Peace Corps Volunteer in China Hailed for Outstanding Achievement

May 20, 2002

Federal Asian Pacific American Council Selects Helen Raffel

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 20, 2002—Peace Corps volunteer Helen Raffel, of New York, has been selected to receive a special achievement award from the Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC) for her commitment to serving the people of China as well as the 540 students she has taught during her service in that country as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Ms. Raffel has been working as an environmental science teacher for undergraduate and graduate studies at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China. She also teaches English for faculty members and their kindergarten and primary school children. In her spare time, Ms. Raffel has taught a number of additional classes, arranged for environmental trips in cooperation with American university students, assisted students in taking the TOEFL exam in order to study in the United States, provided translating and recording assistance to aid the local tourism program, and recorded oral readings for the university.

“I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Helen Raffel when I visited China,” stated Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez. “I am awed by the vigor and enthusiasm that she contributes to her work, and I am delighted that she is receiving recognition for her important work in China and for her lifetime of service to others. She is an inspiration to many.” Known for her sparkling eyes and for the fact that she is 73 years old, Ms. Raffel is fluent in Chinese, has a law degree, and holds doctoral degrees in chemistry and economics. In addition to her service in China, Ms. Raffel has served for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Uzbekistan and will leave this summer for two additional years in Morocco.


photo of Helen speaking at podium

Helen Raffel speaks at the Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC) awards ceremony.

The award to Ms. Raffel will be presented on Wednesday, May 22, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel as part of Asian and Pacific Islander American heritage celebrations taking place during the month of May. President George W. Bush signed a proclamation designating May 2002 as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, noting that Asian/Pacific Americans have made great contributions to America's heritage and prosperity. Nominations for the FAPAC awards were solicited from the civilian workforce. The recognition of Helen Raffel marks the first time that a Caucasian has been so recognized.

The Peace Corps’ China program has been in operation since 1993, and 225 volunteers have served since that time. There are 85 volunteers currently serving. More than 165,000 volunteers have served in 135 countries since the Peace Corps was established in 1961. Today, nearly 7,000 volunteers serve in programs in the areas of education, health and HIV/AIDS, information technology, business development, the environment, and agriculture.

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