Ambassador Kathleen M. Fitzpatrick Remarks at the Peace Corps “Celebration of Service”

Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Commerce Ambassador Isilio Coehlo, other members of the Timor-Leste government, representatives of Timorese communities, Peace Corps, colleagues and friends, I am honored to be a part of today’s Peace Corps Celebration of Service.

It is a great pleasure to see these amazing Peace Corps Volunteers here today. They come from all over the United States of America. Two years ago, this courageous group of Americans arrived in Timor-Leste.  At that time, I know they felt they were far away from their own homes. I am sure they were full of emotions: happiness, anxiety and excitement. But, they all arrived with a strong commitment and determination to serve both the Timorese people and the people of the United States. After two years in Timor-Leste, I am sure that these Peace Corps Volunteers think of Timor-Leste as home!   They live in the homes of their Timorese families and have been welcomed as sisters and brothers. They work alongside Timorese friends in the villages, districts and municipalities and now feel they are also members of the Timorese community.

We could not be more proud of these Americans. Their work shows that the presence of the U.S. Peace Corps in Timor-Leste is important and valuable. That is why the return of Peace Corps Volunteers to Timor-Leste was a momentous occasion. Peace Corps had been gone from Timor-Leste for nine long years.   We are glad they are back. We are proud of the work that made the return of the Peace Corps possible. It required years of planning between Peace Corps, the Timor-Leste government and the U.S. Mission. It was worth all of the hard work. This TL7 group is the second group of Peace Corps Volunteers who have helped us reopen the program. In many ways, they have been pioneers, helping Timorese communities to understand the work of the Peace Corps in partnership with the Timorese people. Their presence also reaffirms the commitment of the United States of America to Timor-Leste.

Your Excellencies and representatives of the Timor-Leste government, I want to thank you for your support in re-opening the Peace Corps program.

I also want to thank the Timorese community members who are here today.  I have had the opportunity to meet some of you over the past few months. We appreciate your help in working with these Volunteers.  You have taught them so much about Timorese culture, about partnership and the importance of family and community.   I am sure they will always remember their time with you and your families. Volunteers of group TL7, I congratulate you on your many accomplishments over the last two years. I could not be more proud of you and your achievements. You may not realize it now, but you have had an incredibly positive impact on those you have served.  Thank you for your service to Timor-Leste and to the United States of America.  We wish you all the best in your next endeavors.