Peace Corps, President Kennedy Honored for Water Sanitation Efforts
October 20, 2004WASHINGTON, D.C., October 20, 2004 – When then-Senator John F. Kennedy first proposed the idea of a Peace Corps on the steps of the University of Michigan campus 44 years ago this month, most Americans could not foresee the agency's impacts on the world. On Saturday, the extent of President Kennedy’s legacy was honored with the 2004 International Humanitarian Award, presented by Water for People.
The award honors President Kennedy's legacy of creating the Peace Corps, which has led to hundreds of volunteers working in overseas communities to improve water quality and educate people about waterborne illnesses. Bill Sullivan, Chair of the New England Water Works Association and Water For People, who is also a returned Peace Corps volunteer from Micronesia, presented Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez with the award at a ceremony held at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston. In addition, Caroline Kennedy gave a message by videotape on behalf of her father.
"Most of you are aware of the Water for People mission, which includes working toward a world where all people have safe drinking water, and a world where no child dies from a water-related illness," said Director Vasquez. "I want you to know that our volunteers are with you in achieving that mission."
Currently, 425 Peace Corps volunteers' primary projects are focused on working on water sanitation efforts in 14 countries. In addition, hundreds more volunteers work in the health sector, conducting hygiene and sanitation education – a key component to ensuring people are educated about ways to improve their water quality.
According to an August report by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, 2.6 billion people – over 40 percent of the world's population – do not have access to basic sanitation. More than 1 billion people still use unsafe sources of drinking water. To confront this challenge, the two organizations have created the Millennium Development Goals to improve water and sanitation services. Today, just as they have worked over the decades, Peace Corps volunteers are doing their part to meet the challenge.
Water For People, a non-profit organization that brings safe water and sanitation to people around the world, is comprised of engineers, scientists, manufacturers, and public servants with the mission of protecting public health. The organization currently funds projects in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Since its founding in 1991, Water For People has worked in 43 countries.
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.