USAID joined Peace Corps this month in Washington and Kathmandu to celebrate the return of its volunteers to Nepal for the first time in seven years.

USAID Assistant Administrator for Asia Nisha Biswal (left) and Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams (seated, right) signed an inter-agency agreement to re-establish a Peace Corps program in Nepal after a seven-year absence from the country. Nepal’s Ambassador to the United States Shankar Prasad Sharma (center) and Assistant Secretary of State Robert O. Blake Jr. (standing) both spoke at the signing ceremony about the lasting contributions volunteers have had in Nepal. Photo Credit: J. Truong, USAID

In Kathmandu, Nepal’s Prime Minister, Dr. Babarum Bhattarai, said at an event at his offices that “I am very pleased with the return of the Peace Corps to Nepal. From the early 60s, thousands of volunteers have served in districts all across this country. I remember in much of the 60s and 70s the volunteers were a big source of teachers for subjects like math and science. I am very glad that with USAID’s assistance, the volunteers are coming back one more time to help with agriculture and health. Those are areas that need help, and I welcome the decision to redeploy the Peace Corps.”

Among those volunteers who served in Nepal include William Douglass, who now works with USAID. “Serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal 45 years ago gave me unique opportunities to meet and work with a wide range of Nepalese villagers, urban dwellers and government officials throughout the country. I came away from Nepal with a strong appreciation for the people and the culture, and together with my wife who was also a volunteer, have taken many opportunities to return. During two assignments in the USAID mission in the 1980s and the 1990s, I was able to promote and support Peace Corps and USAID collaboration on Nepal Government projects. I and the many other former volunteers, including a number working with or for USAID, welcome this renewed collaboration to support Nepal’s development efforts after many years of conflict.”

Since 1962, over 4,000 Americans have served as Peace Corps Volunteers in Nepal, working on projects in education, environment and natural resource conservation, health, and community and youth development. Increasing security concerns forced Peace Corps to suspend its program there in 2004. But as stability has slowly returned to the country, USAID is partnering with Peace Corps to send American volunteers once again to Nepal.

The first group of approximately 20 Peace Corps volunteers is scheduled to arrive in Nepal later this year. The volunteers will be trained as Agriculture-Nutrition Extensionists, and will work with rural communities to build local capacity in Global Health Initiative and the Feed the Future priority areas.

“USAID is excited to partner with the Peace Corp and the Government of Nepal in supporting our shared objectives of improving food security and access to healthcare for the Nepalese people. USAID and the Peace Corps just commemorated 50 years of our common legacy, as organizations established by President Kennedy to reflect the best of American Values. It is fitting that we are once again partnering in Nepal, where both agencies have a long and significant history,” said Assistant Administrator for Asia Nisha Biswal.