Peace Corps Volunteer Service as a 50-Year-Old: Seeking Dragons and Drinking Tea to Partner in Combating Racial Stereotypes
I turned 50-years-old at the 12-month mark of my 27 months of service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cambodia. Full of curiosity about this culture I knew little to nothing about when I was accepted to serve, I was quickly enchanted by the leftover vestiges of colonization and the omni-presence of dragons in Khmer architecture, whether is small rural villages or the King’s Palace gardens. I grew to gain comfort from dragons - this symbol of power and protection that allows maintenance of treasures. It became and remains a metaphor for the power of commitment to the hard work of reaching across difference to be of service to the priorities of the other, rather than my own…on their terms, rather than my own. And how the treasure of one’s own identity and sense of self-worth is strengthened in this releasing of ownership of the how of the service effort. “You’re never too old to learn,” is an understatement. Learning what I had practiced as a Clinical Psychiatric Social Worker and what I had taught as a Professor in the UT Austin School of Social Work, was actualized through both my Peace Corps Volunteer service and my subsequent work as a Peace Corps Country Director in Mongolia and Kosovo. Realizing that when I stopped blaming others for negative stereotypes held about Black people like me, I started more effectively engaging across our differences to combat those stereotypes and build the bridges necessary to make change happen.
In June 2020, Dr. Darlene Grant joined the Peace Corps Head Quarters Director’s Office as Senior Advisor. From June 2022 to February 2023, she left her office in Washington, DC for Ha Noi, Viet Nam to lead, as senior advisor, in this newest (143rd) Peace Corps program. The program welcomed its first group of volunteers in October 2023. Dr. Grant served as Peace Corps Country Director in Kosovo from 2015 to 2019, and as Country Director in Mongolia from 2012 to 2015. From 2009-2011, she took a leave of absence from her tenured faculty position to serve in Cambodia’s 3rd Peace Corps Volunteer cohort as a TEFL English Teacher and Teacher Trainer. After 10-years of social work practice in domestic violence shelters, drug rehab, and adolescent and adult psychiatric hospital facilities, Dr. Grant worked for 18-years as a professor of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin. There she also served for five years as Associate Dean in the Office of Graduate Studies, overseeing university-wide recruitment for over 200 graduate degree programs. In this position she managed a multi-million-dollar fellowship program, mandated with increasing the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity in graduate degree programs. Dr. Grant taught graduate and undergraduate courses in social justice, clinical practice, research methodology, working with women with addiction and criminal justice involvement and at-risk youth. She has authored dozens of journal articles and book chapters. Dr. Grant was named 2006 Social Worker of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.
WE WERE EVER HERE: CHINESE EXCHANGE STUDENTS IN IOWA, 1909-1937 我们曾在此：中国留学生在爱荷华的早期历史 (1909-1937)
It is rarely known that Chinese students have long had a significant presence in institutions of higher learning in Iowa. As early as 1909, at least one Chinese enrolled at the University of Iowa. Following this forerunner, a significant number of Chinese students were enrolled in higher educational institutions in Iowa. Between 1909 and 1937, a large number of Chinese students sailed to America to study in Iowa. Based on local newspapers and college yearbooks written in English, this essay casts light on these early Chinese students' transnational experiences in Iowa.
Shu Wan is currently matriculated as a doctoral student in history at the University of Buffalo. His research focuses on the transnational history between China and the United States since the late nineteenth century. He currently serves on the editorial team of Digital Humanities Quarterly and Nursing Clio and works as a host in the Disability Studies channel of New Books Network.
In December 2021, the ICFRC began a program series called, Refugees and Immigrants in Iowa. To begin, we focused on “Resettling Afghan Refugees in Iowa,” with speakers Mak Suceska and Sara Zejnic. These speakers explained the complicated process of refugee resettlement and the early efforts to welcome and support Afghans to the US and to our state. Today, 18 months after the fall of Kabul, Saadat Ahmadi from Catholic Charities of Dubuque in Cedar Rapids and Zainab Afghan from YPN will discuss how the Afghan community in Cedar Rapids has been doing in eastern Iowa, sharing their challenges and their joys as well as their hopes and dreams for the future. Attendees will learn how they can support their Afghan neighbors and the agencies in Iowa serving Iowa’s newest residents.
Saadat Ahmadi is an Interpreter / Resource Navigator with the Catholic charities of Archdioceses of Dubuque (CCAD) in Cedar Rapids helping fellow resettled Afghans with language barriers and introducing them to available resources in the community, Saadat was born and raised in Afghanistan and after graduating from high school joined Afghan Airforce and has a diploma from Afghan Airforce university (Academy) and was a Lieutenant and helicopter pilot for the Afghan Airforce (AAF), Saadat had his flight school and flights in republic of Slovakia in H-269 and MD530 helicopters and in October of 2021 after the fall of the Afghan government Saadat was evacuated from republic of Slovakia to the US and was granted Parole status under the operation allies refuge (OAR) program and in the last winter of 2021, He was resettled in Cedar Rapids, Iowa where he continue to live, Saadat always had a passion of helping and assisting people and this inspired Saadat to start working with Catholic Charities in Cedar Rapids, Saadat is now part of the Immigration Legal Services team of the of the Catholic Charities in Cedar Rapids helping Afghans with their different immigration matters and helping them seek lawful permanent residency in the US.
Zainab Afghan is the Afghan Program Specialist at YPN in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Her family and
she came to the US in August of 2021 after the fall of Afghanistan. Her family’s life in the US
started in Wisconsin, but after a long journey, they finally settled in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in
February of 2022. Shortly after, Zainab started her first job at YPN in March of 2022. She assists
families in their transition to life in the US, connects them to resources in the community,
interprets for home visits and group classes, and works as a support for Afghan mothers
navigating parenting in the US. She has also collaborated with Catherine McCauley Center, as
they provide many classes and support for the Afghan community. Zainab graduated high
school in Afghanistan, and wants to go to school to become a doctor. She hopes to return to
Afghanistan after she has completed her education so that she can continue to serve those in