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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Fifth Round of Peace Corps Volunteers Sworn In

“Since Peace Corps volunteers live with Cambodian host families, the volunteers obtained a deep understanding of Cambodian culture, its language and its people.”

59 new Peace Corps volunteers are sworn in during a ceremony at Phnom Penh's Daegu Gyeong Buk Cultural Center on Monday, October 3, 2011.

Fifty-nine US citizens were sworn in as Peace Corps volunteers in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, adding to 106 members currently at work across the country.

The swearing-in ceremony at the US Embassy came after nine months of training in Takeo province, where the volunteers studied Khmer language and Cambodian culture.

“Since Peace Corps volunteers live with Cambodian host families, the volunteers obtained a deep understanding of Cambodian culture, its language and its people,” Jeff Daigle, the US Embassy charge d’affaires, said at the ceremony. “When volunteers return to the United States, they have much to share about Cambodia with Americans, and in this way, both of our countries gain from the Peace Corps program.”

The Peace Corps is a government-sponsored program established by former president John F. Kennedy in 1961 that has sent around 200,000 volunteers to 139 countries around the world. Since 2007, the program has placed 227 people in 14 provinces around Cambodia.

Tuesday’s swearing in marked the fifth round of volunteers for the agency. Volunteers will serve a total of two years in the country, working on environmental education, domestic violence prevention, small business development and leadership for girls, the US Embassy said in a statement.

“They will take the wisdom they gain with them,” said Penny Fields, the Peace Corps country director for Cambodia. “They will carry Cambodia forever in their hearts.”

Volunteer Sean Crotty said he had developed a love of Cambodian food already. “I ate nine plates of rice per day,” he said.

Health Minister Mam Bunheng, who presided over the ceremony, said Peace Corps volunteers were contributing to Cambodia’s development. He then warned them to be careful of malaria and diarrhea.
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Fast Relief Urged for Families in Flooding

A man pulls a giant jar in flood waters on a street in Kandal province September 30, 2011. Some 141 people have died in Cambodia since Aug. 13 in the worst flooding along the Mekong River in 11 years after heavy rain swamped homes, washed away bridges and forced thousands of people to evacuate, the Cambodian National Disaster Management Committee said.

The relief organization Oxfam American on Tuesday called for increased efforts to help tens of thousands of families cope with severe flooding across the country.

The US-based group said displaced people need food deliveries, clean water, sanitation supplies and shelters, as the death toll from floods in August rose to 164 people and nearly 21,000 people have been displaced.

Flooding has affected some 215,000 families across 17 provinces, inundating 900 schools, 420 pagodas, 75 health centers and nearly 300,000 hectares of rice crop, said Keo Vy, cabinet chief of the National Committee for Disaster Management.

Oxfam America said in a statement that government and relief agency responses are under way, but more assistance is necessary.

Last week, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the government was allocating $55 million and 1.7 million tons of rice to relief efforts.

Francis Perez, who lead’s Oxfam’s humanitarian efforts in Cambodia, said these relief supplies and others need released “immediately.”

Oxfam teams are working side-by-side with the government and other agencies in Kampong Thom, the hardest-hit province, distributing hygiene kits of water filters, hand soap and other goods to abut 300 families in Kampong Svay district. Oxfam said it expects to reach 1,000 families by the end of the week.

And while floodwaters have abated recently, there is concern that more rain could come with a tropical storm currently headed towards central Vietnam or southern China.

Meanwhile, National Election Committee officials said Tuesday that flooding in 300 different communes had prevented new voters to register for the 2012 commune council elections. NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha said the committee would now have to determine whether to extend the registration deadline in those areas beyond Oct. 15.
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