Category Archives: Ghana

Debby Prigal in Ghana

Debby Prigal

Country of Service: Ghana
Place of Service: Ho
Service Type: Math Education
Dates in Service: 1981-1983
Keywords: Our Lady of Apostles Secondary School, Ho, Volta Region

Accession Date: October 12, 2015, March 31, 2016, April 15, 2016
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.5 linear feet

Document Types

  • Application Materials
  • Training materials
  • Passport, WHO card, Peace Corps ID
  • Completion of Service materials
  • Photographs (slides and prints)
  • Letters
  • Talking Drum PCV Newsletters
  • Articles Written About Ghana
  • Sample exams
  • Tape of student chorus
  • Log of photos sent to family with film
  • Resume

 

“The Comrade Corps”

During a speech at San Francisco’s Cow Palace on November 2, 1960, soon to be President Kennedy spoke of the need for Americans to take action to ensure friendly relations abroad. He told the audience, “Out of Moscow and Peiping and Czechoslovakia and Eastern Germany are hundreds of men and women, scientists, physicists, teachers, engineers, doctors, nurses, studying in those institutes, prepared to spend their lives abroad in the service of world communism… being prepared to live their lives in Africa as missionaries for world communism.” Kennedy therefore proposed, that the U.S. create “a peace corps of talented young men and women, willing and able to serve their country in this fashion for 3 years as an alternative or as a supplement to peacetime selective service.” Even before the election, Kennedy had already a foundation for what would become the Peace Corps.

While serving in Africa, several Peace Corps volunteers worked alongside what one American termed “the Comrade Corps.” This organization consisted of teachers and volunteers the Soviet Union sent to developing countries, the same men and women Kennedy spoke of in his speech at the Cow Palace.

In 1965, Ray Silverstein, a Peace Corps volunteer, wrote to the Tilley Lamp, a Nigerian Peace Corps Volunteer newsletter, chronicling his encounter with these Russian volunteers. He told readers, “One has to seek them out. Once this is done, many of them will open up, eager to socialize and talk English with someone “who can correct” them…One girl that I met acknowledged the West’s superiority in twist music and rock n’roll, and mentioned that the Charleston is the rage in Russia now.”

Elizabeth Cobb Hoffman discusses Russian volunteers and PCV relations in Ghana in her 1998 work All You Need is Love: The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960s, “The volunteers’ attempts to be friendly towards the Russian youth would…prove the intention of the United States to wage the Cold War peacefully…The Peace Corps teachers, who shared accommodations with volunteers from other countries, reported that the Russians returned their sociability (Hoffman, 162).”

Despite Cold War tensions, Russian and American youth workers shared cultural experiences and perspectives with each other during their respective service across the world.

“Bringing to Man that Decent Way of Life”

The Peace Corps traces its history to a speech given by Senator John F. Kennedy in 1960.  In the midst of the Cold War and a presidential campaign, Kennedy, on October 14th, challenged University of Michigan students to travel abroad giving their time and talents to nations around the world.  “How many of you, who are going to be doctors, are willing to spend your days in Ghana?” Kennedy asked in an unplanned speech.

Those in attendance followed up with a petition which was eventually signed by one thousand students who affirmed their willingness to leave the comforts of the United States to work in developing countries.  Their signatures and commitment to service inspired the Peace Corps.  Once elected, President Kennedy followed up on his challenge and issued Executive Order 10924 establishing the Peace Corps on a temporary basis.

In a statement announcing the Peace Corps’ establishment on March 1, 1961, Kennedy acknowledged the real challenges waiting ahead for participants.  However, he stressed that the rewards, compared to the challenges, would be far greater.   Kennedy claimed, “For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps—who works in a foreign land—will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace.”

Abbie Rowe. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Abbie Rowe. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

On August 28, 1961, President Kennedy hosted a ceremony honoring the first group of volunteers, Ghana I and Tanganyika I, in the White House Rose Garden.  Days later, fifty-one Ghana I volunteers arrived in Accra to serve as teachers.  Less than a month later, the Peace Corps became a permanent federal agency with the Peace Corps Act.

Abbie Rowe. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Abbie Rowe. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Sources:

“About Us.” Peace Corps.  http://www.peacecorps.gov/about/

“Peace Corps.” John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. http://www.jfklibrary.org/JFK/JFK-in-History/Peace-Corps.aspx

All images are courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

A Peace Corps Exhibit at Gallaudet University

The webpage for "Making a Difference: Deaf Peace Corps Volunteers," which debuted at The Gallaudet University Museum.

The webpage for “Making a Difference: Deaf Peace Corps Volunteers,” which debuted at The Gallaudet University Museum.

In October 2011, Gallaudet University Museum opened an exhibition centered on the experiences of deaf Peace Corps volunteers.  “Making a Difference: Deaf Peace Corps Volunteers” incorporates photographs and objects to tell the stories of returned deaf volunteers.  Volunteers’ experiences abroad span from 1967 to 2011 and the countries of service include various locations including Ghana, Kenya, Ecuador, Zambia, Nepal, and the Philippines.  Using volunteers’ artifacts and personal experiences, the exhibit discusses issues relevant to society’s perception of the deaf, accessing education, and international relations.

To learn more about the experiences of deaf Peace Corps Volunteers, visit the exhibition located in the Weyerhaeuser Family Gallery and Exhibition Hall of the I. King Jordan Student Academic Center.