Category Archives: Arts

Wish You Were Here: Postcards from Peace Corps Travels

 

For Peace Corps Volunteers, postcards were an easy way to communicate with their loved ones and show them the sights they witnessed on their travels. Postcards shed a variety of insights into PCVs and the types of experiences they had during their service. For many PCVs, postcards allowed them to take the image on the front and detail their environments, such as weather and natural beauty.  Postcards are a great way to see what PCVs thought important enough to share with family and friends.

 

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Claire Pettengill sent this postcard at the beginning of her service in Morocco before her training, where she stayed from 1978-1980. In her card, she mentions the camel on the front picture and notes she hasn’t seen any yet. She also mentions her love of the city she’s staying in but also comments on how intimidated she is by her surroundings.

 

Anne Briggs served from 1964-1966 in Malaysia with her husband, Albert and sent this postcard from Hawaii where she trained. Briggs chooses to focus on describing her surroundings in her card home. She notes the beauty of the island and the mild weather. She also expresses her excitement to sight see.

 

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David Day served in Kenya and India from 1965-1967. Day wrote in Swahili on one card and translated to English on another. It is interesting that Day wanted to share both languages with his family back home. He also writes about how expensive postage for postcards was in Nairobi and how he likely will not send another postcard.

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Steve and Janet Kann sent this postcard from Saint Lucia, while they were serving in the East Caribbean from 1980-1982. Their short description paints the picture of a lively marketplace with shouting and pushing. The image on the postcard paired with the description brings an image to life, where anyone who reads the card can get a taste of what the Kanns 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.

Sending Season’s Greetings: Holiday Cards from Abroad

There’s no place like home for the holidays but for Peace Corps Volunteers, it was difficult to return stateside at any point during their service, much less during any holiday. Peace Corps Volunteers reconnected with family and friends during the holidays through the mail. Holiday cards have been popular all over the world as a holiday tradition and PCVs found unique cards to send during their service abroad.

 

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Winifred Boge served in India from 1965-1967 and sent the card featured above home. While the written message inside sends warm wishes, the images of the card are clearly Indian. In another letter from Boge on December 9th, 1966, Boge writes, “[I] had thought to make ‘Christmas Cards’ but I don’t think I have time to be messing.” Instead, Boge must have sent this card home as substitute.

 

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Ed and Karen DeAntoni served in Turkey from 1964-1966 and sent many holiday cards to the states. One features a winter scene of the Parthenon in Athens with snow adorning its ruins. The other two holiday cards feature woodblock-esque prints with different holiday scenes. Inside as with the example below, there are holiday greetings in both Turkish and English and in some cases handwritten notes.

 

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No matter where they were, PCVs celebrated the holidays when they served abroad. Holiday cards were one way to send well wishes to their friends and family. Many found these cards in their respective locations, but most of these cards had a cultural twist depending on where they originated. Whether it be a different language or a different type of image on the card, many of the holiday cards PCVs sent were unique while still honoring the tradition of sending cards for the holidays.

 

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.

Timing their Training: Scheduling Peace Corps Volunteers’ Training

Before leaving for a foreign country, Peace Corps Volunteers in the 1960s were required to complete intensive training to help prepare them for their experiences abroad. This training occurred at universities all over the United States. They learned a variety of tasks ranging from agriculture and livestock care to language studies. Each PCVs’ training varied by where they attended training, their service type, and other factors.

Peace Corps Volunteers all received informational packets on their training, much like this one from Karen Keefer who trained at Columbia University for her service in education in Nigeria.

Peace Corps Volunteers all received informational packets on their training, much like this one from Karen Keefer who trained at Columbia University for her service in education in Nigeria.

 

One of the earlier PCVs is Thomas Hebert, who trained at University of California, Los Angeles in June of 1962. Herbert served in Nigeria from 1962 to 1964 educating youth and managing the University of Ibadan’s Shakespeare Traveling Theatre program. Hebert spent a total of 419 hours training for his service in Africa. The bulk of his training program was an orientation on Africa and Nigeria, totaling 92 hours, where he learned how to effectively communicate and understand the culture he would be serving in. Interestingly enough, Hebert also had a total of 81 hours of training in American Civilization and Institutions, which would “[enable] the volunteers to see political events more perceptively, to view the interchange of political interests more realistically, and to articulate democratic values more convincingly,” according to the training informational packet.

Hebert also spent 60 hours learning educational practices for Nigeria, in order to understand how to effectively reach his students abroad. He also had 55 hours of training in the languages of Hausa, Ibo, and Yoruba, the three major indigenous languages of Nigeria. In addition to his practical training, Hebert also spent 43 hours on health training and 56 hours in physical education. The Peace Corps emphasized the importance of each PCV’s health during their service. Lastly, he also spent 32 hours on “Special Features,” which ranged from lectures to documentaries.

Winifred Boge attended training at University of California, Davis from February to May 1965. The program totaled 720 hours of work over a 12-week period, resulting in an average of 60 hours per week. Boge served on the Health Nutrition Project in India, but her training also covered a variety of topics to assist with her transition into life in a different country.

 

As part of her training at UC Davis, Winifred Boge learned agricultural techniques.

As part of her training at UC Davis, Winifred Boge learned agricultural techniques.

 

For Boge, the most time was spent on language training, with a total of 300 hours on learning Telugu. Next, she focused on technical studies on health and nutrition, for a total of 200 hours. Following this, she also learned area studies and world affairs for 105 hours in order to understand the history and culture of her place of service. Also required for training was physical education as well as health and hygiene to ensure the health of every PCV.

One of the more interesting areas of study is the topic of Communism for 15 hours total. While each area of study in the information packet includes a description and list of teachers, Communism lacks this information. Even though the Red Scare of the 1950s had passed, the Peace Corps probably wanted to prepare their PCVs for different types of government in the world.

 

Many Volunteers enjoyed their training because it gave them a chance to get to know fellow PCVs. Pictured here by Boge, PCVs interact during their training at UC Davis.

Many Volunteers enjoyed their training because it gave them a chance to get to know fellow PCVs. Pictured here by Boge, PCVs interact during their training at UC Davis.

 

Peggy Gleeson Wyllie trained at Brooklyn College from 1963-1964 for her time as a nurse in Colombia. She spent most of her time–a total of 360 hours–in intensive language studies in Spanish. Not surprisingly, the second highest element of training at 106 hours was technical studies, along with 30 hours of health education. Technical studies included techniques in Nursing as well as the prevention and treatment of diseases found in Colombia. Wyllie also spent 72 hours learning the history and culture of Colombia, as well as 60 hours studying American studies, world affairs, and Communism. Like Boge, Wyllie learned “critical appraisal of the developing concepts and organizational challenges of the Communist world.” Lastly, she attended classes in physical training for 72 hours and a general “Peace Corps Orientation” for 20 hours.

 

After completion of their training, many PCVs received a certificate like this one. Steve Bossi completed his training in conducting Science Workshops in India from University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

After completion of their training, many PCVs received a certificate like this one. Steve Bossi completed his training in conducting Science Workshops in India from University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

 

Each training session, no matter how different in terms of location of training, location of service, or service type, served to best prepare each PCV for the challenges and successes they experienced during their service. Training takes into account the culture and society each PCV is entering in order to provide guidance for the most effective approaches to help both the Volunteer and community alike.  

Geer Wilcox in the Dominican Republic

Country of Service: Dominican Republic
Service Type: Blind Education
Dates in Service: 1963-1965
Keywords: Santo Domingo, National School for the Blind, Escuela Nacional de Ciegos, Friends of the Dominican Republic Archive

Accession Date: November 16, 2016
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 1.5 linear feet

Document Types

  • Audiotapes (3″ reel to reel) of letters home
  • Digital Copies of Audiotapes

You’ve Got Mail: Aerograms and Peace Corps Volunteers

Letters to Peace Corps Volunteers are important connections to home. While they’re away, it’s typically difficult for family and friends to get ahold of their PCVs, even with the convenience of telephones. There are many letters within the collection of the Peace Corps Community Archive, which detail the lives of both the Volunteers and their correspondents. From the happiness of a marriage announcement, to the sadness of a relative’s illness, these letters take a simple piece of paper and turn it into a window into PCVs’ lives.

While the contents of the letters allow a glimpse into the experiences and struggles of PCVs, the paper the letters are written on can also offer a different perspective. Many times, early PCVs utilized the service of Airmail. From Ethiopia to Antigua, the Peace Corps Community Archive houses various examples of Airmail from around the world.

The first official Airmail route in the world began on May 15, 1918 between New York and Washington, D.C., with a spot in Philadelphia. Peace Corps Volunteers did well to utilize Airmail to send their letters home. Airmail was typically faster than “surface mail,” and reasonably priced given its light weight. Therefore, nothing other than the letter itself could be sent since enclosed objects or paper would effect the weight. Airmail was sent on specific paper created to fold and glue into an envelope for easier transport, called an Aerogram. Nearly all examples of Airmail in the Archive are of this type of Aerogram.

Each Aerogram letter has a different, interesting design. Ranging from a simple red and blue border to a detailed design of a zebra, each Aerogram is distinctive to its country of origin.

 

The iconic airmail border is seen here on a letter from Winifred Boge in India to her parents in the 1960s.

 

The iconic red and blue stripes of Airmail are seen all over Aerograms. Winifred Boge sent this letter and many like it from her time in India to her parents in the 1960s. Since the 1960s, the Airmail border has been used everywhere, such as fashion accessories and travel documents.

 

David Day sent this letter to his parents from Ethiopia. The stamps feature Ethiopia's regent from 1930-1974, Haile Selassie I.

David Day sent this Aerogram to his parents when he visited Ethiopia in the 1960s. The stamps all feature Ethiopia’s regent, Haile Selassie I, who reigned from 1930 to 1974. While some Aerograms had pre-paid stamps, some required the purchase of postage. The Aerograms in the collection feature a range of stamps from different countries.

 

Day also sent Airmail he received in East Africa but sent by postage in India.

Day also sent this Airmail to his parents in 1966. Interestingly enough, he acquired this Aerogram from his time in East Africa, when he served in Kenya. However, once he was transferred to serve in India, he sent this letter with Indian postage.

 

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Janet and Steve Kann served in the East Caribbean and sent this Airmail from Barbados. The illustration features the Barbados Parliament Buildings in Bridgetown.

 

Janet and Steve Kann sent this letter from Barbados in 1981 as they served in the East Caribbean. This letter highlights the Barbados Parliament Buildings in Bridgetown, Barbados. While this Aerogram was sent in the 1980s, Aerograms cannot be used today without the purchase of extra postage, they were used throughout the late 21st century.

 

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.

“The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love”: Serving in the Peace Corps

Since President Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, over 220,000 volunteers have served in 140 different host countries across the world. Once assigned to a country, volunteers serve a variety of roles. Departments of specialization include education, development, and health. While actively working with communities, Peace Corps volunteers have to adapt to life in a new culture and environment.

Volunteer Meghan Keith-Hynes speaking to a Haitian woman near a stone circle plot.

Volunteer Meghan Keith-Hynes speaking to a Haitian woman near a stone circle plot.

Although passionate and eager to serve developing communities, Peace Corps volunteers may not necessarily have previous experience in their field of work. The sense of being “thrown into” such work can create both excitement and anxiety for new volunteers. Through their previous connections at home and their new connections abroad, Peace Corps volunteers successfully navigate their exciting and unexpected experiences.

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Kay Muldoon-Ibrahim in Chile; Peace Corps Photographer

Kay Muldoon-Ibrahim

Country of Service: Chile
Keywords: Education, Health, Community Development, Fisheries, Crafts, Mapuche Indians

Accession Date: January 14, 2016
Access: Copyright retained by Ms. Muldoon-Ibrahim
Collection Size: 79 digital files

Document Types

Gage Skinner in Chile

G. Gage Skinner

Country of Service: Chile
Place of Service: Temuco
Service Type: Community Development
Dates in Service:1964-1966
Keywords: Arts and Crafts, Mapuche Indians, Beekeeping

Accession Date: September 16, 2015, November 9, 2018
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.75 linear feet

Document Types

  • Diaries
  • Biographical Information
  • Training materials (post Chile – related to staff work in Colombia)
  • Publications

Bobbe Seibert in Honduras

Bobbe Seibert

Country of Service: Honduras
Service Project Title: Hillside Farming Extension
Dates in Service: 2000
Keywords: Agriculture, Business, Community Development

Accession Date: July 29, 2015
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.5 linear feet

Document Types

    • Correspondence
    • Photographs
    • Reports
    • Diaries
    • Training Materials
    • Artwork
    • Memorabilia