Address at Induction Ceremony of US Peace Corps Volunteers at USP/ICT Theatre on Thursday 1 November at 3.00pm.

• Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy, Mr Douglas Sonnek
• Country Director of US Peace Corps, Mr Dennis McMahon
• US Peace Corps Volunteers
• Ladies and gentlemen

Bula vinaka, Namaste, Salaam Aleikum and good afternoon to you all.

Please allow me to convey my gratitude for the invitation to be a part of this annual occasion. I am deeply honoured to officiate here today to witness you taking up your oath of service.

Today Peace Corps is celebrating the swearing in of the 95th group of Volunteers since Peace Corps first started working in Fiji in 1968.

This event marks the successful completion of your 8 week training that has prepared you with the knowledge of language, culture and technical aspects of youth development needed to begin your 2 years of service.

This event, Ladies and Gentlemen, also celebrates the contribution of the communities and families from the district of Namalata in the Province of Tailevu who have hosted these Volunteers and supported their cultural and language integration throughout the 8-week training.

Your swearing in today brings to 70 the total number of Volunteers serving in the country. As Peace Corps Volunteers, you have considered deeply your future before wholeheartedly offering your service for the benefit of others. This is undoubtedly one of the cornerstones on which the US Peace Corps was founded and I can also testify to the nature of the work that the Peace Corps actively engages itself in.

Over the years, Peace Corps programs in Fiji have included such sectors as Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Environment Resource Management, Health, Education, Carpentry and other skilled trades, as well as Small Enterprise Development.

This year 2018 is also special as it marks the 50th Anniversary of the arrival of the first Volunteers in Fiji who were science and maths teachers. To date, approximately 2,500 Volunteers have served with the objective of promoting world peace and friendship through cross cultural exchange and skills transfer.

All Volunteers currently in Fiji are working in the Community Youth Empowerment Project (CYEP), which is a collaborative partnership between the Peace Corps and the Ministries of Education, Heritage and Arts, of Youth and Sports, and the Ministry of Health and Medical Services. Through this project, Volunteers work alongside their Fijian counterparts in schools, communities and Ministry offices to implement programs and activities that promote healthier and more productive lives among our youth, and which enables them to be more actively engaged in development.

This endeavour will ensure the youth in Fiji have access to the knowledge, skills, and opportunities to live and develop healthy and productive lives and avoid potential risks and challenges they may face, such as unwanted pregnancy, unemployment, drug and alcohol use, and suicide. It will focus on behavioural change and capacity building activities to empower youth to live more healthy lives, make healthy decisions, and gain access to programs that support positive youth development.

The American Peace Corp’s history, Ladies and Gentlemen, is enshrined in service. For more than five decades, the US Government has been sending trained American men and women who have substantial education or work experience in their area of assignment, and an expressed interest in living and working in a different country and culture to nations to assist in development efforts. Fiji, throughout the years, has indeed been fortunate to receive all that you have offered.

What is all the more impressive, besides the commitment to being a Volunteer for 2 years in a foreign country, is the level of qualification and experience our Volunteers have. This goes from people with a doctorate or with decades of experience in establishing and running successful enterprises. All this experience and expertise benefit us enormously.

It is also heartening to note that Volunteers divide their time between schools and local communities, where they carry out the primary activities in support of youth development.

Activities such as:

• Teaching of Healthy Living and Family Life Education classes in primary or secondary schools, including topics related to sexual and reproductive health;

• Supporting the creation and enhancement of village youth groups to carry out youth and community development activities;

• Implementing youth development programs, recreational, sports and other extracurricular activities for youth in school and community settings.

I am also positive that youths will have better opportunities to impact their communities through increased access in partnership with the Peace Corps.

To the 31 volunteers here today, you have solemnly promised to promote Peace Corps’ principles of respect and friendship across national and cultural boundaries as you serve in institutions and communities across Fiji.

As you are sent out into your respective schools, training centres and communities, please ensure that your knowledge and skills are fully utilized. Develop, integrate, and implement programs and activities that support the empowerment of youths and promote gender equity. Please also take the opportunity to learn from us, from our diverse communities and to benefit from the culture and traditions of Fiji.

I take this time once again to thank the US Peace Corps for its 50 years of service to the people of Fiji and I look forward to working together in the future to contribute effectively to ensuring the development of all young Fijians. I wish to thank all past and present Peace Corps Volunteers for their contribution to Fiji and our people.

Therefore truly it is more blessed to give than to receive.

May your 2 years of service in our island nation bring with it all its just rewards, contented feeling and an overall sense of achievement as there is nothing that yields more of a feeling of empowerment than being of service to someone in need.

Thank you and vinaka vakalevu.