Many Faces of Peace Corps is a program of the Museum of the Peace Corps Experience. Its purpose is to encourage individuals in the diverse Peace Corps community, particularly those from under-represented populations, to share objects and stories of their unique Peace Corps experiences. Objects and stories help us understand differences and commonalities in the way people live and view the world.
Stories told by volunteers representing diversity in the U.S. open doors to recognizing racial, gender, and religious discrimination and help us address disparities and injustices. Stories educate Museum visitors and stimulate conversations about tolerance and respect for humans no matter what color they are, how they live, or what they believe.
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Personal Identity, Race, and the Peace Corps Experience
Many Faces of Peace Corps, a Museum of the Peace Corps Experience initiative, convened a virtual program “Personal Identity, Race, and the Peace Corps Experience” on December 7, 2022. The program goal was to elicit reflections by returned Peace Corps volunteers on two questions: What was your personal identity before Peace Corps and how did that identity change with your Peace Corps experience?
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Keynote speaker Jonathan Zimmerman, Nepal 1983-85 and University of Pennsylvania professor, introduced participants to his research findings on how race has been viewed in the history of Peace Corps. A panel of four – three returned Peace Corps volunteers and a former host country staff – presented their experiences. Panelists were John Fleming, Malawi 1966-68; Katrina Mathis, Guinea 1994-1996 and Staff 1997-2002; Ursula Pike, Bolivia 1994-1996; and Sorphorn Seng-St. Romain, Cambodia 2013.
Breakout rooms allowed participants to reflect on their own Peace Corps experience and how it influenced their racial self-identity and their perception of others’ identities. Concluding observations were shared by Albert “Beto” Whitaker, Paraguay 1979–81).
A summary report of the program.