Category Archives: 2010s

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 Columbia, 1975-1980 Correspondence, 1975. Friends of Columbia 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 Columbia, 1975-1980 Correspondence, 1975. Friends of Columbia 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 Columbia, 1975-1980 Correspondence, 1975. Friends of Columbia 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 Columbia, 1975-1980 Correspondence, 1980. Friends of Columbia 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 Columbia, 1975-1980 Correspondence, 1979. Friends of Columbia 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 Columbia, 8 October 1980, Peace Corps Community Archives: Elizabeth Krakauer, Box 1, Folder 8: Elizabeth Krakauer Friends of Columbia, 1975-1980 Correspondence, 1979. Friends of Columbia 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.

What We Collected in 2017

The Peace Corp Community Archive accepts many types of records of volunteers from every decade, every country of service, and every type of service job. Though we did not accept donations for part of 2017, we added 6 unique collections to the archives that include a wide range of Peace Corps experiences. We featured some of these collections in previous posts but here you can learn about them in detail.

 

Phillip L. Scholl

Phillip served in India from 1965-1967 in Health Education. India faced many health crises in the 1960s and its government requested help from the Peace Corps. Philip’s group, India 20A, received training in public health and assisted India’s Primary Health Centers, which provided health care services throughout the country. Phillip donated a video about his travels through India.

You can watch the video here: India 20A Video
Visit the groups website here: India 20A Website
And see a previous highlight post about this collection here: India 20A Post

 

Jan and Leslie Czechowski

Jan and Leslie decided to volunteer after they retired at the age of 64 and are two of the oldest volunteers in the collection. They donated a booklet that contains, in chronological order, their blog posts and emails from their service. The couple served in Moldova in 2012 in Community Development. Leslie’s main job was helping with the Global Libraries project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They enjoyed their time in Moldova immensely but had to cut their service short because Leslie became ill. A number of Peace Corps Volunteers end their service early for a variety of reasons.

Jan and Leslie – June 22, 2012

Friday, August 3rd, 2012 – Sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers

 

Delwyn and Claire Ziegler

Delwyn and Claire, with their two daughters, were among the first Peace Corps Volunteer Families. They served in Colombia from 1970-1972 in Community Development and Education. They donated a manual entitled, “Guide to Small Business Consultation,” which was compiled by Delwyn, and a 500+ page diary consisting of correspondence, notes, daily updates, and other writings from their service. The Ziegler’s were one of only two families that stayed the full two years and said “it was the best two years of our lives.” The Peace Corps discontinued the families program after a few years.

You can find their diary here: Diary of the Zieglers in Colombia

 

Lynda Smith-Nehr

Lynda served in the Philippines from 1962-1964 in Education. Her collection consists of the many slides she took during her service. The slides show pictures of the villages she worked in, the people she worked with, and the places she traveled. Lynda experienced a lot during her service.

April 1963 – My Junior Class – Mt. Apo

Davao Mt. Apo School – April 1963

 

Thomas J. Hassett

Thomas served in Nepal from 1965-1966 in Community Development. His fellow volunteers described him as easy to get along with and perfect for the Peace Corps. However, Thomas’s time in the Peace Corps was cut short by an unfortunate fall on his way to visit a friend. At the age of 22 Thomas passed away and was buried in Nepal. Included in his collection are letters to and from his family and friends, condolence letters to his parents, and photos of his work and burial service. Tom’s parents paid for a memorial for him and visited his grave in 1966.

“Thomas J. Hassett, Russian novelist phase – June 1966”

“L to R: ?? Sam Myqatt (partially hidden) by another in front of Bill Hanson. Blond is Cail Hoshicka. Father Moran, Minister.”

Tina Singleton

Tina served in the Central African Republic and Benin from 1992-1996. She worked in Health Education with a focus on Benin’s disabled community. She traveled to the first African Special Olympics in 1992. Tina enjoyed her time so much she stayed twice as long as a normal service tour. Tina’s collection itself consists of numerous letters to her family and many (many) photos that illustrate her time in Africa.

Tina’s school class, she is second from the left.

1992 – First African Special Olympics

 

As you can see from just this small group of collections, a Peace Corps Volunteer’s experience can vary greatly. Every year new collections are donated to the Peace Corps Community Archive that add to these stories.

Leonard J. Oppenheim in Afghanistan

Leonard J. Oppenheim

Country of Service: Afghanistan
Dates in Service: 1964-1966
Keywords: Afghanistan, RPCV reunions, Peace Corps Training

Accession Date: February 23, 2015
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 1 DVD

Document Types

  • Video produced for 2010 reunion by Leonard Oppenheim- features remarks by volunteers and photos from their service in Afghanistan. The volunteers speak about their Peace Corps experience including their reasons for joining the Peace Corps, memories of the training program, their work and life in Afghanistan, and, in retrospect, what their Peace Corps service meant to them.

Brienne Thomson in Paraguay

Brienne Thomson

Country of Service: Paraguay
Place of Service: San Estanislao
Service Type: Community Economic Development
Dates in Service: 2013-2015
Keywords:Paraguay, San Estanislao, Community Development, Economic Development

Accession Date: November 17, 2014
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 9 items

Document Types

https://wayback.archive-it.org/1435/20141020140854/http://brienne.yolasite.com/b-blog/an-update-on-perspectives-n-plans-in-paraguay-peace-corps-volunteer-reporting-form/

https://wayback.archive-it.org/1435/20141020140848/http://brienne.yolasite.com/b-blog/the-peace-corps-asked-i-indulged/

https://wayback.archive-it.org/1435/20141020140857/http://brienne.yolasite.com/estudio-de-la-comunidad-san-estanislao.php

Cole Shaw in Mexico

Cole Shaw

Country of Service: Mexico
Place of Service: Nuevo Leon
Service Type: Engineering (CONACYT)
Dates in Service: 2009-2011
Keywords: Community Development, Information Technology, Health

Accession Date: July 10, 2014
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 1 item

Document Types

      • web blog

https://wayback.archive-it.org/1435/20140825194452/http://awolverineinmexico.blogspot.com/