Category Archives: Colombia

Michael Gainor in Colombia

Name: Michael Gainor

Country of Service: Columbia

Place of Service: Pasoul Bravo

Service Type OR Service Project Title: Education

Dates in Service: 1963-1965

Keywords: Education, Youth

Accession Date: January 7, 2019

Access: Unrestricted

Collection Size: 21 inches

Document Types

  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks
  • Reports
  • Publications

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.

Odd Jobs in the Peace Corps

Most Peace Corps Volunteers spend their service as educators, working in community development, or in public health.

But some volunteers spend their two years serving in very different jobs. For example, Avram Primack worked with marine fisheries in the Philippines from 1987-1989 and Terry Kennedy and James Kolb worked on the Peace Corps Educational TV Project in Colombia from 1964-1966 and 1963-1965, respectively.

Take a look at three more odd jobs we have in the collection.

 

While serving in Colombia from 1964-1966 Howard Ellegant worked as an architect. Ellegant drew out plans for multiple schools, a house, and a church.

Howard Ellegant, Colombia, 1964-1966. “Iglesia de Troncocito” October 5, 1965 (Truncated Church)

 

Meghan Keith-Hynes (Haiti, 1986) and Richard Burns (Dominican Republic, 1962-1964) both worked in Forestry. Burns notes that his group was trained in fire suppression and aiding the Dominican Republic government to establish their own forest service. Meghan worked on starting a community nursery independent of the government.

Meghan Keith-Hynes, Haiti, 1986

Richard Burns, Dominican Republic, 1962-1964, “Planting trees”

 

Steven Bossi served in India from 1966-1968 and worked on the Andhra Pradesh Science Workshop, which worked with local science teachers. The workshop focused on two things: aspects of science teaching that are crucial for a firm understanding of the principles of high school science and aspects that can easily be implemented in the classroom.

Steven Bossi, India, 1966-1968, “Demonstrating folding microscope”

 

While most volunteers work in the same three types of jobs, there are a few out of the ordinary jobs volunteers do around the world.

Peace Corps Week

On March 1, 1961 President Kennedy signed an executive order establishing the Peace Corps. He asked Americans how many of them would be willing to serve their country and the cause of peace by living and working in the developing world. Thousands answered the call in 1961 and 750 were chosen to serve in 13 nations.

Throughout the summer of 1961 volunteers took tests for selection and were trained for service.

By the end of the summer groups had already begun serving, the first groups went to Ghana and Colombia, or were preparing to leave.

As volunteers were preparing to leave they were given travel itineraries, packing tips, and even guidelines for dealing with the press. Along with formal congratulation letters from Governors and Senators, volunteers were also featured in local newspapers.

Once training was over and all the packing was done, volunteers were sent on to their designated countries. The first groups served from 1961 to 1963.

Maureen Carroll served in the Philippines from 1961-1963 in Education.

After two years of service, they were all welcomed home.

 

While some things have changed since 1961, the life of a volunteer is still very much the same with training and living abroad. 58 years later the Peace Corps is still meeting Kennedy’s challenge of serving the U.S. and the cause of peace.

 

Every year, to celebrate this anniversary, the Peace Corps holds Peace Corp Week which “celebrates all the ways that Peace Corps makes a difference at home and abroad and renews its commitment to service.”

This year, Peace Corps Week is February 25 – March 3 and the theme is “Highlighting Home: What does home, family, and community look like in your Peace Corps country?” You can attend a Peace Corps event near you or vote for the best video in the Video Challenge.

 

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.

 

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.

John Greven & Cliff Witt in Colombia

John Greven & Cliff Witt

Country of Service: Colombia
Service Type: Community Development
Dates in Service: 1966-1968
Keywords: Friends of Colombia, Documentary

Accession Date: October 12, 2017
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: two linear feet

Document Types

Documentary videos (digital)

  • Film for Action: Construyamos una escuela
  • Film for Action: Piedras como esta
  • Film for Action: Tendremos mas que puentes
  • Film for Action: Un canto a mi tierra
  • Publication

Elizabeth Krakauer: Determined Peace Corps Librarian

A selection of newspaper headlines from articles detailing Elizabeth Krakauer’s work in the Peace Corps.

Elizabeth Krakauer spent her retirement as a Peace Corps volunteer in South America with the Peace Corps. Krakauer completed three two-year enlistments, for a total of six years, starting in 1975. She spent five years in Colombia and one year in El Salvador. Krakauer’s Peace Corps service was non-traditional in both length of service and focus. After retiring as head librarian at Goddard College in Vermont, Krakauer utilized her skills in library science to organize and preserve rare book collections.

For the bulk of her service, Krakauer served as a Library Science Consultant organizing a rare book collection for the University of Los Andes in Bogota, Colombia. She identified, cataloged, and gathered all rare books in the University’s library. She also made recommendations on the conservation and preservation of these books. Following this, she worked with the Colombo-American Institute (Bi-Cultural Center USICA) and the University to organize the first rare books exhibit in the country.

Krakauer’s exhibit was so successful that several libraries and agencies requested her assistance to compile a national inventory of rare books in private and public Colombian collections. Krakauer worked with a number of organizations including the Anthropological Museum, UNICEF, San Buenaventura University, Seminario Mayor de Bogota, and the University of Cauca in Popayan. She organized training programs for employees of these institutions.

With the support of the Colombo-American Institute (Bi-Cultural Center USICA), Krakauer organized a second exhibit of rare books featuring the collections of other Colombian Universities.  She joined the Colombian Library Association and worked as a library consultant. She subsequently published two catalogs about the rare book exhibits, wrote several articles, and made two videos on the preservation of rare books.

In 1976, the Secretary of Education of the Republic of El Salvador invited Krakauer to organize a National Library. She also attended the World Congress of Information Scientists in Mexico City in 1976.

Throughout her Peace Corps service, Elizabeth Krakauer helped build and preserve institutional holdings of rare books as well as assisted other Peace Corps Volunteers in constructing small libraries within their own communities.

 

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.

Traveling Light: What to Bring on a Peace Corps Trip

Packing for a trip is overwhelming work. For Peace Corps Volunteers, packing for a two year service trip is even more difficult. PCVs were often traveling to remote locations in far off countries. They had to consider climate, type of work, and culture when they selected what to bring with them. The Peace Corps not only sent detailed lists of what to pack ahead of each PCVs’ trip, they also provided kits of their own to ensure each Volunteer had what they required.

 

Pictured here, Meghan Keith-Hynes is ready and packed for her trip to Haiti, where she volunteered in Agroforestry in 1986.

 

Steve and Janet Kann served in the Eastern Caribbean in Practical Education Development in 1980-1982. On their packing list, they are instructed to bring as much washable and cotton clothing as possible due to the warm and humid weather they would encounter. They were also not expected to bring a lot of formal clothing.  The list includes a number of items which might be hard to find on the islands they traveled to.

 

Tom Hebert served in Nigeria from 1962-1964 as a teacher and as the Tour Manager for University of Ibadan’s Shakespeare Traveling Theatre. Hebert received this list of items of household items that the Peace Corps would provide him. In addition to kitchen supplies and bed linen, it includes a clock, flashlight, and lock.

PCVs had a limited number of possessions during their service, many of which they brought with them from the start. These lists helped narrow down the essentials for PCVs to pack.

 

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.