Peace Corps Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 18, 2009

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Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams is pleased to announce the agencys celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, the Peace Corps will recognize the significant contributions of the Hispanic Americans who proudly serve their country as Peace Corps Volunteers and staff.

"The Peace Corps is fortunate to have a Volunteer population that reflects the rich diversity of America. Our Hispanic-American Volunteers and staff are an important part of that rich tapestry," said Director Williams.

Current Hispanic-American Peace Corps Volunteers hail from 33 states in the United States and Puerto Rico. Of these Volunteers, approximately 31 percent work in education, 22 percent in health and HIV/AIDS development, and 18 percent in business development. The remaining Volunteers work in youth development, environment, and agriculture-related projects.

The following Hispanic-American Peace Corps Volunteers have shared their stories:

Daniel Delgadillo, of Phoenix, Ariz., is a Volunteer who teaches computer skills to youth in Kenya: "Having grown up in a multicultural household, I felt that joining the Peace Corps would provide an opportunity to learn first-hand about another culture in the world while providing much needed assistance. My greatest accomplishment is being a role model for friends and family around the world to volunteer in their communities. The most valuable lesson I have learned is the importance of friendship and cooperation between peoples of all cultures."

Jessica Rodriguez-Montegna, who lives in Portland, Ore., is a returned Volunteer who worked in community development in El Salvador (2004-2006): "I was able to connect to the people much faster than most Peace Corps Volunteers because there was no language barrier. Because I lived in a culture similar to the people I served, I connected to their experiences and had the essential level of confianza (trust) to begin a relationship of mutual understanding necessary for the work we did." Jessica says her service as a volunteer taught her invaluable skills that she puts to use in her current job in working with community leaders in Oregon, Southeast Washington and Northern California.

Lacey Monson, of Orange, Calif., is a teacher collaborator Volunteer in rural Thailand: "I decided to become a volunteer because I felt there was a need for trained education professionals in other parts of the world and I wanted to do what I could to contribute." Monson believes that the Peace Corps "has taught my village a lot about American culture that we are a mixture of cultures and communities from around the world. As an American, I can take pride in my nation, but also celebrate the journey and heritage of my ancestors who came to America to fulfill their dreams as natives of a different country."

George Rutherford, of Burlington, Vt., is a returned Volunteer who taught fish farming techniques to farmers in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo)(1988-91): "I wanted to go on a big adventure, but also help others. As the first person in my family to go to college and graduate, it was very difficult to announce to my family that I was joining the Peace Corps. My mother who as a first generation Mexican-American was both very frightened and very proud. The pride both my parents feel wasn\'t evident until I arrived home safely, and got a job. My Peace Corps experience was one of, if not the most, defining experiences of my life. It pushed me far beyond my comfort zone, which in time gave me a great deal of confidence both personally and professionally."

Self-identified ethnic minorities comprise 16 percent of the 7,500 Peace Corps Volunteers currently serving around the world.

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