Category Archives: 1980s

Jim Hitter in Sierra Leone

Name: Jim Hitter
Country of Service: Sierra Leone
Place of Service: Kambia
Dates in Service: 1982-1984
Keywords: Agriculture, Community Development, Education, Environment, Health, Youth

Accession Date: March 5, 2020
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.25 linear feet

Document Types
• Photographs
• Diaries

Digital collection

Thomas O’Brien in Morocco

Name: Thomas O’Brien
Country of Service: Morocco
Service Type OR Service Project Title: Teacher of English and Volunteer Leader
Dates in Service: 1986-1989
Keywords: Education

Accession Date: November 11, 2019
Access: No Restrictions
Collection Size: 0.01 linear feet

Document Types

  • Publications
  • Training Materials

Digital Surrogates

Reconnecting with Heritage: The Peace Corps and Cultural Identities

When President Kennedy signed the Executive Order to establish the Peace Corps in 1961, he sought to “encourage mutual understanding between Americans and people of other nations and cultures.” Kennedy’s words echoed in the ears of those who lived during a decade of social tension and Cold War anxieties. Since the 1960s, the Peace Corps has trained and placed more than 235,000 volunteers, all joining for their own personal reasons: for peace, to improve the lives of others, and to learn new cultures. Several volunteers: Carolyn Gullat, Clinton Etheridge, Yancy Garrido, Shawnette Brandt, and Amina Johari, shared their desire to benefit the countries of their ancestors and reconnect with their heritage.

Carolyn Gullat is a Black Peace Corps Volunteer from Washington, D.C. She served as a teacher in South India from 1966-1968. Gullatt describes her choice to join the Peace Corps in an interview from Jonathon Zimmerman’s “Beyond Double Consciousness: Black Peace Corps Volunteers in Africa, 1961-1971,” featured in the December 1995 issue of the Journal of American History:

“For most of her own college career, Gullatt recalled, she had dismissed the Peace Corps as ‘for whites only.’ Then she met a Black recruiter, who ‘didn’t run down the usual jive propaganda about how nice it is to help people.’ Instead, ‘he talked about how I, as a Black person, could get ‘home’ and join with the Brothers and Sisters’ abroad, where ‘people have grown into Black pride naturally, where Black power is the status quo, and Black action is a working reality.’

“’Each year the Peace Corps sends hundreds of white ‘do-gooders’ to ‘help’ Black and Brown people throughout the world,’ Gullatt complained. ‘Black Americans owe it to themselves and to the Brothers and Sisters in developing countries to get up and get involved.’ – Page 1000, interview with Carolyn Gullatt by Donald M. Feeney, c.1971.

Clinton Etheridge joined the Peace Corps in 1970 and became the first African-American PCV to serve in Gambia, West Africa. Read more about Etheridge’s experience in an interview with Peace Corps Worldwide.

“I was a secondary school math teacher in Peace Corps Gambia from 1970-1972. I grew up in Harlem, came of age during the Civil Rights Movement, and was a black student leader at Swarthmore College in the late 1960s. Like many young blacks of that generation, I wore an afro and dashiki and was ‘black and proud’ and fascinated with Africa. I joined Peace Corps Gambia seeking my own answer to the question ‘What is Africa to me?’ posed by Harlem Renaissance poet Countee Cullen in his 1925 Heritage.

“I started out asking the question, ‘What is Africa to me?’…Then I asked the question, ‘What am I to Africa?’ when that Latrikunda schoolboy told me he didn’t have the math book to do the homework with because his father was ‘a poor Gambian farmer.’ Then, as a Stanford SEED business coach, I came to the conclusion that, moving forward; an important question will be ‘What is Africa to the world?’”  “What is Africa to Me?” National Peace Corps Association, June 4, 2018.

Yancy Garrido was born to Cuban parents who immigrated to the United States during the Cuban Revolution. Between January 1987 and August 1990, Garrido served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras within a community mental health program. In his interview with the Oral History Project at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Garrido explains his personal desire to serve in Latin America.

“I’m the son of Cuban refugees. My parents left Cuba because of the Cuban Revolution. Actually, would probably have never met if it had not been for the United States because my mother was the daughter of Batista’s diplomatic photographer—no one of high importance in the government, but still in the government—and my father cut sugar cane on a farm…But they met in New Jersey. And so, always in my mind was just being thankful for living in the United States. For having opportunities that I never would have had. So it was always in my mind, “How could I give back?”—not necessarily Peace Corps at the time, but to Latin America and represent my country…

“When the Peace Corps Volunteer came, the way they spoke about the experience was exactly what I wanted…The way it was pitched, I never thought Peace Corps was going to appeal to me…Once I spoke with the volunteer—they went “No, no, no—don’t get stuck with the messaging. You’re really going and working another country and you are trying to see if you can add value. And, if all goes well when you leave you’ll have helped establish something and people will continue that project without you.” The idea was to help get things started, not to actually take the place of someone. Because the last thing I wanted to do is take someone’s job.”

“So I applied, and of course my professors did not want me to go. They were grooming me to go get my doctorate and go be a professor of Spanish literature. My parents did not want me to go because they said “We left Latin America for you. Why are you going back?” But I went, and it’s the best decision I ever made in my life.”

Shawnette Brandt served in St. Lucia, Eastern Caribbean from 2013-2015. She speaks about her experience in the Peace Corps Stories blog on February 9, 2015:

“I was born in the United States and I am Guyanese. Although I had never been to Guyana, which was quite embarrassing to say especially around fellow Guyanese, I have always had a strong desire to visit the land of my parents… Even though I was cognizant of my dual American and West Indian heritage and the impact it could have on my work, I didn’t immediately understand the dichotomy of my culture was an asset and, in some cases, became quite a challenge.

“For the first time in my life, I lived in a country where the vast majority of the people looked like me, shared similar foods, music and a West Indian identity. It never occurred to me that I would face xenophobia. I tried to use this as an opportunity to gently challenge their prejudices either by comments and or deeds. I may not have changed minds but perhaps planted seeds for their further growth…Hearing the voices, the English Creole widely spoken all around me, felt more like coming home. And in a sense it was. I now have two countries that are my home.”

Amina Johari’s mother met her father while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya during the 1990s. Johari is currently teaching secondary school in Tanzania. In her 2019 article on the Peace Corps’ Stories blog, she reflects on her desire to understand more of her father’s culture:

“Serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in East Africa was an opportunity to spend an extended period of time and have a positive impact in a part of the world I consider to be my second home. While I was born in Kenya and spent the first few years of my life there, a part of me always felt that in order to really understand my father’s roots and where I come from, I had to spend more time there than the short trips to Kenya my father took my sister and I on every other year…

While I do think about mom a lot, I think the person I feel like I am really getting closer to is my father. Growing up I sometimes felt confused by my father’s habits, prioritization, and world view. But all that seems to be changing. Every hour I spend working with the kids in the classroom, every tea break I spend in the staff room with my fellow teachers, and every conversation I have with my neighbors in my father’s native tongue, I can feel myself getting a better sense of the boy he was, the man he became, and the person he wanted to be.  – Amina Johari, “Why the Peace Corps? Reconnecting with my East African Heritage,” PeaceCorps.gov Stories, July 17, 2019.

Sometimes serving in the Peace Corps offers you the opportunity to follow the legacy of your parents, expand your understanding of ancestral culture, or give back to the country you’ve heard about so many times. No matter the reason, every Peace Corps Volunteer brings countless identities with them during their service. So, how does your identity impact your decision to go abroad and your relationships with those you meet along the way?

Find out more by visiting the National Peace Corps Association website, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library’s RCPV Oral History Project, and us—the Peace Corps Community Archive.

Fortune Zuckerman in Colombia

Name: Fortune Zuckerman
Country of Service: Colombia
Place of Service: Antioquia, Bolivar, Atlantico Department
Service Type OR Service Project Title: Associate Peace Corps Director
Dates in Service: 1974-1980

Accession Date: July 31, 2019
Access: No Restrictions
Collection Size: 1 folder

Document Types

  • Reports

Playing in the Archives? A glimpse into the board game “Join the Peace Corps!”

This summer, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer A. Michael Marzolla donated materials from his service as an Agricultural Cooperative Volunteer in Guatemala and El Salvador. One of my first tasks as the 2019-2020 PCCA Fellow was to organize Marzolla’s collection, which featured his hand-drawn educational graphic books and a homemade board game titled “Join the Peace Corps!”

The game includes Marzolla’s hand-drawn board and 42 cards within twelve categories separated by themes: the application and acceptance process, training, on the program site, the termination process, and readjusting upon return to home country.

As I sorted the game cards and read the directions, I was struck by a flurry of questions about the game’s origins. Luckily, Marzolla agreed to answer my burning questions about the history of the game:

"Join the Piece Corps!" Game Board, hand drawn in the shape of a dove carrying and olive leaf.

“Join the Piece Corps!” Game Board, A. Michael Marzolla

I designed “Join the Peace Corps!” while working as a recruiter in Boston circa 1978-1980. I wanted to create a game that would simulate the Peace Corps experience from application through training, placement and in-country to the close of service. I had input from my RCPV recruiter colleagues, friends, and contacts so that every card was based on an experience someone had as a volunteer. The game was played three or four times—sadly, it was never published although people who played the game seemed to enjoy the experience.

With 42 different card options, Marzolla presented an amusing repertoire of experiences, from “you begin adopting local dress and customs” to “you are accused of being a spy for the CIA.” Both cards contribute to the historic context of the game and reflect true or rumored events within the Peace Corps. For example, when certain host countries accused Peace Corps volunteers of spying for the U.S. government, the CIA released a statement in 1965 that publicly barred volunteers from gathering military intelligence for any country in which they volunteered (however this lapsed after 5 years of resignation).

Arrow points to game board square and reads "You want only a warm sunny country with sandy beaches. You ask if the PC supplies suntan oil. Go back one and miss a turn."

“Join the Peace Corps!” Game Board Tile

The game also clearly punishes the negative qualities of a potential volunteer, represented in the board tile: “you want only a warm country with sandy beaches. You ask if the PC supplies suntan oil. Go back one and miss a turn.”

Of course, I immediately wanted to play this game. Associate archivist Leslie Nellis and I contacted local RPCVs and a few others from the American University community to join us. Library staff Matthew, Sarah, and RCPV Alayne agreed to help us try it out.

From left to right: Sarah, Matthew, and Leslie play "Join the Peace Corps!" with game board in front of them.

From left to right: Sarah, Matthew, and Leslie play “Join the Peace Corps!”

On Wednesday, September 11, we assembled in the archives processing room. Aside from difficulties shuffling the cards and defining when to move forward, the game was an enjoyable glimpse into the Peace Corps. We looked to Alayne to compare her own experiences as a volunteer in Nepal with the stories feature on the game board. She found that the lengthy application period and digestive complications upon arrival were true to form.

Enjoyment value aside, Marzolla’s game introduces an interesting aspect of archival materials. Whereas archives traditionally collect, preserve, and share materials for research purposes, interactive items such as board games challenge the definition of what it means to “share” collections. Thanks to Michael Marzolla and his donation, we were able to consider these complexities while rolling the dice.

Developing Volunteers Exhibit

As promised in the last story post, here is the newly-digitized exhibit which had been featured in at the AU Archives between October 2018 – February 2019.  The Developing Volunteers exhibit shares themes, examples, and ideas with another blog post, The Making of Global Citizens, but explores the artifacts in a different way.

Please enjoy this exhibit and I hope you will tell us if you’ve ever felt the same.  Have you ever lived abroad or experienced tremendous change which left you with a different perspective?  Tell us about it in the comments below!

Services Asked for, Given, and Received

For this next installment in the PCCA blog, I have decided to try something a little different.  For the last several months, I have worked on expanding the kinds of interpretation that can be done with the collections, including editing reel-to-reel tapes into digital podcasts and putting both visual and auditory media into exhibits.

In the AU Library Archives, we have a three-case exhibit space where small exhibits can be displayed.  If you follow the blog and live near DC, I encourage you to stop by and see in person how these items come together to tell slice-of-life stories about the PCV experience.  But, since many of our lovely readers do not live in the DMV area and since exhibits rotate, the exhibits are now going digital, starting with the current exhibit, Services Asked for, Given, and Received.

This exhibit explores the disconnect that sometimes occurred between what a PCV thought they would do and what they were asked to do, and the disconnect between what a partner government or community wanted from their volunteers and what they received.  This tension shows up in several of the collections, but featured here are pieces from the Geer Wilcox, Gail Wadsworth, Debby Prigal, and Ann Holmquist collections.

I hope you enjoy this little exhibit, and we would love to hear from you and your experiences.  So, what about you?  As a PCV, have you ever experienced this kind of disconnect?  Or in any other line of work?  Let us know in the comments!

Experience over Patriotism: the Benefit of Volunteers who Know Themselves and Know their Profession

Most Peace Corps Volunteers are recent graduates of college or university, but many volunteer after retiring.  In fact, in Moldova 27, which left in 2012, there were “8 [volunteers] over 60 and an equal number in their 50s.”[1] The Peace Corps Community Archives holds the Elizabeth Krakauer collection, (Colombia, 1975-80) and the Jan and Leslie Czechowski collection (Moldova, 2012), all of whom retired before beginning foreign service.  These tours of service were strengthened by the volunteers’ careers, experience, and their self-knowledge which enabled them to live a sustainable life in another country.

A sustainable lifestyle starts with physical comforts.  The Peace Corps experience is infamously shy of creature comforts, but this is not the same as having one’s needs met.  For example, after expressing their difficulty with the outhouse, Jan and Leslie wrote in their blog,

[2]

 

By asking to be accommodated, it was seen to that the Czechowskis could continue to serve in Moldova.

Comfort is also important in social situations.  Many PCVs spent time with each other, but both the Krakauer collection and the Czechowski collection reflect a tendency to distance themselves from their younger counterparts.  Leslie Czechowski writes,

[3]

 

Krakauer also kept a distance from her younger colleagues.  She reflects, “I give in to my age and don’t participate in the drinking parties nor in the trips into a warmer climate during weekends.”[4]  This reflects a reasonable preference for company of their own age.

Distance from the other PCVs was, in some ways, a boon to their service.  Both Krakauer and the Czechowskis became closer with their coworkers and their host family.  The Czechowskis write,

[5]

 

Spending more time with the hosts and less with other PCVs afforded them more time to enjoy Moldovan culture and to practice their Romanian.  Likewise, Krakauer found new friends at the Biblioteca Nacional.  She writes of her new house,[6]Rather than spending her time with the young PCVs, she spent her time and resources forging meaningful connections with her new colleagues.  Preference for the company of their hosts and colleagues led Krakauer and the Czechowskis to become more integrated with life abroad.

Further, these PCVs tended to be more assured of their beliefs and more prepared to meet people who held different culture and different opinions.  For example, Krakauer was a liberal and Democrat, yet her colleagues tended to be more conservative.  Her observational distance can be seen as she writes,

[7]

 

Her security in herself thus allows her to observe another culture without feeling threatened by it.  However, volunteers were not mere political observers.  In another letter, Krakauer explains the political games which would use her as a pawn;

 [8]

This boundary Krakauer established allowed her to remain neutral in a politically charged and unfamiliar environment.

A final distinction of elderly volunteers is in the superior caliber of their work.  For each, an entire career of experience informed their work abroad.  Krakauer, especially, proved an excellent resource for work with rare books in the Bibliotequa Nacional.  She was so successful that she was offered jobs, lecture opportunities, a book deal, and consulting positions in other Latin American countries.  Such ephemeral projects are not typical to the Peace Corps, so Krakauer explained that the value of her work was in creating systems of knowledge.[9]

Though the Peace Corps administrators prefer quantifiable outcomes, the most important Peace Corps exports have always been qualitative.  One favorite export has traditionally been the American Spirit,[10] but Elizabeth brought something with her much more important than ideals: experience.

Elizabeth Krakaurer’s and Jan and Leslie Czechowski’s service each lasted as long as possible, until they fell into chronic poor health.  Krakauer ended her service after six years only when her progressive osteoarthritis disabled her.[11]

Leslie’s illness, too, ended her and Jan’s experience in Moldova.  Jan writes,

[12]

 

This commitment to the Peace Corps is unmatched and shows incredible commitment to and care for their work and for other cultures.  These volunteers embody the Peace Corps at its finest by engaging purposefully with their hosts and bringing meaningful change to another country.

[1] Jan and Leslie Czechowski, ~Musings From Moldova: Jan & Leslie report on their Peace Corps activities in Moldova 2012~ (Moldova) 13 June 2012. Peace Corps Community Archives: Mixed, Box 1, Folder 4: Czechowski, Jan and Leslie Moldova, 2012, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

[2] Jan and Leslie Czechowski, ~Musings From Moldova: Jan & Leslie report on their Peace Corps activities in Moldova 2012~ (Moldova) 14 August 2012. Peace Corps Community Archives: Mixed, Box 1, Folder 4: Czechowski, Jan and Leslie Moldova, 2012, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

[3] Jan and Leslie Czechowski, ~Musings From Moldova: Jan & Leslie report on their Peace Corps activities in Moldova 2012~ (Moldova) 1 August 2012. Peace Corps Community Archives: Mixed, Box 1, Folder 4: Czechowski, Jan and Leslie Moldova, 2012, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

[4] Letter, Elizabeth Krakauer to Curtis, 19 March 1975, Peace Corps Community Archives: Elizabeth Krakauer, Box 1, Folder 3: Elizabeth Krakauer Friends of Colombia, 1975-1980 Correspondence, 1975. Friends of Colombia Archive, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

[5] Jan and Leslie Czechowski, ~Musings From Moldova: Jan & Leslie report on their Peace Corps activities in Moldova 2012~ (Moldova) 13 June 2012. Peace Corps Community Archives: Mixed, Box 1, Folder 4: Czechowski, Jan and Leslie Moldova, 2012, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

[6] Letter, Elizabeth Krakauer to home, 6 June 1975, Peace Corps Community Archives: Elizabeth Krakauer, Box 1, Folder 3: Elizabeth Krakauer Friends of Colombia, 1975-1980 Correspondence, 1975. Friends of Colombia Archive, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

[7] Letter, Elizabeth Krakauer to Curtis, 23 November 1975, Peace Corps Community Archives: Elizabeth Krakauer, Box 1, Folder 3: Elizabeth Krakauer Friends of Colombia, 1975-1980 Correspondence, 1975. Friends of Colombia Archive, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

[8] Letter, Elizabeth Krakauer to Krakauers in California, 10 August 1980, Peace Corps Community Archives: Elizabeth Krakauer, Box 1, Folder 8: Elizabeth Krakauer Friends of Colombia, 1975-1980 Correspondence, 1980. Friends of Colombia Archive, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

[9] Letter, Elizabeth Krakauer to Richard Baca, 23 May 1979, Peace Corps Community Archives: Elizabeth Krakauer, Box 1, Folder 7: Elizabeth Krakauer Friends of Colombia, 1975-1980 Correspondence, 1979. Friends of Colombia Archive, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

[10] Sargent Shriver, The Peace Corps (Washington: Peace Corps) Peace Corps Community Archives: Gail Wadsworth, Box 1, Folder 1: Application Materials Uganda 1970-72, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

[11] Letter, Grace Morillo to Peace Corps Colombia, 8 October 1980, Peace Corps Community Archives: Elizabeth Krakauer, Box 1, Folder 8: Elizabeth Krakauer Friends of Colombia, 1975-1980 Correspondence, 1979. Friends of Colombia Archive, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

[12] Jan and Leslie Czechowski, ~Musings From Moldova: Jan & Leslie report on their Peace Corps activities in Moldova 2012~ (Moldova) 3 November 2012. Peace Corps Community Archives: Mixed, Box 1, Folder 4: Czechowski, Jan and Leslie Moldova, 2012, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

Cherie Lockett in Senegal

Country of Service: Senegal
Service Type: Community Development, Agriculture, Health
Dates in Service: 1979-1981
Keywords: Agriculture, Community Development, Health

Accession Date: October 26, 2018
Access: No Restrictions
Collection Size: .5 linear feet

Document Types

  • Reports
  • Publications