President George Weah has described United States Peace Corps’ coming to Liberia as “brave” people whose action demonstrates a sense of humanity.
President Weah’s statement was contained in a brief remark he made at the swearing-in ceremony of 44 Peace Corps Volunteers on Friday, August 17, in Monrovia. The 44 PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers) will be deployed in the 15 counties for two years.
According to the President, while people are leaving and turning their back on Liberia, Peace Corps Volunteers from the United States are leaving their comfort zones to come to mentor people free-of-charge.
The President recalled that he had encountered Peace Corps years back while in school, and it was through his encounter that a Peace Corp Volunteer gave him the name, “George”, to replace Manneh that he first used at school.
In an entertaining joke about pronunciation of Peace Corps in the Liberian colloquial, President Weah said, “We used to call them Peace Cope, but on the paper, I am seeing Peace Corps,” something which brought about laughter among the audience.
The President then called on the volunteers to be friendly, and make friends with Liberians in order to help them be fully integrated into the society, assuring them of government’s full protection while in the country.
He said their work will be easier for the students they will deal with, to drive away their fear.
“Peace Corps those days made friends, and it was through that that a Peace Corps volunteer gave me the name ‘George’ as my Christian name, but before then, I was called Manneh. Make friends with people you will meet so that they will remember you, and you will remember them,” the President told the Peace Corps volunteers.
The President’s remarks to the PCVs bring to remembrance former US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, whose stay in Liberia as a Peace Corps volunteer, paved the way for her to have Liberia as a second home.
Prior to her departure from Liberia in 2012, Ambassador Greenfield visited Lofa County where she resided while in the Peace Corps, and told the people there that it was her home county in Liberia, because she was there prior to the civil war as a Peace Corps volunteer.
Ambassador Christine Elder lauded Liberia for its appreciation of PCVs. She said among the countries Peace Corps volunteers are being assigned, Liberia shows the highest appreciation of volunteers by their hospitality. She also commended government for making education a priority in the Weah Administration, emphasizing that education is the chief driver of any development agenda of a country.
Amb. Elder then called on the PCVs to be inspirational and abide by their oath. She too recalled her days as a Peace Corps Volunteer before assuming the position of a diplomat.
She said the rationale behind President John F. Kennedy’s call for the establishment of PCVs was to serve others, and volunteers should therefore serve with distinction, to dispel any perception contrary to the true meaning of sending them around the world.
The Country Director of Peace Corps in Liberia Kristi Raube, also informed the Volunteers that their presence in Liberia represents America and that they should see the job as a commitment anyone can make to do any job.
Raube said through the Volunteers, Liberian students can realize their dream of what they want to become, urging them not to wait for others to do what they want but to always take the first turn to move forward.
Prior to the civil conflict, PCVs served in Liberia, and their activities reflected on every development agenda of the country, with education, agriculture, rural development, and health education being chief among them.
Peace Corps Volunteers’ first presence in Liberia was felt in 1962, and over 4,000 volunteers had served the country since then.
After a long time of absence as a result of the civil war, 12 Peace Corps Response Volunteers were deployed to Liberia in 2008 and in 2015; 23 response volunteers arrived following the evacuation of 108 of the PCVs due to the Ebola crisis that struck the country in 2014.
The 44 volunteers will be teaching Mathematics and Science in various public schools across the country.
Additionally, the Peace Corps will also be involved with teacher training program, to build Liberian teachers’ capacity to take over when the PCVs shall have left in the future. It also improves the school community by promoting positive discipline in place of corporal punishment.