Category Archives: Correspondence

Ronald F. Chapman in the Philippines

Name: Ronald F. Chapman

Country of Service: Philippines

Service Type OR Service Project Title: Education

Dates in Service: 1964-1966

Keywords: Education

Accession Date: January 7, 2019

Access: No Restrictions

Collection Size: 6 inches

 

Document Types

  • Correspondence
  • Reports
  • Publications

Developing Volunteers Exhibit

As promised in the last story post, here is the newly-digitized exhibit which had been featured in at the AU Archives between October 2018 – February 2019.  The Developing Volunteers exhibit shares themes, examples, and ideas with another blog post, The Making of Global Citizens, but explores the artifacts in a different way.

Please enjoy this exhibit and I hope you will tell us if you’ve ever felt the same.  Have you ever lived abroad or experienced tremendous change which left you with a different perspective?  Tell us about it in the comments below!

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!

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.

Between Foreign Aid and Self Determination

As the age of imperialism ended, new governments formed throughout the post-colonial world.  These newly autonomous nations developed in the shadow of the Cold War, which set the tone for their foreign policy. Communist and capitalist powers alike sent aid to develop and influence these nations.  All nations that sent aid held agendas; they desired the political advantage that came with influence in the developing world.  However, these newly formed nations held agendas of their own, such as an automatous, effective government and the ability to determine their own culture.  Native citizenry worked towards these goals while as they accepted foreign aid.  Collections from four volunteers who experienced the extreme example of this self- determination, revolution, informs this essay and clarify the relationship between self-determined culture and foreign aid.

The Peace Corps was contemporary with other development volunteering impulses.  Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) met volunteers from post-imperial, capitalist, and communist countries, which each had an interest in relations with the developing world.  Sometimes, relations between volunteers were professional.  On 16 August 1971, Gail Wadsworth (Uganda, 1971-73) wrote about her British colleague,
She’s quite nice but very anxious to return to England.  After one semester of teaching I’ll be second in experience in the English Department.  The turnover of teachers throughout the country is fantastic.  British contract usually come out for 2 years.[1]
Other times, the relationships were friendlier.  Wadsworth wrote on 15 December 1971, “There is a Danish volunteer here now, Ellen Knudson, 28 yrs.  She wants me to go on a trip with her and I’ve just about decided to go.”[2]  Ann Hofer Holmquist (Nigeria, 1966-68), too, mentions befriending and traveling with British volunteers to Niger.[3]  Such friendly relations typically developed between PCVs and other Western-bloc volunteers.

The Western-bloc were not, however, the only nations that took part in projects to develop gain political favor with the post-colonial world.  Projects led by communist nations were present in Uganda during Wadsworth’s stay.  On 16 September 1917, she wrote, “Just outside of Tororo the Russians are building a farm school which is supposed to be staffed by Russian teachers.  That could be really interesting if I could get to meet them.”[4]  This school appeared in another letter the next month, “The President is in Tororo again today.  There is a tractor mechanic school about 18 miles out, built & staffed by the Russians.  He came to open that.”[5]  This was not the only communist-led project in which the president was interested.  On 2 October 1971, Wadsworth wrote, “Well, the President or someone decided that the lawn of Tororo Girls School was the best place for the helicopter to land if the President were coming to Tororo.  He was coming to Tororo to dedicate a rice paddy (or something) that the Chinese had ‘built’ near here.”[6]  This communist presence shows that the development impulse was not an exclusively Western one, and extended across all nations trying to build alliances.

Yet, the host counties had their own agendas for developing both infrastructure and culture.  For example, throughout Wadsworth’s service, the Ugandan government grew increasingly nationalist and deported several groups of expatriates. [7] [8] In one letter, she wrote her parents, “The Tororo butcher was Somalian & his 2 brothers were killed 2 months ago in the trouble in Moroto.  He just gave up on this place & went to Somalia.  Now there is no meat in town.”[9] In addition to purifying the Ugandan race, the government also implemented policies to purify Ugandan culture.  In June 1972, Wadsworth wrote,
Well, the most talked-about news here these days is that hot pants, mini skirts, & v-split maxis have been banned.  The announcement was made last Saturday and 10 days were given, so it officially goes into effect next Monday.  The police will enforce it then but ‘people’ are doing so now.[10]
Such measures show that the citizenry of host nations determined their own cultural development.

Nationalist sentiments and a citizenry’s desire to develop their nation could also lead to revolution.  Though this discontentment focused on the government and not at foreign aid, circumstances sometimes progressed to the point where evacuation was necessary.  Wadsworth was evacuated from Uganda, as was Geer Wilcox (Dominican Republic, 1963-65) when the Dominican Civil War grew too dangerous.[11] Holmquist was present for the Nigerian Civil War, but because the fighting stayed distant she stayed in Nigeria.  In her tapes, she spoke against the need to fight, comparing internal skirmishes to those of the European Medieval Era that only weakened the nation.[12]  Finally, Debby Prigal (Ghana, 1981-83) experienced difficult conditions both before and after the coup.  Ghana had had unpredictably stocked shops,[13] the world’s most over-valued currency,[14] and an incredibly unreliable postal system.  After the coup took place, Prigal wrote home,
I am perfectly fine; there has been a coup.  There is no reason to worry.  Things are perfectly normal.  Tell everyone I’m fine.
I will write but I’m not sure how the mail will be.  At this point the borders are closed but when they open up I’ll try to get a letter through.
I had a nice vacation and school is supposed to start next Monday.  Things are quiet here; there is a curfew but that is about all.
All’s well.[15]
Things returned to normal quickly and Prigal returned to work.  On 26 July 1982, she wrote home, “Sister Mary told me that 9 out of 12 of my students passed their ‘A’ level math.  The national average is 30%.  Last year 7 out of 9 failed, so she is happy.”[16]  Together, these experiences show that in these instances governments were changed due to native address of deep-rooted systemic flaws.  Whether the Peace Corps perpetuated the problem, as was the case in Uganda, or was merely a symptom of much larger problems, such restructuring shows that host nations continued to develop themselves, even as foreign aid was accepted.

At once, nations self-identified as ‘developed’ offered aid to the developing world and the developing world also took great pains to develop itself.  While these goals are fundamentally aligned, there are nuances in their implementation which caused tensions between the foreign aid and the desire for development by the governed.  One tension resulted from an integral conservatism in foreign aid.  Foreign aid is given by a government to a government.  The prerequisite understanding of the aiding government is that the aided government will remain consistent and that aid will be given within such parameters.  However, there were times when development aid was not enough for the native citizenry; to function as a collective, their government itself had to change to reflect the needs of the people.  A second friction can be seen in the cultural development.  While a PCV can work on projects determined through partnership of the two governments, they cannot develop the local culture, such as arts, fashion, and crafts.  This development had to be done by the native people, seen here most prominently in the Ugandan desire to be rid of all expatriates.  Such tensions are a part of any foreign aid endeavor and can to a greater or lesser extent determine the usefulness and impact of foreign aid to a partner nation.  The examples here show that such aid is often coveted and necessary, yet only within the prerequisites of an independently functioning government and a vibrant local culture.

[1] Letter, Gail Wadsworth to Mr. & Mrs. C. M. Wadsworth, 16 August 1970, Peace Corps Community Archives: Gail Wadsworth, Box 1, Folder 4: Correspondence 1969-71 (1/2) Uganda 1970-72, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

[2] Letter, Gail Wadsworth to Mr. & Mrs. C. M. Wadsworth, 15 December 1971, Peace Corps Community Archives: Gail Wadsworth, Box 1, Folder 5: Correspondence 1971-72 (2/2) Uganda 1970-72, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

[3] Audio recording, Hofer Holmquist, Peace Corps Community Archives: Hofer Holmquist, Box 1, Reel 9727, Side 2, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

[4] Gail Wadsworth to Mr. & Mrs. C. M. Wadsworth, 16 August 1970.

[5] Letter, Gail Wadsworth to Mr. & Mrs. C. M. Wadsworth, 26 September 1971, Peace Corps Community Archives: Gail Wadsworth, Box 2, Folder 5: Correspondence 1971-72 (2/2) Uganda 1970-72, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

[6] Letter, Gail Wadsworth to Mr. & Mrs. C. M. Wadsworth, 2 October 1971, Peace Corps Community Archives: Gail Wadsworth, Box 1, Folder 5: Correspondence 1971-72 (2/2) Uganda 1970-72, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

[7] Letter, Gail Wadsworth to Mr. & Mrs. C. M. Wadsworth, 16 August 1970, Peace Corps Community Archives: Gail Wadsworth, Box 1, Folder 4: Correspondence 1969-71 (1/2) Uganda 1970-72, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

[8] Uganda being a developing country there is a definite need to create a “national” character.  This is particularly difficult here with the number of tribes in this country.  Ceclaring English as the national language was one attempt at this, but there is also a lot of pressure to change it to Kiswahili.  Neither English nor Kiswahili is native to Uganda, but Luganda is too closely connected with the Baganda people.  There is also being initiated a National Service which would require all educated personas to donate 2 years to the service of the country.

Also the Indians run most of the shops.  Many of the Indians were born here.  Some have British, or Indian, or Ugandan citizenship, but some have no citizenship.  Well, beginning this month the government has been moving in, taking over the shops & turning them over to Ugandans, and deporting the Asians.  My Asian students told me that they all had to be out of the country by next March.  The Kenyans are being returned to Kenya between September & December.  Peace Corps may be next on the list.  AID is pulling out by December 1971, after which Tororo Girls School will have no more American contract teachers.

[9] Letter, Gail Wadsworth to Mr. & Mrs. C. M. Wadsworth, 3 September 1971, Peace Corps Community Archives: Gail Wadsworth, Box 1, Folder 5: Correspondence 1971-72 (2/2) Uganda 1970-72, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

[10] Letter, Gail Wadsworth to Mr. & Mrs. C. M. Wadsworth, 1 June 1972, Peace Corps Community Archives: Gail Wadsworth, Box 1, Folder 5: Correspondence 1971-72 (2/2) Uganda 1970-72, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

[11] Audio recording, Geer Wilcox, Peace Corps Community Archives: Geer Wilcox, Box 1, 38a, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

[12] Ann Hofer Holmquist, Reel 9727, Side 2.

[13] Letter, Debby Prigal to the Van de Nove’s & the Prigals, 25 July 1981, Peace Corps Community Archives: Debbie Prigal, Box 1, Folder 7: Ghana 1981-1983 Letters to Debby’s Parents 9/17/81-5/15/83, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

[14] Letter, Debby Prigal to the Prigal Family, 17 September 1981, Peace Corps Community Archives: Debby Prigal, Box 1, Folder 7: Ghana 1981-1983 Letters to Debby’s Parents 9/17/81-5/15/83, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

[15] Letter, Debby Prigal to Everyone, 4 January 1982, Peace Corps Community Archives: Debby Prigal, Box 1, Folder 7: Ghana 1981-1983 Letters to Debby’s Parents 9/17/81-5/15/83, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

[16] Letter, Debby Prigal to Mom & Dad, 26 July 1982, Peace Corps Community Archives: Debby Prigal, Box 1, Folder 7: Ghana 1981-1983 Letters to Debby’s Parents 9/17/81-5/15/83, American University Archives and Special Collections, American University Library.

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

Uganda
Photographs
Correspondence
Sound
Official Paperwork
Training Materials
Assignment
Articles
Travel brochures, maps, postcards

Kenya
Photographs
Correspondence
Official Paperwork
Assignment
Travel brochures, postcards

Tanzania
Photographs
Correspondence
Official Paperwork
Assignment
Travel postcards

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.