U.S. Peace Corps Celebrates 50 Years of Friendship with the Basotho People

The United States Government celebrated 50 years of friendship and collaboration between the Peace Corps and the Basotho people at Thaba-Bosiu, December 12, 2018. A high-levelA delegation from the Peace Corps Headquarters led by Meredith Giordano, Deputy Director of Global Operations, visited Lesotho this week to participate in the commemoration, in partnership with the Government of Lesotho. Their Majesties King Letsie III and Queen ‘Masenate, and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane attended the event on behalf of the Kingdom of Lesotho. The celebration included a swearing-in ceremony for 60 new Peace Corps Volunteers, bringing the total number currently serving in Lesotho to 118.

Since the Peace Corps program began, more than 2,500 American Peace Corps Volunteers have called the Mountain Kingdom home. Together with their Basotho colleagues, the Peace Corps volunteers have been working since 1967 to uplift socioeconomic conditions and improve health and education outcomes for people in some of the remotest parts of the country and urban centers alike. Since 2003, Peace Corps has also become an integral part of the U.S. President’s Emergency Response for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the U.S. Government’s comprehensive global response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, globally.

Ambassador to Lesotho Rebecca E. Gonzales noted, “As we celebrate this milestone, we extend our most heartfelt appreciation to the Basotho people across the country who directly support our Volunteers – their colleagues and collaborators, their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and friends…Together, we are contributing to the goal of improving the quality of education, health, and opportunities for young people in Lesotho.”

Today, Peace Corps Volunteers in the Health program work with Basotho counterparts in communities, schools, and health facilities to empower adolescents with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to achieve the promise of an AIDS-free generation. Volunteers organize fun, interactive, and age-appropriate activities that encourage participation and create safe spaces for adolescents to learn and share their experiences while building self-esteem and developing life skills. Activities cover a range of topics including HIV prevention, drug adherence, stigma, gender equity, gender-based violence, healthy living, and more.

At the same time, Education Volunteers collaborate with their counterparts to improve the quality of teaching and learning in Lesotho’s education system. The priority areas, identified by the Ministry of Education and Training, are English language and literature in primary schools and mathematics in high schools. Besides classroom instruction in English and math disciplines, Education Volunteers focus their efforts in HIV/AIDS mitigation strategies by teaching Life Skills classes and facilitating Youth HIV/AIDS camps within their immediate communities and beyond.