Peace Corps Volunteers Return to Rwanda

January 26, 2009

Historic Reopening Marks End of 15-year Absence

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 26, 2009 - Thirty-five Peace Corps Volunteer trainees depart the United States next Wednesday for Rwanda, officially reopening the Peace Corps/Rwanda program after a 15-year absence.

The Volunteer trainees will arrive today in Washington, D.C. for two days or training and orientation sessions prior to their departure for Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, on January 28. They represent a diverse cross-section of America and hail from every region of the United States."

"Since the return of Peace Corps staff in 2008, we have been collaborating with Rwandan government officials to get the agency's newest program up and running. It's exciting for us to be able to return to Rwanda, and to renew our relationship with the Rwandan people," said Peace Corps Acting Director Jody Olsen.

The Volunteers will work in this East African nation in the areas of health and community development, and will collaborate with other United States government partners to support the Government of Rwanda's strategy to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Many of the Volunteers who will work on HIV/AIDS prevention and care will receive support from the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program.

In 1994, political instability forced Peace Corps to close its program in Rwanda, where 114 Volunteers had served over the course of 20 years.

In 2008, U.S. Ambassador W. Stuart Symington, an avid supporter of the Peace Corps, accompanied Peace Corps officials to meet with Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Said President Kagame, "The relationship between the U.S. and Rwanda is decades old and has never been as good. Peace Corps' presence will enhance that relationship. We have been working on the return of the Peace Corps for a number of years and I'm happy to see it happen."

While visiting Rwanda in February 2008, President Bush announced plans for the return of Peace Corps Volunteers to the country. Said Ambassador Symington, "There has never been a better time for Peace Corps to return to Rwanda. Volunteers serve as the face of America and will have great impact on the bright future of Rwanda."

As the Peace Corps approaches its 50th anniversary, its service legacy continues to promote peace and friendship around the world. Historically, over 195,000 Volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries in which they have served, including Rwanda. Applications to serve in the Peace Corps have increased 16 percent this past year, the largest boost in the last five years. Currently, 7,876 Peace Corps Volunteers are serving in 76 countries. 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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