Family Ties; Parents Follow Their Daughter into Peace Corps Service
October 5, 1999Washington, D.C., October 5, 1999—Inspired by their daughter, who recently returned from Peace Corps service in West Africa, and an enduring desire to serve, Paul and Felicity Gatchell of Birmingham, Ala. decided to follow in their daughter's footsteps by joining the Peace Corps. The Gatchells, recently retired, left last week for their Peace Corps assignments in Ukraine. The couple wanted a different Peace Corps region and cultural experience from their daughter; they will be volunteering as high school English teachers in Ukraine.
Felicity Gatchell, 56, is familiar with work in developing countries or cross-cultural challenges. She has worked for more than 11 years volunteering with the American Red Cross as a disaster relief nurse, both in the United States and internationally. Paul Gatchell, 64, has worked as a chemical engineer project manager for more than 40 years, domestically and abroad.
The two said they inspired by President John F. Kennedy's famous challenge in 1961: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
"The Peace Corps has always appealed to me. I even applied and was accepted in 1961, but deferred the opportunity for a professional position," said Paul. "After many years of working in my profession and raising a family, I am now ready to join the Peace Corps. Serving in the Peace Corps is an exciting opportunity for me and my family." The entire family visited Valerie Gatchell in The Gambia, where she extended her two-year assignment for another year working in natural resource management. Her brother, David, was also inspired to serve. He recently received an invitation to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer, but turned it down due to a competing professional opportunity. Valerie said that she is thrilled that her parents are taking advantage of this opportunity. "It was a wonderful cultural and educational experience for me," she said. "I would not trade it for anything. I encourage anyone and everyone to look into the Peace Corps no matter where you are in life."
Currently, more than 450 Peace Corps volunteers are over the age of 50, nearly 7 percent of the 7,000 volunteers now serving in 77 countries around the world. Since 1961, more than 155,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps, serving in 134 nations.