Office of the Press Secretary
(Managua, Nicaragua)

For Immediate Release March 8, 1999


Aboard Air Force One
En Route To Managua, Nicaragua

10:25 A.M. EST

MR. LOCKHART: The Director of the Peace Corps, Mark Gearan, has a few words for you, and I'll come back later.

Q We're almost done, aren't we?

MR. GEARAN: I know. This is a rare pleasure, meaning -- well, I think the only thing I could add is the work of our Peace Corps volunteers over the years -- 10,000 Americans have served as Peace Corps volunteers in Central America. We have over 500 in these countries, many working on disaster relief and some of the mitigation efforts.

But, specifically, what the President's going to be meeting with some of our Crisis Corps volunteers, which is a new program within the Peace Corps that was established a year and a half ago -- President Clinton announced it -- where we send those members who have been in the Peace Corps -- return Peace Corps volunteers -- to go back for a short-term assignment, six months or less. It's a functional reserve, if you will, within the Peace Corps.

So they go back to their country or region of service, because they know the language, the people, the culture, and they're literally ready at day one to make a difference in disaster relief. So we have many Crisis Corps volunteers working here in Central America. Mrs. Gore recommended sending Crisis Corps volunteers after her trip here. Mrs. Clinton announced part of it on one of her visits, so we have many Crisis Corps volunteers that are working here in the region.

Q Do you know how many?

MR. GEARAN: Well, we have probably about 30 now. We're sending another group down in the next couple of months. Over the course of the year, we expect to have 100 Crisis Corps volunteers. We have about 500 regular Peace Corps volunteers working -- regular meaning they serve for two years. Crisis Corps is six months or less.

Q By "here" you mean Nicaragua or the region?

MR. GEARAN: The region. Central America.

Q By 500, that refers to the entire region, not to the four countries physically that we're visiting?

MR. GEARAN: No, that refers to the four countries. Worldwide we have 6,700 Peace Corps volunteers in 80 countries. And last Wednesday, the House approved the Peace Corps reauthorization by a vote of 326-90, to reauthorize the Peace Corps for four years, and allowing for its growth to get to 10,000 volunteers, which was an important initiative for the past year and a half. So almost by a 4-1 margin on a bipartisan basis, we expect the Peace Corps to expand.

After the hurricanes, we sent down many more Peace Corps volunteers here, about a 25 percent increase of volunteers to the region after the hurricanes, to be responsive to it.

Q How many permanent volunteers do you --

Q Can you repeat that?

Q Permanent volunteers?

MR. GEARAN: We had a 25 percent increase in the region, which is 78 additional volunteers to these four countries.

Q He's not announcing any additional deployment on this trip, he's just thanking them.

MR. GEARAN: That's correct. They'll be here and meeting with him as part of the event here, as well as at the various arrivals at the airports.

Q Are there any actually living in Posoltega?

MR. GEARAN: They're living in the region, and many of our presently serving volunteers were in the region, so it's well-known to the Peace Corps because our presence here has been significant for so many years. We can get you a list of who they are and where they're from. I can give you this, I'll put this in the report.

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