Ambassador Barry Wells administered, last Friday, the oath of service to 15 new Peace Corps volunteers in The Gambia in a ceremony held at his residence located along Atlantic Road, Fajara.
The ceremony brought together government representatives, Embassy staff, Peace Corps staff, Gambian families who hosted the volunteers during their training period, and media practitioners. The new batch of volunteers in The Gambia will be serving in health and community development project, through a partnership between Peace Corps The Gambia, the Department of Health and Social Welfare, the Department of Community Development and other collaborators.
In his speech Ambassador Barry Wells underscored the importance of improving the health status and quality of life.
He then acknowledged the importance of the volunteers' role in strengthening the relationship between The Gambia and the United States
Speaking earlier, Sulayman Samba, Permanent Secretary at the Department of State for Health and Social Welfare, pointed out that the partnership between Peace Corps and The Gambia augers very well for the implementation of the project, which focuses on improving health status and quality of life, particulary of women, children and youth.
Considering that morbidity and mortality rates are unacceptably high in The Gambia, he noted that such a trend is caused by health problems related to low awareness about health issues, poverty and poor environment conditions.
"Infants, children and women continue to bear the brunt of malaria, diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections, malnutrition and problems associated with pregnancy and childbirth," he explained.
As a result, he indicated that at the level of the Department of State, more resources have been deployed in order to implement a comprehensive essential health care package that integrates the management of childhood illness and promotes reproductive and child health.
He went further to say that Peace Corps' Health and Community Development project seeks to improve personal hygiene and environment sanitation practices in order to reduce the incidence of malaria and diarrhoael disease.
"The project is therefore relevant and addresses priorities of the Development of State and indeed of the Government of The Gambia, particularly Millenium Developments Goals," he added.
For his part, Ronald A. Tschetter, United States Peace Corps Director, recalled that "more than 1,400 volunteers have served in The Gambia" since their first coming in1967. He expressed hope that the new batch of volunteers will live up to expectations.
In a similar vein, Mike McConnell, Peace Corps Country Director, explained that the "volunteers represent all that is good and generous about USA." "You are here to train people, to let meet and understand Americans, and to tell people in America about lives, the people of The Gambia," he advised.
The Peace Corps Country Director encouraged the new volunteers to be ready to stretch their limits in carrying out their service. The new volunteers delivered speeches in English, Mandinko, Wolof and Fula. A joyful moment that brought peals of laughter and cheers from the largely Gambian crowd.
Peace Corps-The Gambia has more than 100 volunteers in the country, working on Health, Education, Environment and Community Development. Most of them are young people.