South Africa's 35th Group of Peace Corps volunteers who were recently sworn in. PHOTO: Supplied by US Peace Corps.

Johannesburg - Excitement was the order of the day as 33 new American Peace Corps Volunteers were sworn-in during a special ceremony at the US Community Center in Pretoria this week.

The 37th cohort of volunteers arrived in South Africa in January before embarking on an immersive 10-week training schedule that included training in language, culture, technical skills, and various health and well-being topics. Lessons in South African history and culture were also included in the training program.

These volunteers will now start their two-year journey contributing to HIV prevention and treatment as Community HIV Outreach Specialists in Limpopo and Mpumalanga. This newest group joins 138 American Volunteers already working to strengthen South Africa’s health and education sectors.

Speaking at the ceremony on Monday, acting US Deputy Chief of Mission, Elizabeth McKay, thanked the volunteers for their commitment and perseverance throughout the training and encouraged them to keep that momentum going as they start their community work. 

“You represent the commitment to volunteerism and public service that are central to the fabric of US society, and when you return to the United States, you will help Americans understand more about South Africans and their values,” said McKay.

“As Peace Corps Volunteers, you are one of the most enduring symbols of America, and we at the US Embassy are incredibly proud of your commitment,” McKay added.

Peace Corps South Africa’s Acting Country Director Daryn Warner echoed these statements and emphasized that understanding a community’s unique assets and needs are key to leaving a positive legacy.

Before joining, Volunteer Nicholas Hayes had conducted HIV outreach in the United States. 

“I joined Peace Corps because, through my work with HIV outreach back home, I realized how much need there was for support in that area. I thought it would be an enriching experience to come here and work with this community as well,” he explained. 

The US Peace Corps was established in 1961 to promote world peace and friendship. There are more than 8,000 Peace Corps Volunteers serving in over 70 countries worldwide, working with local communities to support education, health, HIV awareness, agriculture, small business, and the environment. 

More than 1 500 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in South Africa since the first cohort arrived in 1997, in response to a discussion between presidents Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton about ways in which their countries could work together to strengthen health and education.

African News Agency/ANA