Peace Corps Celebrates Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month

May 15, 2008

Peace Corps Celebrates the Contributions of Asian and Pacific Americans

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 15, 2008 - This month, Peace Corps is celebrating the cultural traditions, ancestry, native languages, and unique experiences represented by the more than 30 ethnic groups from Asia and Pacific Islands in our country. This year's theme of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month is "Leadership, Diversity, Harmony - Gateway to Success."

A joint congressional resolution first established Asian/Pacific American Heritage week in 1978. In 1992, Congress expanded the observance into a month-long celebration. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the first Japanese immigration to the United States on May 7, 1843, and the major contributions of Chinese immigrants to the building of the transcontinental railroad, finished on May 10, 1869.

Director Tschetter said, "I am delighted to designate the month of May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month to celebrate and honor the contributions of the many Asian Pacific Americans who have served as Peace Corps Volunteers or staff. Asian Pacific Americans have made lasting contributions as Peace Corps Volunteers while representing great diversity of America overseas, promoting our mission of peace and friendship worldwide."

Peace Corps has benefited from the significant contributions of many Asian/Pacific Americans who have served as Volunteers and staff. Elaine Chao was the first Asian American director of the Peace Corps, from 1991-92. Chao can be credited with many institutional improvements including the initiation of Peace Corps programs in Eastern Europe and Central Asia after the fall of the Soviet Union. Notable Asian American Volunteers include U.S. Representative Mike Honda (El Salvador 1965-67), a member of Congress from California, and William Wong (Philippines 1967-68), a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner.

Currently, 391 Asian/Pacific Americans are serving as Peace Corps Volunteers around the world. Like all Volunteers, these men and women made a difference to their communities by sharing their knowledge and skills in many areas. For example:

  • In Mongolia, Mydung "Yoomie" Huynh, who is Vietnamese, works directly with Mongolian children teaching English and life skills at a local orphanage with a local NGO. The Art School at her orphanage teaches Japanese language, English, and traditional Mongolian music.

  • Patti Hachiya is a 50+ Japanese American Volunteer currently serving in Armenia. Making full use of her nursing degree, Patti works at a medical college in a three-year nurse training program. She teaches English to first and second year students and gives health seminars to third-years.

  • As a small enterprise development Volunteer in Mali, Antony Paul, an Indian American, is helping to promote the work of local artists on a global scale. He created a website for the governmental organization credited with promoting the interests of Malian artists, which has already received inquiries from the U.S. and Europe about the local products available.

The Peace Corps is celebrating a 47-year legacy of service at home and abroad. Currently there are more than 8,000 Volunteers abroad, a 37-year high for Volunteers in the field. Since 1961, more than 190,000 Volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries where Volunteers have served. 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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