It is my pleasure to welcome you all here today for the official swearing-in ceremony of 61 Americans as Peace Corps Volunteers. Tomorrow they formally begin their Peace Corps service with the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Natural Resources, and the Department of Forestry. I am honored to present these individuals to our distinguished guests today as some of the most passionate and creative people the United States has to offer.
I would like to acknowledge my appreciation to the Honorable Minister of Education, Science, and Technology for joining us today at this special ceremony. Thank you for your continual support of Peace Corps Volunteers who teach English in Community day Secondary Schools in Malawi.
I also give my sincere appreciation to TA Chilowamatambe and all his Chiefs for welcoming these Trainees into their villages. I would like to also thank all of the families who have hosted our Trainees. You have been of essential help in their training, and they will always remember you as their Malawian parents, brothers, and sisters. Mwagwira ntchito yabwino!
I would also like to express my appreciation to Peace Corps Malawi’s training team—you have put in long hours and weekends away from your own families in order to prepare this group to serve in rural communities for the next two years. You have started a ripple that will positively affect so many people around this country—many of them the most vulnerable and the most in need of our efforts.
Lastly, I would like to thank our partners in the Government of Malawi for their continued collaboration with Peace Corps. For over 50 years, you have given the staff and Volunteers of Peace Corps the support and they need to be successful in their work. We look forward to many more years of collaboration between the United States and Malawi.
As many of you know, Peace Corps Volunteers give full expression to the noble tradition of service. They live and work in rural villages for two years, speaking the language of their neighbors. They participate in the lives and traditions of their communities. They work hand-in-hand with their community members to address challenges in the community.
As a result of these Volunteers’ work, secondary school students will greatly improve their ability to speak English, allowing them to excel academically in all subject matters. Youth around Malawi will learn ways to keep themselves safe from HIV. Mothers will learn how to prevent malaria from harming their or their children’s lives. Families will plant gardens that provide nutritious produce year-round; and communities will plant trees together to tackle deforestation.
But Peace Corps Volunteers will not do any of this work on their own. Peace Corps is about partnership and collaboration. Volunteers will be inspired to meet the hardworking people that are already in the communities where they will live. So, to our soon-to-be Volunteers, let me tell you about some of the people that my team has met in Malawi.
There is a women’s group in Machinga called the Budala Women’s Group. They dreamt of being able to afford school fees and clothing for their children, and they were determined to be financially independent. The women began by planting trees in order to start a firewood business in their village. They had the motivation, they were hard working, and they were ready to organize. Though their efforts didn’t bring them wealth, they did start to make a little money…enough to buy more tree seeds and saplings.
It was during this time that they received their first Peace Corps Volunteer. What he found was a group of women ready to make the lives of their families better, so he shared with them his knowledge of bee-keeping. In a few years they had hundreds of beehives, all producing honey that they sell to this day.
After that Volunteer left, another took his place. She taught the women how to bake cakes, make peanut butter and moringa powder. The Volunteer after she showed them how to find and write grants.
Budala Women’s Group has now built a nursery school, two fish ponds, and has established several fruit tree forests. They make sustainable charcoal, tend their beehives, and have built an irrigation system that allows them to grow food all year round.
Now, their children have school fees, they have enough money for food, and they are financially independent women. The Peace Corps Volunteers did not need to motivate these women; they were already willing and ready to work. All they needed was the information on how they could channel their hard work into a better future for their families, and that’s where Peace Corps comes in. You have the education and the training. You’re now ready to use that privilege in service to others.
Though Budala Women’s Group had their last Peace Corps Volunteer years ago, they still remember each American. These were the people who dedicated two years of their lives to live among them. They will always be remembered as the Americans who learned their language, respected their culture, and became a part of their community.
This is not a unique story. It seems like everywhere I go, I meet a Malawian who was taught by a Peace Corps Volunteer or attended a camp that a Volunteer once hosted. This is evidence that the reach of Peace Corps is far and wide. For many Malawians, the interactions they have with their local Volunteer will be the only ones they will ever have with an American. I am proud that the group standing before me today will be representing their country in such a meaningful way.
To the soon-to-be Volunteers, I would like to extend my congratulations for successfully completing your Pre-Service Training. I know it has not been easy, but it has laid the foundation for the rest of your work in this country. Serving as Volunteer is a life changing experience. Soon you will move to your new communities across Malawi.
The oath you are about to take is an important one. Beginning with George Washington, every president of the United States has sworn to the same words. It is also the same oath that I made as a Foreign Service officer. And in taking this oath, you will join the proud tradition that Peace Corps has had for the past fifty-seven years; promoting world peace and friendship through grassroots development and cross-cultural exchange.
Your presence and work here is important, and I wish you the best of luck. Zikomo kwambiri, thank you very much.