Washington — The Peace Corps will return to Tunisia in 2012, bringing language training and skills development, as it does in host countries around the world.
President Obama made the announcement during his meeting at the White House October 7 with Tunisian Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi, and it was reported that day in a Peace Corps press release.
"Tunisia is one of our oldest friends in the world," Obama said after the meeting. It was one of the first countries to recognize the United States more than 200 years ago, he said, adding, "I told the prime minister that thanks to his leadership, thanks to the extraordinary transformation that's taking place in Tunisia and the courage of its people, I'm confident that we will have at least another two centuries of friendship between our two countries.
"And the American people will stand by the people of Tunisia in any way that we can during this remarkable period in Tunisian history," the president said.
The first group of Peace Corps volunteers is scheduled to arrive in Tunisia in 2012. Their assignments will focus on English language training and youth skills development. These two programs will build local capacity and help prepare Tunisian students and professionals for future employment.
Between 1961 and 1996, nearly 2,500 Americans served as Peace Corps volunteers in Tunisia, working in agriculture, architecture, education, health, and rural and urban community development.
"We are honored that the government of Tunisia has asked Peace Corps to reopen our program in Tunisia," said Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams, who also attended the meeting with Prime Minister Caid Essebsi. "The return of the Peace Corps to Tunisia offers our countries the opportunity to resume a partnership with a long and productive history. This Peace Corps program will contribute to the Obama administration's efforts to support the Tunisian people by working side by side on important education and economic initiatives."
President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961, by executive order. Throughout 2011, Peace Corps is commemorating 50 years of promoting peace and friendship around the world. Historically, more than 200,000 Americans have served with the Peace Corps to promote better understanding between Americans and the people of 139 host countries.
Today, 8,655 volunteers are working with local communities in 76 host countries. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. They commit to serve for 27 months.
See a fact sheet on the president's announcement.