Vanity Fair Chooses Peace Corps Volunteer's Essay

March 18, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 18, 2005 – Who better to explain the American people to the rest of the world than a Peace Corps volunteer?

According to the editors of Vanity Fair magazine, Peace Corps volunteer Liz Richardson, serving in Togo, is the right person. From almost 4,000 entries for the magazine's essay contest, Richardson's piece was chosen as the one that best answered the challenge of explaining American society to those who may never have experienced American culture firsthand.

In her essay, appearing in the April edition of Vanity Fair under the title "My American Home," Richardson discusses the difficulties in explaining American society to the residents of the small African village where she lives. She also explores her personal impressions of American life—now influenced by her exposure as a Peace Corps volunteer to her current African friends and co-workers. In addition, the essay helps millions of Americans better understand Richardson's perspective on what life is like as a Peace Corps volunteer serving others around the globe.

"I think my time in Peace Corps has been invaluable—especially as it relates to my perspective on the world and America's role in it," said Richardson, who in her essay states that she has to be the resident expert on all things American in her village, a subject that almost never loses its appeal. "Nothing about my opinions, my awareness, or my attitudes has remained untouched by my experience here."

The entirety of Richardson's essay is featured in the April edition of Vanity Fair. The magazine has also republished the essay on their Web site: http://www.vanityfair.com.

"I keep expecting to get a call from them explaining that this has all been a big mistake, that they've got me confused with someone else," wrote Richardson in an e-mail to family and friends.

Richardson, who serves as a community health volunteer in the village of Tokpli, also reflects on her experience of living in an area with no running water or electricity and the daunting task of having to explain America and American culture when one can barely grasp what American values really are. Richardson, 23, hails from Raleigh, N.C. and attended Wake Forest University.

Since 1961, more than 178,000 volunteers have served in the Peace Corps, working in such diverse fields as education, health, HIV/AIDS education and prevention, 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 27-month commitment.

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