Maria E. Brewer
WE are currently celebrating Peace Corps Week, which is commemorated annually in the first week of March.
President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961. During this week, we celebrate the many contributions by current and former Peace Corps Volunteers to make a difference in the United States and in communities abroad.
Since the founding of Peace Corps 62 years ago, more than 240,000 Americans have served the United States and countries around the globe as Peace Corps Volunteers.
The Peace Corps promote world peace and friendship through community-led development and deepens the understanding between nations and peoples.
Peace Corps Volunteers immerse themselves in the local culture, learn the languages of the communities they serve, build long-lasting friendships, and represent the American people to the world. Upon returning home, they share their stories, experiences, and skills with other Americans, bringing valuable insights that help them lead in their families, communities, and workplaces.
This past year, volunteers returned to overseas communities for the first time since the global evacuation of volunteers in 2020 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. As of the end of February 2023, more than 1,100 Volunteers have returned for training and service in more than 50 countries around the globe.
These volunteers are working alongside community members to address the impacts of COVID-19 and climate change and to tackle local development priorities across the Peace Corps’ six programming sectors: Agriculture, Community Economic Development, Education, Environment, Health, and Youth in Development.
The Peace Corps program in Lesotho celebrated its 55th anniversary in 2022. With the swearing in of the first cohort of 15 volunteers since the start of the pandemic, more than 2,640 volunteers have served in Lesotho since 1967. At the request of the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho, these volunteers are now engaging in education and health projects in their communities in six of the 10 districts across the country (Butha Buthe, Leribe, Berea, Maseru, Mafeteng, and Mohale’s Hoek).
The education volunteers are helping to advance literacy and numeracy, as well as providing life skills-based sexual education at the primary school level. The health volunteers support the prevention of new HIV infections amongst adolescents in out-of-school settings and increase access to gender-equitable care, support, and treatment for adolescents living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.
The theme of Peace Corps Week 2023 is “Connect with the World.” As a demonstration of the ways in which Peace Corps service has fostered connections beyond the Volunteer experience, the Embassy has turned a spotlight on the activities of former Peace Corps Lesotho Volunteers who continue to work in and with the people of Lesotho. If you have not seen the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) profiles we posted this week, I encourage you to visit the U.S. Embassy’s social media platforms as soon as possible (Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/usdos.Lesotho; Twitter: https://twitter.com/USEmbassyMaseru). These continued connections lay the foundation for intercultural exchange, global collaboration, and lasting impact – all things that bring us closer to Peace Corps’ mission of world peace and friendship.
The success of the Peace Corps program in Lesotho represents one of the many foundations upon which the United States’ partnership with the people and Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho rests. As with the Peace Corps Volunteers who have shared their expertise and built lifelong relationships in communities across the Mountain Kingdom for over 55 years, the U.S. Government stands with Lesotho.
The strength of the U.S.-Lesotho partnership is demonstrated not only by the longstanding and enduring Peace Corps relationship, but also through the many other programs supported by the U.S. Government in conjunction with the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho. It is demonstrated through the past and forthcoming Millennium Challenge Corporation compacts, a total U.S. Government investment of more than $600 million. And through the more than 15-year partnership under the PEPFAR program, through which the U.S. Government is the largest donor to the national HIV response in Lesotho, having provided a total of $817 million, or over M14 billion, in funding to support the national HIV response. We also express our partnership through the AGOA program, which supports economic growth and provides employment to the citizens of Lesotho.
The Peace Corps remains a shining example of the enduring partnership between the people of Lesotho and the American people. As we reflect upon the impact of the program this Peace Corps Week, let us consider how we may embody the spirit of the Peace Corps in our interactions with those we work with and live among.
Maria E. Brewer if the U.S Ambassador to the Kingdom of Lesotho