A Legacy To Remember
WASHINGTON, D.C. August 28, 2008 - For Ted Pack of Hughson, Calif., who joined the Peace Corps in 1970, having a daughter who would pursue the Peace Corps 38 years later was a big surprise. However, as the agency approaches its 50th anniversary, more and more second and even third generation Peace Corps Volunteers heed the call to service that their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles did before them. Now married with three children, Ted's oldest daughter, Heather Pack, decided to follow in her father's footsteps and join the Peace Corps.
"Some of my fondest memories from childhood are looking at my father's slides from when he was a Peace Corps Volunteer," said Heather. "I knew from a young age that I wanted to live abroad and immerse myself in another culture, like my father had. Seeing his slides and listening to his stories about his adventures in the Peace Corps left me with a yearning to learn about people from other cultures and their way of life."
A graduate of the University of California in Los Angeles, Calif., Heather earned a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology in 2005. Prior to joining the Peace Corps, Heather worked as Coordinator of the Chronic Disease Program at the Los Angeles Free Clinic. When she informed her family that she had applied to the Peace Corps, her father said he felt an enormous sense of pride. One of the most important lessons he shared with Heather in preparation for her service was to "not worry about the small stuff."
"Another lesson my father taught me was to always try to see the best in people," added Heather. "I admire this quality most about him and realize how much this can enrich someone's life."
In August 2007, Heather took an oath to become an official Peace Corps Volunteer in Lima, Peru. "I was ready to have the life-changing experience that my father had," said Heather. As a community and youth development Volunteer, Heather keeps a busy schedule, working with youth on self-esteem and career building, and training peer-health educators. She also participates in a traditional Peruvian dance team composed of adolescents, and coordinates two youth groups.
In addition to Ted Pack's stories, Heather learned about the Peace Corps from other Volunteers. Ted said, "She had circle dinners to thank," referring to a social program at the Packs church in which church members periodically ate dinner with the Pack family - nine of whom were Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. They shared their experiences while Ted's children listened. "As a result," Ted says, "Heather knew that, while she was likely to have some problems, by the time she was 30 she'd be bragging about them."
Ted joined the Peace Corps soon after graduating from the University of California in Berkeley, Calif., where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in English. In 1970, he became an English education Peace Corps Volunteer. It was President John F. Kennedy's call to service that he says ignited the desire to become a Volunteer.
"It was the most exciting thing I have done in my life," said Ted. Now, nearly 38 years after his service, Ted has noticed the drastic changes that have occurred since his time as a Volunteer. "Times change," he said. "I wrote home using a manual typewriter, carbon paper (one copy to my parents, one to each grandmother), and blank aerogrammes. Heather has a blog, which she updates at an Internet cafe."
Heather has learned as much from her own personal experience in the Peace Corps as she learned from her father's stories, despite the generational differences. "My father planted the seed in my head to join the Peace Corps. He always told me that it was the one decision in his life he'd make over again without any hesitation. He taught me to take advantage of every situation I can."
The Peace Corps is celebrating a 47-year legacy of service at home and abroad. Currently, there are 8,000 Volunteers abroad, a 37-year high for Volunteers in the field. Since 1961, more than 190,000 Volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries where Volunteers have served. Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.
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