12 November 1998


The Peace Corps in Jordan
Building bridges of friendship
and understanding



By Ghassan Joha
Star Staff Writer

TRUE PEACE is not merely the absence of hostility. It requires a lot of cooperation to nourish the acceptance and appreciation of coexistence. In this bid for peace, the role development is a powerful tool, as it increases people's social and economic awareness.

With this goal in sight, the Peace Corps was officially launched by the President John F. Kennedy on March 1961, with the aim of helping people of developing countries to acquire skills and training. The initiative came after President Kennedy's call to the Americans to, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for you country."

Today, over 6000 volunteers have taken part in the Peace Corps, serving in 95 countries worldwide. More than 151,000 Americans have joined the corps since its founding, providing assistance in education, health, agriculture, and the environment.

The two main objectives of the corps are to promote better awareness between the American people and the world, and to provide volunteers to work in the social and economic development fields. A lot of the work is focused on the community, and aims to protect the local environment, whilst creating economic opportunities.

The Peace Corps, however, is much more than a development agency. Its volunteers embody some of the most endured values: Hope, optimism, freedom, and opportunity. They also receive intensive language and cross-cultural training, in order to relate with the concerned communities. The men and women who serve as volunteers, reflect the rich diversity of the US. They also share a common spirit of service, dedication, and idealism.

At the invitation of the Jordanian government, the first Peace Corps volunteers arrived in Jordan in May 1997. The 27 volunteers began their two-year mission working side by side with their Jordanian counterparts, touring and prospecting the different regions of the Kingdom. In July this year, another 36 volunteers joined their colleagues, and began their two-year service to benefit the Jordanian people.

Sending peace volunteers to Jordan has represented a historic step in the development of relations between Jordan and the US, and is in accordance with the agreement signed in October 1996, after bilateral discussions between His Majesty King Hussein and the US President Bill Clinton. Earlier this year, Her Majesty Queen Noor had participated in the inauguration of the new headquarters of the Peace Corps in Washington, together with Mrs Hilary Clinton.

As most of Jordan's volunteers work with women projects, almost two-thirds of the corps consists of young women. The volunteers currently work under the auspices of the Ministry of Social Development, and coordinate their efforts with Jordanian NGOs, such as the Noor Al Hussein Foundation, Queen Alia Fund for Social Development, and the Jordan River Designs to name but a few.

Jordan is the eighth Arab country in which the Peace Corps have operated in. Previously, the corps has sent volunteers to North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Volunteers have also served in most of the East-Asian countries, like Iran, Turkey and Pakistan. Jordan represents the 132nd country to have benefited from the Peace Corps, since its formation in 1961.

For the volunteers, the learning process is a two way thing. In their efforts to provide sustainable growth at the grass-root level, the volunteers acquire many skills from their Jordanian co-workers. The volunteers receive no special privileges, and live in the rural communities where their work is located. Their role has not changed since 1961: To build bridges of friendship and understanding among people, in the pursuit of peace among all nations.


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