History of the Peace Corps in Rwanda
From Peace Corps Wiki
|History of the Peace Corps|
|Since 1960, when then Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries, more than 182,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in 138 countries all over the globe.
The first group of Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Rwanda in 1975. Programming started with three Volunteers working in university education, and later expanded into fisheries and agriculture. However, due to a limited number of requests for Volunteers from the government of Rwanda, Peace Corps withdrew its permanent staff and the small program was managed with the help of the U.S. Embassy.
In 1985 and 1986, program assessments indicated that there was potential for expansion of the Peace Corps program, particularly in areas of forestry and cooperative extension. With growth in mind, Peace Corps sent a permanent representative to Rwanda in 1987. In 1988, an associate Peace Corps director was added to enhance programming. In addition to the original programs in university education, agriculture, and fisheries, Peace Corps/Rwanda began new initiatives in conservation and health. However, in February 1993, severe political instability in Rwanda led to the evacuation of all Volunteers. The office eventually closed in April 1994. All records were burned by the U.S. Embassy, leaving very little documentation of Peace Corps’ operations there.
On July 15, 2007, an assessment team traveled to Rwanda to explore the viability of re-establishing Peace Corps operations. This was the first assessment team to visit the country since the program closed in 1994. From the initial meetings it became clear that both the community and the current government of Rwanda are eager to welcome Peace Corps back to the country.
On July 18, 2008, U.S. Ambassador Michael Arietti and Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Rwanda Amandin Rugira signed an agreement officially reestablishing the U.S. Peace Corps program in Rwanda.
 History of Peace Corps Programming in Rwanda
The first group of Peace Corps Volunteers worked in the areas of education, agriculture, and health until 1993, when the eruption of political and ethnic conflict escalated into a genocide in which hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were killed. Rwanda has since emerged as a unique example of cross-ethnic healing and post-conflict reconstruction. The government of Rwanda (GoR) is actively looking to the future, and it has requested the assistance of Peace Corps Volunteers to help carry out its Vision 2020 and decentralization plan, which strongly focuses on community development, health, and HIV/AIDS.
HIV prevalence in Rwanda is estimated to be 3.1 percent among adults ages 15-49. According to the statistics, urban areas have higher HIV prevalence than rural areas, and women are at higher risk of HIV infection than men. Young women ages 15 to 24 are twice as likely to be infected with HIV as young men in the same age group. The GoR and its partners, including The President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the World Bank, and the Global Fund are working to improve and expand HIV/AIDS services such as counseling and testing (CT), prevention of motherto- child transmission (PMTCT), care for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWA) and orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and antiretroviral therapy. As the availability of health services expands to deal with malaria (with support from the President’s Malaria Initiative) and HIV/AIDS, and family planning and maternal and child health services improve,
strategies to increase the demand for these services are needed. There is also a need to strengthen linkages among communities, health facilities, and other service providers to promote behavior change and to adopt healthier lifestyles. In addition, officials managing administrative offices at the local governmental level frequently lack adequate training to perform their duties at full capacity, and civil society in Rwanda is relatively new and weak.
With the signing of the agreement on July 18, 2008, Peace Corps/Rwanda will re-establish its presence with a public health project. An initial group of 35 Volunteers will collaborate with other United States government partners to develop the capacity of local health centers and communitybased organizations to plan, coordinate, and deliver HIV/AIDS services. Volunteers will work with a variety of partners, including Rwandan administrative authorities, international organizations, and other private sector partners at the district, sector, and cell levels to carry out their development plans to strengthen their efforts in HIV education, prevention, and care activities. Volunteers will also work with partners to build the capacity of HIV/AIDS-focused nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), community-based organizations (CBOs), faith-based organizations (FBOs), and other associations by providing assistance in the areas of strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation, and project development. The long-term objective of the work undertaken by Volunteers is that people and families living with AIDS will have increased access to prevention, care, and treatment services, and that the care they have access to is comprehensive and provided by a strengthened network of governmental and civil service providers.
See also: Rwanda