Peace Corps Pays Tribute to Asian/Pacific Americans Volunteering

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 20, 2005 – As Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month commences, Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez recognizes those Americans who are working to show the world the diverse face of America.

"The Peace Corps works tirelessly to ensure the volunteer corps reflects the extraordinary diversity of the American people," said Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez. "Currently, ethnic minorities make up 15 percent of the 7,733 currently serving Peace Corps volunteers. We are committed to ensuring every qualified American has the opportunity for professional development and personal growth that comes with service as a volunteer."

Experiencing that personal growth and development are Asian/Pacific American volunteers such as 28-year-old Shannon Hy. Hy was born in Vietnam before immigrating with her family to Los Angeles. Although she lost the use of her legs to polio as a child, she is now working with disabled youth to help them achieve their goals. She is hosting self-esteem classes and teaching people with disabilities the skills they need to be employable in Paraguay. Also, as an Asian American, Hy is shattering stereotypes and myths by showing Paraguayans that Americans come from all backgrounds, cultures and faiths.

"People are surprised to see me, especially when they find out I am American," said Hy, who added that cultural differences have made the experience challenging, but, "…at the same time, these challenges have also enriched my experience and the people around me."

Currently, 333 trainees and volunteers of Asian/Pacific descent are serving in the Peace Corps. Since 1989, more than 2,100 Americans of Asian/Pacific heritage have volunteered in the Peace Corps, serving the people of 109 countries. In addition, the Peace Corps is proud to have a long history of service in Asian and Pacific nations. To learn more, please visit Who Volunteers?.

Since 1961, more than 178,000 volunteers have served in the Peace Corps, working in such diverse fields as education, health, HIV/AIDS awareness and education, 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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