President Sirleaf makes remarks at the dedicatory ceremony
Monrovia, Liberia – President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has described the dedication of the headquarters of Peace Corps – Liberia as a clear indication that the Peace Corps are back.
“The opening of your office is a clear indication that the Peace Corps are back and have come to stay,” she said, noting that the scale of their interventions have made them a household word in Liberia.
The Liberian leader thanked the United States Ambassador Deborah Malac and the people of the United States who continue to remain a true ally.
According to an Executive Mansion release, the Liberian Chief Executive made the remarks at the dedication of the new headquarters of Peace Corps-Liberia on 11th Street, Sinkor on Wednesday, September 9, 2015.
President Sirleaf said Government waits anxiously for their return to take up their assignments in various parts of the country as this will open a new chapter aimed at the cross-pollination of skills and knowledge. “We encourage you to move fast so that we can resume such golden opportunity,” she stressed.
On July 30, 2014 the Peace Corps temporarily removed its Volunteers from Liberia, due to the increasing spread of the Ebola virus disease. There were 108 volunteers working in the area of education prior to the outbreak.
Peace Corps has a remarkable history in Liberia. More than 3,800 Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) served in Liberia between 1962 and 1990, at times with as many as 350 Volunteers serving concurrently. During those years, PCVs supported Liberia’s development efforts with emphasis on education, agriculture, rural development, and health education. Although the program closed in 1990 with the outbreak of the civil war, the Peace Corps were always fondly remembered in Liberia.
Since their return to Liberia in October 2008, upon the special request of President Sirleaf, a cadre of Liberian college graduates of the National Youth Volunteer Program pair with Peace Corps through a mentorship.
“To date 300 young college graduates are beneficiaries of skills transfer,” the Liberian leader disclosed, emphasizing that volunteers have mentored county health teams, facilitated parent/teachers associations, supported refugee relief efforts, built libraries and upcountry learning resource centers trained teachers, and taught at nursing schools. She indicated that the Peace Corps have enjoyed close and supportive relationships with both the Ministries of Health and Education to ensure that its efforts are aligned with national strategic priorities.
Currently, the Liberian leader noted that Peace Corps’ primary focus is in secondary education with most Volunteers serving as math, science and language arts teachers at public junior and senior high schools and is motivated to assist the country in creating its next generation of leaders.
President Sirleaf also expressed gratitude to the Peace Corps for their support in conducting meaningful programs during the vacation aimed at building capacity. They trained 126 school administrators – nine of which were female; representing 63 schools from 14 of the 15 counties. “We owe the Peace Corps a debt of gratitude for starting to focus on literacy and for working on food security,” the Liberian leader acknowledged.
She also, in a special way, recognized the efforts and sacrifices of the local Liberian staff that have been working along with the Peace Corps Volunteers who worked closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the Ebola outbreak educating communities on Ebola prevention and sensitization.
Speaking earlier, U.S. Ambassador Deborah Malac indicated that the dedication of the new Peace Corps headquarters is a good way to mark her return to Liberia after several weeks away. She expressed her delight at being back in Liberia which she now considers her second home after three years of assignment here.
She noted that the necessity of building a new home for the Peace Corps is due to the growth of the program. “Ebola forced them to leave but the commitment to return was always there,” she pointed out.
Ambassador Malac thanked President Sirleaf personally for her support to the Peace Corps initiative; Education Minister Werner, for his cooperation; and the Liberian people for their acceptance. “By this dedication, the Peace Corps are celebrating the power of education, a cause to which they are committed,” she said.
The U.S. Ambassador said she was pleased with the size and quality of the facility which reflects a determination to grow the Peace Corps program in Liberia and thanked the Country Director and his staff and volunteers for a great job.
For his part, Peace Corps’ Country Director, Kelvin Fleming said it was a huge moment in the life span of the Peace Corps in Liberia who have worked in Liberia for over 35 years now. He indicated that the work of his institution seeks to bring the next generation of youth to live lives they desire and reflected on the work of the Peace Corps in Liberia in the next six months of their return.
Mr. Fleming acknowledged the support of Ambassador Malac and the embassy team for their support. He indicated that the facilities belong to the Peace Corps and it was acquired and required based on the desire to grow. He promised to seek and bring in more volunteers.
The Peace Corps Country Director acknowledged the high standard and bar being set by Education Minister Werner and the government and pledged their readiness and commitment to help.
The Peace Corps, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Youth & Sports work collaboratively to coordinate activities which will improve the lives of students in Liberia.
At their places of assignment, Peace Corps Volunteers collaborate with principals, teachers and PTA groups to improve schools management, introduce innovative teaching techniques, facilitate the use of school literature, encourage students and parents’ organizations, promote career opportunities, and participate in summer academic programs.
The Government of Liberia continues to make significant contributions to Peace Corps-Liberia Program by granting Peace Corps full time access to the presidential lodge complex in Margibi County; while the Ministry of Education pays directly for volunteer housing in each county they serve
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