Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Dale Gilles (Liberia 1964-66)
Peace Corps Pursue Community Mission
by Long Kimmarita
Thirty-three US Peace Corps volunteers have been sworn in to offer their services in Cambodia for two years. They have been tasked with teaching English at primary and secondary schools, as well as teacher training institutes, nationwide.
The swearing-in ceremony took place last week. They arrived in Cambodia two months ago and have been spending time in the community, learning the Khmer language.
“Since 1962, more than 240,000 Americans of all ages and backgrounds have served in the Peace Corps in 142 countries,” said Aleksandra P Zittle, deputy chief of mission of the US embassy in Phnom Penh.
“The Peace Corps is proud to work with its Cambodian partners to assist in the teaching of English as well as to work with local communities to help build and supply materials to school libraries, computer classes, school gardens, sport clubs and environmental study teams,” she said.
Zittle considered the activities of these volunteers at the community level one of the reasons why officials at the highest levels of the Cambodian government support the Peace Corps, and expected this group – the 14th to volunteer in the Kingdom – to fit into this tradition.
“At the end of their mission, the last volunteers realised that the hardest part of leaving Cambodia was saying goodbye to the families who had given them accommodation, school colleagues, students and Cambodian friends. When they return to the US, they have a lot to share about Cambodia with the people of our country. Both of our countries have benefited from the Peace Corps experience,” she said.
Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport secretary of state Youk Ngoy said the ministry recognises that teaching English and computing gives students skills that are necessary for the 21st century.
“Their digital skills will stand them in good stead as life-long learners, thanks to their research abilities, and their English language skills will help them study abroad.
“I express my appreciation to the Peace Corps in Cambodia for always providing its support to the education ministry, from the first to the 14th generation of volunteers. They have done immeasurable work to help the development of the teaching and learning of the English language in the country,” he said.
Luke Reifenberg, one of the latest generation of volunteers, said he was proud to be a volunteer in Cambodia. In his initial experience of teaching English for one week to young Cambodians, he had already made several memories and hoped to make more over the next two years.
“For two years, we, as volunteers, will do our best to turn this optimistic hope into action towards the wellbeing of humanity. We really appreciate this opportunity,” he added.
Kea Sophou, deputy governor of Takeo – one of the provinces selected for English education from the new volunteers – said that all Peace Corps volunteers have high ideals and a strong commitment to the Cambodian people. She said that during the two-month pilot training in Takeo, they had gained a lot of experience and adapted well to volunteer work.
“I believe they have seen, understood and learned a lot about how to adapt as volunteers. During their recent stay in Takeo, they learned to live in a Khmer community, eat Khmer food, communicate with local people and establish good relationships with many Cambodian friends,” she said.
According to Sophou, over the years, the Peace Corps has conducted a number of trainings in the province and worked with local schools in various districts to teach students.
“The Peace Corps volunteers are making a real difference to the lives of Cambodians whom they work with. Through this collaboration, they are making a significant contribution to our government’s strategy for poverty reduction,” she said.