US lawmakers call for reopening of Peace Corps programs in the Pacific

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US Senators and Representatives in a letter to the Acting Director of the Peace Corps, Carol Spahn, affirming their support for the reopening of Peace Corps programs in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu — which were suspended at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

American Samoa’s Congresswoman Uifa’atali Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen took part in this effort, which was led by Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Representative Ed Case (HI-01) and colleagues, Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) Jon Ossoff (D-Georgia.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii); and Representatives Thomas R. Suozzi (NY-03), Dina Titus (NV-01), John Garamendi (CA-03), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (CNMI).

In their letter, the lawmakers argue that the reestablishment of these programs will strengthen the Peace Corps’ ability to support vulnerable communities in the Pacific Island region.

“As a former Peace Corps employee, and parent of a former Peace Corps volunteer, I’ve seen firsthand that the Peace Corps makes a difference for people, and I support establishment of the Peace Corps in more Pacific locations,” said Congresswoman Aumua Amata.

“Peace Corps volunteers everywhere play a key role in strengthening the people-to-people ties between the United States and their host countries,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter. “The renewal of and return to in-person programs can be a starting point for greater Peace Corps presence in the Pacific Islands, which promotes a strong, vibrant, and resilient region.”

The four Peace Corps programs that will soon be reinstated are far fewer than the thirteen that previously existed in the region.

The lawmakers called upon the Peace Corps to reexamine their decision to close programs in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federates States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau, all of which used to have robust volunteer programs, and to conduct a formal evaluation to gauge the ease with which the agency could reinstate programs in these three countries taking into account the importance of the health and safety of Peace Corps volunteers.