Peace Corps Volunteer's Project Chosen as Finalist for World Challenge Competition

August 31, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 31, 2005 In a country with plentiful sunshine but limited electricity, one volunteers project to harness solar energy has brought international recognition.

An endeavor that Peace Corps volunteer Chris Bartlett spearheaded and has supported since its inception, The Rechargeable Battery and Reef Rehab Project in Vanuatu, has been named one of 12 finalists in the World Challenge Competition, sponsored by BBC World and Newsweek, in association with Shell. The winner will be decided by voting and will be announced in London on November 17.

The Rechargeable Battery and Reef Rehab Project is located in the Nguna-Pele Marine Protected Area in Vanuatu, where electricity is unavailable and villagers depend on batteries to run basic devices such as clocks and torches. With Bartletts help, and the support of other volunteers, solar operated battery-chargers and Ni-MH rechargeable batteries are supplied to villages for everyday appliances through a rental process. When the batteries go dead, they can be recharged at the solar facility for a smaller fee than the cost of new disposable batteries. Before the introduction of this project, villagers were using nearly 12,000 disposable batteries per year. When discarded, many ended up on the coral reefs where the toxins from the batteries killed the reefs and destroyed the fish habitat. This project is the first of its kind in Vanuatu. Not only is the environment being protected, the project has also generated income for additional protection of the reef.

The World Challenge Competition aims to find individuals or groups from around the world who have shown enterprise and innovation at a grass roots level to help protect the earth. The winner is selected based on an open vote and will receive a $20,000 grant from Shell to benefit the project. To vote, please visit the World Challenge website at http://www.theworldchallenge.co.uk before October 16.

Bartlett is currently a Peace Corps volunteer in Vanuatu. In addition to his work with the Rechargeable Battery and Reef Rehab Project, he founded the Nguna-Pele Marine Protected Area. Bartlett and the project will be featured on BBC World on September 3 and in the September 1 international editions of Newsweek.

"The people of Nguna and Pele Islands in Vanuatu have had such an impact on my life as a young conservation scientist. Over thousands of years, these people have developed models for conservation and resource management that rival those of the best modern scientific institutions," said Bartlett. "My Peace Corps experience has been a defining stage in my life as a scientist, but most importantly as a citizen of the world."

There are currently 73 volunteers serving in Vanuatu, a small island nation located in the Pacific Ocean. Peace Corps volunteers work primarily to increase access to quality education, particularly in rural areas. They also focus projects on income generation through business development, food security, sustainable agriculture, environmental conservation and youth development. Since the program's inception in 1990, nearly 300 volunteers have served in Vanuatu.

Since 1961, more than 178,000 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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