Peace Corps Volunteers Spread Earth Day Message Around the World
April 22, 1997WASHINGTON, D.C., April 22, 1997—In the spirit of Earth Day, Peace Corps volunteers around the world continue to give new meaning to the environmental mantra "renew, recycle, reuse."
"While International Earth Day naturally focuses our collective conscience on the environment, more than 1,000 Peace Corps volunteers grapple with environmental issues daily," said Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan.
Gearan explained that environmental work represents one of the fastest growing job assignments for Peace Corps volunteers. Volunteers work in approximately 45 countries to combat deforestation, fight pollution, save endangered species and teach environmental awareness.
Among the environmental projects in which Peace Corps volunteers are currently engaged:
¥ Caribbean: Earth Day Outreach
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. By creating a festive atmosphere with rich media events, the organizers have been able to gain considerable attention to the need for environmental care and conservation.
¥ South America: Saving the Condor
The national bird of Ecuador, the Andean Condor, is facing the same threat of extinction that the American Bald Eagle battled more than a decade ago. In a partnership that includes the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Fundacion Ornitologica del Ecuador, and the U.S. Department of Interior, Peace Corps volunteers are leading the fight to save the endangered bird. With less than 70 condors reported in all of Ecuador, time is of the essence. Peace Corps volunteers are gathering information on condor populations and their habitat—including nesting sites, population, food, and habitat disturbances. In key communities, volunteers are developing educational programs aimed at changing the negative myths about the condor, and halting the hunting and poisoning of this rare bird.
Central America: Environmental Management
Observing the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" philosophy of trash disposal, local residents and the farmers' market in Solola, Guatemala dumped their garbage over a nearby cliff. Unfortunately, both gravity and rainfall caused that garbage to return in the form of contaminated drinking water. Working with local officials and the schools, the Peace Corps volunteer in this town has helped residents appreciate the need for recycling with an environmental education program and house-to-house visits. At the same time, an acre of land was identified for trash disposal, with the potential for new business—a recycling center—in exchange for the municipal use of the site. A road has been built to the new dump, and contamination of Lake Atitlan from this source has been suspended. The next chapter: how to reverse the effect of years of pollution in Lake Atitlan.
East Africa: Restoring National Parks
For its size, Uganda is one of the most biologically diverse countries in Africa. Located between Kenya and Tanzania, Uganda would also appear to be competitive in the safari or wildlife business. Peace Corps volunteers are doing just that: they are trying to help develop the resources and infrastructure necessary to sustain and manage Uganda's diverse natural resources. Today, more than half of the country's volunteers focus on the environment, from environmental education and park infrastructure development to tourism.
Eastern Europe: Environmental Awareness
The Peace Corps in Turkmenistan has worked in conjunction with the Ministry of Education for the past two years to promote environmental awareness through activities geared towards students. For example, in 1996 Earth Day activities were organized under the theme of "Water and Waste Management," and three competitions were organized for students in all grade levels. The students focused on environmental themes in a drama organized for students in all grade levels. The students focused on environmental themes in a drama competition involving skits and poetry, they learned the value of recycling through building sculptures from discarded items, and they used their artistic talent in a poster contest, again emphasizing environmental issues.
Approximately 6,500 Peace Corps volunteers serve in 90 countries around the world, providing assistance not only in the environment, but in education, health and nutrition, agriculture, and small business development. Since 1961, more than 148,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps.