Category Archives: Audio

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,” 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.

Services Asked for, Given, and Received

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

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

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

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

Jean Townes in Nigeria

Country of Service: Nigeria
Service Type: Education
Dates in Service: 1965-1967
Keywords: Education

Accession Date: August 24, 2018
Access: No Restrictions
Collection Size: 0.25 linear feet

Document Types

  • Correspondence
  • Photographs
  • Sound

Finding Aid

  1. Correspondence, 1965 
  2. Correspondence, 1966 
  3. Correspondence, 1967 
  4. Correspondence, Misc., 1966, undated 
  5. Passport and Peace Corps Sticker, undated 
  6. Photographs, Negative, 1965-1968, undated 
  7. Poems Written by a Student Killed in Biafran War, undated 
  8. Slides, 1965-1967, undated 
  9. Sound Recordings, 1966-1969 


Paul Jurmo in the Gambia

Country of Service: the Gambia
Service Type: Education (Adult Literacy)
Dates in Service: 1976-1979
Keywords: Education, Community Development, Literacy

Accession Date: October 5, 2018
Access: No Restrictions
Collection Size: 2.75 linear feet and a USB containing Photos, Slides, and Audio; .01 linear feet of audio cassette tapes

Document Types

  • Audio Cassette Tapes (September 9, 2020)
  • Reports
  • Publications
  • Memoir

Related Items in Other Repositories

  • Amulets [Museum of the Peace Corps Experience]
  • A Simple Tool [Museum of the Peace Corps Experience]
  • Fans [Museum of the Peace Corps Experience]
  • Sling [Museum of the Peace Corps Experience]

Finding Aid

  1. Box 1
    1. 3 Audio Cassette Tapes (each tape is double-sided)
      1. Tape 1, Side A: “Religious Practices in a Gambian Village”
      2. Tape 1, Side B: “Lecture at UMass CIE by ?, Early 1980s”
      3. Tape 2, Side A: “Pakalinding, 1977”
      4. Tape 2, Side B: Blank
      5. Tape 3, Side A: “Guitar Music: Pakalinding Interview (11 March 1978)”
        1. Additional inscriptions: “Guitar; Class Vvsit; 2 drummings”
      6. Tape 3, Side B: “Japine: 10 March 1978”
        1. Additional inscriptions: “Japine classes; songs by girls”
    2. Background Info re: the Gambia, 1976-1982
    3. Curriculum Materials & Assessment Tools, 1976-1979 (1/2)
    4. Curriculum Materials & Assessment Tools, 1976-1979 (2/2)
    5. Documents Prepared by Paul Jurmo, 1967-1979 (1/3)
    6. Documents Prepared by Paul Jurmo, 1967-1979 (2/3)
    7. Documents Prepared by Paul Jurmo, 197601979 (3/3)
    8. Financial Reports of Nat’l Literacy Advisory Committee, 1979
  2. Box 2
    1. Ideas for Reading Materials for Adult Literacy, 1977-1981 & undated (1/3)
    2. Ideas for Reading Materials for Adult Literacy, 1977-1981 & undated (2/3)
    3. Ideas for Reading Materials for Adult Literacy, 1977-1981 & undated (3/3)
    4. Info About Attempted Coup D’état, 1980-1982 (1/2)
    5. Info About Attempted Coup D’état, 1980-1982 (2/2)
    6. Minutes of National Literacy Advisory Committee Meetings, 1976-1979 (1/3)
    7. Minutes of National Literacy Advisory Committee Meetings, 1976-1979 (2/3)
  3. Box 3
    1. Minutes of National Literacy Advisory Committee Meetings, 1976-1979 (3/3)
    2. Newsletters of Gambian Agencies, 1976-1979
    3. Notebooks, 21 September 1976-14 January 1977
    4. Notebooks, 18 January 1977-20 June 1977
    5. Notebooks, 20 June 1977-12 January 1978
    6. Notebooks, 20 January 1978-1 April 1978
    7. Notebooks, 7 April 1978-20 July 1978
  4. Box 4
    1. Notebooks, 22 July 1978-9 December 1978
    2. Notebooks, 10 December 1978-2 February 1979
    3. Notebooks, 2 February 1979-11 May 1979
    4. Notebooks, 12 May 1979-13 August 1979
    5. Notebooks, 13 August 1979-December 1979
    6. PC the Gambia “Bantaba” Newsletter with Article about Paul Jurmo’s Adult Literacy Project 1977-1978
    7. PC Project Description and Pre-Training Candidate Booklet 1975-1978 & Undated
  5. Box 5
    1. Personal Reflections, 1976-1979 & Undated
    2. Project Planning Doc’s and Reports, 1976-1982 & Undated (1/4)
    3. Project Planning Doc’s and Reports, 1976-1982 & Undated (2/4)
    4. Project Planning Doc’s and Reports, 1976-1982 & Undated (3/4)
    5. Project Planning Doc’s and Reports, 1976-1982 & Undated (4/4)
    6. Public Awareness Flyer Re: Adult Literacy by PCV Karl Warma, Undated
    7. Reports about Adult Literacy Efforts in Various African Nations 1977-1979
    8. Supervisor’s Log (To Document Site Visits), 1978
    9. Training Materials Used to Train Community Development Staff 1977-1979
    10. Workshop on Formal Ed as Component of Integ’d Rural Development, April 1979
  6. Box 6
    1. Donation Information and Co-Op Logo, Undated
    2. MEP Program Evaluation (Documents from 2 Formative Evaluations and 1 3rd-Year Evaluation (1982-1984); Program Evaluation
      1. MEP Formative Evaluation, June-July 1982
      2. MEP Formative Evaluation, November-December 1982
      3. MEP Program Evaluation, Numeracy Program Quarterly Report, March 31, 1983
      4. MEP Program Evaluation, Planning of the Evaluation, June-September 1983
      5. MEP Program Evaluation, Information Collected for Evaluation, 1983
      6. Evaluation Report Draft by Jurmo (1983) and Final Report, Revised by MEP Staff, 1984
    3. MEP Staff Training
      1. Early MEP Staff Training, October 1981
      2. MEP Staff Training, Workshop For Co-op Inspectors/ Education, Yundum, July, 1982
      3. MEP Workshop For Co-op Inspectors/Education, Training Schedule and Lesson Plans, November 1982
      4. MEP Workshop For Co-op Inspectors/Education: Workshop Report, Feedback from Participants, November 1982
      5. “Workshops for “Village Facilitators” of MEP Numeracy Classes, Administrative Tasks; held: Jenoi, December 1982; Chamen, January 1983
      6. Workshops for “Village Facilitators” of Numeracy Classes; Feedback and Workshop Report; held December 1982, Jenoi, and Chamen, January 1983
      7. Workshops for “Village Facilitators” of Numeracy Classes, Training Schedule, Lessons Plans, Notes, Participants and Staff; December 1982, Jenoi, and Chamen, January 1983
      8. Workshops for “Village Facilitators,” Assessment Tools Interviews, Written Tests;  December 1982, Jenoi, and Chamen, January 1983
      9. Evaluation of “Intermediate” Course For CIES; Final Report, Feedback From CIES and Facilitators; Yundum, July-August 1983
      10. Initial Planning for “Intermediate” Training Workshops For Coop Inspectors/Education (CIES’s), Held in July-August 1983 at Yundum
      11. Schedule and Lesson Plans for “Intermediate” Course for CIEs; includes written work by CIEs; Yundum, July-August 1983
      12. Assessments of Participants in the “Intermediate” Course for Co-op Inspectors; includes quiz, essays, and interviews; held in Yundum, July-August 1983
      13. Workshop For MEP Supervisors, Held at New MEP Office at Co-op Department Headquarters at Banjul, March 1983
      14.  Workshop for Co-op Inspectors/ED, Proposed Agenda Interview, September1983
      15. Workshop for Representation of Co-ops in 5 West African Countries, and of US-A and International Organizations Related to Co-Operatives: Lesson Plans, Schedule, “Study Notes” (Handouts); held at Atlantic Hotel in Banjul, October 1983
    4. MEP Learning Resources 1982/1983: Curriculum Materials For Numeracy/Literacy Instruction
        1. MEP Learning Resources: Core Numeracy Curriculum: Learners Notebook, 2 editions (1983 and unknown), Co-Op Numeracy Facilitator’s Guide (1983, Second Edition)
        2. Homework Assignment Books: Bood 1, Addition, Book 2: Subtraction; Book 3: Money and Procedure Receipts, Undated
        3. Guidebook of Training Support Activities, 1983
        4. “Fun Activities:” Assorted Activities For Numeracy Facilitators, 1982
        5. Picture Stories” adopted as visual aids (Discussion Starters) in Numeracy Classes: Prototype Sketches by Jurmo; more-finished versions by Various Gambian Artists
        6. Numeracy Games: Farming Game, Extension Worker Game, Urban Worker Game, undated
  7. Box 7
    1. MEP Learning Resources 1982/1983: Curriculum Materials For Numeracy/Literacy Instruction (con’t)
      1. “Simplified Bookkeeping” Guide for Numeracy/Literacy Training Groups, 1983
      2. “Specific Literacy” Activities: UMass/CIE Book (198); Handouts for MEP Staff (1982); Follow-up Project with IBAs and NEF Services of Ministry of Education (1982)
      3. Income-Generating Projects: Handouts for MEP Staff Training (1983); Meeting with Peace Corps Volunteers (1983)
      4. Curriculum Overviews/ History, c. 1982
    2. MEP Miscellaneous
      1. Proposal for Calculator Project with UMass/CIE, 1983
      2. Miscellaneous Background Readings Re: NonFormal ED From: UNESCO, Co-Op ED-Materials Advisory Service, MAP International, UMASS/CIE Health Education Games, c. early 1980s
      3. Tree-Planting Curricula Prepared For Peace Corps Volunteers (by Jurmos): “Word Problems” Adapted from MEP Curriculum For Use in Forestry Dept. Training, 1983
      4. Staffing Plans for Supervisors, Driver Performance Issues, Numeracy Education Coordinator Job Description, c. 1983
      5. Proposal For Study at UMass/CIE by MEP Staffer Dodou Jome, 1982
      6. Consultant Housing, 1983
      7. Consultant Paul Jurmo Expenses Book, 1983
  8. USB containing digitized audio, photographs, and slides

Processed by Chloe Eastwood and Emily Messner

Gail Wadsworth in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania

Country of Service: Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania
Service Type: Secondary Education, Librarian
Dates in Service: 1970-1972, 1973-1976, 1980-1982
Keywords: Education, Libraries

Accession Date: March 9, 2018
Access: No restrictions.
Collection Size: 4.0 linear feet

Document Types

Official Paperwork
Training Materials
Travel brochures, maps, postcards

Official Paperwork
Travel brochures, postcards

Official Paperwork
Travel postcards

Finding Aid

Box 1


    1. Application Materials 
      1. Application # card 
      2. Application rcvd. Notification 
      3. Peace Corps booklet 
      4. Draft of volunteer application 
    2. Brochures & Postcards 
      1. Tourist brochures 
      2. postcards 
    3. Cassette of Gail speaking to parents 
      1. One cassette tape of Gail speaking to her parents, C. Morton and A. Jean Wadsworth.  
      2. The tape contains Gail’s first impressions of Uganda and about Peace Corps training June-Sept, 1970 in Kampala, Tororo, Lake Victoria. It also includes descriptions of photos on two rolls of film Gail took during this time and sent to her parents to be processes. Listing of photos included. 
    4. Correspondence, 1969-1971 (1/2)
      1. (These letters written by Gail to her parents, C. Morton and A. Jean Wadsworth.) 
      2. 3 letters: December 8, 1969 to January 1970 referring to Peace Corps availability date and application. 
      3. 104 letters: June 1970-Sept 1972
    5.  Correspondence, 1971-1972 (2/2)
    6. Newspaper Articles 
      1. Various articles about Uganda during this time period. 
    7. Official Paperwork 
        • Peace Corps ID card 
        • Passport 
    8. Photographs
      1. 49 photos taken during peace corps service in Uganda (many of the photos are prints of the slides included in the donation)  
    9. Post Evacuation Materials 
      1. Peace Corps Volunteers were evacuated from Uganda in Sept & Oct 1972. These items are post evacuation materials. Includes Description of Service. 
    10. School Stuff 
      1. Gail was a PCV English as a Second Language teacher at Tororo Girls’ School in Tororo, Uganda. She was also Adviser for the student publications “The Voice” (one copy included) and the literary magazine “Beyond These Gates” (2 copies included) and the students for two years – first in Form 2 (sophomores) and then in Form 3 (juniors). Class list included along with the East African certificate Exam results. 
      2. Three articles related to Tororo Girls’ School: 
        1. US 1A World Sept. 1986: Article with pictures of Gail and former Tororo Girls’ School student Annie Kakooza. Annie followed in Gail’s footsteps and became a qualified librarian. 
        2. Article with pictures of Tororo Girls’ School and students during Gail’s time teaching there. 
        3. Weatherford, Oklahoma article about former Peace Corps Volunteers Lucille and Henry Simmons who taught at Tororo Girls’ School with Gail in 1970. 

11. Slides

  1. Photos and descriptions 
  2. Box of 91 Extrachrome slides 
  3. CD-Rom of digitized versions of the slides 
  4. Printout of descriptions of the individual slides 


            1. Invitation to train, staging in Philadelphia, various items 
            2. Uganda Argus newspaper – May 22, 1972 – Article with photos of P.C. Training group on arrival in Uganda. Gail appears in two of the photos. 
          1. Training Materials/Newsletter 
            1. Items provided by P.C./Uganda to trainees during training in Uganda 1970. 10th Anniversary Volunteer newsletter distributed to Volunteers 1971. 
          2. Uganda Tourist Brochure Map
            1. Uganda tourist brochure map  


              1. Brochures, Stamps, and Postcards 
                1. Tourist brochures and stamps and postcards 
              2. Correspondence, 1973 Kenya A (1/2) 
                1. 261 letters written by Gail to her parents, C. Morton and A. Jean Wadsworth 1973-1976. Kenya A, 150 letters.
              3. Correspondence, 1974 Kenya A (2/2) 
              4. Correspondence, 1975-1976 Kenya B
                1. Kenya B, 111 letters.  
              5. Kenya Volunteers Documents
                1. Miscellaneous documents related to Peace Corps Kenya Volunteers and staff and specifically to Gail’s assignment as a librarian with the Kenya National Library services. Includes description of service.  
              6. Library Services 
                1. Miscellaneous documents regarding Kenya National Library Services, where Gail was posted as a Volunteer librarian, and Kenya Librarian Association and other libraries in Kenya. 
              7. Miscellaneous Documents 
              8. Official
                1. Passport
                2. Peace Corps Kenya ID Cards (2)
                3. Kenya Drivers License
                4. International Driving Permit
              9. Photographs 
                1. 60 photos 
              10. Slides and Photos 
                1. 70 Extrachrome Photographic Slides 
                2. CD-Rom of digital versions of the slides plus description document 
                3. Printed descriptions of the slides 

4. Tanzania 

  1. Correspondence, May-October, 1980 
    1. 129 letters from Gail to her parents, C. Morton and A. Jean Wadsworth, 1980-82. Applying for and preparing for Tanzania PCV/UNV contract. 5 letters. 
  2. Correspondence, November 1980-April 1981 (1/2) 
    1. 129 letters from Gail to her parents, C. Morton and A. Jean Wadsworth, 1980-1982. Tanzania, 11/1980 – 12/1981. 69 letters. 
  3. Correspondence, May-December, 1981 (2/2) 

Box 2

  1. Correspondence, January-June, 1982 (1/2) 
    1. 129 letters from Gail to her parents, C. Morton and A. Jean Wadsworth, 1980-1982. Tanzania, 1/1982 – 11/1982. 
  2. Correspondence, July-December, 1982 (2/2) 
  3. Photographs 
    1. 39 photos 
  4. Postcards and Stamps 
  5. Official Documents 
    1. Miscellaneous documents 
    2. WHO International Certificate of Vaccination – yellow booklet 
    3. Passport 
    4. East African Management Institute ID Card 
    5. Tanzania Driving License (2 – class A – Class D) 
  6. Documents and Brochures, Arusha 
    1. Documents and brochures related to the Easterman Southern African Management Institute, Arusha where Gail was assigned as a PCV/UNV librarian. 
  7. Slides & CD 
    1. 113 Extrachrome Photographic slides 
    2. Printout of descriptions of slides 
    3. CD-Rom digital versions of slide photos  
  8. Miscellaneous Documents, PC & UN (1/2) 
    1. Miscellaneous documents related to Peace Corps/United Nations Volunteer assignment. Includes description of service. (Chronological order). 
  9. Miscellaneous Documents,  PC & UN (2/2) 


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.


Listen to Letters: The Experience of a Blind PCV

While Peace Corps Volunteers are abroad, they send many letters home to their family and friends. They receive and send letters, packages, and postcards, and sometimes audiotapes.

Geer Wilcox served in the Dominican Republic from 1963-1965 and taught Blind Education. For two years, at the National School for the Blind, he taught boys how to walk with canes, carpentry, and worked on several other projects. To correspond with his family, Geer and his parents would record their letters because he himself is blind.

The following is a handful of recordings that Geer sent his parents to narrate his time in the Peace Corps.

(In total, it takes about 20 minutes to listen to the recordings and the play button is on the far left of the media bars.) A transcript of  the recordings can be found here: Geer’s Transcript.


Geer trained in Seattle, and arrived in Santo Domingo in October of 1963. He lived and worked at the National School for the Blind, which he describes here.

(In the first clip, Geer describes how long the school has been open and how many students have graduated, and in the second he describes the space problems and layout of the school.)


A few months into Geer’s service, President Kennedy was assassinated. These are his reactions.

(Geer admits that he will miss President Kennedy, and he does not know how anyone else will do as good a job as he did.)


Geer had two main teaching responsibilities while at the school. Cane travel, which he considered important but frustrating.

(Geer talks about how capable his students are, but then he also discusses his frustrations with how difficult some of his students find it to learn cane travel.)


And carpentry, which he believes his students could turn into a marketable skill.

(Geer very much looks forward to teaching carpentry, but the school lacks tools and he lacks carpentry skills, however in the second clip he mentions that they get a commission to make crutches.)


Beyond the school, the blind community in the city in general was just as important to Geer. In fact, he learned a lot from UN involvement in institutions around the country  and he even helped a local group begin a campaign for a rehabilitation center.

(In the first clip, Geer talks about suggestions that the UN makes, and in the second he discusses supporting the beginnings of a society that will create a rehabilitation center.)


He also gained the school a bit of notoriety by attending a dinner with the Rotary Club where he talked about rehabilitation and Geer even appeared on TV demonstrating cane travel.

(Geer discusses the Rotary Club dinner in the first clip, and describes his TV appearance in the second.)


Six months into his service, Geer had already accomplished so much. He had become strongly aware of how blind people were handled by the community and the effect this would have on his students. But he was still preparing them for graduation and helping them find their place in the world.

(The first clip details interactions Geer had with the community and how they treated him as a blind person, and the second is about graduation for his students.)


While this is simply a snippet of Geer’s life and work in the Dominican Republic, it still shows the impact he had on the community and his students.

(In this clip a student speaks to Geer’s parents and expresses his appreciation for everything Geer has taught him.)

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 and Finding Aid

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

Kim Herman in the Dominican Republic

Country of Service: Dominican Republic
Service Type: Community Development
Dates in Service: 1967-1969
Keywords: San Rafael del Yuma, Cano Prieto School, Los Naranjos, Blandino, Friends of the Dominican Republic Archive

Accession Date: November 8, 2016
Access: No commercial uses (i.e. only uses specified on permission form allowed)
Collection Size: 1.0 linear feet

Document Types

  • Photographs
  • Correspondence
  • Publications
  • Reports
  • Training Materials
  • Official Paperwork (ID cards, passport, etc.)
  • Sound (3″ reel to reel)
  • Travel Documents

Finding Aid

  1. Box 1
    1. Slides – Peace Corps Training, Camp Radley, Arecibo, PR, July-Oct 1967 
    2. Slides – Santo Domingo, San Rafael del Yuma, La Guazuma school, Almacen, Brindle’s Wedding 
    3. Slides – El Naranjo, Blandino, Yuma 
    4. Slides – Constanza Conference, Benerito School 
    5. Slides – Macao Swim Trip, Various offer subjects 
    6. Slides – Mexico Trip, December 1968-January 1969 
    7. Slides – Los Jobitos Road, Jarabacoa Conference, Blandino Road Inauguration 
    8. Slides – South American Trip, Columbia, Peru, Maccu, Piccu 
    9. Slides – South America Trip, Bolivia, Chile, Rio de Janiero, Despidida (going away party) 
    10. Slides – Projects: Cano Prieto School, Los Naranjos Road, 
    11. Photographs and Negatives 
    12. Correspondence 1  
      1. July 1967-Dec 1967 
    13. Correspondence 2
      1. Jan 1967-Oct 1969  
    14. Peace Corps documents correspondence, passport, ID
    15. Project Donations/Project Reports 
    16. Peace Corps Training 
    17. 11 rolls of negatives 
    18. 8mm reel recordings 
    19. Community Development Manual 1
    20. Community Development Manual 2 
    21. Spanish Community Development Publications
    22. Village Technology Handbook

Guatemala Group 11 Oral History Interviews

Country of Service: Guatemala
Dates in Service: 1968-1970
Keywords: Oral History, Interviews, Training, Community Development, Language

Accession Date: September 27, 2016
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.25 linear feet

Document Types

  • Digital Audio of Oral History Interviews with:
    • Milt Berg
    • Louis Weinstock
    • Kendall Collins
    • Jack Miller
    • Paul Kugler
    • Peter Shack
    • David Milholland
    • Douglas Noble
    • Bud Ourom
    • Nicolee (Miller) McMahon
    • Bill Brock
    • Don Livingston

Finding Aid

  1. 13 DVDs of video interviews