Father and Daughter Serve in Peace Corps Thailand More Than 30 Years Apart; Continuing the Tradition of Asian Pacific American Peace Corps Volunteers
April 25, 2000WASHINGTON, D.C., April 25, 2000—Akiko Uyeda grew up in Kahului, Hawaii, listening to her father's stories about his Peace Corps service in Thailand from 1966 to 1968. He told her of collecting rain for drinking water and fetching bath water from a well. He also conveyed a sense of gratitude towards the Peace Corps, President John F. Kennedy, first Peace Corps Director Sargent Shriver, and the people of Thailand, for a life-changing experience.
Charles Uyeda, 57, had always hoped that some day his stories would inspire his daughter to follow in his footsteps. His dream came true when Akiko, 23, was accepted to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in the same country where he served more than 30 years ago. After completing three months of language, cross-cultural, and technical training in Thailand, Akiko is now delving into her work as a health educator in a rural community.
Akiko, a Cornell University graduate, joins the ranks of Alan Sai Li, a Vietnamese American who teaches computer literacy in Ghana, and nearly 300 other Asian Americans serving as Peace Corps volunteers in more than 60 countries around the globe.
The Peace Corps has been a launching pad for the distinguished careers of many prominent Asian Americans, including Julie Chang Bloch, a former U.S. ambassador to Nepal. And Charles, Akiko's dad, is an internationally acclaimed author and motivational speaker who credits the Peace Corps with profoundly affecting his life.
"The Thai's compassionate acceptance of a young, idealistic, and inexperienced young man has never been forgotten," Charles said. "I received more than I ever gave. The Peace Corps experience and the Thai people have my respect and love."
In letters home to her father, Akiko says she is enthusiastic about the work she will do during the next two years. Charles assures her that her experiences as a volunteer will benefit her more than any corporate job.
"She will become a citizen of the world," Charles said. "She will become mentally stronger and more compassionate and passionate about the world she lives in. This is the beauty and power of the Peace Corps experience. If I had a dozen children, I would want each one to become a Peace Corps volunteer."
When Akiko completes her Peace Corps assignment in 2002, she plans to study medicine and establish mind-body clinics around the world. Currently, about 70 Peace Corps volunteers are serving in Thailand, working in education, health, and the environment. Since the program in Thailand began in 1962, more than 5,100 volunteers have served there. Asian Americans are among the volunteers working in China, the Philippines, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, and other nations in the Asian and Pacific regions.
Today nearly 7,000 Peace Corps volunteers serve in 77 countries around the world, working to fight hunger, prevent the spread of AIDS, protect the environment, teach children, promote health and nutrition, and start small business. Since 1961, more than 155,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps.