Peace Corps Honors Older Americans Serving Abroad

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 7, 2003 – In honor of Older Americans Month this May, Peace Corps is proud to highlight the service of older Americans and recognize their contribution in international development and cultural appreciation.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy enacted the observance of Older Americans Month. Every president since JFK has issued a formal proclamation during the month of May celebrating the contributions of older persons to our country. This year, President Bush recognized the service of seniors in a proclamation stating, “These individuals understand the importance of service, and their efforts are helping to build a more welcoming society. Many food banks, clothing distribution programs, and other social service activities of faith-based and community organizations could not operate without the senior Americans who volunteer in these efforts.”

Peace Corps celebrates the unique role of older Americans who serve as volunteers overseas. Older volunteers put their experience and expertise to work in a variety of assignments around the world. Currently, 423 volunteers, six percent of all serving as Peace Corps volunteers, are over the age of 50. Volunteers who are well into their eighties have served and continued to serve.

Many volunteers come to Peace Corps after retiring from long, successful careers bringing a wealth of experience to their host communities and their assigned project areas.

Edith Sloan, 61, and Rel Davis, 66, are excellent examples of retired professionals lending their expertise to Peace Corps projects. Edith, a retired school administrator and teacher, and Rel, a former minister and journalist, were living in South Florida when they made the decision to join Peace Corps. The couple now lives in a small agricultural town in southeast Bulgaria. Edith teaches English as an education volunteer, and Rel works as a community service volunteer in economic development. Together, they have worked to create economic and educational opportunities for their community by encouraging civic engagement, creating English resource centers, and utilizing technology.

Mervyn, 61, and Joyce Alphonso, 57, were both active in their communities in the United States, but decided to leave their home to return to their native Guyana. The Alphonsos, a Guyanese-American couple, became U.S. citizens as adults and returned to Guyana as Peace Corps volunteers. Mervyn, formerly a banking professional, is a life skills teacher and guidance counselor at a secondary school. Joyce has years of experience as a nursing professional and works as a community health educator in the Maternal and Child Health Clinic at a regional hospital.

Since 1961, more than 168,000 volunteers have served in the Peace Corps, working in such diverse fields as education, health, HIV/AIDS education and awareness, information technology, business development, the environment, and agriculture. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a two-year commitment.

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