Jump to Content or Main Navigation

Scenic images from the field

Oldest Peace Corps Volunteer Completes Service in Ukraine at Age 81

1952 Syracuse grad returns to New York City

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 1, 2012 – Bernard “Bernie” Cheriff, 81, of New York, N.Y., the oldest currently serving Peace Corps volunteer, today completed his 27 months of Peace Corps service in Ukraine. He returned home to his four children and six grandchildren in the New York area. Currently, 7 percent of Peace Corps volunteers are over the age of 50.

Since March 2010, Cheriff has worked as a youth and community development volunteer in central Ukraine, helping an English language school grow from one student to more than 100 students. Throughout his Peace Corps service, Cheriff also helped develop a business plan and accounting system for the school. In his spare time, he helped implement a program to import used bicycles from the United States to Ukraine, which were repaired by students and then donated to a local orphanage.

Magnifying glass icon The oldest currently serving Peace Corps volunteer Bernie Cheriff (Left) returns home from Ukraine today.  Bernie is with Peace Corps volunteer Kaitlyn Hauter and a Peace Corps staff member at a half marathon held in Ukraine.“Mr. Cheriff is superb example of how all Americans can make an impact in a developing country at any stage in life,” said Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams (returned Peace Corps volunteer, Dominican Republic, 1967-1970). “Older Americans bring tangible skills, professional development and life experience to their Peace Corps position in a community overseas. I encourage Americans to consider serving with the Peace Corps at any age.”

In addition, Cheriff taught English classes to local community members with disabilities and square dancing to young Ukrainians. Cheriff also introduced students to American traditions and holidays such as Thanksgiving and Halloween.

Cheriff recommends Peace Corps service and says he would consider serving again: “Would I volunteer for Peace Corps again? The answer is yes,” said Cheriff. “If I needed something, I would point and just keep smiling, and it worked,” he said.

Prior to his Peace Corps service, Cheriff practiced law for 50 years in New York City. He received both a bachelor’s degree in 1952 and a law degree in 1954 from Syracuse University.

Last year, New York was ranked second as the top producing state of Peace Corps volunteers; the New York/Northern New Jersey/Long Island region alone produced 393 Peace Corps volunteers, the greatest number of any metropolitan area in the nation.

There is no age limit to serve with the Peace Corps. For more information about Peace Corps volunteers over the age of 50, visit: www.peacecorps.gov/50plus.

Arthur Goodfriend of Honolulu, Hawaii was the oldest volunteer in Peace Corps’ history. He was 87 when he completed his service in Hungary in 1994.

About Peace Corps/Ukraine: More than 2,505 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Ukraine since the program was established in 1992. Currently, about 536 volunteers serve in Ukraine. Volunteers work in the areas of education, economic development, and youth development. Volunteers are trained and work in Russian and Ukrainian.

About the Peace Corps: Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order on March 1, 1961, more than 200,000 Americans have served in 139 host countries. Today, 9,095 volunteers are working with local communities in 75 host countries. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment and the agency’s mission is to promote world peace and friendship and a better understanding between Americans and people of other countries. Visit www.peacecorps.gov for more information.

Peace Corps RSS Feeds

Get Peace Corps headlines delivered in real-time from the Peace Corps RSS feed.

Peace Corps Digital Library

Digital Library

Share your service experience through stories and photos.

Visit the Digital Library