Fifty-nine US citizens were sworn in as Peace Corps volunteers in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, adding to 106 members currently at work across the country.
The swearing-in ceremony at the US Embassy came after nine months of training in Takeo province, where the volunteers studied Khmer language and Cambodian culture.
“Since Peace Corps volunteers live with Cambodian host families, the volunteers obtained a deep understanding of Cambodian culture, its language and its people,” Jeff Daigle, the US Embassy charge d’affaires, said at the ceremony. “When volunteers return to the United States, they have much to share about Cambodia with Americans, and in this way, both of our countries gain from the Peace Corps program.”
The Peace Corps is a government-sponsored program established by former president John F. Kennedy in 1961 that has sent around 200,000 volunteers to 139 countries around the world. Since 2007, the program has placed 227 people in 14 provinces around Cambodia.
Tuesday’s swearing in marked the fifth round of volunteers for the agency. Volunteers will serve a total of two years in the country, working on environmental education, domestic violence prevention, small business development and leadership for girls, the US Embassy said in a statement.
“They will take the wisdom they gain with them,” said Penny Fields, the Peace Corps country director for Cambodia. “They will carry Cambodia forever in their hearts.”
Volunteer Sean Crotty said he had developed a love of Cambodian food already. “I ate nine plates of rice per day,” he said.
Health Minister Mam Bunheng, who presided over the ceremony, said Peace Corps volunteers were contributing to Cambodia’s development. He then warned them to be careful of malaria and diarrhea.