Worth A Thousand Words

Images offer a chance to peak inside someone else’s world.  Often, they provide the best means for understanding an event in the past, or an experience beyond our own comprehension.  This is especially true when it comes to the many exciting and exotic opportunities encountered by Peace Corps volunteers.

Reading about these experiences, or hearing RPCVs recall stories from the past, doesn’t convey the same understanding as seeing it with your own eyes–even if that means through a photograph.  While they may have faced difficult challenges and unpleasant moments, Peace Corps volunteers also witnessed beautiful landscapes, sampled local cuisine, and embraced traditional cultures and customs.

From ordinary to the unusual, images in the PCCA depict the wide variety of Peace Corps volunteers’ experiences.  Enjoy a few of the images found in the collection.

Miango Village near Jos. Home of the Irigwe people studied by Walt Sangree, professor of anthropology at Rochester University. circa 1963-1965.

 

Pearl Diver

A Peace Corps volunteer followed by a crowd of children. Winifred Boge remembered, “she always got a big ‘following’–she was smiling and friendly to all.”

 

Peace Corps volunteer on top of a termite mound in Concepcion, Paraguay.

 

 

 

Love and Marriage in the Peace Corps

Not only did the Peace Corps experience provide opportunities to travel and develop skills, but also led to the development of romantic relationships between volunteers.  Norm Heise noted the Peace Corps’ reputation for “being the best ‘unofficial matrimonial agency’ going at the time.”  The PCCA collection includes several stories of volunteers’ dating escapades, but there are also two instances where volunteers married during their service.

August 18, 1963, St. Paul’s Chapel, Columbia University

Norm and Janet served as teachers at Toro Teaching Training College, in Northern Nigeria, from 1963-1965.  After meeting in training at Columbia University, Norm Heise proposed to Janet Driggs.  The two had known each other for less than a week.  The couple married in August before departing in September for their assignments in Nigeria.  As a result of their marriage, Peace Corps altered their placements to ensure the couple traveled, lived, and shared the experience together.  Their collection includes photos and stories of their work in Nigeria.

Norm and Janet Heise in Toro, Nigeria, 1963

The DeAntoni’s story is a bit different.  Both members of Turkey IV, Ed and Karen met during training and maintained contact while working in separate towns.  The two friends began a romantic relationship, in the midst of their service, after connecting at a party.  Karen wrote her parents on August 12, 1965, “I’m afraid this will come as an awful surprise, but then it’s more fun that way—last night I got engaged!”  Because of the distance and the realization her parents did not know Ed, Karen anxiously awaited their response.  Ed informed his parents by writing, “Before you start reading this, sit down, get composed, light a cigarette…In a word, it’s too good to be true.  Karen and I became engaged last night, and I’m so happy I could cry.”  Their collection of letters uniquely presents their same experiences from different points of view.

Karen’s letter to her parents announcing her engagement to Ed DeAntoni, August 12, 1965

PC Karen DeAntoni Letter 002

Karen’s letter (pg. 2), August 12, 1965

PC Karen DeAntoni Letter 003

Karen’s letter (pg. 3), August 12, 1965

Although Ed and Karen initially planned to return to the US to marry, they quickly decided to hold a wedding in Ankara, Turkey.  Their desire to travel together, avoid inconveniencing roommates, and being in love seemed sufficient enough.  The approaching marriage influenced many of the couple’s letters home—especially Karen’s—discuss wedding plans, financial needs, and concerns about family planning.

The DeAntoni’s wedding invitation, 1966

It is not surprising that living closely with other volunteers and sharing life-changing experiences established lasting bonds—both friendly and romantic.  In a letter to his parents, Ed explained, “This common experience has given us a tremendous basis for learning about each other, a common feeling for so many things, and the ground for our love to grow and flourish.”  For many volunteers, this experience of surviving a new place, establishing relationships, and sharing similar goals fostered the development of many romantic relationships.

Resource: Peace Corps Digital Library

The Peace Corps Digital Library collects and displays images and stories from Peace Corps staff and volunteers.    It’s a great place to begin if you are interested in learning about or conducting research on the organization’s history and work around the world.

From the main page, it is easy to browse the collection for photos and stories from the agency, staff and volunteers.  Also included in the digital collection, are technical and training materials, brochures, graphics, and volunteer and agency documents.  Peace Corps Digital Library offers similar materials to those in the Peace Corps Community Archive, but also differs in several ways.

Differences between PCCA and the Peace Corps Digital Library

PCCA accepts only materials from returned volunteers.  At this time, PCCA does not collect materials from former Peace Corps staff.  The collection includes original materials—diaries, notebooks, training materials, slides, video, images, and sound recordings—created during volunteers’ training and service abroad.  Although it isn’t possible to search at the item level, it is possible to search collections using the online catalog.  The search feature allows researchers to identify collections containing specific types of items using key terms and categories.

The Peace Corps Digital Library only accepts materials in digital format and is completely online.  Having the content online enables users to search key terms, dates, types of materials, creator, and subject, which makes it easier to locate specific images or documents.  PCCA’s collection level approach facilitates establishing context and drawing conclusions about the Peace Corps experience.

Peace Corps Digital Library also differs from the PCCA because it includes a “story” component where volunteers and staff contribute stories about their Peace Corps experiences.  Volunteers and staff may write and submit one story in 1,500 words or less to be published in the digital library.  The PCCA collects volunteers’ stories, conveyed through archival documents, as well as unpublished memoirs but not individual stories.

For more information on contributing, or to browse items in the Peace Corps Digital Library visit their site.  If you have more than a single story or image to share with the public, consider donating to the Peace Corps Community Archive.

Christine Wenk-Harrison in Sierra Leone

Christine Wenk-Harrison

Country of Service: Sierra Leone
Service Type: Education
Dates in Service: 1967-1969
Keywords: Education, Youth

Accession Date: April 1, 2014
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 1 linear inch

Document Types

  • Art work
  • Lesson plans
  • Training materials

From AU’s Collections: Friends of Nigeria

The Friends of Nigeria Archive is another resource for learning about Peace Corps in Africa.   Founded in 1996, the organization seeks to educate the public about Nigeria and promote continual service to the Nigerian people.  As the national network for Nigeria Peace Corps alumni, Friends of Nigeria includes returned volunteers and staff, as well as members of other organizations who served in the country.

In 2010, Friends of Nigeria–an affiliate group of the National Peace Corps Association–established their Archive at American University.  Friends of Nigeria Archive includes organizational records consisting of by-laws, annual reports, newsletters, financial records, and membership directories.  However, the archive also includes  many collections donated by members of group.  Items of interest include audio recordings, memoirs, photographs, and correspondence.

Several of the collections included in the Peace Corps Community Archives are from the Friends of Nigeria Archive.  Be sure to browse the Catalog for specific collections with materials from volunteers’ training and service in Nigeria.

Sources:
“Welcome Friends of Nigeria,” http://www.friendsofnigeria.org/
“Special Collections,” AU Library, (2014)    http://www.american.edu/library/archives/collections.cfm
Sarah Kana, “Friends of Nigeria Supports WE CARE Solar,” National Peace Corps Association (2014) http://www.peacecorpsconnect.org/2012/05/friends-of-nigeria-supports-we-care-solar/

New Arrivals: Peace Corps Orientation in Paraguay

As Paraguay III arrived in December 1969, Peace Corps staff greeted and educated new volunteers about the place they would call home for the next two years.

“Arrival of Paraguay III volunteers, Asuncion International Airport, December 1969.”

 

“Assistant Director Tony Bellotti addressing newly-arrived Paraguay III volunteers in Peace Corps office, Asuncion.”

The previous images, as well as the ones that follow, are part of the Robert Meade collection.  As a member of Paraguay II from 1968-1969, Meade travelled throughout Paraguay documenting his experiences.  Those images enabled Meade to create a slide show to educate new trainees, as well as others, about Paraguay.  Included in his slide show are images of eastern Paraguay, historic sites, Peace Corps activities, and the capital city Asuncion.  Meade’s orientation slide show presents unique images of the country and people, and ultimately provides volunteers with an idea of the places and work they might experience.  After completing his two-year commitment, Meade continued working as a trainer in Peace Corps training centers located in Escondido, California and Ponce, Puerto Rico. [Note: All image captions were written by Robert Meade.]

“Itinerant vegetable vendor, Asuncion.”

“‘Campo’ about 50 miles east of Asuncion along the main road.”

“Paraguayan girls selling ‘chipa,’ a chewy cheese bread found throughout the country, Eusebio Ayala.”

“Near Colonia Sroessner, far east Paraguay.”

 

“The Church of San Roque in Caazapa. Caazapa was founded in 1607 as a Franciscan mission. The town’s name means ‘after the forest’ or ‘in the clearing’ in Guarani.”

 

“Curing yerba mate over a mud over. Mate, an herbal tea, is the favored drink in the Paraguayan countryside.”

To see more images from Paraguay, visit the AU Archives and browse the Robert Meade Collection.

John E. Fletcher in Bolivia

Jeff Fletcher (John E. Fletcher)

Country of Service: Bolivia
Service Project Title: Bolivia Mines Community Development
Dates in Service: 1967-1969
Keywords: Community Development

Accession Date: March 10, 2014
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 2 linear inches

Document Types

  • Reports
  • Publications

From AU’s Collections: Friends of Colombia

If you’re interested in learning about Peace Corps experiences in South America, the Friends of Colombia Archive is a great place to start.

As a member group, Friends of Colombia is an organization of returned Peace Corps volunteers who served in Colombia.  The organization’s mission is to unite and provide a community for returned volunteers and staff, as well as actively supporting community-based activities in Colombia.

Initiated by Tom Bauder, the organization gathered for the first time at the Peace Corps’ 25th anniversary conference held in Washington, DC.  After Colombia RPCVs in the Washington, DC area met, the group formed the Board and elected Bob Colombo as the first president.  The group created by-laws and became incorporated as Friends of Colombia, a non-profit organization, in Maryland in 1990.

American University Archives is the home of the Friends of Colombia Archives, established by the organization, as a means for documenting the lives of members during and after their Peace Corps service.  The archives include organizational records, biographies of Peace Corps volunteers, correspondence, and newsletters.  Individual members’ donations include interviews, photos, letters, publications, and training materials.

Many of the collections included in the Peace Corps Community Archives are from the Friends of Colombia Archive.  Be sure to browse the Catalog for specific collections containing materials from volunteers’ training and service in Colombia.

Sources:
About FOC,” Friends of Colombia, (2007)
FriendsPresent,” Friends of Colombia, (2007)
Special Collections,” AU Library, (2014)

Spotlight on the National Peace Corps Association

On March 1, 2014, AU Archives hosted an open house for board members of the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA).  Visitors had an opportunity to view materials documenting the organization’s history—annual reports, newsletters, photographs, by-laws, and educational projects.

AU Archives serves as the home for the records of National Peace Corps Association (NPCA), a non-profit organization whose goal is to connect and celebrate the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.  The collection includes materials documenting the development and evolution of the organization from its founding in the late 1970s to the present.

The National Peace Corps Association originated in the late 1970s as a result of several midwestern conferences of global educators.  The conferences brought together Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who began meeting to share ideas about fulfilling the Peace Corps’ third goal—returning to the US to teach about cultures around the world.  The National Council of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers developed after communities of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) united their efforts to establish a national organization.  In 1979, the organization coordinated a convention, wrote a charter, and elected their first president.  In 1993, the organization changed its name to National Peace Corps Association.

Today, the NPCA’s vision reflects the Peace Corps’ goals and seeks to promote cross-cultural understanding.  However, they also provide a network and resources for the Peace Corps community, develop service and education opportunities for NPCA members, and advocate for the values and issues relevant to the Peace Corps.  This organization currently includes more than 50,000 individual members and 140 member groups throughout the United States, which makes NPCA a viable means for connecting with returned volunteers interested in donating.

The event provided an excellent opportunity to inform NPCA board members about the existence and purpose of the Peace Corps Community Archive.  If you are interested in finding a home for your collection of Peace Corps materials, please contact us by email at archives@american.edu or by phone (202) 885-3256.

Sources:
About Us,” National Peace Corps Association (2014)