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Peace Corps celebrates 50 years of service to Jamaica

Friday, March 23, 2012    

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LAST week's arrival of the 83rd group of Peace Corps trainees in Kingston marked 50 years of the Corps' commitment and ongoing service to Jamaica.

Country Director Dr Carla Ellis, staff members and currently serving volunteers were on hand at the Norman Manley International airport to greet the 36-member group. A welcome reception was later held at the Peace Corps' headquarters.

Among the guests were representatives of the Government of Jamaica, and the Opposition, United States Embassy officials and current and former Peace Corps Volunteers.

In her welcome, Dr Ellis — a former volunteer — affirmed that the "Peace Corps is about partnership".

"Peace Corps is about friendship, Peace Corps is promoting world peace," she added.

Meanwhile, Isiah Parnell, deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy, asserted, that "long after many diplomats are gone and people forget about treaties and memoranda that have been signed, people will always remember the work that Peace Corps volunteers do, the one-on-one, individual, caring service".

For the trainees, it was the beginning of approximately nine weeks of pre-service training designed to prepare them for their two-year service. Their training sites will be in the communities of Hellshire, Ewarton in St Catherine, Stony Hill and Woodford in St Andrew.

Training will include technical and cross-cultural competencies and will also involve classroom sessions, participating at practicum sites, going on field trips and observing the work of currently serving volunteers at their sites.

The trainees, who will become volunteers after they are sworn in by US Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela Bridgewater on May 18, will work in the fields of environment, education and youth development.

For environment, the group will work with schools, communities, environmental groups and farmers, to design and execute environmental awareness programmes and promote sustainable agricultural practices. The education goup will work one-on-one or in small groups in schools in deep rural Jamaica to raise the reading and mathematical skills of children operating below their grade level.

The youth component will see volunteers working with organisations and persons on life skills in an attempt to effect meaningful behavioural change within the target group.

To date, over 3,800 volunteers have served on the island, working with a wide cross- section of schools, communities, government and non-government sector organisations and entrepreneurs.

The US Peace Corps was established in 1961 by President John F Kennedy and involves American men and women of all ages and ethnic groups, who volunteer to spend two years providing assistance to nations around the world. Jamaica was the seventh country to receive volunteers soon after independence in August 1962. The Peace Corps' has three goals. They are:

* Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women;

* Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served; and

* Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

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