Category Archives: Photographs

Peace Corps through Images: The People

Below are images of local citizens taken by Peace Corps volunteers.  Each photograph captures local culture and customs through the nation’s people — as artisans, students, families, and participants in celebrations.

“Paraguayan artisan making ‘nanduti’ (spider-web lace) in her home shop in Itagua, the center of the nanduti artistry.” Caption written by Robert Meade.

 

“Students husking–polishing the floor with a coconut husk. At 7:00 AM–before school duties.” Caption written by Joyce Emery Johnston

 

“Campesino home and family.” Caption written by Robert Meade.

 

PC Boge- Snake Charmer edit

Snake Charmer

 

Celebration. Captured by Norm and Janet Heise while working for Walt Sangree, professor of anthropology. circa 1963-1965.

 

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.

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.

Combatting Malaria in Thailand

During the 1907s, Jonathan Green worked with a malaria control program in South Central Thailand’s Control Zone 3.  Accompanied by a crew, Green ventured into the jungle to spray local villagers’ homes with DDT.  If individuals suspected they might have malaria, the organization administered a blood test and provided medication for those who tested positive.

Here, Green wears his khaki uniform, like other Thai civil servant officials. According to Green, his boss suggested this type of uniform because villagers would be more trusting and recognize him as an official.

Green’s work took him into the jungle to visit local villages.

Green traveling by boat. Rain often made traveling on dirt roads impossible.

Members of the spray team walk along the trail carrying their equipment. Jonathan Green wrote, “Each sprayman carries a canvas bag containing several plastic bags of powdered DDT, his sprayer, and a bucket in which to mix the DDT with water. Powdered DDT is not soluble in water, so it is hard to mix. But then the whole idea is to spray a suspension on the interior walls of homes, so the water will evaporate and leave the powder adhering to the walls to kill mosquitoes who like to rest there.”

Spraying DDT underneath a dwelling’s eaves.

“Mr. Winai, the malaria control sector chief for Tongphum and Snagkhlaburi districts, examining a blood sample under the microscope.”

Jonathan Green’s collection is the only one currently in the Peace Corps Community Archive documenting a volunteer’s experience in Thailand.  Green wrote detailed captions explaining each image and elaborating on his Peace Corps service.

To view more photos, visit Jonathan Green’s Facebook page.

Agricultural Extension Work in Paraguay

Peace Corps work in Paraguay began in January 1968.  The majority of volunteers in Paraguay I worked as agricultural extension agents.  It was their job to help local farmers improve the efficiency and output of small, rural farms.

“P-I Volunteer Rich Stockton and interim PC Paraguay Director Mike Doyle.”

In addition to assisting farmers, PCVs helped to establish and promote the 4-C clubs—an equivalent of 4-H in the US—among Paraguay’s youth.

“P-I PCV Rick Mines with ag. extension agent Ojeda doing grafting demonstration with a 4-C club in Pedro Juan Caballero.”

 

“4-C garden in Cheiro-Cue.”

Peace Corps Volunteer Robert Meade served in multiple locations throughout Paraguay promoting public health and agriculture.  According to Meade, PCVs played an instrumental role in encouraging local farmers to plant new crops and experiment with diverse agricultural projects visible in the images below.     

“Two Paraguayan farmers (“campesinos”) showing off melons grown in their gardens. PCVs were instrumental in getting farmers to try new crops for the market. Eusebio Ayala.”

 

“An ag. Extension agent with a local farmer with a tank to grow tilapia, another project started by Peace Corps Paraguay, Eusebio Ayala.”

 

“Raising rabbits for food and fur, another 4-C program backed by Peace Corps.”

All image captions above were written by Robert Meade.

These are only a few of the fascinating images documenting the work and experiences of PCVs in Paraguay.  To view more images, visit the Archives and Special Collections.

Going Above and Beyond: Community Partnerships

In a statement issued March 1, 1961, President Kennedy acknowledged that Peace Corps Volunteers would never make a fortune from their service abroad.  Most made enough to subsist. Nevertheless, volunteers often went above and beyond—taking on additional projects to satisfy the community’s needs.  Projects included recruiting volunteer labor and additional funding for renovating and construction projects.

During his service in Paraguay, Robert Meade oversaw a school partnership project to build an elementary school.  A school in Bethesda, Maryland partnered with the Paraguay community and raised $700 for the construction.  Meade documented the efforts of local volunteers, as well as the entire building process, through photography.  The partnerships created during the school project represent the essence of the Peace Corps.  Robert Meade created the captions below.

 

Paraguayan workers on the building of Maria Auxiliadora Elementary School.  Bricks were made nearby and all labor on the school was voluntary.

“Paraguayan workers on the building of Maria Auxiliadora Elementary School. Bricks were made nearby and all labor on the school was voluntary.”

"Putting on the roof of Maria Auxiliadora."

“Putting on the roof of Maria Auxiliadora.”

"Oxcart delivering bricks for the school project."

“Oxcart delivering bricks for the school project.”

To learn more about Peace Corps Volunteers in Paraguay, visit the Peace Corps Community Archive at American University.

“Bringing to Man that Decent Way of Life”

The Peace Corps traces its history to a speech given by Senator John F. Kennedy in 1960.  In the midst of the Cold War and a presidential campaign, Kennedy, on October 14th, challenged University of Michigan students to travel abroad giving their time and talents to nations around the world.  “How many of you, who are going to be doctors, are willing to spend your days in Ghana?” Kennedy asked in an unplanned speech.

Those in attendance followed up with a petition which was eventually signed by one thousand students who affirmed their willingness to leave the comforts of the United States to work in developing countries.  Their signatures and commitment to service inspired the Peace Corps.  Once elected, President Kennedy followed up on his challenge and issued Executive Order 10924 establishing the Peace Corps on a temporary basis.

In a statement announcing the Peace Corps’ establishment on March 1, 1961, Kennedy acknowledged the real challenges waiting ahead for participants.  However, he stressed that the rewards, compared to the challenges, would be far greater.   Kennedy claimed, “For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps—who works in a foreign land—will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace.”

Abbie Rowe. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Abbie Rowe. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

On August 28, 1961, President Kennedy hosted a ceremony honoring the first group of volunteers, Ghana I and Tanganyika I, in the White House Rose Garden.  Days later, fifty-one Ghana I volunteers arrived in Accra to serve as teachers.  Less than a month later, the Peace Corps became a permanent federal agency with the Peace Corps Act.

Abbie Rowe. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Abbie Rowe. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Sources:

“About Us.” Peace Corps.  http://www.peacecorps.gov/about/

“Peace Corps.” John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. http://www.jfklibrary.org/JFK/JFK-in-History/Peace-Corps.aspx

All images are courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

“Pomp and Tradition” in India

Bossi Invitation 1967

Stephen Bossi, Invitation, 1967

It’s not every day that you’re invited to a party at the local palace.  As a Peace Corps Volunteer working with the Andhra Pradesh Science Workshop in Hyderabad, Steve Bossi received an invitation to attend a celebration at the new Nizam’s home.  The celebration took place the evening of April 6, 1967 at the Chow Mahala Palace following the formal instillation of Mir Barkat Ali Khan as the Nizam.  This example demonstrates the unique opportunities presented to Peace Corps volunteer while living abroad.

In a letter home, written the following day, Bossi detailed the evening’s events and reflected on the significance of the experience.  Bossi wrote, “They really turned out to be very gracious and very approachable—both Ray and I shook his hand and spoke to him (Ray got a picture of me with him—Hope it comes out.)”  Bossi’s photo with the Nizam did in fact turn out.

Bossi Nizam 1967

Stephen Bossi (right) meets the Nizam. Caption on image reverse: “Meeting the Nizam of Hyderabad—grandson of the former Nizam—April, 1967”

He continued, “But the most exciting part was just seeing first hand the kind of pomp and tradition which surrounds even the modern shadow of a court with the kind of history this one has.”  Not only did the Peace Corps offer volunteers a chance to travel to a foreign country and provide service, but also gave individuals an opportunity to learn about the country’s government and history personally.  This event reflects the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities presented to Peace Corps volunteers during their service.  Peace Corps was not only about working hard.  It provided volunteers with diverse occasions to experience and enjoy the local culture.

Through the Lens of a Camera

Dizon Relief

The Wait. Copyright for image is held by Ron Dizon.

Ronald Dizon served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Afghanistan from 1971-1973.  During his time abroad, he worked with Operation Help—a joint project between the US Peace Corps and USAID.  The project fed the Afghan people who suffered from starvation, disease, and destitution worsened by a severe two-year drought.

Dizon created a photo essay about the project for the Afghan Government.  The images capture the effects of drought on the lives of people.   Not only informative, the images are simply fascinating.

Dizon Transport

Food Transport to Darzak Valley. Copyright for image is held by Ron Dizon.

Additional images from the project are located in the collection.  The collection also includes a letter from the Afghan Government noting the importance of Dizon’s contribution to Operation Help in Afghanistan.

Dizon Wrestling

Village Wrestling Match. Copyright for image is held by Ron Dizon.