly 600 volunteers have served in Zambia. Zambia borders on Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world.

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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