Peace Corps Celebrates Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month

April 30, 2003

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 30, 2003 – Tomorrow, Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez will kick-off the agency’s celebration of Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month. During May, the Peace Corps will honor the influence of Asian and Pacific Island culture on the nation's art, music, and food.

Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month offers an opportunity to recognize the innumerable contributions of Asian and Pacific Islanders in government, business, the arts, education, entertainment, science, medicine, and more. Asian and Pacific Islander Americans are currently among the fastest growing ethic groups in the United States, bringing a richness in diversity of traditions, native languages, and histories.

Director Vasquez commented, “This will be a month to celebrate and recognize the great contributions that Asian and Pacific Islander Americans have made to our country’s heritage, diversity, and strength. It is important that we take the time to learn more about their contributions and honor their achievements.”

At tomorrow’s event, Peace Corps staff will participate in a Parade of Flags, which includes flags from past and present Asian and Pacific Island countries where Peace Corps volunteers serve. Notable Asian and Pacific Island Americans Ben Woo, deputy of Technology and Administration, Department of Commerce, and Achama Chandersekaran, former chairperson of the Asian American Voters Colaition, will participate in the event’s panel discussion.

Future events throughout the month will include a Yoga and Martial Arts demonstration, a Taiwanese and Cambodian Dance performance, an Asian and Pacific Island Food Cooking demonstration, and an evening to celebrate returned Peace Corps volunteers who served in Asian or Pacific Island countries.

The Peace Corps works tirelessly to ensure the volunteer corps reflects the extraordinary diversity of the American people. 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.

Currently, 257 trainees and volunteers of Asian and Pacific Island descent are serving in 58 countries around the world. Since 1989, more than 1200 Americans of Asian or Pacific Island heritage have volunteered in the Peace Corps. In addition, Peace Corps is proud to have a long history of serving in Asian and Pacific nations. More than 49,000 volunteers have served in 33 countries in this region to date.

Since 1961, more than 168,000 volunteers have served in the Peace Corps, working in such diverse fields as education, health, HIV/AIDS awareness and education, information technology, business development, the environment, and agriculture. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a two-year commitment.

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