MONROVIA, Montserrado – U.S. Ambassador Christine Elder has inducted 37 new Peace Corps volunteers to take up assignments in public schools in rural Liberia.
Elder told a gathering of both Liberians and Americans during the swearing-in ceremony on Friday in Monrovia that she finds it as an honor to celebrate the induction of the new Peace Corps Volunteers.
She praised the Liberian government for the level of cooperation and appreciation of the role of Peace Corps Volunteers. She also thanked the government for its support and engagement of the relevant ministries.
“President [George] Weah has made access to quality education a priority in Liberia’s national development plan. Evidence has shown prioritizing quality and access to education is the most sustainable path to lift people out of poverty,” she said.
“We are proud to have a central role in that effort, by sharing America’s best and brightest minds who will uphold the highest standards of professionalism, excellence, and integrity in their teaching and interactions with Liberians.”
Since June, the U.S. volunteers have been in the country, getting prepared for their two years of service, going through training and getting acquainted with Liberian society, while being hosted by Liberian families in Margibi.
The U.S. ambassador praised Peace Corps staff members, host families, and the city of Kakata for hosting the American volunteers.
“Before the volunteers scatter across this nation tomorrow, the good people of Kakata opened their homes to give them a glimpse into the lives of real Liberians,” she noted.
She informed the volunteers of the real challenges as they would be dispatched to different communities in nine rural counties, to teach literacy, math and science, and carry out demonstrations in science laboratories in schools.
She also reminded them of the special bond Liberia shares with the U.S. and their roles as ambassadors of their country within the counties they will live and work for the next two years.
“I hope you will remember that every day in the classroom as you help discover and develop the talents of each Liberian you inspire and challenge,” she told the Peace Corps Volunteers.
“As you live among Liberians in their towns and villages, please know that we take great pride in your work, work that will have a positive impact on thousands of Liberians. Meaningful and sustainable change takes generations, and you are contributing to that in a very important way. And I am confident the experience will be equally transformative for you.”
The Peace Corps is a service opportunity for motivated changemakers to immerse themselves in communities abroad, working side by side with local leaders to tackle the most pressing challenges.
Peace Corps Liberia Country Director Kristi Raube disclosed that the service grew as an inspiration of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy’s challenge to Americans more than five decades ago, to serve others through public service – to do something bigger than themselves for the benefit of someone other than themselves, and to share peace and friendship among all countries, by providing technical support through cross-cultural exchange.
Raube said the newly inducted Peace Corps Volunteers will live and work in local Liberian communities, alongside Liberians, while sharing in the successes and challenges of their hosts for two years.
She, therefore, challenged the new batch of volunteers to emulate a good example of the several others who have served in the call to public service.
“You have committed 27 months of your lives to answering President Kennedy’s call to improve the opportunities in life for others, to fully understand and appreciate another culture and way of life far from your homeland and ultimately become a better citizen for your own country and of the world for having done so,” she said.
“As a volunteer, you wouldn’t solve all of the problems you will encounter, but you do something. You will contribute; you will make a difference; you will not refuse to do something that you can do.”
She challenged the U.S. citizens to live at the same modest level of those they will encounter within their assigned communities: “And you may well find yourself to be the first foreigner that many people there have ever known personally, or maybe, even seen.”
“This puts a great deal of responsibility on you. You are in a fact representing no less than the whole of the American people, and anything you say and do is watched, noted, scrutinized and contributes to what those around you perceive as being true of every other volunteer and of all Americans. You are never off duty.”
She noted that while doing what is required of the volunteers places a huge pressure upon them, she was optimistic that they would behave professionally to overcome the challenges.
The deputy foreign minister for administration, Mawine Diggs, who represented President Weah at the ceremony, recounted the contributions and impact of Peace Corps Volunteers in Liberia.
“For the past 57 years, the work of Peace Corps volunteers continues to be one of those factors harnessing the relationship between our two nations and people – a long historic tie characterized by mutual respect, peace, development, and progress,” Diggs said.
She said among the many social, political and economic interventions the United States makes in Liberia, the Peace Corps Volunteer program represents a more direct, practical, and simple way for ordinary Liberians and Americans to learn from each other.
“Over the years, Peace Corps Volunteers are credited for providing quality training services, including teaching primary and secondary education, training our nurses, midwives and undertaken youth development initiatives,” she noted.
“There is no question that the Peace Corps Volunteer program in Liberia resonates with and clear manifest our administration’s factual development agenda, which is the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development. This is why President Weah would have loved to be here today to see 37 additional volunteers joining ranks not only with their colleagues who have been here before them but partnering with the government of Liberia in fighting poverty, disease, and illiteracy.”
She assured the newly commissioned volunteers of the government’s appreciation to them and their services to the country and promised to provide the necessary support and cooperation to ensure the execution of their duties.
One of the commissioned Peace Corps Volunteers, Paye Kialain, who was born to Liberian parents from Nimba, said it feels amazing to serve in his parents’ country.
“When you make the decision to join the Peace Corps and you actually come, you see how difficult it is, but then it is so rewarding, it is so fulfilling,” Kialain told reporters following the commissioning ceremony.
“We worked really hard to get to this point to be volunteers, and we are about to teach, we are about to make impacts, and it just feels awesome.”
Kialain will be assigned in Bong. His father, David Kialain, who currently works as a consultant at the Governance Commission, said he was among the first group of Liberian students to benefit from the Peace Corps program at the Ganta Public School in the early 1960s.
The older Kialain said having obtained a Master Degree in the U.S. through the inspiration of Peace Corps Volunteers, he returned along with his children and served in the Peace Corps Volunteers program in Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone.
Featured photo by Gbatemah Senah