Peace Corps Celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
May 16, 2000WASHINGTON, D.C., May 16, 2000—The Peace Corps celebrates the contributions and achievements of Asian American volunteers during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Nearly 300 Asian Americans are currently serving communities in developing nations around the globe as Peace Corps volunteers.
"The Peace Corps achieves its simple but vital mission—to promote grassroots development and greater understanding between peoples—because its volunteers are as diverse in heritage as they are in skill," says Peace Corps Director Mark Schneider. "We proudly reflect the face of America as we work to improve the quality of life for those most in need. This month, in particular, we honor Peace Corps volunteers of Asian and Pacific Island descent for strengthening communities abroad and enriching communities upon returning home through public service." Alan Sai Li, a Vietnamese American from Washington state, is one volunteer who demonstrates that tradition as he teaches computer literacy in Ghana. So does Reyna Abaquin, a Filipina New Yorker who served as a health volunteer in Senegal from 1996 to 1998. Her experience was so positive, she now works as a Peace Corps recruiter.
More than 1,200 Americans of Asian and Pacific Island heritage have served as Peace Corps volunteers since the agency began keeping statistics in 1989. 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.
The Peace Corps observes Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with several special events. The agency's headquarters hosted the Asian Pacific American Federal Foreign Affairs Council's annual Career Forum. The Peace Corps' Seattle regional office will sponsor a slide show and panel discussion of Asian American volunteers who have completed service. Recruiters are visiting Heritage Month events throughout May, including New York City's renowned festival and the Illinois Institute of Technology's annual Asian American Career Fair.
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.