History of the Peace Corps in Tonga

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History of the Peace Corps
Since 1960, when then Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries, more than 182,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in 138 countries all over the globe.

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The Peace Corps has a rich and extensive history in the Kingdom of Tonga. Volunteers first arrived in October 1967 at the invitation of King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV. The initial group consisted of only 39 trainees; by the end of that first year, there were more than 400 Volunteers and trainees in Tonga. Since then, more than 1,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in Tonga, primarily as teachers. However, Peace Corps programming in Tonga has also included work in fisheries, agriculture, physical therapy, architecture, health, marine biology, water resources, cooperatives, business, construction, environment, and youth.

Today, approximately 50 Volunteers are serving in Tonga. Current Volunteers are working in the community micro-enterprise development and community education projects. Both incorporate elements from previous programs and future Volunteers will build upon the foundations established by several generations of Volunteers in Tonga.

The community education project focuses on both formal and nonformal education at the village level. Most Volunteers serve in the communities with the greatest needs in Tonga, including remote outer islands and the smaller villages on the main island of Tongatapu. Volunteers divide their time roughly equally between their formal work as enrichment teachers in the classroom and their nonformal education activities at the community level. This approach helps establish schools as centers for community education and development throughout the kingdom.

In the schools, most education Volunteers serve as enrichment teachers for English as a second language (ESL) at the elementary and secondary school levels. Volunteers work closely with a Tongan counterpart teacher to develop, enhance, and enrich the English language instruction at all grade levels in their schools. Volunteers also help to develop resources, including library and computer resources, and increase the links between schools and communities. Many Volunteers are involved in creating and implementing community classes in the information technology (IT) and English fields. They are involved in a range of extracurricular activities including arts, music, physical education, sports leagues, and student clubs.

Outside the classroom, education Volunteers work closely with a wide range of community organizations including youth groups, women’s groups, church groups, and others. Using nonformal education techniques appropriate for adult audiences, Volunteers focus especially on environmental and health education. Volunteers promote appropriate solid waste management, recycling, integrated coastal management, and ecotourism development. The most important health education issues in Tonga are related to preventing noncommunicable diseases. To that end, Volunteers have created exercise programs and developed nutrition workshops and activities with community groups and through the formal school setting.

The community micro-enterprise development project is designed to meet the pressing needs of income-generating employment and capacity building for economic growth throughout the kingdom. Micro-enterprise Volunteers advise and motivate potential business entrepreneurs and provide training for youth, women, and communities throughout the kingdom. They work through programs provided by the Tonga Development Bank; the Ministry of Labor, Commerce, Industries and Tourism; and the Tonga National Youth Congress. Volunteers work with local counterparts and clients to develop appropriate training programs and provide effective advice on financial and managerial topics, marketing techniques, skills development, and motivation to those who are interested in starting a business or participating in income-generating activities.

Micro-enterprise Volunteers work in a variety of business fields, including solid-waste management, recycling, sports, ecotourism, and farm and small-scale agribusiness management. Many of these business activities complement community education project activities.

All Volunteers regardless of sector work at their sites and in their villages on disaster preparedness, mitigation, and assessment activities. They work with their schools, town officers, and town councils to ensure that their communities are prepared for any disasters that might occur.

Assignment History

Sector Assignment Beg. Yr End. Yr
Agriculture Ag Economics 1989 1989
Ag Education 1981 1986
Ag Extension 1969 2000
Animal Husband 1981 1981
Animal Husband Lg 1980 1990
Apiculture 1971 1976
Crop Extension 1967 1992
Farm Mechanics 1982 1984
Fisheries Marine 1982 1991
Business Accounting 1982 1994
Archictecture 1981 1982
Business Advising 1970 2007
Business Development 1970 2007
Computer Science 1992 2007
Cooperatives 1981 1990
NGO Advising 1995 2006
Crisis Corps Crisis Corps 1990 1990
Education Art Education 1984 1984
Bus. Ed/Sectl Skl 1980 1984
English Teacher 1970 2002
English Teacher Trainer 1991 2004
Fisheries Fresh 2000 2000
Gen. Construction 1985 2003
Home Economics 1981 1981
Industrial Arts 1979 1996
Phys. Ed/Youth Wk 1994 1998
Prim-Ed/Teach Trn 1980 2007
Science Ed/Gen. 1980 1987
Secondary-Ed Math 1991 2000
Secondary-Ed Sci. 1979 2000
Special Ed/Gen. 1981 1985
Univ. English Teaching 1978 2002
Voc. Trainer 1981 1992
Environment Comm Forestry Ext 1987 1998
Environmental Ed. 1990 2007
Forestry 1986 1992
Protected Areas Management 1992 2003
Health Envir. and Water Resource 1972 1982
Health Degreed 1980 1991
Health Extension 1980 2007
Home Econ/Ext. 1990 1990
Hygiene Ed/Sanitation 1979 1986
Physical Therapy 1985 1987
Master's International Masters Internationalist 1999 1999
Other Flexible App 1980 1992
Unique Skill 1979 1993
UNV United Nations Volunteer 1976 1995
Youth and Community Development Appropriate Tech. 1983 1995
Commun. Serv/Deg. 1979 2004
Mechanics 1983 1983
Road Const/Engin. 1973 1976
Youth Development 1995 2007