department o Peace Corps make a difference in South Africa

THIS year, the Peace Corps celebrates the 50th anniversary of its founding, and Americans at homedepartment o Peace Corps make a difference in South Africa and around the world are reflecting with gratitude on their volunteer service in developing countries.

Both sides relied on their ardour for change, their observations, and their gumption to steer them.

Those first volunteers worked in the schools and community resources projects in rural villages and townships.

One officer who recently completed a tour in Durban was a returned volunteer from South Africa. He came to his work at the mission with Zulu language skills and a unique understanding of this country.

Through this historic meeting, the Peace Corps became part of a new era of partnership between South Africa and the US.

Despite the overwhelming needs of these communities, Peace Corps volunteers often acknowledge that they receive much more from their experience in South Africa than they give.

Since those days, nearly 1000 volunteers have served in South Africa. On March 24 we will welcome a new cohort of volunteers.

Because there was no history of collaboration between volunteers and South African schools and institutions, it was unclear exactly what role the volunteers would play.

When presidents Mandela and Clinton agreed to bring the Peace Corps to South Africa, they envisioned a US contribution toward the work of creating a new nation post-apartheid. We hope we have fulfilled that promise by providing trained volunteers who bring energy and enthusiasm to development work in South Africa.

To fill a new library with books, for example, she organised a book drive at her former high school, collecting close to 1000 books that are in the process of being shipped to South Africa.

For me, the Peace Corps in South Africa also serves as a symbol of the possibility and partnership of our two nations.

They come from all regions of the US and will spread out over South Africa, serving in Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, and KwaZulu-Natal.

Their presence here came about after a 1994 meeting at the White House between former presidents Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton, who sealed a bond of friendship and promised to work together in the transformation of South Africa from a divided nation into one nonracial democracy.

In 2001 volunteers were placed with nongovernmental organisations to provide organisational and management skills-building to indepartment of health eastern cape vacanciescrease likelihood and sustainability for community-based groups.

In South Africa, the US agency has not yet reached the 50-year milestone. The first group of volunteers arrived in January 1997.

Today volunteers work in both education and health, offering their services to primary schools and to NGOs working to meet the demands of the HIV-Aids crisis.

Others may parlay that experience into careers in law, journalism and diplomacy, to name a few examples.

This evolved into the Community HIV-Aids Outreach Project.

This volunteer will apply her experiences to whatever subsequent work she takes up. Some returned volunteers continue to work with poor communities, either in the US or elsewhere.

One volunteer in KwaZulu-Natal says working in her community with limited resources has pushed her to think creatively in coming up with ways to solve problems.

At the US mission to South Africa, we consider ourselves lucky to have returned volunteers from among our officers. Often, they join the state department with a spirit of service engendered during their years with the Peace Corps.

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