Tallinn, Estonia Celebrates Peace Corps 50th Anniversary
By Guest Contributor on Tuesday, October 18th, 2011
In Estonia, the Peace Corps was active from 1992-2002 and 177 Americans lived and worked in 64 communities throughout Estonia. Focusing primarily on English education, small business and non-governmental organization development, and entrepreneur training, our volunteers and their Estonian hosts formed strong bonds of friendship that lives on in the hearts of Americans and Estonians alike.
At a reception on June 8, 2011, commemorating the 50th anniversary hosted by US Ambassador Michael Polt and Mrs. Hallie Polt, we were honored by the presence of Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who though a child at the time, shared in his speech his memory of hearing the now famous inaugural speech given by then president John F. Kennedy that launched the Peace Corps as an organization.
Old friends and colleagues alike reminisced and caught up on old times, remarking at the incredible developments in Estonia and U.S./Estonian relations over the past 20 years.
Finally, in true Estonian, tech savvy style, the Embassy hosted, via Skype, one of Estonia’s most well known volunteers, Douglas Wells, who, while a volunteer in Estonia, wrote and sang the song “Kas sa räägid inglise keelt?” (translation: “ Do you speak English”? Watch the video here.) The song topped the Estonian popular music charts in the 1990’s, and participants at the Ambassador’s reception sang along and tapped their feet as Douglas sang the song once again.
The event received extensive coverage in local media, which also interviewed Estonians impacted by Peace Corps during its decade here. A most fitting tribute!
This piece was submitted by Sharon Russell-Nordberg (RPCV Poland 1995 – 1997). Sharon currently works at the US Embassy in Tallinn, Estonia.