Former Peace Corps Volunteers in Ethiopia Celebrate 50TH
Anniversary of Launching of Program in Washington DC
Tsehaye Debalkew, Washington Dc, September 23, 2011-
Over Three Hundred former Peace Corps members who served in Ethiopia During the last Forty Nine years in different places of the country converged to-night at the Auditorium of the Ethiopian Embassy here in Washington DC by colorfully commemorating the Fiftieth anniversary of the launching of the Peace Corps program worldwide.
Ambassador Girma Birru, Special Envoy and Ambassador Extra-Ordinary of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to the US, who was on hand to receive members of the congregation elated in a celebratory and jubilant spirit saluted and welcomed the volunteers by congratulating them all on the 50th Anniversary of the start of the Peace Corps Program on behalf of the government of Ethiopia and on his own behalf.
Ambassador Girma in his speech reminisced that Ethiopia was one of the pioneering countries to invite Peace Corps to begin its program in1962, just one year after the Peace Corps program took off and recounted by saying that there are many Ethiopians who remember those programs and the Peace Corps volunteers associated with them with fond memories.
Peace Corps Volunteers continuously served in Ethiopia until 1977 when the military dictatorship in Ethiopia had interrupted the program which resumed again in 1995, bringing back its distinguishing feature of enhancing people-to-people friendship, he reiterated.
The Ambassador recalled that since 1962, a total of 3085 Peace Corps Volunteers have served to-date in Ethiopia, including those volunteers who served in Eritrea when it was part of our country.
He emphasized that currently there are 101 Peace Corps volunteers working in partnership with the people and Government of Ethiopia, in line with the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) which is an important aspect of partnership between our two countries.
Citing as a remarkable achievement and ample testimony to the contribution of the men and women who have taken part in the project during the past Forty Nine years in Ethiopia, Ambassador Girma praised them all for educating tens of thousands of young Ethiopians who later became entrepreneurs, educators, engineers, government leaders, and diplomats making
a difference in extending their share of professional support to the development effort of the nation.
He seized upon the auspicious occasion and extended his profound thanks for the invaluable service to "our people and our country" and that "the people of Ethiopia are truly grateful for your noble contribution" he added.
Apprising the former Peace Corps Volunteers about the gigantic progress Ethiopia is making at present, Ambassador Girma briefed the audience by especially referring to the social sector.
He pin-pointed to the strides made in the realm of education that "Primary education coverage is now close to 95%, with 22 public universities built in the last 20 years and other ten more universities are now being built.
He underlined that at present the student population stands at a staggering twenty million, or one-fourth of the nation's population.
The Ambassador made a passionate call on the volunteers to support Ethiopian universities by helping create partnerships with US counterparts and support the initiative for the establishment and strengthening of an Ethio-American Friendship Association.
He urged the volunteers to register by joining as members or supporters in the effort and expressed his firm belief that Peace Corps Volunteers, are best positioned to continue to help promote the cordial relationship between the peoples of Ethiopia and the U.S.A.
Ms. Marian Haley, President of Ethiopia and Eritrea Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, and chief organizer of the event expressed in the name of those who served in Ethiopia by saying that "'We truly love Ethiopia and its warm and friendly people".
"We are bound to the nation and its great people where and among whom we grew and experienced the real challenges of life. She made a pledge by saying, "We will always offer our support where ever it is needed."
The event was graced by hosting a traditional coffee ceremony accompanied by the scent and aroma of incense undertaken by Ms. Ladena Schnapper, a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia.
Cultural and traditional songs played by the renowned vocalist and Masinko player, another former Peace Corps Volunteer, Charles Sutton who was a member of Orchestra Ethiopia, in Addis Ababa in the 1960's gave an added dimension to the occasion by igniting memories of the Peace Corps Volunteers during their service in Ethiopia in their prime ages.