Peace Corps Celebrates Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month

Peace Corps Celebrates the Contributions of Asian and Pacific Americans.

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 2, 2007 This month, Peace Corps will celebrate 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 years theme of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month is Pursuing Excellence Through Leadership.

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 Asian, 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, there are 382 Peace Corps Volunteers with an Asian or Pacific American background serving primarily in the education, business and environmental health sectors. 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 Armenia, Betty Tham, of Thai heritage, is a business development Volunteer and is currently working on a project to help rural villagers write a business plan to obtain credit with a micro-finance institution. I feel that I am getting more from my Volunteer work than what I have given to my host country, says Tham. I hope that I can be an inspiration to other Asian Americans, especially to my own baby boom generation.

  • In Honduras, Peace Corps Volunteer Megan Lan is working on health education projects. Her primary job is with Pure Water for the World, where her goal is to encourage the use of water filters and to make sure the community values them and are aware of the importance of good hygiene. She is also developing a hygiene and water resource education program to increase project sustainability. Living and volunteering in Honduras has taught me that education is the key to improving lives, says Lan.

  • Becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer has been a lifelong dream for Volunteer Noel Maharaj, who traces his roots to the Fiji Islands. Maharaj is currently serving as an economic development Volunteer in Ukraine. He works with an organization that provides humanitarian assistance to illegal immigrants detained in Western Ukraine.

  • In Cameroon, Peace Corps Volunteer Jonathan Fu is the first small enterprise development Volunteer in the village of Ngalemendouka. He works at a community bank and has trained coworkers at the bank on computer software applications, accounting practices, and credit management.

  • In Mongolias Gobi desert, Korean-American Peace Corps Volunteer Hanna Kim works 30 hours a week as an English teacher. Kim says, There is just something about living and working in a country with people whom you have had no experience with that makes your overall experience that much more worthwhileI am embracing every moment.

Since 1961, more than 187,000 Peace Corps Volunteers including Asian/Pacific Americans 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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