Peace Corps Sends First Volunteers to South Africa Rev. Jesse Jackson Delivers Keynote Address at Howard University Send-Off
February 13, 1997WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 13, 1997—The Peace Corps bid an historic farewell today to its first-ever group of volunteers to South Africa. Following a rousing send-off at Howard University that featured a keynote address by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the 32 Peace Corps volunteers departed for Dulles Airport.
"Sending volunteers to South Africa is a momentous step for both the Peace Corps and the people of South Africa," said Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan. "By living and working at the grass-roots level, Peace Corps volunteers can further strengthen the personal ties between our two countries. I think President Kennedy would have been proud of the addition of South Africa as a new Peace Corps country of service."
Upon arrival in South Africa, the volunteers will meet with Vice President Al Gore and South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki in the Crossroads Township, outside of Cape Town. Gore will introduce the volunteers both to Deputy President Mbeki and to local residents of Crossroads. The volunteers will begin their service with three months of intensive technical, language and cross-cultural training.
The 32 volunteers will spend two years working with South African teachers in the country's Northern Province to improve teaching in math, science, and other subjects to traditionally underserved youth. The volunteers will also work on projects in the communities where they live and work—communities similar to Crossroads—many of which were neglected during apartheid.
The Peace Corps' entry into South Africa began with President Mandela's state visit to the White House in October 1994, where he asked President Clinton to help him address the social and economic challenges facing his country. In 1995, Vice President Gore and South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki signed an agreement in Pretoria to send Peace Corps volunteers to South Africa.
South Africa represents the 132nd country the Peace Corps has entered in its 36-year history. Currently, about 6,500 Peace Corps volunteers are working in 91 countries in the areas of business, the environment, education, health and nutrition, and agriculture. Since 1961, more than 147,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps.