Peace Corps Volunteers to Return to Haiti, Reopen Program

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 20, 2004 – Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez announced today that the agency will reopen its program in Haiti and begin returning Peace Corps volunteers at the end of this month. The program was temporarily suspended in February due to political instability.

"The work of our volunteers is well known, respected, and especially needed in Haiti," said Director Vasquez. "Given the program\'s success, I have done everything I can to ensure volunteers return as soon as safety issues allow to confront the health, HIV/AIDS, and agricultural issues that millions of Haitians face."

Ten Americans – all of whom were serving in Haiti when the Peace Corps temporarily suspended operations – will return to restart the program. The volunteers will be assigned to sites in southern Haiti, where the physical infrastructure – such as roads, transportation, and communications – will permit the volunteers to help Haiti rebuild in the aftermath of recent events.

Most of the returning volunteers are rural health educators who will provide support for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Through work with community members, the volunteers will teach HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, fight chronic malnutrition, stress the importance of immunizations, and help develop increased levels of sanitation and child/maternal health.

In addition, 12 agriculture and environment volunteers are set to arrive in late October. After three months of training, the agriculture volunteers will work with local farmers to increase agricultural production and improve living standards. The environmental volunteers will work with their communities to rehabilitate the environment through reforestation, soil conservation, and environmental education. Nearly 70 percent of all Haitians live in rural communities and depend on agriculture for their livelihood.

The Peace Corps has been sending volunteers to Haiti since 1982, with more than 450 volunteers having served in the country to date. Haiti is located 750 miles south of Miami and shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic.

Since 1961, more than 171,000 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 two-year commitment.

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