Peace Corps Celebrates African American History Month

Agency pays homage to African-American Volunteers

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 3, 2008 - The Peace Corps joins Americans across the globe to celebrate African American History Month throughout the month of February. The agency will participate by recognizing the countless contributions of African-American Volunteers, whose service to others continues to help promote peace, friendship, and understanding around the world.

The theme for 2009 is: "The Quest for Black Citizenship in the Americas." The theme explores how African Americans displayed extraordinary determination and courage in overcoming immense odds to fully participate in all aspects of American society, including obtaining full rights as citizens.

In 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, an African-American pioneer, initiated Negro History Week. During the first half of the 20th century, Woodson heralded the contributions of African Americans and forged an intellectual movement to educate Americans about cultural diversity and democracy. He believed that highlighting African Americans\' numerous contributions to Americas development was the best antidote for racial inequality.

"The Peace Corps continues to benefit from the leadership and contributions of African-American Peace Corps Volunteers," said Peace Corps acting Director Jody Olsen. "Their service inspires others, and shows the many faces of America through our motivated, multi-cultural and diverse Volunteers. We are pleased to recognize and celebrate their indelible contributions to the Peace Corps family, our nation, and the world."

Here are a few examples of currently-serving African-American Volunteers, and what motivated them to join the Peace Corps:

  • Deltavier Regina Frye, a health education Volunteer in Mali, works to promote HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. Frye said of her decision to join the Peace Corps, "I am committed to helping others, and being a world citizen, so the Peace Corps seemed like a perfect fit."

  • Keisha Pierce, a business development Volunteer in Honduras, is helping to develop small businesses and stimulate revenue for local communities. "I was attracted to the Peace Corps because I wanted to make a visible and tangible difference in the world," said Pierce.

  • Vincent Williams, a business development Volunteer in Ghana, facilitates the development process and does capacity building by improving operations and management of local businesses. "In this age of globalization and internationalization, the rest of the world is coming to America," said Williams. "I want to take America to the rest of the world."

  • Tiona Cage, an HIV/AIDS education Volunteer in Botswana, educates and empowers local communities to decrease stigma and the spread of HIV/AIDS. "I was attracted to the Peace Corps because of its positive reputation, its emphasis on sustainable development, and the variety of service project areas," said Cage.

Currently, 215 African Americans are serving as Peace Corps Volunteers throughout the world. Thirty-five percent of African-American Volunteers serve as educators, another 31 percent work in the sector of health and HIV/AIDS. Others focus on business, environment, agriculture, youth, and community development projects.

There are 119 African-American Volunteers currently serving in 24 countries in the Africa region. Additionally, 59 are serving in Latin America, the Caribbean or the Pacific, and 37 are serving in Europe or Asia.

These Volunteers hail from 33 states across America, as well as the District of Columbia. Most are from California, which represents 10 percent of African-American Peace Corps Volunteers. Maryland and Pennsylvania come in second and third, producing 18 and 14 African-American Volunteers, respectively. There are four African-American Volunteers older than 50, with the oldest being 70 years old.

As the Peace Corps approaches its 50th anniversary, its service legacy continues to promote peace and friendship around the world. Historically, over 195,000 Volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries in which they have served. Applications to serve in the Peace Corps have increased 16 percent this past year, the largest boost in the last five years. Currently, 7,876 Peace Corps Volunteers are serving in 76 countries. 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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