Peace Corps' Relief Efforts Rebuilding Lives on Anniversary of Tsunami

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 27, 2005 In the year since the tsunami devastated Southeast Asia, Peace Corps has deployed 54 Crisis Corps volunteers to help in the relief efforts following the devastation. Much progress has been made, and the efforts of the Crisis Corps teams — composed of returned Peace Corps volunteers — have brought needed technical assistance to the region.

Focused on long-term, sustainable development, the Crisis Corps volunteers have offered relief in two of the countries most severely impacted by the tsunami, Thailand and Sri Lanka. The volunteers contributed their time and energy to rebuilding and reconstruction.

Volunteer Maxwell Chance works in a carpentry shop with one of his counterparts in Khao-lak, Thailand.
Volunteer Maxwell Chance works in a carpentry shop with one of his counterparts in Khao-lak, Thailand.
"Our Crisis Corps volunteers are among the finest leaders in the Peace Corps. They bring to the region knowledge from their past Peace Corps experience, as well as expertise in cross-cultural exchange. Their efforts have helped and will continue to help hundreds of thousands of people who are struggling to put their lives together and rebuild their homes and communities," said Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez.

Sri Lanka
To date, Crisis Corps has sent 27 volunteers to assist in the rebuilding of Sri Lanka. Through their various assignments, volunteers are improving coordination among international non-governmental organizations and are supporting local governments in managing coordination at the municipal level. Their assignments vary, from working in internally displaced persons camps to providing educational and recreational activities to camp residents. Additionally, Crisis Corps volunteers with engineering backgrounds are applying their skills to make significant improvements in infrastructure from building and road reconstruction to transitional housing design.

"This past year has been marked by a tremendous outpouring of support from the Sri Lankan community and from the wider international community," said Sri Lanka Assistant Country Representative and former Crisis Corps volunteer Sara Jones. "Supporters have been working together to rebuild Sri Lanka\'s coastal communities and to help restore the livelihoods of those affected by the tsunami. The positive impact of these works continues to grow with each day."

Volunteers also have worked on water sanitation, community development and health and construction projects. The two newest Crisis Corps volunteers have just recently begun their tour and will focus on health and organizational development.

Crisis Corps Sri Lanka volunteer Mary Lear, from Millersville, Pa., served as the water sanitation coordinator for an international organization. She supported the work of local and international field engineers in the towns of Ampara, Kalutara, and Matara. In this capacity, she secured resources for the field engineers and coordinated their work in the field sub-offices which served approximately 3000 tsunami-affected residents.

"For me, the biggest accomplishment was building the necessary organizational capacity of the field office to which I was assigned," said volunteer Darren Defendeifer from Poquoson, Va., a technical consultant assigned to a large non-governmental organization charged with coordinating efforts among other organizations in the Kalutara district of Sri Lanka. "Getting the local authorities to arrange coordinating meetings so these large NGOs could work together without stepping on each other\'s toes was really importants so these large NGOs could work together without stepping on each other\'s toes was really important for progress."

To date, the Peace Corps has deployed 27 Crisis Corps volunteers to assist in tsunami reconstruction in Thailand.

Volunteer Mark Henley from Golden, Wash., worked with the local government and Parkson Corporation on a USAID-funded project to construct an 800,000 liter per day potable water treatment plant, in approximately three months time. The water treatment plant will produce safe, reliable drinking water for approximately 1,800 people, residing in three villages. Henley provided operations, maintenance, and trained five local water technicians.

In addition, ten volunteers continue serving in the areas of mental health, information technology, construction, and community development. As part of her youth development efforts, Thailand volunteer Katherine Melcher from San Diego is working with the community of Moo-ban to construct a playground.

In early 2006, Crisis Corps volunteers will complete their work in Thailand, but Peace Corps will continue longer-term efforts in tsunami-affected areas using two-year volunteers.

Since Crisis Corps\' inception in 1996, hundreds of returned Peace Corps volunteers have taken the opportunity to use their invaluable skills and experience to address ongoing community needs in over 40 different countries. Crisis Corps volunteers work on short term projects, utilizing the skills they learned as Peace Corps volunteers and in post service careers. To find out more about the Peace Corps\' Crisis Corps program, please visit the Crisis Corps section.

Since 1961, more than 182,000 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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