When I travel around this country, I constantly meet Cambodians who tell me about the hard work and commitment of our U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers. I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment because I have witnessed firsthand how our Volunteers make a difference in Cambodia. This is why I was honored to host the swearing-in of a new group of 53 men and women who answered the call to serve and take on – to paraphrase the classic slogan – “the toughest job they’ll ever love!”
These dedicated individuals represent the eighth group of Peace Corps Volunteers that will serve in Cambodia. Many have delayed other educational and professional opportunities in the United States to volunteer to work in Cambodia. A few have already had successful careers. They all bring with them many of the fundamental traits of American society – a willingness to serve, an eagerness to learn, a desire to share, a belief in change, and abundant enthusiasm. Each year I look forward to this swearing-in ceremony because meeting the new Volunteers and seeing their commitment is so inspiring.
I was pleased that H.E. Dr. Pit Chamnan, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport, and H.E. Eng Huot, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Health, were in attendance. During their remarks, both of these distinguished officials praised the work that the Peace Corps is doing in support of the government’s national development plan. Their presence is a testament to the important work of Peace Corps in Cambodia.
This group arrived in Cambodia in July and has spent the last nine weeks in intense preparation focused on acquiring the technical, health, safety, and cross-cultural skills essential in their new assignments. They also learned the Khmer language by studying with a Khmer teacher four to five hours a day and practicing with their host families in Kandal Province. With their training complete, the volunteers will now be placed throughout the country where they will work alongside their Cambodian colleagues and live with host families.
Many of the Volunteers will serve in rural high schools and co-teach with their Cambodian counterparts to improve the students’ education and future employment opportunities. Others will work in rural health centers to support staff and village health educators in implementing programs in their communities. In cooperation with U.S. government programs such as Feed the Future, the Volunteers will help establish community gardens and teach Cambodians about proper nutrition. This will ensure Cambodian children receive a balanced diet that will give them a healthy start and lead to a more successful life.
I would like to thank each Volunteer for answering President Obama’s call to make a difference in the world through public service. During the next two years, the lives of these Volunteers will be transformed as they live and work alongside the Cambodian people. I told the Volunteers that each one of them is an ambassador of America to Cambodia and that their interactions will change the lives of Cambodians for the better and help this country along its path to development. I am incredibly proud of these Volunteers and wish them much success during their time in Cambodia.
Have you ever met a Peace Corps Volunteer in your community? I would love to hear about your experiences.