WASHINGTON, DC — A 21-year-old West Orange resident will depart for Thailand on Jan. 8 to begin training as a Youth in Development Volunteer after recently being accepted into the Peace Corps.
Matthew Eng explained that he was motivated to join the Peace Corps due to his prior work experience as an intern at their Office of Global Health and HIV. It was in this position that Eng was able to "see the value of the agency's mission and the impact that every single member of the team was having on the work of our volunteers abroad," he said.
"The diversity of the Peace Corps environment created a truly formative personal and professional experience for me," said Eng. "It is this value in diversity I hope to bring to my own service as I become a role-model for the next generation of Thai youths.”
Eng, son of Mark Eng and Kathleen Berkery-Eng, is a graduate of West Orange High School. He currently attends The George Washington University in Washington, DC, where he will earn a Bachelor of Arts in political science and international affairs with a concentration in security policy in January.
Prior to joining the Peace Corps, Eng volunteered at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange and worked as a legislative intern for former U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen; a programming and training intern at the Peace Corps Office of Global Health and HIV; a front office intern/staff assistant in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the U.S. Department of State; and the external philanthropy chair for the Iota Omicron Chapter of the Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity.
During the first three months of his service, Eng will live with a host family in Thailand to become fully immersed in the country’s language and culture. After acquiring the necessary skills to assist his community, Eng will be sworn into service and assigned to a community in Thailand, where he will live and work for two years with the local people.
“Personally, I hope that Peace Corps service will bring me a better understanding of Thai culture and provide me with an opportunity to grow more confident in my own abilities as a leader and role model,” said Eng. “While in Thailand, I also hope my experience as a volunteer will provide me with opportunities to teach others about my own identity as a mixed-race Chinese American and facilitate cross-cultural exchanges that leave a lasting and indelible impact on the community I serve and my community back home. Professionally, I hope Peace Corps service better prepares me to integrate into the diverse workforce of the U.S. Foreign Service.”
Eng will work in cooperation with the local people and partner organizations on sustainable, community-based development projects that improve the lives of people in Thailand and help Eng develop leadership, technical and cross-cultural skills that will give him a competitive edge when he returns home.
According to the Peace Corps, volunteers return from service as global citizens well-positioned for professional opportunities in today’s global job market.
There are more than 115 volunteers in Thailand working with their communities on projects in education and youth development. During their service in Thailand, volunteers learn to speak Thai.
Eng said he specifically applied to Thailand because it would provide him with an opportunity to explore Southeast Asia, which is one of his areas of academic interest.
"I was most attracted to working within the region as I think it will give me a more holistic understanding of the country’s people and provide me with an opportunity to better appreciate the cultural and religious diversity of the region outside of a circumscribed classroom environment," he said. "I am most excited for the prospects of living within a region in which I hope to work in the future, and where I can have a true impact as a role model figure for the next generation who I hope to be working with for years to come."
Eng joins the 164 New Jersey residents currently serving in the Peace Corps and more than 5,417 New Jersey residents who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.
The Peace Corps currently has a high need for applicants to fill volunteer programs departing in 2020. Interested Americans can apply online by Jan. 1 for hundreds of available openings in 31 countries worldwide.
Volunteers receive a living stipend, extensive language and technical training, and financial benefits including student loan deferment and graduate school fellowships after service. To learn more about how to get involved with Peace Corps and the benefits of service, connect with a recruiter online or register to attend an event.