Posted on September 6, 2012, Thursday
by Lian Cheng, email@example.com.
MARKING HISTORY: Richard Harvey, 63, (centre) who served in Sarikei, Sarawak as a Peace Corps volunteer between 1965 to 1966 pinning his story up on a board specially made for other members of the public with Peace Corps connections while Tourism Assistant Minister Datuk Talib Zulpilip (left) and Jones look on.
KUCHING: In keeping with the voluntary spirit of the Peace Corps, the US government will be sending an English teaching specialist to Sarawak next week to work with local secondary school teachers and students on enhancing their English teaching proficiency.
“He is going to work with scores of Sarawakian Malaysian secondary school teachers and students, as part of the effort to broaden and grow our English language connections,” said US Ambassador to Malaysia Paul W Jones at the launch of the photo exhibition entitled ‘An Enduring Bond: Peace Corps 50th Anniversary Celebration in Malaysia’ .
In response to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s request to the US government on building closer educational ties, Terengganu, Pahang and Johor became the first beneficiaries of the Fullbright English Teaching Assistant programme.
This programme slated to be expanded next year has already seen 50 young American college graduates volunteering.
Yesterday’s launch of the photo exhibition is almost 50 years to the day the first Peace Corps volunteers group arrived in Kuching on Aug 23, 1962.
TRANSCENDING LANGUAGES: Jones was impressed with the publication and translation of his editorial in all three See Hua Group publications, particularly the Iban version in Utusan Borneo’s Berita Iban section shown by The Borneo Post features editor Margaret Apau.
The exhibition features the background history of the Peace Corps as well as personal stories published over the last few months in The Borneo Post as part of the US Embassy’s run-up activities to the launching.
The stories contributed by former Peace Corps volunteers and those who had personal connections captured the nostalgia of friendships that transcended borders and time.
The Peace Corps programme concluded in Malaysia in 1983.
The photo exhibition at the State Library here marks the first stop on its East Malaysian leg and will be open to the public for the next three weeks.
Jones said the first group of Peace Corps arrived in Sarawak in August 23, 1962 and over the 21 years, thousands more joined, making Peace Corps Malaysia the largest Peace Corps Programme in the world with almost 600 volunteers here during 1968.
“Most volunteers taught in schools, in Bahasa Malaysia and in English, helping address the urgent needs for teachers after Malaysia, opened secondary schooling to all in 1964.
“And others worked in healthcare, agriculture, all varieties of fields. Some made major contributions, for example, to university medical training programmes, or the documentation of flora and fauna of Malaysia, to name a few.
“Volunteers served in all Malaysian states, often in rural areas, far from towns and cities … sometimes only reachable by boat. Many studied Bahasa Malaysia for months before arriving and spoke the language in their daily lives.
“American Peace Corps are proud to play a small part in the great story of Malaysia development in the decades after independence,” said Jones.
Jones, however, pointed out that beyond their concrete contribution to education, health and development, perhaps the most significant legacy of the Peace Corps was the personal and human ties the volunteers formed.
He said the connection made was so strong that many volunteers actually stayed on after the conclusion of their programme, finding their lives permanently intertwined with their adopted Malaysian communities.
“Over my two years here in Malaysia, I was struck by how alive the connections are between Peace Corps volunteers and Malaysian hosts,” said Jones.
He thanked The Borneo Post management and editorial team for its participation and contribution in promoting the event and sharing the inspiring stories of Peace Corps volunteers and those with connections to them.