Category Archives: 2000s

After the Peace Corps

Once a volunteer’s service has ended, they have to decide what to do after the Peace Corps. Some volunteers extend their service, some go on to graduate school, and some simply come home to the states and resettle into daily life.

The following are stories of what some volunteers did after their service.

When Alanna Randall was preparing to leave Belize in 2003 she was deciding between graduate school and joining Americorps, a Peace Corps-type program in the U.S. To help with her decision, Alanna used a chart that her local PCV magazine published.

Alanna Randall, Belize, 2001-2003. This chart is from the PC Belize Magazine “Toucan Times” Oct/Nov/Dec 2001

She eventually decided to join Americorps and served in Tuscon, Arizona as a Team Leader for Youth Volunteers. She then went on to pursue a Masters Degree in Teaching Spanish at the School for International Training in Vermont.

 

Tina Singleton started her service in Benin in 1992 and extended it two years to 1996. Even though her family encouraged her to serve another year, Tina decided she was ready to leave. However, she was debating between finding a job, taking courses in Community Based Rehabilitation, or applying to graduate schools. She eventually decided on graduate school in London.

Tina Singleton, Benin, 1992-1996. This postcard was sent to her parents from England while she was preparing to start graduate school.

Tina sent this postcard to her parents in March of 1997 and told them: “I managed to get through exams …!! I’m pretty sure I passed . . . now i can sit back (for a few minutes, anyway) and drink tea . . .”

 

Once Lynda Smith-Nehr completed her service in the Philippines in 1964 she traveled the world before heading home. Lynda visited Japan, India, Egypt, Palestine, Italy, Switzerland, England, DC, and New York.

Lynda Smith-Nehr,Philippines, 1962-1964. This was taken on her travels to Egypt after her service ended.

Lynda Smith-Nehr, Philippines, 1962-1964. This was taken on her travels to Greece after her service ended.

As evident from these examples, volunteers have a lot of paths to choose from when their service is over. And their two years in the Peace Corps gives them a lot of experiences to build their new lives with.

Records We Collect; Records That Tell Stories

Throughout the blog, you have probably noticed the various records we use to tell the stories of Peace Corps Volunteers. This post highlights some of the more common types of records that volunteers donate and record their experiences with.

The most common type of record that PCVs donate that tell their story is letters. Volunteers send correspondence back and forth with their family and friends for two years in which they express their accomplishments, frustrations, and describe their everyday life. A letter like the one below, air mail, was a familiar sight for families as it was the fastest and most common way volunteers sent letters.

Joyce Emery Johnston served in the Philippines in Education from 1965-1967.

Similar to correspondence is volunteers’ journals or diaries. These are where volunteers write more in depth about their daily activities and daily thoughts. Diaries are used to preserve memories, and some volunteers even start keeping diaries in the language of their host country as seen below.

David Day served in Kenya and India in Agriculture from 1965-1967.

David Day served in Kenya and India in Agriculture from 1965-1967.

A way that volunteers formally share their experiences is through memoirs. Alan Crew compiled his memoir as a gift to his son upon his graduation from college. In it he details his life in Nigeria and includes pictures of where he worked.

Alan Crew served in Nigeria in Education from 1965-1966.

Along with writing, volunteers also take many photos during their service to show their friends and families where they work and live. While most volunteers take regular digital photos, many early volunteers also used slides.

Patricia Kay served in Kenya in Education from 1966-1968.

Patricia Kay served in Kenya in Education from 1966-1968.

Volunteers also send home postcards when they travel or want to share more photos of their host country.

Tina Singleton served in Benin in Health Education from 1992-1996.

Along with these records, some volunteers also take videos of their service experience. The video below was taken by Brian Adler who served in Suriname with his wife Cindy from 2002-2004. In this clip he gives a tour of where he and Cindy lived, and the video goes on to show a village party, soccer game, and conversations with the villagers.

Bryan and Cynthia Adler in Marchall Kreek 

For volunteers who either could not write home or found this method easier, they recorded audio tapes. This audio clip is from Richard Holmquist to his fiance Ann. In the full recording, he discusses his work as a professor at UMBC, how he met Ann, and what he did in Nigeria from 1966-1968. In this clip he discusses a need in Nigeria for lifeguards.                                           (play button is on the far left).

 

Along with these personal records, Peace Corps Volunteers also donate some of their official Peace Corps paperwork. These include certificates of training and service completion, letters of service acceptance, and volunteer ID cards like Debby Prigal’s below.

Debby Prigal served in Ghana in Education from 1981-1983.

The Peace Corps Community Archives holds many other different types of records such as architectural drawings, posters, newspapers, training materials, correspondence from the Peace Corps and various governments, and much more. But the handful of records highlighted here are the main forms of learning about what a Peace Corps Volunteer experienced while abroad.

 

Married While Serving: Couples in the Peace Corps

In a previous post, Love and Marriage in the Peace Corps, we looked at couples who met and married while serving abroad. But what about couples already married? As of 2017, only 2% of volunteers are married. Serving in the Peace Corps is a large commitment, yet many married couples were willing to carry on their life together while volunteering in a new country.

Brian Adler and Cynthia (Cindy) Elliot were boyfriend and girlfriend when they applied for service in February 2001. They were accepted for service in Suriname in March 2002, got married in May, and left in June. While helping their village build a school house and teaching the local villagers, Brian and Cindy set up a normal married life. They lived together, which not many couples serving get to do, spent time with friends, and battled bugs together. Brian and Cindy live in D.C. now with their daughter.

Brian and Cindy in the hammock

 

Delwyn and Claire Ziegler had already been married five years when they moved with their children (Colette, 4 and Andre, 2) to Colombia in 1970. For two years they maintained a normal family life of sending the kids to school, making friends, and celebrating anniversaries.
The Ziegler’s anniversary is February 13th and they celebrated it twice in Colombia. For their 6th they saw a spy movie, babysat for a friend, and drank some wine. And for their 7th they went to the nearest nice restaurant, Carreta, for dinner and later played rummy. While they enjoyed their time in Colombia, they were excited to come home in 1972. Colette and Andre ran into their grandmother’s arms.

Ziegler 6th Anniversary Celebration 1/2

Ziegler 6th Anniversary Celebration 2/2

Ziegler 7th Anniversary Celebration

We have 7 couples in the Peace Corps Community Archives, and each one is a unique story about two people who decided to serve in another country together.

 

Peace Corps Celebrates Halloween and Local Festivals

While Americans celebrate Halloween with crazy costumes, haunted houses, and trick-or-treating, people all over the world have been observing a variety of festivals. Peace Corps Volunteers, as temporary residents of various nations around the world, experience these celebrations.

Volunteers have one of three experiences:

1) They don’t celebrate at all.
Halloween is sometimes an easy holiday to overlook so either the volunteer forgets, they are too busy to celebrate, or there are just no celebrations. Bobbe Seibert, who served in Honduras, notes that she just carried on with her day.

Bobbe Seibert, Honduras, 2000. “Tuesday Oct 31 Halloween – not that anyone noticed here. I think tomorrow is day of the dead here too but am not sure. Up at 6:30 – swept & washed up 7:30 at the corredor.

2) They celebrate local festivals.
Claire Pettengill notes in a letter home that she was given a holiday to celebrate the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, the “sheep-killing” holiday, which honors the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son at God’s command. She also had some time off for a Moroccan national holiday.

Claire Pettengill, Morocco, ’78-’80. “We get a long vacation for the sheep-killing holiday — 7 days beginning Oct. 30. I’m going to Berkane to see my adopted family for one day, then probably will head south to Marrakech with Amy. Haven’t had much time to travel.”

Claire Pettengill, Morocco, ’78-’80. “We have Monday off because of a national holiday (La Marche Verte–when Spain, in cooperation with Algeria, returned the Spanish Sahara to Moroccan control, in 1970-something, there was a huge peaceful march to that area, which is one of the biggest patriotic holidays each year) and Amy has gone to Taza, a Moroccan town.”

Both Winifred Boge in India and Al & Anne Briggs in Malaysia celebrated the Hindu Festival of Deepavali (Diwali). Also called the Festival of Lights it “spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair,” where people light and place candles all over their home, as Winifred mentions in her letter.

Winifred Boge, India, ’65’67. “Speaking of Christmas – Halloween passed with nary our indication of such – but week before we had Deepavali with candles outside.”

Al & Anne Briggs, Malaysia, ’64’66. “Today we had a holiday for the Hindu festival of Deepavali, but of much more importance to us, of course, are the elections at home. You will be voting while we are asleep.”

3) They celebrate American traditions.
Even though volunteers are far away from home, they are still able to share American customs with their communities.
Margaret Fiedler had a party with her students in Guatemala where she served from 1985-87. She introduced them to bobbing for apples.

That’s Chavez in the tree – in the other end of the rope is another boy – they jerk the rope so the kids can’t break the pinata right away. Notice the girl blindfolded with the big stick – it really gets exciting – the kids can’t wait to pounce on the candy as it spills out.

Lynda Smith-Nehr and fellow volunteers dressed up in costumes while they were in the Philippines.

Lynda Smith-Nehr, Philippines, 1962-1964. “Halloween, Lorrie & me.”

Lynda Smith-Nehr, Philippines, 1962-1964. “Halloween, Mrs. Pamplona.”

Halloween may not be an international holiday, but there are many different ways that people all over the world celebrate this time of year.

 

 

Experiencing Hurricanes While in the Peace Corps

Because Peace Corps volunteers serve in areas of the world that can have dangerous weather, they have to be prepared. Current volunteers in the Caribbean, particularly the Dominican Republic, were gathered at the capital for protection, but not evacuated, because of Hurricane Irma in early September, 2017 (according to a Peace Corps volunteer forum).

In October, 2001, Hurricane Iris hit Belize. Iris was a category 4 major hurricane, cost $250 million worth of damage, caused 36 fatalities, and was the most destructive hurricane in Belize since Hurricane Hattie in 1961. The hurricane inflicted the most damage on the Toledo and Stanley Creek districts of Belize. On the outskirts of this area, in Placencia, six weeks into her two year service was Alanna Randall.

Swearing in, Belize 2001. PCVs Erin McCool, Alanna Randall, and Jessica Walus with APCD Ken Goodson at the PC office in Belize City.

Alanna was in Belize from 2001-2003 as an Environmental Education Coordinator. Before the hurricane she was in Placencia working for Friends of Laughing Bird Caye National Park. However, when Iris hit Belize on October 8th everyone left. She details her return 2 days later in a collection of Peace Corps stories.*

“I barely recognized the village I called home. I almost didn’t recognize the place where my house once stood. Then it hit me. My house is gone! I saw faces numb with disbelief and hopelessness, but I also saw smiles on their faces despite the debris piled high around them.”

PCTs during training in Belize, 2001. San Narciso Village, Corozal, worked on a garden project with school.

Two months later, the Peace Corps magazine of Belize, “Toucan Times,” published a four page spread explaining hurricanes. Two pages detail how hurricanes are formed and facts about them. Two other pages detail hurricanes that had hit Belize in the past, from 0304 in 1931 and Janet in 1955 to Mitch in 1998.

Toucan Times, Oct.Nov.Dec. edition.

The name Iris was retired and will never be used again for a hurricane, Belize rebuilt, and Alanna found herself a new house on a hillside, “far away from the coast and the threat of another hurricane.”

PCV Alanna Randall at home in Cristo Rey Village, Cayo, Belize 2002.

 

*Alter, Bernie and Pat. “Gather the Fruit One by One: 50 Years of Amazing Peace Corps Stories.” Jane Albritton. 2011.

Creating their Stamp Around the World: Postal Stamps of the PCCA

Stamps often feature flora, fauna, or an interesting image related to the country or region it’s created for. Also, Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) had the lucky chance to live and serve in countries all over the world. As a happy consequence, the two come together when PCVs send their mail home via exciting and new stamps from the countries they served. The Peace Corps Community Archive (PCCA) houses collections of correspondence between PCVs and their family and friends. These correspondences oftentimes include the envelopes each letter was sent in, which means the stamps are often intact. Much can be learned from these stamps, including, illustrations of native inhabitants, local flora and fauna, important technological advances, and much more. Not only do these stamps help carry connections back home for PCVs, but the stamps also share an insight into the exciting communities they served.

Charlotte Daigle-Berney served in Uganda from 1966-1968. On a postcard dated February 1967, she included these three stamps, which feature the local fauna of Uganda. The set of these stamps were released on October 9th, 1965. The stamps feature, from left to right, the Black Bee-Eater, the Narina Trogon, and the Ruwenzori Turaco. All three are native species to Uganda and represent the environmental climate of the country. These stamps offer insight into the vibrant fauna of the country in order to excite both visitors and locals to the nature around them.

 

In addition, Albert and Anne Briggs served in Malaysia from 1964-1966. Anne wrote a letter to her parents on January 5, 1967 and included these stamps. The stamp was released on November 15, 1965 and features the local flora of Malaysia, the Rhynchostylis retusa, also called the Foxtail Orchid. Below, it reads the name “Sarawak,” a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. By “reading” this stamp, one can connect the beautiful flora with a specific location in Malaysia and thereby gather important information about the stamp’s place of origin.

 

Lastly, Bobbe Seibert served in Honduras in the year 2000. Some of her communication with back home was through email, however, Seibert did send a multitude of letters. The first stamp features a nurse tending to a patient and the words, “Correos de Honduras” or “Post of Honduras.” The stamp celebrates Red Cross nurses and the care they have for their patients. The design for the stamp has gone through numerous designs but this stamp was released in 1999.

Another stamp features Ramón Valle, a Honduran olympian from the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Valle went to the Olympics in 1996 to represent Honduras in men’s swimming. “Translating” these stamps allows us insight into the perception of Honduras. First, the country values its medical care to those in need. Next, a successful Olympian is a symbol of Honduras and represents their country abroad and at home. Since Valle did not represent Honduras in 2000, but rather, represented the country in 1996, the stamp was possibly produced to encourage the country’s interest and support in the Olympic games. This is supported by the fact the stamp was produced on September 13, 2000 and the Olympic opening ceremony was on September 15, 2000.

All of these stamps share insight into the countries and regions they represent. While some PCVs didn’t notice which stamp they sent their mail home with, other stamp collectors reveal at the significance each stamp offers.

 

For more information, please visit the Peace Corps Community Archive website. To use the collections or make a donation, please contact the AU Archives at archives [at] american.edu.

Experiencing a New Culture through Food

In the collection of Alan Crew, who served in Nigeria from 1965-1966, is a copy of “The West African Gourmet” by Bill and Bee Welmers in which they advised, “As any shrink can tell you, the sine qua non of relating to a strange diet is flexibility, sensitivity, happy anticipation.” Peace Corps Volunteers had to adjust to various diets and delicacies during their time abroad. PCVs learned and adapted many local recipes and resources to fit their American taste-buds.

Holly Reed served in Senegal from 1979-1982. Like all PCVs, she could sometimes find familiar foods, but she also had to adjust to new ones.

The Welmers compiled a list of tips and tricks for anyone visiting or staying in Western Africa. Their humorous anecdotes shed light on the differences in food selection and preparation. From mangoes to mushrooms, the Welmers detail all types of food available for consumption. For example, there are three different types of Guavas, each tasting like strawberry, peach, or pear. They also offer tips and tricks to keeping and storing food. Upon finding ants in one’s food, the Welmers advise, “Putting the food, dish and all, on a warm stove will give the ants a hotfoot; but don’t overheat or you’ll have fried ants.”

Many PCVs would taste authentic meals prepared by the locals they worked alongside. Picture by Holly Reed.

Peace Corps Volunteers newsletters could include native recipes for PCVs to try. Alanna Randall served in Belize from 2001-2003 and received the Toucan Times, the Peace Corps Belize newsletter, during her service. The Toucan Times contained everything from crosswords to articles. Jill Hepp, a fellow PCV, created four recipes to share in the Toucan Times‘ Winter 2001 edition. Hepp’s recipes range from “The-You-May-Nevah-Go-Back-To-Salsa-Casera-Salsa” to “Fresh Ginger Muffins.” All of her recipes feature local ingredients. The recipe for Polenta includes adjustments to turn it into a pizza.

PCVs could also learn new ways to prep and serve food. Pictured here, local women use mortars and pestles to grind ingredients. Picture by Holly Reed.

Even after PCVs finish their service, the food they consumed leaves a lasting impression. BarbaraLee Toneatti Purcell served in Nigeria from 1962-1964 and included a recipe for Groundnut Stew in her memoir. She made adjustments to the list of ingredients to replicate the methods her local cook used.  Both immediately after serving and many years later, PCVs can look back at the meals they ate and remember the different tastes of culture they experienced.

 

For more information, please visit the Peace Corps Community Archive website. To use the collections or make a donation, please contact the AU Archives at archives [at] american.edu.

Peace Corps Volunteers as Artists

Whether it’s a letter home or a diary entry, Peace Corps Volunteers frequently document the varied images they see during their service. While abroad, Peace Corps Volunteers are often immersed in a stimulating and beautiful new environment. Many volunteers therefore wish to tell their family and friends back home about their new adventures, or find a way to memorialize their surroundings so they can revisit them in the future.

While some PCVs have chosen to photograph their travels, some PCVs have documented their different surroundings through their artistic abilities. In letters, a quick sketch will assist to visually explain complex designs in architecture or costumes. Detailed drawings in a diary entry encourage reflection when PCVs have a moment to themselves.

David Day served in Kenya and India from 1965-1967. He sent regular letters to his parents and included quick sketches of what he saw during his travels. His drawings vary from a scooter driver to a detail of an Indian street. He even drew a few of the homes he stayed in to explain the varying architectural designs to his parents.

David Day quickly sketched a typical Shamata house from his time in Kenya. He sent the letter to his parents to update them on his experiences in the Peace Corps.

David Day quickly sketched a typical Shamata house from his time in Kenya. He sent the letter to his parents to update them on his experiences in the Peace Corps.

 

Day illustrated his home in India to his parents and detailed the differences between his home and the rest of the village.

Day illustrated his home in India to his parents and detailed the differences between his home and the rest of the village.

Bobbie Seibert volunteered in 2000 in Honduras. Seibert spent her free time sketching and would detail the various scenes before her. She captured a variety of locations, from still lifes to landscapes. On one drawing, she notes she was waiting for someone to fix her chimney but gave up after two hours.

 

Bobbie Seibert artistically sketched this landscape of Azacualpa, Honduras.

Bobbie Seibert artistically sketched this landscape of Azacualpa, Honduras.

 

Seibert sketched the corner of her temporary apartment as she waited for her site to become available.

Seibert sketched the corner of her temporary apartment as she waited for her site to become available.

 

For more information, please visit the Peace Corps Community Archive website. To use the collections or make a donation, please contact the AU Archives at archives [at] american.edu.

Sharon Keld in Morocco

Country of Service: Morocco
Service Type: Community Development
Dates in Service: 2006 – 2008
Keywords: Language

Accession Date: March 30, 2016
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.5 linear feet

Document Types

  • Notebooks containing language lessons and practice, training notes, and meeting and work related notes.
  • Dictionary (2v)
  • Training materials
  • Photograph