Dayton Octogenarian Joins the Peace Corps in Ghana

August 20, 2008

Bernstein becomes the oldest serving Peace Corps Volunteer in the world

Washington, D.C., August 20, 2008 - Ralph H. Bernstein, 84, of Dayton, Ohio, has been accepted into the Peace Corps, making him the oldest currently serving Peace Corps Volunteer in the world. The octogenarian is joining the ranks along with hundreds of older Americans who are putting their considerable life skills and experience to good use around the world through service in the Peace Corps.

Bernstein departed for Ghana on June 7, and after completing his pre-service training was sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer on August 19. Bernstein will now officially begin his Peace Corps service and work as a secondary education Peace Corps Volunteer, teaching biology, chemistry and physics to students in a Ghanaian community.

Bernstein cites the fact that his wife passed away two years ago, and looking for both a break from the past and a new set of challenges as his motivating factors for joining the Peace Corps. Says Bernstein, "I was especially eager to contribute in an area where my background might be of greater value than in the U.S."

Bernstein looks to carry out his service diligently, but knows how to keep things in perspective. "No one of us can cure all ills," he says, "but we can each contribute and make a difference on some scale."

During his training, Bernstein will live with a host family in Ghana to become fully immersed in the countrys language and culture. After acquiring the language and cultural skills necessary to assist his community, he will then serve for two years as a teacher in Ghana, living in a manner similar to people in his host country.

Bernstein is a graduate of Yale University, where he earned a Bachelor of Engineering, graduating in 1945. Bernstein previously worked as an instructor in mathematics for the US Navy. He has also taught a variety of engineering subjects and has worked for paper mills, electric utilities, municipal solid waste and wastewater concerns, and has carried out environmental research.

Bernstein, who has four daughters and nine grandchildren, says that family, friends and coworkers have enthusiastically supported his new endeavor. His daughters are Susan Bedrossian of Bellingham, Mass., Ellen Fultz of Athens, Ohio, Carol Bernstein, of Binghamton, N.Y., and Marian Wallace of Sudbury, Mass.

Said Daughter Ellen Fultz, "All of us knew that he had so much energy and knowledge, and that he could give back in a way that would be unique for a man of his age. I know it means two precious years away from us, but I think it will be the start of the next great chapter of his life."

Today, 8,079 Americans serve in the Peace Corps. Of that total, 5% of currently serving Volunteers are aged 50 or older. The Peace Corps regards older Volunteers as a great asset, bringing both their professional and life experiences to help countries around the world meet their development needs. Volunteers over age 50 are currently serving in 67 of the 74 Peace Corps countries.

Bernstein also joins the 292 Ohio residents currently serving in the Peace Corps. More than 6,072 Ohio residents have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.

Ghana was one of the first countries to begin partnership with the Peace Corps. Since the arrival of the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers in 1961, more than 3,912 Volunteers have served in the West African nation of Ghana. Currently, there are 189 Volunteers serving in Ghana in all ten regions of the country. The Volunteers are actively working in the following five programs: education, health/water and sanitation, natural resource management, small enterprise development, and HIV/AIDS awareness.

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. To learn more about the Peace Corps, please visit our website: www.peacecorps.gov.

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