Peace Corps Celebrates Black History Month

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 1, 2007 February marks the beginning of Black History Month in the U.S. The Peace Corps is celebrating all month by recognizing the contributions of African Americans to the Peace Corps goal of promoting world peace and friendship through volunteer service overseas.

During the month of February, Peace Corps will celebrate the achievements of African Americans, in particular Peace Corps volunteers and staff throughout the world.

"African Americans have made lasting contributions to the Peace Corps, and have an important role in representing the diverse face of America to the rest of the world, says Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter. "Im proud that Peace Corps is recognizing their achievements both past and present."

Currently, 238 African Americans are serving as Peace Corps Volunteers throughout the world. Thirty percent of African American volunteers serve as educators, another 30 percent work in the health sector, while others focus on business, environmental, agricultural and urban development projects. There are 127 African American volunteers serving in 23 countries in Africa, 79 in Latin America, the Caribbean or the Pacific, and 31 in Europe or Asia. These volunteers hail from 35 states across America.

Many African Americans have found Peace Corps service to be a great way to learn more about other cultures, and to share their own experiences as an American with others. Peace Corps is also a way for volunteers to enhance their long-term career prospects. Says Azikiwe Chandler, volunteer in Nicaragua from 1998-2000, potential employers are looking for problem solvers. Theyre looking for leaders. Theyre looking for people who can work in different cultures. Having a second language definitely helps. These are all things that I gained as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Notable African American Peace Corps Volunteers include Johnnie Carson (Tanzania 1965-68), National Intelligence Officer for Africa, National Security Council and former ambassador to Kenya, and the late Leonard H. Robinson, Jr., (India 1964-67), former President and CEO of the Africa Society. Notable staff members include Carolyn Payton, who served as the director of the Peace Corps from 1977-1978, becoming both the first female and first African American director of the Peace Corps.

The Peace Corps is celebrating a 45-year legacy of service at home and abroad. Since 1961, more than 187,000 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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