A Peace Corps Original
By Jonathan Pearson on Wednesday, September 1st, 2010
There have been many firsts in the history of the Peace Corps. The very first Volunteers (we won’t get into that debate!), the first Volunteers in a country or part of a country. The first married couple to serve. The first children of RPCVs to serve .
During a stop earlier in our road trip, we had the pleasure to meet Mohammed “Mo” Khan in Charleston West Virginia. Not only was he a member of the first group of volunteers to serve in Morocco, Mo also informed us that back in 1962, he became the first naturalized U.S. citizen to serve in the Peace Corps.
Mo was born in the 1930′s in Peshawar Province in Pakistan. He and his family fled the region in 1947 following the partition of India. They were among the estimated 15 million people who found their lives uprooted by the violence that ensued.
The family eventually moved to the United States in 1954, and in 1959 – at the age of 19 – Mo
became a U.S. citizen.
Less than three years later, Mo was among the first group of Americans to answer President Kennedy’s call to serve in the Peace Corps. “I was a refugee in 1947. I knew what it was like to be poor. I wanted to serve, to give back to America.”
Mo worked as an irrigation specialist in Morocco. The work was hard, but the decision to go was good. “It was the best challenge I ever had in my life.” Peace Corps is a challenge Mo continues to promote, noting a family friend has a daughter who is hoping to become a volunteer.
The devastating flooding that has crippled Pakistan weighs heavily on Mo. From personal experience, he knows the plight that lies before refugees and internally displaced people. “My heart goes out to them. They will need lots of help. We have to pray for their safety.”
Learn more about the response by the NPCA member group Friends of Pakistan to the humanitarian crisis in that country.