A new team of 26 Peace Corps from the United States, who will serve in Rwanda for the next two years, will put more emphasis on maternal and child health.
This was announced yesterday at their swearing-in ceremony held at the US ambassador’s residence in Kacyiru in Kigali.
Presiding over the ceremony in, Erica Barks-Ruggles, the ambassador, explained that the volunteers will be working in the health sector for the next two years providing services mainly at health centres in the countryside.
She challenged them to implement the Rwandan government’s 1,000 Days initiative, a campaign launched by the Ministry of Health in 2013 to fight stunting and malnutrition among children in their first 1,000 days of life.
The Peace Corps is a US government programme that sends Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people and partners around the world working at grassroots level towards sustainable change through providing technical assistance, helping people outside the United States to understand the American culture, and helping Americans to understand the cultures of other countries with an aim of fostering socio-economic development.
Amb. Barks-Ruggles referred to the new corps as “a special group” being the first ever to take part in the implementation of the 1,000 days programme where they will work to improve the lives of pregnant women, mothers and children, especially on nutrition.
“This initiative is a top priority because malnutrition is still a problem in this country. 38per cent of children in Rwanda suffer from chronic malnourishment which affects their ability to develop both physically and mentally for the rest of their lives,” she said.
The Peace Corps in Rwanda was opened in 1975 to 1993, with 132 volunteers working in the sectors of university education, fisheries, agriculture, conservation and health.
Upon invitation by the Rwandan government, the Peace Corps returned to Rwanda in 2009, and since then almost 500 peace corps volunteers have worked in the country.
Ron Campbell, the Peace Corps Country Director, said urged the new team to keep in mind the responsibility of sharing their culture with Rwandans as well as learning lessons that they will take home,
“Too many of us Americans are judged by those 30 or 60 second clips on radio and television. You have that opportunity to share what is America, what are our cultures, who we really are. And, when you return home, you will be taking a piece of Rwanda back with you to share with your friends, your family and other people you meet,” he said.
“Out of the 605 peace Corp volunteers appointed to Rwanda over the last 40 years, a total of 148 have continued serving in this country. This is very important to us and it reflects the quality and dynamic partnership that we have,” said Dr Patrick Ndimubanzi, the State Minister for Health who was the guest of honour at the ceremony.
He expressed gratitude to the Government of the United States of America for the volunteers and urged the health care staff at the community levels across the country to collaborate with them and give them needful support.