Remarks by Ambassador Rebecca Gonzales at the Peace Corps Swearing-in Ceremony, December 11 2019

Khotsong, Bo ‘M’e le Bo ‘Ntate

Please allow me to pay my respects to:

His Majesty King Letsie III

Her Majesty the Queen

The Right Honorable, the Prime Minister

The Honorable Minister of Education and Training,

The Honorable Minister of Health

Honorable Members of Cabinet

District Administrators of Maseru and Berea

Distinguished Guests

And, last but not least,

Peace Corps Volunteers and members of the Peace Corps Lesotho family,

Welcome!

It is a pleasure to welcome you on this very special occasion, the celebration of the swearing-in of 55 new Peace Corps Volunteers.  On behalf of the U.S. Embassy and the Peace Corps Lesotho team, let me say “Rea Leboha” to you all.

As we celebrate today, we extend our most heartfelt appreciation to the Basotho people across the country who directly support our Volunteers – their colleagues and collaborators, their family members and friends.  I can think of no better way to show our thanks than by swearing-in 55 new Peace Corps volunteers.

The Peace Corps is a very special organization, and it has an especially impressive history in Lesotho.  Volunteers have worked successfully to strengthen mutual understanding and the bonds of friendship between our two peoples since 1967, a year after independence.
Since that time, more than 2,600 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in Lesotho, working closely with their Basotho counterparts, mainly in the fields of education and health.  Peace Corps Lesotho continues to be a vibrant and dynamic program, a central pillar of the relationship between my country and the Mountain Kingdom.  At the end of today’s ceremony, there will be 118 Volunteers currently serving in Lesotho.

As one of the five U.S. government agencies under PEPFAR, the Peace Corps is key player in the United States’ large-scale initiative to support Lesotho in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  Every Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho is part of this vital effort.  In addition to their work as youth and health specialists and as teachers of English and mathematics, these new Peace Corps Volunteers will assist young people by promoting the development of life skills and collaborating with Basotho partners to prevent HIV and link youth with essential health care services.

Let me take a moment to those who have helped set our new Volunteers up for success.  First, thank you to the Ministry of Education and Training and the Ministry of Health for their strong support.  The Ministries help set our volunteers up for success in their communities, some continuing the work of prior Volunteers and others as the first in their communities.

Thank you to the Peace Corps staff members, and especially the team of Language and Cultural Facilitators who have ensured that Volunteers possess the necessary language skills, and the essential professional and cultural knowledge.

And last but certainly not least, thank you to the host communities and the families of Ha-Mamathe, Morolong, Mokhehle and Ntebele in the Berea district who have welcomed Volunteers in their homes and shown them all the things that make this beautiful country so special.   This is the embodiment of my favorite Sesotho saying  – Motho Ke Motho Ka Batho – “We are who we are because of other people.:

And now, I would like to address a few words to the group of Volunteers who are about to be swore in:

Trainees, you are about to become Volunteers.  You have trained hard; been exposed to things you probably had never imagined; and experienced some emotional ups and downs, as you learned to live without many of the comforts you were used to, and to function effectively in a culture so different from your own.  I’m sure you have discovered along the way that a sense of humor is essential to adapting to a new culture.   You will need it more than ever as you move into your new communities.

You are about to join a very special family – that of Peace Corps Volunteers and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers from Lesotho. That family includes hundreds of thousands of Americans who share a common bond.   It is a bond of shared experience, of learning another culture, its language, and its values.  Just like those who came before you, you will be changed through your service and you will come to know and rely on the inner strength that resides within you.

Here in Lesotho, you can and will make a real difference.  You will contribute to the development of your communities in ways big and small, lending your expertise and ingenuity.  Remember that the impact you have on those around you will be significant but often not immediately apparent.  You will need to be patient when projects don’t unfold as quickly as you would like or you find challenges along the road.  Remember, too, that – like it or not – you are representatives of your country and that people will form lasting impressions of the United States based on their interactions with you.   I know you will take on that responsibility with great care and dedication.

Again, my most sincere thanks to all of you here today for supporting the Peace Corps and walking with us on this journey.

Khotso, Pula, Nala.