Jean Yamanaka was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines from 1967 to 1969, where she taught high school mathematics in Butuan City, Mindanao. After returning from her service, she became a member of the Board of Directors of the Southern California Peace Corps Service Council (now RPCVLA), serving from 1974 to 1976. She died on March 24, 1976, at 31 years of age, in La Jolla, California. After her death, her parents, James and Terue, donated $100 to the Service Council with the request that the money be used to support the Service Council’s work.
With the donation, the Service Council established the Jean Yamanaka Memorial Fund. The first grant of $25 was made to a maternity group in Brazil, where the money was used to purchase infant care supplies and paper to print infant care instruction sheets.