Category Archives: 2000s

William Dennis Grubb in Colombia

Place of Service: Zipacón

Service Type: Community Development

Dates in Service: 1961-1963

Keywords: Business, Community Development

Accession Date: January 14, 2022

Access: No restrictions

Collection Size: 1.5 linear feet

Document Types

  • Correspondence
  • Photographs
  • Reports
  • Publications
  • Film/Video
  • Sound

Related Items in Other Repositories:

JFK Library: Peace Corps, 1962: January-March subcollection- see scans 36-38, 60-61 for an advertisement featuring Grubb, a report on an administration trip to Colombia, and a letter about Grubb from Sargent Shriver, Peace Corps Director, to Gordon Tullock, a University of Virginia professor

Finding Aid:

Box 1

  1. Documents
    1. Documents, 1961-July 1963, undated
    2. Documents, August 1963-1970
    3. Documents and Photos on National Politics, c. 1978-1984
    4. Documents and Similar Materials, 1981-1986
    5. Documents and Similar Materials, 1988-1990, undated
    6. Documents, 2008-October 2010, undated
    7. Documents, c. November 2010-2018
    8. Documents from Grubb’s passing and funeral, 2021
    9. Graduate Projects, 1966-1969
    10. Stamps, Money, and Envelope, undated
  2. Newspaper Articles
    1. Newspaper Articles and Photos, 1961
    2. Newspaper Articles, 1962-1964
    3. Newspapers, 1983-1984
    4. “After the Yankees Left For Home,” article, September 29, 1986
    5. Oversized Articles, c. 1961-1969 [in oversized collections]
  3.  Photos
    1. Photos, c. 1961-1963
    2. Photos, c. 1960s
    3. Photos, c. 1980s
    4. Large Photos, c. 1961-1963
    5. Filmstrips and Related Photos, c. 1960s
  4. Publications
    1. Making a Difference: The Peace Corps at 25, autographed by Loret Miller Ruppe, Peace Corps Director, 1981-1989
    2. Portrait of a Peace Corps Gringo by Paul Arfin, autographed by Arfin, 2009
    3. New York City and Bogotá Maps, 1971, 2007
    4. Peace Corps 50th Anniversary Poster [in oversized collections)
  5. Audiovisual (Box 2)
    1. DVDs/ CDs
      1. American Idealist: The Story of Sargent Shriver, 2008
      2. School at Ricon Santo, undated
    2. Miniature tape labeled “TV,” undated
    3. 6 film reels
  6. Other
    1. Peace Corps Colombia button, c. 2010s

 

Susan Fortner in India

Place of Service: Allahabad (Prayagraj) 

Service Type: Education (Home Economics) 

Dates in Service: 1962-1963 

Keywords: Education 

Accession Date: 2014 

Access: no restrictions 

Collection Size: 0.01 linear feet (located in small collections) 

Document Types 

  • Photographs 
  • Publications 

Finding Aid: 

  • Memoir 
  • Photos 

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and the Third Goal

The Peace Corps has always operated with a three-point goal in mind: serve host countries, introduce host countries to Americans, and to help Americans better understand non-Americans. [1] Peace Corps Volunteers do not stop fulfilling this third goal when they finish their service. One of the ways that Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) have accomplished this goal is by establishing organizations that work to help their country of service.

The American University Archives features materials from these organizations, whether donated by a Volunteer or the organization itself. Returned Peace Corps Volunteers often founded these associations in the final decades of the twentieth century. Many have the title “Friends of [Country of Service].” These groups provide a way for members who served together or in the same country to keep in touch. However, they also have a central focus on providing resources to and keeping American attention on their country of service. As such, they continue to fulfill the third goal of the Peace Corps.

This flyer shows how the Friends of Costa Rica Organization clearly thought of themselves as fulfilling the Peace Corps’ third goal and wanted other RPCVs to do the same. Friends of Costa Rica, “Third Goal Forum!” 1996, American University Archives, Washington, D.C.

The Peace Corps Community Archive has materials from organizations for RPCVS from five countries: Colombia, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and the Dominican Republic. A former fellow has written an amazing post about materials from the Friends of Nigeria, but the other four groups’ collections are also fascinating. Of especial note is the Friends of Colombia, which has been donating material since before the Peace Corps Community Archive began. The archive now has several decades of the organization’s materials, as well as the collections of dozens of Colombia RPCVs. These boxes are filled with stories, such as the organization’s founding, Colombian RPCV reunions, and donations and events that the group facilitated to help Colombians. However, Friends of Colombia has also worked to make a wider circle of Americans become more familiar with Colombians, such as through their participation in President Clinton’s 1992 inaugural parade. [2]

The founders of the Friends of Colombia in the living room where they started the organization. Photo undated, circa 2000. American University, Washington D.C.

While the archives does not have as much material from the Friends of the Dominican Republic, Ghana, or Kenya, these collections are still incredibly interesting. The Friends of Ghana organization has donated materials including meeting notes, newsletters, and the donation information. Members of the Friends of the Dominican Republic donated materials from their time assisting the organization (a list of members and related blog posts can be found here). Robert Scully donated materials from the Friends of Kenya. These groups also helped to facilitate connections between RCPVs, the country in which they served, and other Americans. For example, Robert Scully’s collection features Friends of Kenya materials from the 1990s and early 2000s, when he served on the organization’s board. During his tenure, the group donated to causes such as fighting polio in Kenya. Similar to Friends of Colombia, the group also interacted with Kenyans at the highest levels of government. This included the Kenyan ambassador to the United States, as seen below.

This is Robert Scully’s invitation to the thirty-third anniversary celebration of Kenya’s independence, courtesy of the Kenyan ambassador to the United States. American University Archives, Washington, D.C.

All of these organizations have also continued to carry out the Peace Corps’ third goal. The Peace Corps Community Archive has information on dozens of charitable projects that these five organizations alone have assisted. As shown above, these groups frequently have a great deal of influence due to their ties to the Peace Corps and former country of service. Meetings with ambassadors or other high-ranking officials from their countries of service, such as Scully’s, are not uncommon. Such work has made it more likely that other Americans will learn about their countries of service. These groups have all helped Americans, whether or not they are RPCVs, better understand non-Americans, therefore fulfilling a key Peace Corps purpose.

 

 

 

 

[1]”2020 Fact Sheet,” Peace Corps, December 2019, https://files.peacecorps.gov/multimedia/pdf/about/pc_facts.pdf.

[2] “Friends of Colombia (FOC) Activities,” c. 1996. American University Archives, Washington, D.C.

Robert T. K. Scully in Kenya

Place of Service: Bungoma (St. Mary’s Kibabii Secondary School)

Service Type: Education

Dates in Service: 1964-1966

Keywords: Education, Youth

Accession Date: March 23, 2023

Access: No restrictions

Collection Size: 3 linear feet

Document Types

  • Correspondence
  • Photographs
  • Reports
  • Publications
  • Film/Video
  • Sound

Related Items in Other Repositories:

Oral History Interview [Kennedy Presidential Library]

Finding Aid:

  1. Box 1: Peace Corps Experience and Connections, c. 1964-2001
    1. Correspondence
      1. Peace Corps Correspondence, 1964
      2. Peace Corps Correspondence, 1965
      3. Peace Corps/Kenya/Kibabii Correspondence, 1966 undated, January-June 1966
      4. Peace Corps/Kenya/Kibabii Correspondence, July-December 1966
      5. Kenya/Kibabii Correspondence, 1967-1968
      6. Kenya/Kibabii Correspondence, 1970
      7. Kenya/Kibabii Correspondence, c. 1971-1972
      8. Kenya/Kibabii Correspondence, c. 1973-1979
      9. Kenya/Kibabii Correspondence, 1980-1987
      10. Kenya/Kibabii Correspondence, c. 1994-2001
    2. Peace Corps Journal, 1964-1966
    3. Training Materials and Information
      1. Peace Corps Training Papers, 1964
      2. Peace Corps Training Notebooks, 1964
      3. Peace Corps Kenya Information, 1964
    4. Mary’s Kibabii Secondary School Materials
      1. Kibabii Student Essays, 1965 (1 of 2)
      2. Kibabii Student Essays, 1965 (2 of 2)
      3. Kibabii Student Essays, 1966
      4. Kibabii School Student Papers on Local History, 1966
      5. Kibabii Chronicle, 1966
      6. Drama Society Script Drafts, c. 1966
      7. Kibabii Student Reunion, 1995
    5. Publications
      1. Scully’s Kenya-Related Publications, 1969-1979
      2. Scully’s Thesis, “The Elgon Bantu Before the Coming of the Europeans,” 1970
      3. Box 2: Scully and Kibabii Publications, 1970-1995
    6. Miscellaneous
      1. Congregation of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Utrecht Yearbook, 1966-1967 [in Dutch]
      2. Ticket Books, 1966-1968
  2. Later Trips to Kenya with Students, c. 1970-1993
    1. Fort Sites
      1. Bukusu- South Mateka Fort Sites [Lumboka], 1970
      2. Bukusu- Seritanga Area Fort Site, 1970
      3. Bukusu- Chwele Area Maps and Fort Sites, 1970,
      4. Bukusu- Sangalo Maps and Fort Sites, 1970
      5. Chetambe Hill Project, Bukusu, Kenya, c. 1970
    2. Notebooks
      1. Numbered Field Report Books,1970-1971
      2. Unnumbered Field Notebooks, 1970-1971
      3. Scully’s Kenya Student Trip Reports, 1974 (1 of 2)
      4. Scully’s Kenya Student Trip Reports, 1974 (2 of 2)
    3. Publications and Assignments
      1. Scully’s Kenya Student Trip Reports: Related Correspondence and Publications, c. 1974-1993
      2. Dean Cowen 1974 Student Trip Report, “The History of Kibabii,” 1974
      3. Bukusu Clan Papers and Related History, c. 1970
      4. Scully Bukusu Fort publication, 1975
    4. Maps
      1. Bukusu Maps, c. 1970 (1 of 2)
      2. Bukusu Maps, c. 1970 (2 of 2)
  3. Friends of Kenya and National Peace Corps Association Materials, c. 1989-2011
    1. Documents
      1. Friends of Kenya Board Notes and Emails, c. 1996-1997
      2. Box 3: Friends of Kenya Peace Corps Correspondence, c. 1995-2011
      3. Friends of Kenya Newsletters including “Moto Moto,” c. 1994-2002
      4. Friends of Kenya Notes/Meetings; undated, 1989-2000
      5. Friends of Kenya Correspondence and Miscellaneous; undated, 1992-2003 (1 of 2)
      6. Friends of Kenya Correspondence and Miscellaneous; undated, 1992-2003 (2 of 2)
      7. Friends of Kenya Correspondence and Miscellaneous; undated, 1995-2002 (centered around 2000) (1 of 2)
      8. Friends of Kenya Correspondence and Miscellaneous; undated, 1995-2002 (centered around 2000) (2 of 2)
      9. Kibabii-St. Mary’s School Meetings and President Daniel Arap Moi Meeting, c. 1995-1998
      10. Friends of Kenya Correspondence and Related Publications; undated, c. 2000-2003 (1 of 2)
      11. Friends of Kenya Correspondence and Related Publications; undated, c. 2000-2003 (2 of 2)
      12. Peace Corps/Teachers for East Africa Alumni Meeting/ The Carter Presidential Library, c. 1998-2009
      13. Miscellaneous Correspondence, Friends of Kenya, Kibabii, Kenya Programs and Contacts; undated, 1993-1999
      14. National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) Board Notes; undated, 1997-2003 (1 of 2)
      15. National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) Board Notes; undated, 1997-2003 (2 of 2)
      16. Peace Garden Program, 1999
      17. Friends of Kenya-Polio Kenya Program, undated, 1996-1999
      18. Friends of Kenya Miscellaneous Correspondence; undated, 1997-1998, 2000-2002 (1 of 2)
      19. Friends of Kenya Miscellaneous Correspondence; undated, 1997-1998, 2000-2002 (2 of 2)
      20. Friends of Kenya Directory, 1994
    2. Other
      1. Friends of Kenya- Marafiki Tee Shirt, undated
      2. Box 4: Friends of Kenya and Friends of Malawi Miscellaneous Tapes, 1994-1995
  4. Photos, c. 1964-2000
    1. Peace Corps Kenya Photos, c. 1964-1969 (1 of 3)
    2. Peace Corps Kenya Photos, c. 1964-1969 (2 of 3)
    3. Peace Corps Kenya Photos, c. 1964-1969 (3 of 3)
    4. Chetambe Hill Project Photos, Bukusu, Kenya, c. 1970
    5. Miscellaneous Photos of Circumcision Ceremony, August 1966 (Content Warning)
    6. Miscellaneous Photos, c. 1964-2000
    7. Miscellaneous Negatives, c. 1964-2000

Douglas and Sheila Newlin in Papua New Guinea

Country of Service: Papua New Guinea
Dates in Service: 2000-2001

Accession Date: December 18, 2021
Access: no restrictions
Collection Size: 0.5 linear feet

Document Types:

  • Application Materials
  • Correspondence
  • Training Materials
  • Newspapers
  • Photographs

Finding Aid

Box 1

  1. Application Process/Materials
  2. Language Training Lessons
  3. Drawings and Newspaper
  4. Pidgen-English Dictionary
  5. Training Materials
  6. World Wise Schools correspondence between Sheila Newlin’s elementary students in Riverton, Wyoming and Peace Corps Volunteer Steven Myer (Mauritania 1992-1994)
  7. World Wise Schools Information and Coordination

 

Peggy Walton in Ukraine

Country of Service: Ukraine
Service Type: 1994-1996: English teacher trainer; 2013-2016: Peace Corps Response volunteer
Dates in Service: 1994-1996; 2013-2016
Keywords: Education, Response

Accession Date: August 9, 2021
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 1 linear foot + 1 digital file

Document Types

  • Correspondence
  • Documents
  • Journals
  • Newspapers
  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks

Digital Surrogates

Finding Aid

  1. Application and Training Materials  
    1. Passport 
    2. Acceptance letter 
    3. Training schedule  
  2. Correspondence 
    1. With friends 
    2. With parents 
    3. With sons  
  3. Journals 
    1. (2) 
  4. Maps & Memorabilia 
    1. Maps of Ukraine 
    2. Peace Corps Pins 
  5. Newspaper Clippings 
  6. Postcards and Photographs 
  7. Scrapbooks 
    1. (2) 
  8. “Ukrainian Adventures” 
    1. 11 parts and reflections 

Jean Chu in Ecuador

Country of Service: Ecuador
Place of Service: Riobamba
Service Project Title: Income Generation in Handicrafts
Dates in Service: 1999-2000
Keywords: Business, Community Development, Education

Accession Date: March 24, 2021
Access: no restrictions
Collection Size: .5 linear feet

Document Types

  • Photographs
  • Reports
  • Publications
  • Textiles
  • Training Materials

Finding Aid

  1. Publications (Cookbook, “El Clima,” and “Hotline), 1996-2001 
  2. Textile (1 of 3) 
  3. Textile (2 of 3) 
  4. Textile (3 of 3) 
  5. Training Materials and Handwritten Notes 

News from Home

Every volunteer watches as the world at home continues while they are abroad. Some changes are personal, such as the birth of a nephew or the death of a loved one. Other events are huge—where the entire country laments at the news of a disaster.

Thousands of miles away, Peace Corps Volunteers received news that shook the nation, and even the world. Radios broadcast the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and his brother Senator Robert Kennedy, the destruction of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, and the deadly attacks on September 11, 2001. While distance can lend space to heal from tragedy, it also cuts PCVs off from important support systems.

These six volunteers watched American events unfold from the non-military, external broadcasting program Voice of America, newspapers, and letters from their families and friends. They reflected on national elections, assassinations, and devastating disasters—often remarking on their isolation and questioning their faith in humanity.

“I don’t see much in the future.” Assassination of John F. Kennedy- November 22, 1963

Colombian newspaper El Espectador with the headline "Oswald Acusado del Crimen."

Headline in Colombian Newspaper on November 23, 1963. Friends of Colombia Collection, Peace Corps Community Archives.

Geer Wilcox learned about the assassination of John F. Kennedy’s while living in the Dominican Republic. As a blind Peace Corps Volunteer, Wilcox relied on hearing the news from neighbors reading newspapers and the radio. He often commented on the state of American politics or the Vietnam War as he listened to the international news broadcast, the Voice of America. When the news of Kennedy’s death broke, Wilcox reported feeling apprehensive of Lyndon Johnson and the future.

Wilcox expresses his shock in a recorded letter home to his parents on November 30, 1963:

Rene Cardenas was in Colombia when the news broke. She processes the aftermath of Kennedy’s death in a poem titled “Yesterday November.”

The address for sorrow
two inches away
the president has been killed

the clouds of wet season
the earth’s longest pity
everything is split time

a piece of wood
pulled apart at the grain
in an apartment in Cucuta

han asesinado a Kennedy
bells toll for three days
sent notes of condolences

to the wall
by my bed
two inches away
from my face.

Additional reactions to President Kennedy’s death are recorded here.

“What a sick society I left.” Assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy- June 6, 1968

Even as he served in Western Samoa, Arthur Aaronson wrote home often about the 1968 Democratic candidates Senator Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy. He heard about the attack on Senator Kennedy from other PCVs and the radio, which gave details about what happened in the hotel kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel. Aaronson wrote to his parents that evening:

I heard the news about Kennedy Wed. night as I was walking back from a dance with my sister. Two volunteers walked by and they told me the news. I was stunned. Then when I heard it on the radio that night I could only cry as the radio gave the details. The death of Martin Luther King didn’t hit as hard. Probably because Kennedy was on the way to being the next President. All the wealth and power of the U.S., it does not hide the fact of what a sick society I left.

The letter reads, "I heard the news about Kennedy Wed. night as I was walking back from a dance with my sister. Two volunteers walked by and they told me the news. I was stunned. Then when I heard it on the radio that night I could only cry as the radio gave the details. The death of Martin Luther King didn’t hit as hard. Probably because Kennedy was on the way to being the next President. All the wealth and power of the U.S., it does not hide the fact of what a sick society I left.”

Aaronson’s letter home on June 6, 1968. Peace Corps Community Archives.

 “I can only hope something good comes of all this.” Rodney King Riots- April 29, 1992

Woman holds newspaper up to show headline, "looting and fires ravage L.A."

Photograph submitted by Dark Sevier on January 1, 2008. Flickr Creative Commons

In March 1991, a bystander recorded a video of four L.A. police officers beating Rodney King—a black motorist—for a reported 15 minutes as other LAPD officers looked on. Despite the video evidence, the court found the four officers “not guilty” of excessive use of force on April 29, 1992. Fueled by this acquittal and years of racial and economic inequality, riots broke out around South Los Angeles, raging for 5 days.[1]

Tina Singleton watched the riots transpire as she completed her volunteer staging in Cameroon. She had lived and worked in San Francisco for 10 years before joining the Peace Corps in 1992. Singleton followed the events and devoted several diary entries to her thoughts:

30 Avril 1992

Just heard about the 4 police officers in the Rodney King Case being acquitted—I was sad and in shock. I just don’t understand how the jury came to that conclusion—it blows me away—I’m so upset. It’s hard to concentrate on anything. I’ve had a few good cries. Also heard about the rioting in L.A.—it’s awful—but I understand the reaction. This was such a blatant disregard for justice and Rodney King’s civil rights—what a disgrace—and with all the evidence—a videotape and all the tapes of the officers’ conversations—and they still got off. Rose-Marie and Soyeon and I were/are very shaken by this. The U.S. is getting worse by the minute. It makes me not want to even go back to the U.S.—I’m happy I’m here for two yrs.

1 Mai 1992

It’s gotten worse—protesters are now in San Francisco, Atlanta, Dallas—they’ve blocked the Bay Bridge again. Can’t believe all this is happening—1992 and we’re having race riots. I can only hope something good comes of all this—the rioting, the looting—I almost wish I could pick up a phone and call Jean and Peggy. This was my first taste of what it’s going to be like when a serious situation arises in the U.S.—I felt pretty cut off. I see what volunteers mean when they say the shortwave will become your best friend. We listened to is as much as possible. What I wouldn’t do for a newspaper right now. This is the weekend we stay with a Cameroonian family—should be interesting. Though I’ve been upset and crying today about this Rodney King episode. I just can’t believe this has happened—It still blows my mind.

Lundi, 3 Mai 1992

Heard on the news this morning about L.A.—2,000 people hurt, 40 dead, Bush has declared L.A. a disaster area. I guess he’s going to LA this week to see the damage—don’t have figures on the other sites—saw the news this weekend on TV at my family. L.A. looks pretty bad—fires everywhere. Saw Rodney King—he was so upset. I felt so bad for him. He kept saying “it’s not right, this isn’t right—we only want our day in court.” He was pretty devastated about all the violence as well—he spoke about the people not being able to go home to their families. He looked so devastated—I felt so bad for him. He just looked so bad—so down. Like I said before—I hope something good comes of this.

5 May 1992

Well, last nite was a real shit nite. Sebastian brought newspapers from Dovala—A USA Today and some French language papers. I was not ready for what I saw—the pictures really floored me. I knew it was bad in LA, but I didn’t know how bad. The man [Reginald Denny] being dragged from his truck and shot—then robbed. The white man who was on the ground and being kicked by 3 Black men—it’s so sick. I’ve got such a bad headache. I can’t stop thinking about all this madness. This whole thing has me wondering why I’m here and not at home doing something to help the situation there.

It’s so hard to concentrate on my French—we’re here for only 2 more weeks. I am worried about my French—it doesn’t seem so important anymore. I hope I’m not going to feel like this for a long time—I know if I do, I’d leave, and I don’t think that’s what I want. I’m just so confused now. People here seem to think things will be better after this, but I don’t think so. I’m feeling pretty pessimistic at this point—I’ve no other reason to feel otherwise. Soyeon and I had a good cry last nite. We’re both in a daze, as is Rose-Marie. Heard on the news this A.M. that 10,000 businesses were lost as well as at least that many jobs—which is something we can’t afford to lose.

Soyeon and I are calling home tomorrow—I can’t wait. I really need to talk to the folks—I might call Jean too. I’m not sure—it will be great to at least talk to Mom and Dad. It’s sounds like Mom’s feeling a little lost with me gone. It’s weird for me not to be able to pick up the phone. I was dying to talk to them last night—tomorrow will come soon enough.

— T

As a Black woman who lived in California—or rather, anywhere in the United States—Singleton was shocked and devastated by reoccurring injustices in the United States. Cut off from her friends and family and relying only on news from the radio and infrequent newspapers, she found support from two other Black volunteers—Soyeon and Rose-Marie—to process the injustice of the trial and the impact of the riots.

Despite her initial desire to return home, Singleton spent 3 years in Benin, West Africa as a Health Educator. She became an international development worker for over 20 years and launched a program called Transformation Table, devoted to promote sharing a meal and culture between communities, in November 2016 in Charleston, SC.

“We shortly came to the realization that life had changed.” September 11, 2001

Living in a remote village in Zambia, Lara Weber was listening the the Voices of America when the voice over the radio reported, “”A… plane… has… hit… the… World… Trade… Center… in… New… York… City…” With no electricity, internet, or phone within a day’s drive, Weber explained feeling detached as more and more reports rolled in. She also worried about her father, who occasionally visited the Pentagon on business.

The weeks that followed were strange in that I had no Americans to talk with at all. Some of the elder men of the village visited me one day. They wanted to understand the news better, and their questions were interesting. One man wanted to know more about the Twin Towers and Manhattan. Why did so many people need to live and work on top of one another in such vertical spaces — had we run out of land in the rest of America? I tried to answer, but what I said felt inadequate and the whole idea of New York suddenly made no sense. Why did we pile into cities like that?

Rhett Power’s experience was a little different. As a volunteer in Uzbekistan, Power remembers a sense of confusion and urgency following the events, as the Peace Corps determined when to evacuate PCVs in the countries close to Afghanistan.

Power remembers sitting on the floor of a hotel room in the capital with his wife and a group of PCVs after a series of new volunteer training sessions. They were watching CNN when it happened. Power recalls the initial reaction:

 

I remember it distinctly. My wife and I were…Well, we were in the capital. So we were actually getting ready to go to the airport. I think a group had either come the night before or the day of. We were at a hotel. We were doing a Peace Corps training for new volunteers. There was another married couple there, they were education volunteers—I think he was a health volunteer—but anyway, we were together in the hotel. We were actually loving life because we were in a bed. A really good bed and we actually had two boxes of pizza on the floor. I think we had Orange Fanta and we were beside ourselves. The luxury of it all.

I distinctly remember this—we had a tiny little TV on CNN. You know, again we were watching TV. We didn’t have anything else to watch. But we had one international channel. And, that’s when it happened. And, we were watching it and just—we were just as shocked as everybody else was. I think [we] shortly came to the realization that life had changed. Because we all knew what would happen. Very shortly thereafter—within that hour we knew that something had changed and that something would change.

After three weeks, the Peace Corps evacuated Power and the other PCVs living in the Middle East and sent them back to the United States without reassignment.

 

As people back home find support within their communities, during times of tragedy PCVs find themselves relying on other Americans, throwing themselves into their work, or talking with their host communities about the implications of the event. Often, these tragedies lead to a renewed sense of faith in the mission of the Peace Corps—as seen in the uptick of Peace Corps applications in the wake of the Kennedy assassinations and 9/11. In other cases, such as the riots in L.A., it can be a reminder of how far we haven’t come.

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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.

Rebecca Cors in China

Name: Rebecca Cors
Country of Service: China
Place of Service: Zigong, Sicuan Province
Service Project Title: Environmental Educator Volunteer
Dates in Service: 2004-2006
Keywords:  Agriculture, Education, Environment

Accession Date: March 29, 2019
Access: No Restrictions
Collection Size: 1 digital item

Document Types

  • Photographs
  • Memoirs

Digital Surrogates/Finding Aid

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