Credit: Photo courtesy of the Peace Corps

Recently, Carol Anne Reid/Aziza, one of Harlem’s most treasured persons, was recognized among the top nominees for the Peace Corps’ Lillian Carter Award recognizing outstanding older volunteers. A former Peace Corps volunteer who has been nominated for the agency’s Lillian Carter Award, which honors outstanding individuals who volunteered at age 50 or above, Reid previously served with the Peace Corps in Moldova and Eswatini and is among the top 10 nominees for the award, for which Peace Corps received more than 70 nominations.

Reid is an artist, activist, organizer and educator with four years of service as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Her work intersects many communities but has focused on literacy, health education, and youth and family services. In Moldova, she was a community development volunteer, focusing on community programs to empower women and youth through African dance classes and social justice activities. In Eswatini, her impact on girls’ and women’s empowerment and on combating HIV/AIDS was recognized at the national level by the deputy prime minister. She also founded Peace Corps Eswatini’s first affinity group to support volunteers aged 40 and above.

In describing her service as an older Peace Corps Volunteer, she said, “There’s no substitute for lived experience. That, plus my profound belief in the principle of ‘seva’ or selfless service, gave me the awareness of how everything I did, every task regardless of skill level, was an opportunity to hone my character and be the person that I say I am. As an older volunteer, I understand that life is a masterwork that takes time to come into focus. The important thing is to be of service.”

Reid has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to civic engagement and service. She founded Def Dance Jam in Harlem, a nonprofit that has worked for more than two decades to meet needs of physically challenged and developing members. Serving as a cultural ambassador in Greece and Turkey for the U.S. State Department, she replicated her special-needs programming. Her choreography features large groups of differently abled artists addressing sensitive subjects incorporating American Sign Language.

When her second tour of Peace Corps service was cut short due to the global evacuation, Reid returned to New York City and formed Ministers of Color Sacred Circle, a nationwide community to address intensified racial disparities facing people of color. Reid recognized that the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19, while adversely affecting the nation as a whole, severely devastated small business owners of African, Middle Eastern, and Asian descent.

Joining the U.S. Small Business Administration, she provided linkages between struggling business owners and available resources they needed during the pandemic.

Reid has made it her mission to share diverse cultures and peoples with Americans. She has worked with organizations that focus on interfaith coalitions, so that Americans might better understand the belief systems of other people. She also hosts sessions to discuss her experiences as a 50+, African American returned Peace Corps volunteer from Moldova and Eswatini.

Upon learning she was named one of the top nominees for the Peace Corps 2021 Lillian Carter Award, Reid said, “Lilian Carter was an extraordinary leader. Being among the top nominees for an award that bears her name is both humbling and ennobling at the same time. It means that her model of service as an older volunteer is as vital today as it was 60 years ago. It means that older volunteers are seen as contributors, with some limitation but a wealth of experience, perfect in our imperfections. It means that as an older volunteer I can be a driving force in support of Peace Corps initiatives and fulfill my calling to be of service to humankind. I’m inspired being among the top nominees for the Lillian Carter Award.”

Established in 1986, the Lillian Carter Award was created in honor of President Jimmy Carter’s mother, Lillian Carter, who, at age 68, served as a Peace Corps health volunteer in India. Lillian Carter’s commitment to Peace Corps service was an extension of her dedication to humanitarian efforts at home and abroad.