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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Peace Corps Volunteers Sworn In

Days before they were to depart for their destinations in the Russian regions, 57 new Peace Corps volunteers were sworn in Thursday at an official ceremony at Spaso House, the U.S. ambassador's residence in Moscow.

They are the seventh group of U.S. volunteers to come to Russia to work as English teachers and consultants to educational institutions, businesses and nongovernmental organizations.

In his address to the new recruits, James Collins, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, compared his experience as one of 16 Americans studying in Moscow back in 1965 - one of the first groups of Americans to study in the Soviet Union - to the work of the Peace Corps volunteers.

"In some sense, what the 16 of us did at that time is what you are going to do as you take up your responsibilities in a very different and very new Russian Federation," Collins said.

Created in 1961 by then President John F. Kennedy to promote world peace, democracy and mutual understanding, the U.S.-government-funded Peace Corps recruits volunteers to work around the world, but the program was only expanded to include Russia in 1992.

"For too long our countries didn't understand each other," said Steven Taylor, the Peace Corps' Russian mission director. "This is a small but important way to say: 'We want to know you, Russia. We want to be partners with you.'"

Taylor, who has devoted 15 years to the Peace Corps, starting as an English teacher in Africa - where he adopted two boys - has served in Russia since 1996. He offered some advice to the newcomers.

"Do not whine or complain - Americans are very good at that. Do not fret or fuss. Trust yourself to be able to adapt and make a difference for peace," he said. "Remember that you have come to serve and not to be served."

Most of the volunteers have never been to Russia, and some have never left the Unites States before. They said they are looking forward to starting a new life in Russia.

"I need to do something very special in my life and the Peace Corps is the way to do it. It's a wonderful way to live within a community," said Connie Schramm, 62, a retired school teacher from Minnesota, who for the next two years will teach English to children in Petrozavodsk.

The volunteers will be scattered in cities and small towns throughout the country, where they will be living with families or in student dormitories. They will receive only minimal material support from the Peace Corps.

"We can't promise you an easy and well-organized life here," said Yelena Lachugina, who hosted the ceremony, warning the volunteers about the hardships of everyday life in Russia.

But Simone Bonneville, 21, who is on her way to teach English in Penza, was optimistic.

"We've come to Russia to share our experience with you, but we know that you'll teach us much more than we can give you," Bonneville said.