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Floridian Makes Large Impact in El Salvador

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 12, 2009 – Peace Corps Volunteer Patricia Hernandez of Key Biscayne, Florida, is making a difference in rural El Salvador through a vocational training initiative that teaches local women how to sew and tailor clothes. Equipped with fabric, rulers, buttons, and thread, 21 women from a town heavily impacted by El Salvador’s civil war are stitching together brighter futures for their families.

Early in her service, Hernandez surveyed women in her village on the type of vocational training in which they were most interested. Sewing ranked as one of the highest priorities in this village, where clothing costs are on the rise and tailoring has become a highly marketable skill. Many women viewed the training as an opportunity to become financially independent, either by sewing clothes for their families or marketing their skills to the community.

After purchasing all of their own supplies, participants began a four-month training course led by a skilled seamstress who traveled by foot from a nearby village each afternoon to teach the group. The instructor’s hard work and dedication have paid off, evidenced by students who are now confident in and empowered by their sewing skills. “I have always loved to sew but didn’t know what I was doing,” explained one participant. “Now I do and feel confident about the work I will make for others.”

“The class has fulfilled more than what I initially planned,” said Hernandez. “At least one woman thus far has purchased a new sewing machine and practices at home after the class. Every woman has purchased her own set of tools needed for sewing, and they even buy their own cloth to practice at home with. I know that this is a project that will have benefits long after I am gone.”

This project was funded through the Peace Corps Partnership Program, which allows individuals or groups to donate funds to specific Peace Corps projects. The Partnership Program works to create effective partnerships with the communities it serves. In order to receive funding through the program, a community must make a 25 percent contribution to the total project cost, as well as outline “success indicators” for the project. This helps to ensure community involvement and project sustainability.

One-hundred percent of each tax-deductible donation goes toward a development project. In-kind contributions, such as computers and school supplies, can also provide valuable support. To learn more about the Partnership Program or to see other projects currently in need of funds, visit www.peacecorps.gov/contribute.

As the Peace Corps approaches its 50th anniversary, its service legacy continues to promote peace and friendship around the world. Historically, over 195,000 Volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries in which they have served. Applications to serve in the Peace Corps have increased 16 percent this past year, the largest boost in the last five years. Currently, 7,876 Peace Corps Volunteers are serving in 76 countries. Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.

-The Peace Corps.

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