Friday, June 27, 2014

National Peace Corps Association. Endless Experience and Opportunities

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National Peace Corps Association

Minorities in the Peace Corps Panel Coming to Nashville
By Teniola Ayoola on Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Ever wondered about the diversity of Americans who have served in the Peace Corps over the past 53 years?
If you asked today, only a very rough estimate would be available. Herman DeBose and J. Henry “Hank” Ambrose are two Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who are out to change that. During the upcoming Peace Corps Connect conference in Nashville this June 19 -21, they will host the session Minorities in the Peace Corps.

The goal of the panel is first, to bring together a spectrum of minority RPCVs and discuss their experiences after completing their Peace Corps service and returning to the United States. Secondly, because of the very low historic data on minority service in the Peace Corps, DeBose and Ambrose are more specifically seeking ideas on how to expand and build the database of African American RPCVs. For Ambrose, “it seemed like a good idea to involve the broader minority community in the discussion while kicking off the research project on African American RPCVs.”
Friendship Forged in Kenya
Ambrose served over 40 years ago as a lecturer in the mathematics department at Kenyatta College from January 1971 through June 1973. His personal experience sheds some insight into the service distribution among different racial groups in the past. “I was the only African American in Group III, for the Peace Corps/College degree program. I thought for sure I would have other African-Americans in the training program for Kenya, but again I was the only one.”
According to the Peace Corps, as of February 2014 over 215, 000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps. Of that number, it is estimated that approximately 3% (6,300) to 5% (10,500) have been African Americans. A search of the existing literature on the subject matter shows that at this time there has not been a comprehensive study of the overall experiences of African Americans who have served in the Peace Corps.
Herman DeBose, who served as an education Volunteer in Kenya 1969 to 1972 for a total of 33 months, and as an Associate Peace Corps Director in Kenya from 1985 to 1987, is currently the chair of the sociology department at California State University, Northridge (read his bio here). He provides an answer as to why it is important and beneficial to have knowledge on the experience of African Americans in the Peace Corps:
“As the American population becomes more diverse, it is important for an organization such as the Peace Corps to have its Volunteers represent and reflect the population of the United States. If the estimates cited above are correct, more African Americans need to be encouraged to serve as Peace Corps Volunteers. The project will provide information from African American RPCVs to Peace Corps on how to more effectively recruit them to the service of Peace Corps and maintain and support them while serving as Peace Corps Volunteers.”
Continued service to Peace Corps ideals
Both men have strong ties to the National Peace Corps Association. Ambrose, now retired from a long career in the telecommunications industry, currently serves on the NPCA board of directors (read his bio here). DeBose was anNPCA founder (pictured right, second from the right).
“My experiences in Peace Corps changed my life…” says DeBose. “The educational and employment opportunities presented to me after my Volunteer services were things that I could not imagine. I would like to have the opportunity to share my Peace Corps Volunteer experiences and the different opportunities it presented to me with other minorities.”

The discussion around this panel is sure to be fascinating, and it will serve as the kick-off for this long overdue research topic.  Don’t miss the opportunity to be a part of change-in-the-making at thePeace Corps Connect conference this June 19th -21st in Nashville, TN!

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