Steven Saum posted an articleVolunteers Have Returned to Some Four Dozen Countries see more
Volunteers Have Returned to Some Four Dozen Countries
By NPCA Staff
More good news about Peace Corps Volunteers returning to service in countries around the world comes every month. As of the beginning of February 2023, Volunteers have now returned for training and service in 47 countries around the globe — including the new program launched in Viet Nam. More than 900 Volunteers are currently serving. Invitations are out for at least eight more countries.
The first Volunteers began returning to service in March of 2022, two years after all Volunteers were brought home from the 62 countries where they were serving because of COVID-19. As Volunteers began returning to scores of countries in 2022, the resounding message has been: The Peace Corps is back.
Those beginning training and service in recent months include Volunteers and Peace Corps Response Volunteers. They include those who were evacuated, those who have signed up for service within the past year, and those who were in limbo for many months. Robust reentry criteria for health, safety, and other logistical factors were developed by the agency, and as those criteria are met Volunteers have been invited to return.
PEACE CORPS IS BACK: Here’s where Volunteers returned to service in 2022–23 and where they have been invited to return. See a full-sized version of this map in the Winter 2023 edition of WorldView magazine. You can also download a PDF of the map here — or by clicking on the map itself. Map courtesy @freevectormaps.com, with annotation design by Pamela Fogg.
Here is where Volunteers have returned as of January 2023.
Albania & Montenegro (Post includes both Albania and Montenegro)
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- Eastern Caribbean (Post includes Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, and Grenada)
- The Gambia
- Kyrgyz Republic
- North Macedonia
- The Philippines
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- Viet Nam
Invitations for 2023
Posts that have issued invitations for the first Volunteers to return in 2023 include Armenia, Georgia, Liberia, Malawi, Nepal, Samoa, Tanzania, and Vanuatu.
Invitations have not been issued for Volunteers to return to all countries from which they were evacuated. Violence within Myanmar forced the Peace Corps to close the program there in 2022. The full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine makes it unsafe for Volunteers to return to Ukraine or neighboring Moldova in person, though virtual service continues. Horrific fighting in Ethiopia has precluded Volunteers from returning there. In Mozambique, violence caused by an Islamic extremist insurgency in the north has been spreading. In the Pacific, Volunteers have not yet been invited to return to Tonga — though Friends of Tonga has been very active in supporting the country’s recovery from the volcanic eruption and tsunami in January 2022.
“Our hearts are filled with joy.”
The return of Volunteers has led to moments of personal reunion with colleagues and host families — whether that’s Daniel Lang returning to teach in Mongolia or Jody Leuenberger returning to Fiji this past fall.
“Today marks day one of your return.” In Eswatini, Volunteer Ebony receives a Peace Corps pin from Country Director Katharine Kreis. Photo courtesy Peace Corps Eswatini.
In a swearing-in ceremony in Eswatini in November, Peace Corps Country Director Katharine Kreis articulated what so many have said in different ways in recent months: “Our hearts are filled with joy to welcome these Volunteers—and also still yearning for more Volunteers to place in all of the communities whose Volunteers were evacuated. Nine hundred and seventy-seven days ago Peace Corps was evacuated from Eswatini. Today marks day one of your return.”
Prime Minister of Eswatini Cleopas Sipho Dlamini was represented at the event by Principal Secretary Bertram Stewart, who said that they are “proud of the enormous contribution made by the Peace Corps program in Eswatini and the entire globe, and indeed affirming President Kennedy’s declaration of Peace Corps promoting ‘world peace and friendship.’”
December saw the first Volunteers sworn in since 2020 in countries including Albania and Morocco, Jamaica and Montenegro, Guyana and Cambodia. The program in Jamaica marked its 60th anniversary in 2022; more than 4,025 Volunteers have served there. Governor-General of Jamaica Sir Patrick Allen delivered the keynote address at the swearing-in ceremony, lauding in particular work together with Volunteers in education and agriculture.
In Montenegro, Peace Corps’ history is much shorter: The six new Volunteers who are beginning work supporting English language teaching are in fact the first to serve there. In 2020, the first cohort was still in training when they had to be evacuated.
It is often the case that the U.S. ambassador to a country administers the oath to new Volunteers. In Guyana in December, Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch offered the 18 new Volunteers insights from her own Peace Corps service in Morocco 1984–86. While she taught English, she gained new skills herself — including learning Arabic — as well as a wealth of experience and indelible memories. Lynch is a career diplomat, having served in Bangladesh, Peru, Afghanistan, and Iraq, with additional Washington-based assignments that have been focused on the Middle East, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Her brother and niece are also returned Volunteers.
“The basic things that we sometimes take for granted are the things we need to support at the community level.”
—Gail Teixeira, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Guyana
Guyana’s Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Gail Teixeira, spoke at the ceremony as well. She testified to the importance of the work Volunteers have been doing for decades. Previously the country’s minister of health, Teixeira recalled the role Volunteers played during a cholera outbreak in the 1990s. Teaching in the schools, they helped children become “our main advocates at home … to get not only that [cholera] eliminated but other gastric diseases from our children.”
Teixeira also offered an observation that likely resonates with members of the Peace Corps community around the world, including across the United States: “The basic things that we sometimes take for granted are the things we need to support at the community level.”
This story appears in the Winter 2023 edition of WorldView.
Steven Saum posted an articleThe end of the year began a new era — with a swearing-in ceremony in Ha Noi see more
The end of the year began a new era — with a swearing-in ceremony in Ha Noi with Director Carol Spahn.
By Steven Boyd Saum
December 30, 2022, was a historic day for the Peace Corps: In a ceremony in Ha Noi, nine Volunteers were sworn in to serve in Viet Nam by Peace Corps Director Carol Spahn. The Volunteers arrived for training in October 2022 and are the first to serve in the country. Working alongside counterparts, they will be teaching English in secondary schools in Ha Noi.
Participating in the ceremony were officials from the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training, including Phạm Quang Hưng and Nguyễn Tiến Dũng, respectively director general and deputy director general of the International Cooperation Department. Melissa A. Bishop, Chargé d’Affaires of U.S. Embassy, also took part, as did administrators and teachers from schools where Volunteers will be co-teaching.
Open hearts and minds: Nine Volunteers, hands raised, are sworn in by Peace Corps Director Carol Spahn at the podium. Photo courtesy Peace Corps
Nguyên remarked on the significance of launching the Peace Corps program, even at a modest scale. The country has a population of over 100 million people; 17.5 million are students. Learning foreign languages, including English, is a priority; the country is shifting from seven years to ten years in English language instruction in school. As a Peace Corps Viet Nam report noted, new competency standards have been set for teachers and college graduates. And Viet Nam’s educational system, like so many, has been grappling with consequences of COVID-19, including remote learning and delayed national exams.
“This swearing-in offers us the opportunity to take a moment from our busy lives to appreciate and recognize the power of human connection,” said Carol Spahn. “As the 143rd partner country of the Peace Corps, Viet Nam is a welcome addition to our global community, and I look forward to seeing how Volunteers and teachers work together to inspire the next generation.”
The Work of Hundreds
For the ceremony, Volunteers wore the ao dai, the traditional Vietnamese tunic. They will live with host families, continue to learn Vietnamese, and integrate into life in their communities. When the next group of Volunteers arrive in 2023, some are expected to work in schools in Ho Chi Minh City as well.
The ceremony carries a historic resonance — a fact articulated by Kate Becker, who served as Peace Corps Viet Nam country director through May 2022: “Peace Corps Viet Nam becoming a reality represents decades of work…and has involved hundreds of people who had a collective vision for the significance of bringing Peace Corps to Viet Nam.”
“Peace Corps Viet Nam becoming a reality represents decades of work…and has involved hundreds of people who had a collective vision for the significance of bringing Peace Corps to Viet Nam.”
Indeed, it has been a long journey already. In 2004, nine years after the U.S. and Viet Nam normalized relationships, Viet Nam formally invited the Peace Corps. Assessments and negotiations of a bilateral agreement took a decade. An agreement was inked in May 2016, during President Obama’s landmark visit to Viet Nam, by then Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet and Viet Nam’s ambassador to the United States, Pham Quang Vinh.
It took until July 2020 for an implementing agreement setting forth the operational plan to be developed and signed. That fall, a Peace Corps Viet Nam leadership team began work in Ha Noi, with recruitment of local staff and U.S. Volunteers beginning in 2021. And now a new chapter in history is being written, with individuals working together in the schools and communities.
Orrin Luc posted an articlePeace Corps Viet Nam is now recruiting the inaugural cohort of Peace Corps Volunteers see more
Peace Corps Viet Nam is now recruiting the inaugural cohort of Peace Corps Volunteers. And Vice President Kamala Harris officially opened the office in Viet Nam in August.
By NPCA Staff
The tweet went out from Peace Corps Viet Nam Country Director Kate Becker in May: “Peace Corps Viet Nam is now recruiting the inaugural cohort of Peace Corps Volunteers! We are looking for talented, passionate US citizens to serve two years in this incredible country: Secondary Education TEFL/English teacher.”
On its website, Peace Corps lists 20 positions available for the first cohort, departing no earlier than mid-2022. The launch of the program was announced in summer 2020 — five years after an initial agreement was signed between the U.S. and Viet Nam. One reason for the long wait, as some have noted: years of flat funding for the Peace Corps budget.
In late August 2021, Vice President Kamala Harris paid a visit to Hanoi. As part of the trip, she signed a new lease for the U.S. Embassy. And she let folks know that the Peace Corps Viet Nam office is open for business.