Category Archives: Memoirs

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

Document Types

  • Reports
  • Publications
  • Memoir

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.

 

Photographing the Firsts: Maureen Carroll in the Philippines

 

Maureen Carroll served in the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers to the Philippines from 1961-1963. Carroll served as an English Teacher in Castilla, Philippines. Carroll previously worked for AT&T, who paid H.A. Figueras of Black Star Photography to come to her town in the Philippines and follow her around for a day to capture every angle of her life there.  The photos show her housing, her transportation, in the classroom, in the market, at church, at the beach, and around town.

 

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Carroll lived in Castilla with three other PCV roommates in the home pictured above on the left. The home had a tin roof and was raised on poles above the ground. There were three rooms, a sala or living room with a kitchen, a bedroom, and a bathroom.

 

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Pictured here is the community library Carroll and her roommates fashioned out of the former store attached to their home.

 

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Carroll and other Volunteers regularly used the local bus which also transported neighbors and their animals. Pictured here, Carroll and another PCV wait for the bus to arrive.

 

pcca_carroll_0004Maureen Carroll lived with three other roommates, Gloria Paulik, Hope Gould, and Anne Wilson. Here, Carroll and her roommates enjoy lunch in their living room.

 

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Pictured here, Carroll prepares her English lessons for her students. She co-taught with local teachers across multiple classrooms at Milagrosa Elementary School.

 

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Carroll and her fellow PCVs taught local Filipino students both English and Science.

 

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Peace Corps Volunteers in the Philippines purchased provisions from the local businesses. Carroll purchased rice from the market and canned corned beef, candles, soap, salt, and other small sundries from the sari-sari stores.

 

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Like other PCVs, Carroll’s connection to family and friends back in the United States came in the form of mail. Pictured here, Carroll checks with the local mailman for her letters.

 

For more information on Maureen Carroll’s service, read her article “Not For Girls like You: A Jersey Girl’s Journey,” in Answering Kennedy’s Call: Pioneering the Peace Corps in the Philippines.

 

For more information, please visit the Peace Corps Community Archive website. To use the collections or make a donation, please contact the AU Archives at archives [at] american.edu.

“The 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.

Waterways and Local Communities

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“Marine Fisheries Trainees Doing Artificial Reef Construction,” Avram Primack, Peace Corps Community Archive

Avram Primack served his time in the Peace Corps (1987-1989) in the Philippines working with marine fisheries. One of the goals of the Peace Corps is to “to help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.” For many Filipinos, fishing is a major source of both nourishment and trade. Coastal Resources Management Volunteers continue to support the Filipino communities by creating eco-friendly environments that provide food and revenue for local fishermen.

One of the methods employed by Peace Corps volunteers is the construction of artificial reefs. The practice of artificial reef construction is thousands of years old. Recently, such reefs have been used to create semi-permanent habitats for fish as well as preventing erosion of crucial shorelines. These reefs give local communities the environmental support they need for economic development, which is especially crucial in the islands of the Philippines.

Between 1973 and 1975, Jonathan Green served in the Kanchanaburi Province of Thailand assisting with malaria control. While in Thailand, Green observed how communities use rivers to transport goods and materials. During the rainy season, roads become impassable quagmires. Rivers are thus the primary means of transportation and communication when there are no asphalt roads in the area.

Service in the Peace Corps gives volunteers the opportunity not only to assist local development, but to gain new appreciation for the environment and how other cultures live side by side with various environmental concerns.

People are loading bamboo in barges, presumably to take down the river to sell in the big cities, Jonathan Green, American University Peace Corps Community Archive

“People are loading bamboo in barges, presumably to take down the river to sell in the big cities”, Jonathan Green, American University Peace Corps Community Archive. In other countries such as Thailand, Peace Corps volunteers observe how crucial waterways are in the economy of local communities.

 

 

 

 

Anita P. Turner in Kenya

Anita P. Turner

Country of Service: Kenya
Service Type: Small Towns and Community Development (USAID)
Dates in Service: 1982-1984
Keywords: Business, Community Development

Accession Date: June 23, 2014
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.5 linear feet

Document Types

  • Correspondence
  • Reports
  • Training materials
  • Memoir

RPCV Memoirs: Accomplishing the Third Goal

The Barrios of Manta

Memoirs capture an individual’s life.  For many RPCVs, writing about their life and work in another country provides the best way to educate others.

Rhoda and Earle Brooks, who served in Ecuador from 1962-1964, published the first Peace Corps memoir titled The Barrios of Manta: A Personal Account of the Peace Corps in Ecuador in 1965.  Shortly after, Arnold Zeitlin (1961-1963) published To the Peace Corps with Love—a memoir about his service in Ghana.   The Barrios of Manta and To the Peace Corps with Love established a precedent for future Peace Corps volunteers.

To the Peace Corps with Love edited

 

 

Upon completing their service abroad, Peace Corps challenges returned volunteers to carry out the organization’s Third Goal.  The goal aims to inform Americans about people and cultures around the world.  Through education about other nations and their people, the Peace Corps seeks to foster understanding and world peace.

Memoirs provide a platform for sharing one’s experiences and knowledge of their host country with the rest of the US.  For more information and an extensive bibliography of published works on the Peace Corps, visit Peace Corps Worldwide.

From AU’s Collections: Friends of Nigeria

The Friends of Nigeria Archive is another resource for learning about Peace Corps in Africa.   Founded in 1996, the organization seeks to educate the public about Nigeria and promote continual service to the Nigerian people.  As the national network for Nigeria Peace Corps alumni, Friends of Nigeria includes returned volunteers and staff, as well as members of other organizations who served in the country.

In 2010, Friends of Nigeria–an affiliate group of the National Peace Corps Association–established their Archive at American University.  Friends of Nigeria Archive includes organizational records consisting of by-laws, annual reports, newsletters, financial records, and membership directories.  However, the archive also includes  many collections donated by members of group.  Items of interest include audio recordings, memoirs, photographs, and correspondence.

Several of the collections included in the Peace Corps Community Archives are from the Friends of Nigeria Archive.  Be sure to browse the Catalog for specific collections with materials from volunteers’ training and service in Nigeria.

Sources:
“Welcome Friends of Nigeria,” http://www.friendsofnigeria.org/
“Special Collections,” AU Library, (2014)    http://www.american.edu/library/archives/collections.cfm
Sarah Kana, “Friends of Nigeria Supports WE CARE Solar,” National Peace Corps Association (2014) http://www.peacecorpsconnect.org/2012/05/friends-of-nigeria-supports-we-care-solar/