BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – The United States Embassy in Barbados says the four islands which comprise Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean (PCEC) are abuzz with preparations to receive the first Volunteers since global operations were suspended two years ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The occasion is a distinct honor for the Eastern Caribbean as its four islands are among the first countries globally to return Volunteers to service,” said the Embassy in a statement.
It said PCEC renewed its Memorandum of Understanding with the governments of Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada in 2021 and launched an English Literacy in Primary Schools project.
“The project places Literacy Resource Volunteers in primary schools in communities across the four islands with the goal of helping students attain literacy skills to increase their academic and life opportunities,” the Embassy said.
It said this important project was developed with the Ministries of Education of the islands.
St. Lucia’s Chief Education Officer Dr. Fiona Philip-Mayer has lauded the development, saying that the return of Volunteers could not be better timed, especially given the unique challenges that the pandemic posed to student learning, not just in the region but across the world.
“We are very pleased to welcome our Peace Corps Volunteers back to St. Lucia to support us in the education attainment of our students in the engagements in their communities in innovative and creative manners to help support teaching and learning,” she said.
The US Embassy said prospective Volunteers are “excited about getting to work with students, teachers and educators to support safe return to class and education.”
Evan Gates from New York said: “I am very excited about the prospect of developing extracurricular programs, secondary projects, and further ways to engage with students and continue their learning outside of the classroom.”
The sentiment is shared by principals and teachers in the schools where Peace Corps works.
Jeverne Fernandez, teacher at the South River Methodist School in St. Vincent said: “I am so excited to have Volunteers back. It is such an enriching experience to meet people from other countries that bring skills and experience I can learn from, and I’m able to exchange not only ideas in education, but also our cultures and customs.”
Anna Todorova, the country director based in the main office in St. Lucia, said staff is “fully prepared to work with the Volunteers and to prepare them for service and life in the Eastern Caribbean.
“We are taking extra steps to ensure that Volunteers have completed medical assessments, have proof of COVID-19 vaccination, and that, once in country, they are governed by the local rules and policies to prevent the spread of the virus,” she said.
The US Embassy said the United State Peace Corps has had a presence in the region since 1961, when its first cohort arrived to pursue the goals of “helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women; promoting a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served; and helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.”