Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Peter Henry Barlerin – Peace Corps Cameroon Swearing-in Ceremony

Salle des Fêtes Olympia – Foumbot

Friday August 3, 2018

Representative of the Minister of Secondary Education,
Governor of West Region,
Senior Divisional Officer for the Noun,
Divisional Officer for Foumbot Sub-Division,
Mayor of Foumbot,
Country Director for Peace Corps Cameroon.

Dear Host Families,
Dear Trainees,
Traditional, Religious, and Administrative officials,
Peace Corps Staff,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honored to participate with my wife Ines and our colleagues from the Embassy in this swearing-in ceremony for our new Peace Corps Volunteers, the first since my arrival in Cameroon.

During my nearly eight months in Cameroon, I’ve had the opportunity to visit a number of Volunteers at their sites and and have become familiar, and to be impressed, with the work they do.

It’s been inspiring to see your colleagues working alongside their Cameroonian counterparts, working together to on innovative projects that create a lasting impact on the lives of community members.

Over the years, and in different countries, I’ve had the great privilege to see the life-changing developments that Peace Corps brings to Americans and the citizens of partner countries alike.

For this, as the face of Peace Corps here in Cameroon, a big thanks to Country Director Danielle Monty-Mara for making all this possible.  Thank you.

Mr. Governor, Ladies and Gentlemen, this group of 21 trainees we have before us arrived in Yaoundé on May 22nd.  We didn’t have the opportunity to meet then, unfortunately, even though I wanted to, so I’m particularly excited to be here today, for their swearing-in.

I have learned just a smidgeon about their backgrounds and, while every one of  the trainees are outstanding achievers and fantastic people in their own rights, I’d like to highlight two just to give you an idea what kind of people the Peace Corps is sending out here to Cameroon.

Before joining the Peace Corps, Caroline Matarrese, from , Georgia worked as a farmhand on in France, including a farm that specialized in medicinal plants and tea making.

She also participated in an environmental outreach program for children, and she plans to put this hands-on experience to good use by making science tangible for her students, so they’re made more aware of how science impacts their daily lives.

We also have Seth Anderson, from Napa, California.  There are many things special about Seth, I am sure, but one of the special things about him is that he is going through pre-service training for the SECOND time.

After having been evacuated from Peace Corps Burkina Faso in September 2017, his motivation to be a Volunteer never waned;  he re-applied for Cameroon and we’re fortunate to have him here as an English teacher.

Permettez-moi de prononcer quelques mots en français.

Après un séjour de quelques jours à Yaoundé, ces nouveaux 21 volontaires ont  pris la destination de Foumbot et ont été immédiatement accueillis, à bras ouverts et avec générosité, par leurs familles d’accueil où ils vivent depuis dix semaines.

Il m’est difficile de m’imaginer une meilleure façon d’intégrer dans la communauté et d’immerger dans la culture.

Je prie tout le monde ici présent d’acclamer ces familles d’accueil pour leur soutien inestimable.

Familles d’accueil – s’il vous plaît, levez-vous.  Applaudissez s’il vous plaît, tout le monde.

Cet acte exceptionnel d’ouvrir vos portes à de parfaits inconnus avec des coutumes parfois étranges contribue certainement à encourager la paix et l’amitié.

Il encourage également les deuxième et troisième objectifs du Corps de la paix, qui promeuvent les échanges culturels et une meilleure entente entre les peuples de nos deux pays.

Back to English:  Mr. Governor, ladies and gentlemen, the volunteers before you have gone through ten weeks of intensive theoretical and practical training.

To ensure that they receive adequate hands-on experience and that Foumbot benefits as a host community, the training program was designed to include five weeks of model school teaching.

Over 400 Cameroonian students with ages ranging from nine to 20 years from Foumbot and its environs participated in the model school.

In addition to teaching science and math to students, the trainees taught computer and English language classes to over 60 adults from the community, with ages ranging from 20 to 65 years.

You should be aware that they came in with little to no knowledge of French or , and the two speeches you just heard are a testimony to how transformational the past ten weeks have been.

The representative of the Ministry of Secondary Education can rest assured that these 21 Volunteers will soon be serving the Ministry’s and Cameroonian people’s needs.

They are ready to work hand-in-hand with Cameroonian teachers to attain your educational and development goals.

Le succès de la formation de ces volontaires est le résultat d’un travail d’équipe.

Je voudrais exprimer ma gratitude à tous ceux qui, d’une manière ou d’une autre, ont contribué au succès de cette formation : les 53 membres du personnel du Corps de la paix, les 15 formateurs, le coordonnateur de l’insertion familiale et, en particulier, les 23 familles d’accueil.

En outre, je tiens à féliciter et remercier toutes les autorités qui ont rendu cette formation possible : notamment vous, M. le Gouverneur de la Région de l’Ouest, mais aussi le préfet du département du Noun, le sous-préfet de l’arrondissement de Foumbot, le Maire de Foumbot et tous vos partenaires de sécurité pour votre travail acharné à assurer la sécurité de nos stagiaires et de notre personnel.

Let me now turn to our soon-to-be Peace Corps Volunteers.

I have great confidence in your readiness to face the challenges that lie ahead of you.

Going through ten weeks of technical, cultural, and language immersion in Foumbot, a community initially new to all of you, has been a test of your coping strategies away from your homes and families.

The fact that you are here today indicates that you managed the training and are ready to take on the next adventure – the move to new communities that will be your homes for the next two years.

In choosing to devote 27 months of your lives to the Peace Corps, you have chosen a great path.

Volunteer service to others is a traditional value of the American people, in particular volunteer service to strangers..

Choosing to join the Peace Corps is a way to live this American tradition and become part of the greater human family.

Rewarding and enriching experiences await you as teachers – but remember that you are also learners

The interesting thing about serving others is that you always end up receiving as much as, if not more, than you give.

Now, consistent with the Peace Corps Manual, Volunteers are required to take an oath of service.

This oath, though just two sentences long, is a very powerful commitment.  Remember, you are all ambassadors.

As the face of the United States of America, you are ambassadors to your communities.

Through your service, you will promote peace and friendship by sharing American culture with Cameroon and bringing Cameroon back home to the United States.

Today is a very special day for you, but also a day to pay tribute to the 3,680 Volunteers who have served for the past 56 years of uninterrupted partnership between the Peace Corps and the Republic of Cameroon.

This includes the many volunteers that have served in neighboring Northwest and Southwest regions, and that are living such troubled times right now.

By taking the oath of service today, you will be adding your name to the long list of individuals who have served our country, who have served our two countries.

Now, it is my distinct honor to swear you in as Peace Corps Volunteers.  I invite all Volunteer inductees to stand, raise your right hand, and repeat after me:

I (state your name) DO SOLEMLY SWEAR THAT I WILL SUPPORT AND DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES AGAINST ALL ENEMIES, FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC;

THAT I WILL BEAR TRUE FAITH AND ALLEGEANCE TO THE SAME;

THAT I TAKE THIS OBLIGATION FREELY, WITHOUT ANY MENTAL RESERVATIONS OR PURPOSE OF EVASION;

AND THAT I WILL WELL AND FAITHFULLY DISCHARGE MY DUTIES IN THE PEACE CORPS.  SO HELP ME GOD.

You are now Peace Corps Volunteers.

CONGRATULATIONS!