Latino Opinion-Makers Meet With Peace Corps Director

Boost in Latino Participation in Agency’s Programs Discussed

Washington, D.C., August 23, 2002–As part of an intensive and ongoing program to reach leaders in America’s ethnic communities, Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez held a roundtable discussion last week with nearly a dozen Latino opinion-makers from the Washington D.C. area. Central to the discussion was how to better fashion a recruitment program that can significantly boost the number of minority applications for Peace Corps volunteers and staff by the year 2007.

This was the third in a series of meetings with minority leaders and is part of the Peace Corps’ recruitment strategy for the 21st century, which seeks to diversify the agency’s staff and its volunteer ranks. President George W. Bush has challenged the Peace Corps to double its number of volunteers over the next five years, and Latinos are considered an important source of new talent.

photo of Latino opinion-makers seated at table with Gaddi Vasquez
Latino community leaders meet with Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez.
The Peace Corps is seeking to identify and eliminate barriers that may prevent Latino volunteers from applying and serving in the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps’ recruitment strategy was discussed with Latino educators, businesspeople, clergy, and other community leaders in order to gauge their reactions and study their recommendations on how to best craft culturally appropriate and effective Latino recruitment strategies for both volunteers and staffers at all levels.

Currently, ethnic minorities make up 15 percent of the nearly 7,000 currently serving Peace Corps Volunteers. Each year, the Peace Corps sends thousands of trained men and women to live and work in interested countries around the world. The Peace Corps is committed to ensuring that even more people of color can experience the opportunities for professional and personal growth that come with serving as a Volunteer.

Director Vasquez said, “For many people around the globe, Peace Corps Volunteers will be the only real contact they will ever have with America. It is very important that our ranks are representative of the multicultural ideals of our nation. We want the world to know that we value and respect people’s characters and that skin color or age will not be barriers to those wishing to make the world a better place.”

Susana Duarte, who chairs the Peace Corps Diversity Task Force, believes these meetings will yield positive results. “By initiating this dialogue with Latino leaders, we will hopefully establish a partnership that will benefit the Peace Corps’ goals of diversity and can provide Latinos with very rewarding opportunities for international experience and growth."

More than 165,000 Volunteers have served in 135 countries since the Peace Corps was established more than four decades ago. Today, more than 7,000 Volunteers are helping interested countries address their needs in education, health and HIV/AIDS, information technology, business development, the environment, and agriculture. The Peace Corps also seeks to promote a better understanding of Americans worldwide and foster a greater understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

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