Peace Corps Salutes Environmental Volunteers on Earth Day
April 20, 1999Washington, D.C., April 20, 1999—In honor of Earth Day this week, Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan today saluted the nearly 1,000 Peace Corps environmental volunteers who work to protect the environment in 39 countries. Environmental volunteers represent one of the Peace Corps' fastest-growing job assignments and one of the largest environmental work forces of any international development agency, with volunteers working to combat deforestation, fight pollution, save endangered species, and teach environmental awareness.
"While Earth Day naturally focuses our attention on the environment for a short time in April, more than 15 percent of all Peace Corps volunteers focus on grass-roots environmental issues every day," said Gearan.
For more than 30 years, the Peace Corps has helped improve the environment by promoting sustainable development projects. For example:
Each year on Earth Day, Peace Corps volunteers in the Dominican Republic join with teachers, community leaders, and youth to conduct a full day of environmental education and awareness-raising activities in a number of communities. Last year, a large parade was organized in the capital city that wound its way throughout the city, calling attention to improper garbage disposal. Afterward, a clean-up activity was held with students from 10 local schools.
In Jamaica, volunteers are holding a workshop for teachers and government staff to finalize an environmental education handbook that will be distributed to schools across the country.
Peace Corps volunteers in Malawi are working with local Natural Resource Committee to discuss with poachers alternatives to illegal hunting of local game. Over a period of eight months, a total of 27 firearms were voluntarily handed over by local villagers via the Natural Resource Committees to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife.
In Bulgaria, volunteers have helped organize Earth Day celebrations in 14 communities. The celebrations included radio shows, tree planting, city-wide cleanups, art, essay and musical contests. In most of the towns, these awareness-raising events took place for the first time.
Volunteers in Slovakia organized Earth Day celebrations in their communities that included creek clean-up activities, as well as games and activities for more than 800 children and 500 adults. One volunteer, in coordination with the host agency, prepared an Earth Day Manual called "Bringing Earth Day Home: a Guide for Developing and Implementing an Earth Day Celebration." It is written in three languages—English, Slovak, and Hungarian—and copies were distributed to schools around the country.
In Benin, a volunteer is working with the Ministries of Education and the Environment and numerous non-government organizations to publish the first edition of an environmental education guide for use in the national curriculum. A total of 500 guides have been produced for use in primary and secondary schools. The volunteer and her counterparts translated the manual into the local language, and worked with a local theater group to present an environmental conservation play called The Lorax to three villages in Benin.
Currently, nearly 6,700 Peace Corps volunteers are working in 80 countries to help bring clean water to communities, teach children, protect the environment, start new businesses, and prevent the spread of AIDS. Since 1961, more than 150,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps.