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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 24, 2003

Peace Corps workers to be lauded for efforts that now span 42 years

By Zenaida Serrano Espanol
Advertiser Staff Writer

John Southworth was 23 and fresh out of college when curiosity and a desire for overseas adventure led him to a national volunteer organization.

Promoting peace, friendship

For details about the Peace Corps:

From 1963-64, Southworth served in the Peace Corps as a science and math teacher in Malaysia, where he found deep satisfaction volunteering and learning about a new culture.

The corps gives people an opportunity "to serve their country as well as themselves," said Southworth, now a 63-year-old University Lab School teacher.

Southworth is among more than 168,000 Americans, including 1,218 Hawai'i residents, who have served in 136 countries during the past four decades for the corps, whose mission is to promote world peace and friendship; goals that Southworth says should matter "in these days when it seems war is the only alternative."

The Peace Corps celebrates its 42nd anniversary Friday. Local observances include proclamations by Gov. Linda Lingle and Mayor Jeremy Harris declaring it Peace Corps Day in Hawai'i and the City and County of Honolulu.

The anniversary commemorates the establishment of the Peace Corps by President John F. Kennedy on March 1, 1961.

"The Peace Corps essentially has three goals," said Dennis McMahon, a spokesman of the San Francisco regional office, which serves northern California, Nevada and Hawai'i.

These goals are to help developing countries achieve specific goals; to teach people of these countries about Americans; and to teach Americans about these countries and its people, McMahon said.

"We're in the business of being grassroots ambassadors," McMahon said.

Today, about 7,000 volunteers, including 21 from Hawai'i, serve in 70 countries, in areas such as agriculture, business development and education.

Doug Long of Lanikai served in the corps from 1992-94 as a teacher in a rural high school of about 400 students in Swaziland, east of Johannesburg in southern Africa.

"I think I was really making an impact with the kids I was working with," said Long, 53, chairman of the Hawai'i Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.

The Hawai'i RPCV produces a monthly program on 'Olelo television called "Bring the World Home," in which former volunteers share their Peace Corps experiences. For a schedule of showtimes, call 261-7964.

Reach Zenaida Serrano Espanol at zespanol@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-8174.