President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief Funds Help Send Crisis Corps Volunteers to Zambia

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 15, 2004 – Four returned Peace Corps volunteers recently arrived in Zambia as Crisis Corps volunteers, the first in the country to be supported by President George W. Bush\'s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez received confirmation in July that the Peace Corps would receive more than $1.1 million from the President\'s plan to enhance programs in six African countries heavily impacted by the virus. The funds are distributed with the goals of encouraging leadership at every level to fight HIV/AIDS and establishing prevention programs in the countries most afflicted by the virus. The Zambia volunteers are only the second overall group to be funded by the President’s plan funds. The first group consisted of volunteers headed for Namibia earlier this year.

"As returned Peace Corps volunteers, Crisis Corps volunteers already have the training and expertise to immediately launch into their projects and make a real difference," said Director Vasquez. "The funds from President Bush\'s plan will help save lives in Zambia and southern Africa."

The four Crisis Corps volunteers will work with Neighborhood Health Committees (NHC) and the Zambian Ministry of Health to mobilize communities and to train community members.

Nancy Habarta, a native of Ipswich, Mass., will help a local organization, the Mtengo Family and Child Project, to develop programs for its new Voluntary Counseling and Testing Center and Resource Center. Habarta will assist the project by planning and conducting HIV/AIDS awareness meetings, workshops and trainings, and by participating in home visits with community members. Habarta previously served as a youth development volunteer in Zimbabwe from 1998-2000.

Linda Tucker, of Southlake, Texas, will help a local organization, the Panuka Rural Women’s Training Center, to design and implement an HIV/AIDS training of educators’ curriculum for project staff, volunteers, and peer educators. She will be developing and introducing new materials and improved strategies for effectively disseminating HIV/AIDS education materials. Tucker previously served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi from 1997-99, working with a local clinic on HIV/AIDS prevention initiatives.

For six months, Eirik Omlie will also be working with Panuka, but in a different capacity. This community-based organization strives to improve the status of rural women and children in the southern province of Zambia through women-focused functional literacy programs. Omlie will create a working literacy program which integrates agriculture and other daily activities, develop literacy materials, and help local women become more involved in crop production. Omlie, a Des Moines, Iowa resident, previously served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mauritania from 1999-2001, working on various agroforestry projects.

Maia Sheppard, a New York City resident, will be working with the Teachers Against HIV/AIDS Network (TAHAN) for six months. The organization was formed to address the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on teacher mortality and the increasing number of orphaned children. TAHAN currently has a national project on HIV/AIDS that focuses on behavior change, care, and stress management that will eventually cover Zambia\'s nine provinces. Sheppard’s duties include assisting TAHAN with a strategic plan for their national project, assessing selected TAHAN activities, and using the results to design training programs and income generating projects. Sheppard previously served as an education volunteer in Namibia from 1996-98.

The Zambia Peace Corps program began in 1993, with volunteers beginning their service in water and sanitation programs. Now, volunteers work in agriculture, education, environment, and health and HIV/AIDS prevention and education.

The 2001/2002 Zambia Demographic Health Survey estimates that 18 percent of Zambian women are infected w2001/2002 Zambia Demographic Health Survey estimates that 18 percent of Zambian women are infected with HIV, with the number climbing to 23 percent in urban areas. The life expectancy in Zambia is 37 years.

Since Crisis Corps\' inception in 1996, more than 550 returned Peace Corps volunteers have taken the opportunity to use their invaluable skills and experience to address ongoing community needs in more than 39 different countries. Crisis Corps volunteers work on short term projects, utilizing the skills they learned as Peace Corps volunteers and in post service careers. To find out more about the Peace Corps\' Crisis Corps program, please click here.

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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