Eleven Former Volunteers to Receive Peace Corps 2008 Franklin H. Williams Award

June 12, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 12, 2008 - Eleven Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who have dedicated much of their lives to giving back to their communities will be awarded the Franklin H. Williams Award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on June 19, 2008.

Established in 1999, the Franklin H. Williams Award honors returned Peace Corps Volunteers of color who continue the Peace Corps mission through their commitment to community service and who support the agency's Third Goal of promoting a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans. The award is named for former Peace Corps regional director for Africa and U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, Franklin H. Williams. Ambassador Williams was instrumental in assisting the first Peace Corps director, Sargent Shriver, in advancing the agencys mission across the globe.

This year's keynote speaker and Directors Award honoree will be W. Frank Fountain. Fountain leads Chrysler's corporate social responsibility initiatives and charitable efforts. He serves as President of The Chrysler Foundation, the company's philanthropic organization involved in community and civic outreach. Fountain also is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and served in India from 1966-1968.

Finalists for the Franklin H. Williams Award were selected by the 11 Peace Corps regional recruiting offices across the U.S. The 2008 winners include:

Lillian Benjamin, Seattle Region


Lillian Benjamin served in Peace Corps in Cote dIvoire for approximately six months until the program was closed due to safety and security. While Benjamin was not reassigned, she was still significantly impacted during her service as a rural health education Volunteer in the village of Assrikro. Benjamin performed several community analysis campaigns covering health needs. Through these campaigns it became evident that villagers health concerns were all symptoms of smaller, more manageable health behavior issues. One example was the high instances of mothers deaths during labor, which was remedied when villagers were instructed to give birth at a local clinic with the midwife instead of staying in the village, where oftentimes complications from delivery could not be managed.

Benjamin also helped to produce weekly information sessions at the health clinic covering issues from family planning, malaria and immunizations.

Benjamin is continuing her education at the University of Washington, where she hopes to further implement the lessons she learned during her service in the Peace Corps. Interested in the social and behavioral interventions department, focusing on community development, Benjamin hopes to find a career that will enable her to impact local and international communities as an international community health worker.

Along with continuing her education, Benjamin remains committed to volunteerism through her work with young girls at the N Street Village, where she leads a reading group for women and children in the transitional housing program.

Benjamin also leads a weekly drug education and resistance youth group through the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League. Benjamin was recently awarded the Albert Schweitzer Public Health Fellowship in Lambarene, Gabon, where she will be working at a hospitals Community Health Outreach Program to provide village-based health care.

Linda Fujikawa, San Francisco Region


Linda Fujikawa has dedicated her life to education and service. Fujikawa has been a professor of Japanese language arts at Kapi'olani Community College and the University of Hawaii for 10 years. Fujikawa is a coordinator for the "International Caf," a service learning program institutionalized at the Kapi'olani Community College. As coordinator, Fujikawa is instrumental in helping local students and international students learn about other cultures and languages. Service opportunities made available by the International Caf include tutoring at a local elementary school, reading international folk tales to seniors at the local hospital, and reading to children at a homeless transition center.

Fujikawa sites her Peace Corps experience in Korea from 1976-1978, as a source of inspiration for her current work in language and cultural diplomacy. During her service in Korea, Fujikawa worked as a teacher.

Ella Phillips Lacey, Chicago Region


Ella Phillips Lacey's entire career has centered on education and community service with numerous memberships, awards, honors, and published papers. From a community health counselor to esteemed school of medicine professor, Lacey has dedicated her life to volunteerism professionally and personally.

During her Peace Corps service from 1995-1997 in Malawi, Lacey learned that her experience and knowledge was highly valued. As an accomplished Volunteer at the distinguished age of 54, Lacey worked as a child survival specialist in the Zomba district of health, focusing on the immunizations program. Drawing from her professional and educational background in community health care, she developed a program to teach in-service training. The program trained trainers and provided cross-department training to ensure that each department shared knowledge of health evaluations and other best practices.

During her service, Lacey became president of an organization aimed at helping women and children who were homeless called Women in Development. Women in Development helped women and children left homeless when, due to the death of a husband/father, their property was returned back to the male's family. Lacey helped the women begin building their own homes and, with the help of womens expatriate organizations, collected materials and funding to support the program. As the program developed and became more successful, other Peace Corps Volunteers began incorporating Laceys concepts into the work in their own communities.

Since her departure from Malawi, Lacey continues to give back to her host country and the global community in community development aid programs. Since her service, Lacey has traveled extensively throughout Africa and India working for global Polio eradication.

Additionally, Lacey maintains her connection with Malawi through her membership with Delta Stigma Theta Sorority, raising funds for the Malawi Children's Village orphanage. Lacey gives endless presentations on her Peace Corps experience and inspires others to ask what they can do to help. Lacey also is an advocate of the Peace Corps World Wise Schools program, which embodies her love of outreach through education and reading.

Ginny A. Lee, Denver Region


Dr. Ginny A. Lee served as a rural fish culture extension Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia from 2003-2005. A joint project of the Peace Corps and the Zambian Department of Fisheries, Lees rural aquaculture program (RAP) worked on developing local fish farming communities. Primarily, her accomplishments included building and maintaining fish farms, teaching tilapia breeding, production, and harvesting, using local vegetation and growing specific crops for use as fish food, and maximizing farmers earnings through effective marketing.

Lee also worked to equalize gender relations in local communities. As part of the RAP, Lee helped women and children enter the fish farming process as equal partners. For one of her secondary projects, Lee developed a womens sewing group that designed and created patterns and clothes, including school uniforms. After some time, the group of women shifted their responsibilities from production to marketing and design when they were able to hire a male tailor.

Since the close of her service, Lee has actively worked on recruitment and promotion of the Peace Corps in the Denver region. From informal run-ins to scheduled speaking opportunities, Lee never misses a chance to share her experience as a Volunteer. The Denver office frequently uses her as a resource for newly accepted trainees, and she has participated in all semiannual Peace Corps Denver recruiting events. At the Colorado School of Mines, Lee has assisted recruiters at many career-day events, and was invited by the Office of International Programs to speak for a panel on international careers. She co-sponsored another recruiter to hold a recruiting session at the Colorado School of Mines as well.

Lee has also reached beyond the traditional methods of recruiting in order to share her experience. She was part of the Peace Corps information booth at the Denver Dragon Boat Festival in 2006. And, when the international debt-forgiveness NGO, Jubilee, sponsored a roundtable discussion, Lee took part and related to the group her experiences in Zambia.

Mark H. Lewis, Los Angeles Region


Mark H. Lewis believes that his Peace Corps experience has given him a unique perspective on life. Though he closed his service in 1995, Lewis continues to be actively involved in projects related to his experience in Nicaragua. During his services Lewis developed new business and project relationship with 17 development and relief agencies.

Lewis was a returned Peace Corps Volunteer group leader of Amigos de Nicaragua (Friends of Nicaragua) from 1998 to 2001. In after the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch in 1998, Lewis helped to mobilize support for areas of Nicaragua that had been negatively impacted by the hurricane. In 1999, while Lewis was in Nicaragua, he met with the Peace Corps country director to establish a better support system for Volunteers through Amigos de Nicaragua. Lewis had so much to offer in this meeting that he was contracted to be Nicaragua's Crisis Corps coordinator for 18 months. In 2000, Lewis was honored with a Certificate of Appreciation from Nicaragua Peace Corps Volunteers. At the conclusion of his 18-month contract, Lewis remained in Nicaragua to help Partners of the Americas with volunteer projects and USAID as a member of their Disaster Preparedness committee.

Since his return to the United States, Lewis has continued to support Peace Corps' mission through participation in the Los Angeles Regional Recruiting Office's recruiting events. Lewis has also been a member of panels honoring Dr. Martin Luther Kings birthday and was a member of the World Wise Schools program as a part-time substitute teacher in Los Angeles from 2005-2006.

Lewis was recently recognized for five years of service as a mentor to business students at California State University at Long Beach. Lewis also teaches business courses at the local community college and a small private college. Through his involvement in education, Lewis always manages to suggest the Peace Corps as an employment opportunity for students seeking career advice.

At the end of his service, Lewis authored an article published by Essence Magazine titled, "Life Outside My Comfort Zone." The article details Lewis' decision to join the Peace Corps and includes anecdotes about his experience. Another article written by Lewis, "The Helpers Perspective: an African-American Volunteer in Nicaragua," was published in 1999 by The World & I magazine.

LaHoma Smith Romocki, Mid-Atlantic Region


LaHoma Smith Romocki earned a PhD in public health education, which has determined the course of her career and volunteer activities. Currently, Romocki works as an assistant professor and interim chair of the Department of Health education at North Carolina Central University. Romocki serves as a counselor and advisor to undergraduate health and education majors and teaches core courses in health communication and program planning. She also has an extensive background in communications and family health.

Romocki used her professional experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Central African Republic from 1980-1982, where she developed health education classes for primary school teachers. In her second year as a Volunteer, Romocki launched the first program to integrate health content as part of the curriculum of teacher trainees.

After her service, Romocki remained in the Central African Republic and became an associate Peace Corps director(APCD) for health programs from 1984-1987. As an ACPD, Romocki supervised and coordinated program activities for 35 Volunteers in health care projects. At the end of her service as an ACPD, Romocki trained health Volunteers working with the Save the Children Projects in Cameroon.

Since her work with the Peace Corps, Romocki has continued her dedication to the Peace Corps Third Goal. In 2007, she was North Carolina Central Universitys faculty leader for the Ghana study abroad program. She arranged for the 19 participating students to meet with Peace Corps Volunteers and staff members while in Ghana. Romocki is planning to lead another group this summer.

In 2007, Romocki was honored with the President's Volunteer Service Award, presented by Peace Corps Deputy Director Jody K. Olsen.

George Rutherford, Boston Region


George Rutherford graduated from the San Diego State University in 1988 with a bachelors degree in public administration and a minor in Spanish, and immediately joined the Peace Corps. Rutherford was a fisheries extension Peace Corps Volunteer in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, from 1988-1991. Rutherford trained local farmers to raise freshwater fish and instructed them on every step, including digging ponds, harvesting fish and selling at the market.

Though many farmers already had ponds and fish, tilapia nilotica, Rutherford worked to improve the fish farming process. He taught farmers to dig deeper ponds and feed their fish more so they would grow larger. Rutherford also had to take into account local customs which necessitated the sharing of a farmer's entire harvest with his large extended family. Though his project was not easy, Rutherford realized success as he witnessed farmers becoming excited about the prospects of fish culture.

After the close of his service, Rutherford remained inspired by the lack of waste he saw in Zaire and began pursuing conservation and environmental sustainability efforts. Rutherfords work, which began in water and energy conservation, has extended to fundraising for the National Recycling Coalitions America Recycles Day and Co-Op America. He has also served as a resource for residents and a local leader of recycling efforts as a Block Captain in the city of Baltimore.

Additionally, Rutherford was a strong recruiter for the Boston area. In 2005, he led recruiting efforts at Dartmouth College, Middlebury, and schools in western Massachusetts. And, in 2007, he became a development officer at the University of Vermont. He loves spending time with his wife and two sons and has not stopped promoting the difference Peace Corps can make. "Every time I'm at a public computer," he says, "the last thing I do before I go away is to put the Peace Corps website on there, so the next person will see the page. I just figure that if one person gets the idea in their head, you never know "

Marie Pearson Shockley, Atlanta Region


Marie Pearson Shockley began her commitment to volunteer work for the advancement of minorities and women long before her service as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Shockley has been an active participant in national organizations such as the NAACP, Federally Employed Women, and Image de Atlanta.

Shockley began her Volunteer service in 2002 as a Peace Corps trainee in the Republic of Namibia in Southern Africa as a 50+ Volunteer. She worked to implement the Parents and Communities for Education Project (PACE), which strengthens the relationship between schools and communities to improve the education of Namibian youth. School supplies in Namibia are scarce, and PACE provided libraries for local junior primary schools and kindergartens.

Shockley also worked to train local teachers in accordance to the Lerner-center education mandate. This training provided basic computer and record keeping skills, and continuing education to parents, youth, and other community members.

Shockley also helped the Peace Corps improve its processes for retaining older, 50+ Volunteers. While serving in Namibia, she reviewed and revised the Training and Older Volunteer brochure to improve and address the unique training needs of older Volunteers in the Peace Corps.

When she returned to the United States in 2004, Shockley returned to volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, Hosea Feed the Hungry, the Carter Center, and Global Volunteers. Shockley also became involved in the National Peace Corps Association and the Atlanta Area Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (AARPCV) to maintain her involvement with the Peace Corps. She has participated in Peace Corps Week and other outreach programs to high school students and interested groups. In her work with AARPCV, Shockley solicited help from fellow volunteers in other organizations to assist in 50+ Peace Corps initiative.

In 2007, Shockley volunteered in Ecuador with Global Volunteers. Since her return, she has coordinated book donations from the Cobb County Branch of the Association of University Women to Peace Corps Volunteers and an orphanage in Ecuador.

Tina Chan Sweenie, Minneapolis Region


Tina Chan Sweenie had a spirit of volunteerism within her long before she joined the Peace Corps in 1997. A daughter of immigrants, Chan Sweenie began volunteering while still in high school. She took part in various activities, including creative writing discussions for high risk youth, tutoring students in English and math, helping out at numerous homeless shelters and soup kitchens, and even heading a pediatric play group at Mt. Sinai Hospital in N.Y. Before leaving for her service, Chan Sweenie interned for the Saratoga Springs Open Space Project, where she did research for the creation of nature trails.

Chan Sweenie joined the Peace Corps in 1997 and served in Niger until 1999. She worked as a natural resource management and women's extension Volunteer and acted as a liaison between local villagers and large international organizations such as UNICEF. For her natural resource management project, Chan Sweenie promoted seed collection and land restoration by establishing seed banks and tree nurseries throughout the country. In collaboration with the Sudan Interior Mission, she also conducted a series of natural regeneration trainings for local farmers.

As a women's extension agent, Chan Sweenie created two revolving credit systems for village women, joining the efforts of CARE International. She helped the women implement small business practices around bread making and planting and growing cassava crops. Chan Sweenie conducted family planning workshops and follow-up sessions, which discussed contraceptive use, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS prevention, and promoted womens health.

Today, Chan Sweenie keeps busy as a stay-at-home mother, consulting part time for nonprofit organizations, and pursuing a certificate in childhood and adolescent studies from the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. In 2005, she began working for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Milwaukee, serving today as director of partnership development. Most recently, she earned a position on the board of directors of the Milwaukee Peace Corps Association. As the social coordinator, she has planned numerous group activities and organized MPCA's large annual events, and she still manages to volunteer for her community. Organizing an international shoe drive, assisting in a ceramics class for special needs children, and being a big sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters are just a few of the many ways she continues to advocate volunteerism in her daily life.

D. Jorge Urbina, Dallas Region


Jorge Urbina has made community service a priority in his life. Urbina served in Cote dIvoire from 1970-1972. During his service, Urbina worked as a technical advisor and rural housing and public works Volunteer. Urbina said his Peace Corps experience, "seemed like a match made in heaven." Some of his assignments from the Ministry of Construction included: conducting geodesic surveys and mapping the northern region of Cote dIvoire, village planning and platting, and installation based on completed surveys, construction of schools, markets and other public works.

Urbina's lasting legacy in Cote dIvoire came in the form of a tourist complex in the Boundiali region. Boundiali is known for its music and arts, and to encourage tourism of the area, the complex would lodge, feed and entertain tourists visiting the Ivory Coast. The construction was completed in 1974 and is still in use today. Urbina has yet to be back to visit the site, which was completed after his service.

Since his service with the Peace Corps, Urbina has continued to exemplify the spirit of volunteerism in the United States. Now working as an attorney in Texas, Urbina serves on numerous boards and committees and has several meaningful, community-based "pet" volunteer projects. The Apple Tree Project is one of those projects. It provides children with school supplies, new clothes, and a new pair of shoes.

Urbina also volunteers with local Hispanic groups and has helped establish an annual community festival celebrating Hispanic heritage. The Fiesta on the Square is a family-oriented event, and highlights local youth talent.

Gloria Watkins, New York Region


Gloria Watkins joined the Peace Corps at the age of 71 and served in South Africa from 2003-2006 as an English resource Volunteer. During her service, Watkins developed and taught computer literacy courses to local teachers. She also helped establish programs for educators that assisted their program planning, work scheduling and lesson plans. To support these programs, Watkins was also involved in proposal writing and fundraising.

Prior to joining the Peace Corps, Watkins held several volunteer docent positions in California. Watkins was a docent at the Oakland Museum of California for 11 years and a docent at the Potomac Association in Oakland California for seven years. Watkins also volunteered with the literacy program at the Marcus A. Foster Educational Institute for five years, which provided her great experience for her service in the Peace Corps.

After returning from South Africa, Watkins volunteered as a tutor in an elementary school for the African American Heritage Organization. Watkins has also maintained ties to the Peace Corps by speaking about her Peace Corps events for seniors and Black History Month celebrations. Watkins has helped the New York Regional Office with recruiting events at Montclair State University and attended a 50+ RPCV panel at the Newark Public Library. In June 2007, Watkins received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, which recognized her outstanding and invaluable service to the community.

The Peace Corps is celebrating a 47-year legacy of service at home and abroad. Currently there are more than 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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