Peace Corps Honors American Indian Volunteers

Agency Celebrates Diversity during National American Indian Heritage Month

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 31, 2008 - In November, the Peace Corps honors the contributions of Volunteers of American Indian heritage serving around the world. Throughout the month, during National American Indian Heritage Month, the Peace Corps will join in celebrating the culture and traditions of the more than four million U.S. residents with American Indian and Alaska Native heritage.

Director Ronald A. Tschetter said, "We are proud that Peace Corps Volunteers represent the great diversity and history of the United States, including those who trace their roots to the American Indian. For American Indian Volunteers, serving in the Peace Corps is an opportunity to share experiences and traditions of their culture with other people around the world."

Twenty self-identified American Indians are currently serving in the Peace Corps. They hail from 13 states, with 20 percent from Ohio and 15 percent from California. Nearly a third of all American Indian Volunteers are serving in the public health and HIV/AIDS sector, and another 25 percent serve as educators. Currently, American Indian and Alaska Native Volunteers are serving in 17 countries on four continents around the world, including:

  • Wesley Norvell, currently serving in Honduras as a youth development volunteer, hopes to bring back his experience to his home community in the US after his Peace Corps service. Said Norvell, "I hope to share my experience and knowledge gained by my Peace Corps service to help highlight that many of the struggles that we as Natives have experienced, are experiencing, and will experience in the future are not necessarily just a local problem, but in many facets, a greater international set of problems. Hopefully, we can do something to help out our Native brothers."

  • Marisa Bowersox, currently serving in Albania as a community health educator, said, "As a Peace Corps Volunteer serving in the field, I see firsthand how my efforts can impact a community. I know that I could make a large impact working with Indian Health Services or similar organizations to educate tribal youth about the dangers of HIV/AIDS, alcoholism and domestic violence."

  • Hillary Gularte, an Alaskan Eskimo currently serving in Costa Rica as a youth and families volunteer, said of her experience, "Peace Corps has been invaluable and I\'m only 9 months into my service. It\'s inspiring and motivating. I have ideas about programs that could be started and directed at the Alaska Native community to increase the number of Alaska Native college graduates."

  • Angela Fernandez, currently serving in Costa Rica as a youth and families volunteer, said, Growing up on a reservation, I feel that I have a more personal understanding of the history of my Peace Corps community, both in terms of challenges and strengths. Serving in a Central American country is essentially serving my indigenous relatives. Much like my own tribal community, they face many of the same challenges, yet they have been able to maintain a strong sense of familial and cultural identity."

Ethnic minorities make up 15 percent of the 7,876 Americans serving in the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps actively recruits people with a variety of backgrounds and experiences to ensure that the Volunteers reflect the extraordinary diversity of the American people.

As the Peace Corps approaches its 50th anniversary, its service legacy continues to promote peace and friendship around the world. Historically, over 195,000 Volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries in which they have served. Applications to serve in the Peace Corps have increased 16 percent this past year, the largest boost in the last 5 years. Currently, 7,876 Peace Corps Volunteers are serving in 76 countries. 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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