Pretoria — The US Ambassador to South Africa Cameron Hume has sworn in 36 volunteers who will do communities service in Mpumalanga and Limpopo for the next two years.
The volunteers are part of the US Peace Corps that promote world peace and friendship and assist primary and secondary school teachers and administrators in curriculum development and time management.
The Peace Corps contributes to the strengthening of the human resources base in education, works to develop NGO capacity to combat the scourge of HIV and AIDS and promotes mutual cultural understanding between South Africans and the Americans.
The aides have been adopted by families in the two provinces, where they will live and share experiences.
One of the volunteers is Ewan Campa, who has been adopted by the Moepye family in Marapyane, Mpumalanga.
Ms Campa has already embraced her new name Refilwe, which means "the given".
She said she was proud to be in South Africa and to integrate into the country's culture. "I'm honoured to be in South Africa to learn a new culture, which would expand my view of the world," she said, insisting on being called Refilwe.
She added that contrary to what she thought; South Africa was "quite a developed" country and looked forward to interacting with the "generous and warm" local folks.
"The family that adopted me made me this dress," she said proudly, showing off a yellow traditional dress, with green embroidery made by her adoptive mother Ms Moepye.
Ambassador Hume, a former Peace Corps volunteer, told the 36 volunteers they were fortunate to be in South Africa, a country whose people were generous and demand respect.
"You are fortunate to be in South Africa, a country open to share views and listen to others' views. I think the best attributes you bring can make a difference in the challenges still facing the country such as the inequalities between the people.
"But to get out of this inequalities requires education and that's what you bring," said Ambassador Hume.
Ms Doris Mashego, Chief Director of Systems and Planning in Mpumalanga Education Department, said the volunteers would be an integral part of the education system in the province as they would help educators understand some of the learners' dire situations.
She said they would also help in the development of learners from their adoptive families, and other learners who were infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.
"The volunteers would be involved in some community development projects like community libraries, helping rural women market their crafts and establishing computer centres at schools," said Ms Mashego.