CHICAGO – Jill Maria Cadreau, 29, from Michigan and of Chippewa heritage, was sworn in this week as one of 12 former Peace Corps volunteers selected to re-enter service in Liberia, where the Peace Corps is re-opening its program after an 18-year absence. Cadreau, who just competed her first two-year Peace Corps assignment in Mozambique as an English teacher volunteer, is now part of the first wave of Peace Corps volunteers going back to Liberia to assist in the country’s education reconstruction. Cadreau will serve as an English and math teacher volunteer and also work with the Liberian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.
On Oct. 27, at the Liberian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Monrovia, Peace Corps Director Ronald A. Tschetter and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf led a swearing-in ceremony for the volunteers, which was also attended by United States Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Peace Corps Liberia Country Director Lucianne Phillips, Liberian Education Minster Joseph Korto, Liberian Health Minister Walter Gweningale and World Food Program Representative Louis Imbleau.
Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter said, “Liberia has faced great challenges and shown the world its strong spirit. I want to thank President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for welcoming the Peace Corps back to work with the Liberian people. We’re proud to continue the American legacy of providing education volunteers to Liberia, and to be able to contribute to the country’s development efforts.”
These experienced volunteers will be serving in Liberia through a program called Peace Corps Response, a unique Peace Corps program that mobilizes previous Peace Corps volunteers for short-term humanitarian service assignments worldwide. The Liberia volunteers, ranging in age from 24 to 68, bring a variety of professional expertise and experience to their service.
Cadreau, who was named Sault Ste. Marie Public Schools’ 2004 Outstanding Community Leader of Native American Studies, acquired an associate’s in Nishnaabemwin Language Instructors Institute and graduated cum laude from Michigan Technological University (MTU) in Houghton, Mich., earning a bachelor’s degree and certificates in English Education and Mathematics in 2003. At MTU, Cadreau was president of the Native American Association/American Indian Science and Engineering Society and also completed an exchange program at the University of Alaska where she hosted a weekly Native American radio program. After graduation, she worked as a student services assistant for the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe Youth Education & Activities Program. And prior to joining Peace Corps, she taught junior high at Bay Mills Ojibwe Charter School in Brimley, Mich.
During Cadreau’s recent Peace Corps service in southeastern Africa from September 2005 through April 2008, she taught English in a small coastal village and successfully acquired a grant to expand the school’s library resources. Also, as part of the Peace Corps cultural exchange goal, she was able to share her Native American heritage and Ojibwe language with her Mozambique community as well as become fully immersed in her host country’s language and culture.
This first group of volunteers in Liberia will serve for eight months, and by the end of 2009, a total of 22 volunteers are expected to join the program, bringing the total number of volunteers up to approximately 34 by the end of next year. The Peace Corps will follow the evolution of the program over the next few years to see if it can be transformed from a Peace Corps Response program into a regular two-year program for Peace Corps volunteers.
Over 4,400 Peace Corps volunteers served in Liberia from 1962 until 1990, when the program was suspended due to the Liberian civil war. With the country enjoying a new period of stability and at the request of President Sirleaf, the Peace Corps has re-established a program in Liberia. President Sirleaf said in her request, “Such short-term projects aimed at raising the capacities and capabilities of Liberian teachers would have a profound impact upon civil society as a whole.”
Peace Corps volunteers who have completed their Peace Corps service are eligible to apply for the special Peace Corps Response program and serve short-term assignments at any time following their regular service. Since 1996, Peace Corps Response volunteers have served in more than 40 countries, including Sri Lanka and Thailand after the 2004 tsunami. Volunteers also served along the U.S. Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina.
As the Peace Corps approaches its 50th anniversary, its service legacy continues to promote peace and friendship around the world. Historically, over 195,000 Peace Corps volunteers – including 6,260 from the state of Michigan – have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries in which they have served. Applications to serve in the Peace Corps have increased 16 percent this past year, the largest boost in the last five years. Currently, 7,876 Peace Corps volunteers are serving in 75 countries. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age, but there is no upper age limit. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment, including comprehensive language, program and safety & security training. For information, visit http://www.peacecorps.gov .