Category Archives: Uncategorized

Brookens Designs a National Park

Eric Brookens joined the Peace Corps in 1964, where he served in Panama on the Rural Community Development and Agriculture Cooperative project. He lived in Cerro Punta, Chiriqui Province—a mountain village 6,000 feet within the mountains of Volcán Barú. During his service, Brookens painted houses, assembled English classes, constructed a school, ran a local summer youth camp, and worked with a potato surplus cooperative—among other things. A year after he arrived in Cerro Punta, Brookens and another PCV Duane got the idea to create a national park on Volcán Barú.

Photo taken atop the mountain Cerro Punta looking towards El Hato de Volcan and Cosa Rica in the far background, March 1965. Eric Brookens, Panama 1964-1966, Box 1, Peace Corps Community Archives, American University Library.

Brookens and Myklejord spent the spring and summer of 1965 exploring the mountain, collecting notes on the wildlife, vegetation, waterfalls, and volcanic craters at the summit. The U.S. Geological Survey measures Volcán Barú at 3,475 meters—the tallest mountain in Panama. The summit offers clear views of both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea on a clear day. After their hikes, Brookens jotted down five essentials to maintaining a successful national park: signs, flattened areas for camping, paved roads up the mountain, laws against burning and waste, establishing borders, and publicizing the park in tourist offices around Panama.

Plans for the park went public in May 1965, when Brookens traveled to David, the capital city of Chiriquí Province, to meet with Governor Sitton about the project. Pleased with the idea, Sitton introduced Brookens to the Engineer Manuel Barrelier, chief of CAM (an agency within Panama’s Public Works Ministry)—who had direct power over plans for a national park.

Yellow sheet of paper with plans for National Park in Spanish

Notes for the National Park at Volcan Baru. Eric Brookens, Panama 1964-1966, Box 1, Peace Corps Community Archives, American University Library.

Brookens describes the meeting with Barrelier in his diary:

I presented the plan written out on the yellow sheet of paper, and between frequent interruptions he finally said that he thought he could work it out, but would like pictures of the planned areas and groups of people that might be willing to cooperate, such as the Boy Scouts. I told him I would try and work it out and return in a month or so to give him the pictures and a report on what I proposed. Everything seemed to be OK when I left, but I always try and cut myself from by too optimistic with the Panamanian government!

To bolster their proposal, the volunteers joined forces with local groups, including a tree conservation club, “Los Amigos del Arbol.” They also connected with the Forest Service, the Director of Land Reform, the Department of Agriculture, and the Smithsonian Institute in the Canal Zone.  The proposal began:

“Hermosa Catarata Descubren en Volcan,” La Razon, May 6, 1965. Eric C. Brookens, Panama 1964-1966, Box 1, Peace Corps Community Archives, American University Library.

North America, during more than a hundred years of intensive exploration and settlement of the wilderness, ruthlessly destroyed several of the once numerous species of animal life and beautiful forest areas. Fortunately today, conservation has reversed the trend of diminishing wildlife and forests through the use of national parks…”

“After hiking extensively around the area, seeing its wildlife, thick vegetation, a 400 foot waterfall, numerous extinct Volcanic craters at its top, and overall natural beauty; we want to present the thought to the Panamanian people of forming their first national park.

Brookens submitted a proposal to Barrelier in December 1965, with suggested steps to attract tourists and get the area ready for camping and hiking.

Plans for the park began to falter during the winter of 1965-1966 as Panamanian interest waned and the volunteers became involved with other projects. Brookens and Myklejord continued to hike the mountain, and used it for activities during a youth camp in February 1966. By their termination of service in July, plans for the national park had fallen by the wayside; however, Volcán Barú did acquire national park status in 1976. In 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey reported that the volcano is still active and expected to erupt again “in the near or distant future.” Continue reading

News from Home

Every volunteer watches as the world at home continues while they are abroad. Some changes are personal, such as the birth of a nephew or the death of a loved one. Other events are huge—where the entire country laments at the news of a disaster.

Thousands of miles away, Peace Corps Volunteers received news that shook the nation, and even the world. Radios broadcast the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and his brother Senator Robert Kennedy, the destruction of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, and the deadly attacks on September 11, 2001. While distance can lend space to heal from tragedy, it also cuts PCVs off from important support systems.

These six volunteers watched American events unfold from the non-military, external broadcasting program Voice of America, newspapers, and letters from their families and friends. They reflected on national elections, assassinations, and devastating disasters—often remarking on their isolation and questioning their faith in humanity.

“I don’t see much in the future.” Assassination of John F. Kennedy- November 22, 1963

Colombian newspaper El Espectador with the headline "Oswald Acusado del Crimen."

Headline in Colombian Newspaper on November 23, 1963. Friends of Colombia Collection, Peace Corps Community Archives.

Geer Wilcox learned about the assassination of John F. Kennedy’s while living in the Dominican Republic. As a blind Peace Corps Volunteer, Wilcox relied on hearing the news from neighbors reading newspapers and the radio. He often commented on the state of American politics or the Vietnam War as he listened to the international news broadcast, the Voice of America. When the news of Kennedy’s death broke, Wilcox reported feeling apprehensive of Lyndon Johnson and the future.

Wilcox expresses his shock in a recorded letter home to his parents on November 30, 1963:

Rene Cardenas was in Colombia when the news broke. She processes the aftermath of Kennedy’s death in a poem titled “Yesterday November.”

The address for sorrow
two inches away
the president has been killed

the clouds of wet season
the earth’s longest pity
everything is split time

a piece of wood
pulled apart at the grain
in an apartment in Cucuta

han asesinado a Kennedy
bells toll for three days
sent notes of condolences

to the wall
by my bed
two inches away
from my face.

Additional reactions to President Kennedy’s death are recorded here.

“What a sick society I left.” Assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy- June 6, 1968

Even as he served in Western Samoa, Arthur Aaronson wrote home often about the 1968 Democratic candidates Senator Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy. He heard about the attack on Senator Kennedy from other PCVs and the radio, which gave details about what happened in the hotel kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel. Aaronson wrote to his parents that evening:

I heard the news about Kennedy Wed. night as I was walking back from a dance with my sister. Two volunteers walked by and they told me the news. I was stunned. Then when I heard it on the radio that night I could only cry as the radio gave the details. The death of Martin Luther King didn’t hit as hard. Probably because Kennedy was on the way to being the next President. All the wealth and power of the U.S., it does not hide the fact of what a sick society I left.

The letter reads, "I heard the news about Kennedy Wed. night as I was walking back from a dance with my sister. Two volunteers walked by and they told me the news. I was stunned. Then when I heard it on the radio that night I could only cry as the radio gave the details. The death of Martin Luther King didn’t hit as hard. Probably because Kennedy was on the way to being the next President. All the wealth and power of the U.S., it does not hide the fact of what a sick society I left.”

Aaronson’s letter home on June 6, 1968. Peace Corps Community Archives.

 “I can only hope something good comes of all this.” Rodney King Riots- April 29, 1992

Woman holds newspaper up to show headline, "looting and fires ravage L.A."

Photograph submitted by Dark Sevier on January 1, 2008. Flickr Creative Commons

In March 1991, a bystander recorded a video of four L.A. police officers beating Rodney King—a black motorist—for a reported 15 minutes as other LAPD officers looked on. Despite the video evidence, the court found the four officers “not guilty” of excessive use of force on April 29, 1992. Fueled by this acquittal and years of racial and economic inequality, riots broke out around South Los Angeles, raging for 5 days.[1]

Tina Singleton watched the riots transpire as she completed her volunteer staging in Cameroon. She had lived and worked in San Francisco for 10 years before joining the Peace Corps in 1992. Singleton followed the events and devoted several diary entries to her thoughts:

30 Avril 1992

Just heard about the 4 police officers in the Rodney King Case being acquitted—I was sad and in shock. I just don’t understand how the jury came to that conclusion—it blows me away—I’m so upset. It’s hard to concentrate on anything. I’ve had a few good cries. Also heard about the rioting in L.A.—it’s awful—but I understand the reaction. This was such a blatant disregard for justice and Rodney King’s civil rights—what a disgrace—and with all the evidence—a videotape and all the tapes of the officers’ conversations—and they still got off. Rose-Marie and Soyeon and I were/are very shaken by this. The U.S. is getting worse by the minute. It makes me not want to even go back to the U.S.—I’m happy I’m here for two yrs.

1 Mai 1992

It’s gotten worse—protesters are now in San Francisco, Atlanta, Dallas—they’ve blocked the Bay Bridge again. Can’t believe all this is happening—1992 and we’re having race riots. I can only hope something good comes of all this—the rioting, the looting—I almost wish I could pick up a phone and call Jean and Peggy. This was my first taste of what it’s going to be like when a serious situation arises in the U.S.—I felt pretty cut off. I see what volunteers mean when they say the shortwave will become your best friend. We listened to is as much as possible. What I wouldn’t do for a newspaper right now. This is the weekend we stay with a Cameroonian family—should be interesting. Though I’ve been upset and crying today about this Rodney King episode. I just can’t believe this has happened—It still blows my mind.

Lundi, 3 Mai 1992

Heard on the news this morning about L.A.—2,000 people hurt, 40 dead, Bush has declared L.A. a disaster area. I guess he’s going to LA this week to see the damage—don’t have figures on the other sites—saw the news this weekend on TV at my family. L.A. looks pretty bad—fires everywhere. Saw Rodney King—he was so upset. I felt so bad for him. He kept saying “it’s not right, this isn’t right—we only want our day in court.” He was pretty devastated about all the violence as well—he spoke about the people not being able to go home to their families. He looked so devastated—I felt so bad for him. He just looked so bad—so down. Like I said before—I hope something good comes of this.

5 May 1992

Well, last nite was a real shit nite. Sebastian brought newspapers from Dovala—A USA Today and some French language papers. I was not ready for what I saw—the pictures really floored me. I knew it was bad in LA, but I didn’t know how bad. The man [Reginald Denny] being dragged from his truck and shot—then robbed. The white man who was on the ground and being kicked by 3 Black men—it’s so sick. I’ve got such a bad headache. I can’t stop thinking about all this madness. This whole thing has me wondering why I’m here and not at home doing something to help the situation there.

It’s so hard to concentrate on my French—we’re here for only 2 more weeks. I am worried about my French—it doesn’t seem so important anymore. I hope I’m not going to feel like this for a long time—I know if I do, I’d leave, and I don’t think that’s what I want. I’m just so confused now. People here seem to think things will be better after this, but I don’t think so. I’m feeling pretty pessimistic at this point—I’ve no other reason to feel otherwise. Soyeon and I had a good cry last nite. We’re both in a daze, as is Rose-Marie. Heard on the news this A.M. that 10,000 businesses were lost as well as at least that many jobs—which is something we can’t afford to lose.

Soyeon and I are calling home tomorrow—I can’t wait. I really need to talk to the folks—I might call Jean too. I’m not sure—it will be great to at least talk to Mom and Dad. It’s sounds like Mom’s feeling a little lost with me gone. It’s weird for me not to be able to pick up the phone. I was dying to talk to them last night—tomorrow will come soon enough.

— T

As a Black woman who lived in California—or rather, anywhere in the United States—Singleton was shocked and devastated by reoccurring injustices in the United States. Cut off from her friends and family and relying only on news from the radio and infrequent newspapers, she found support from two other Black volunteers—Soyeon and Rose-Marie—to process the injustice of the trial and the impact of the riots.

Despite her initial desire to return home, Singleton spent 3 years in Benin, West Africa as a Health Educator. She became an international development worker for over 20 years and launched a program called Transformation Table, devoted to promote sharing a meal and culture between communities, in November 2016 in Charleston, SC.

“We shortly came to the realization that life had changed.” September 11, 2001

Living in a remote village in Zambia, Lara Weber was listening the the Voices of America when the voice over the radio reported, “”A… plane… has… hit… the… World… Trade… Center… in… New… York… City…” With no electricity, internet, or phone within a day’s drive, Weber explained feeling detached as more and more reports rolled in. She also worried about her father, who occasionally visited the Pentagon on business.

The weeks that followed were strange in that I had no Americans to talk with at all. Some of the elder men of the village visited me one day. They wanted to understand the news better, and their questions were interesting. One man wanted to know more about the Twin Towers and Manhattan. Why did so many people need to live and work on top of one another in such vertical spaces — had we run out of land in the rest of America? I tried to answer, but what I said felt inadequate and the whole idea of New York suddenly made no sense. Why did we pile into cities like that?

Rhett Power’s experience was a little different. As a volunteer in Uzbekistan, Power remembers a sense of confusion and urgency following the events, as the Peace Corps determined when to evacuate PCVs in the countries close to Afghanistan.

Power remembers sitting on the floor of a hotel room in the capital with his wife and a group of PCVs after a series of new volunteer training sessions. They were watching CNN when it happened. Power recalls the initial reaction:

 

I remember it distinctly. My wife and I were…Well, we were in the capital. So we were actually getting ready to go to the airport. I think a group had either come the night before or the day of. We were at a hotel. We were doing a Peace Corps training for new volunteers. There was another married couple there, they were education volunteers—I think he was a health volunteer—but anyway, we were together in the hotel. We were actually loving life because we were in a bed. A really good bed and we actually had two boxes of pizza on the floor. I think we had Orange Fanta and we were beside ourselves. The luxury of it all.

I distinctly remember this—we had a tiny little TV on CNN. You know, again we were watching TV. We didn’t have anything else to watch. But we had one international channel. And, that’s when it happened. And, we were watching it and just—we were just as shocked as everybody else was. I think [we] shortly came to the realization that life had changed. Because we all knew what would happen. Very shortly thereafter—within that hour we knew that something had changed and that something would change.

After three weeks, the Peace Corps evacuated Power and the other PCVs living in the Middle East and sent them back to the United States without reassignment.

 

As people back home find support within their communities, during times of tragedy PCVs find themselves relying on other Americans, throwing themselves into their work, or talking with their host communities about the implications of the event. Often, these tragedies lead to a renewed sense of faith in the mission of the Peace Corps—as seen in the uptick of Peace Corps applications in the wake of the Kennedy assassinations and 9/11. In other cases, such as the riots in L.A., it can be a reminder of how far we haven’t come.

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Proudly Serving: the LGBTQ+ Volunteer Experience

Even as we move into November, I would like to return to October. Many may know it as a month of horror movies, candy, and spooky decorations, but it also happens to be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History month.

I originally intended to highlight stories about LGBT+ volunteers serving in the Peace Corps—the only issue is that donors do not usually disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity when offering  their materials to the PCCA. However, we do have some items related to heterosexual couples and marriage during Peace Corps service. You can view the corresponding blogs here and here.

Since the PCCA is home to  personal collections for over 200 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RCPVs), I have reason to believe that at least a few identify within the LGBT+ community. Yet, even if I were to find traces of homosexuality or transgender experiences, it feels unethical to disclose personal information without the donor’s permission.

That said,  I poked around online and found quite a few Peace Corps groups that offered guidance and support to LGBT+ volunteers, as well as blog posts written by LGBT RPCVs.

Julie Andrews as Queen Clarisse Renaldi in Princess Diaries 2 says

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, 2004.

In this belated LGBT+ history month post, I want to formally request Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Asexual RPCVs (From 1961 to present-day) to consider donating their materials to the PCCA so that we can represent a vast array of PCV experiences.

I would also like to emphasize the incredible work of Jim Kelly and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Association, while touching on the milestones of LGBT+ Peace Corps history.

A Brief LGBT+ History of the Peace Corps

In many countries around the world, identifying openly (or “coming out of the closet”) as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender is illegal. In others—including the United States— LGBT+ continue to face discrimination, violence, and even death. Those who appear to fit into the heterosexual societal expectations of gender and sexuality incur the trauma of loneliness and shame from the lack of recognition and acceptance for who they are. LGBT+ Peace Corps Volunteers often have to choose between the call to “promote world peace and friendship” and their own mental or physical health.

When Kennedy created the Peace Corps in 1961, the organization’s stance on homosexuality corresponded with that of the United States federal government. During the 1950s and ‘60s, the United States collectively feared Communist spies. Government agencies rooted out potential security breaches, focusing largely on anyone suspected of being a homosexual.

In this cultural environment, RCPV Jim Kelly applied for the Peace Corps. Kelly recounts the application process and facing the survey question: “Are you a homosexual?”

For a young gay man in the 1960s, his only option was to commit perjury—and convince all of his friends to lie as well. While he enjoyed his service in El Salvador, Kelly mentioned feeling anxious of discovery and lonely for a community supportive of his true self.

Listen to Kelly’s 2017 interview at OUTSpoken in Chicago:

Fast forward to 1992, Kelly completed a master’s thesis called “Hidden dimensions of diversity: gays and lesbians in the Peace Corps,” where he interviewed 80 RPCVs and recommended widespread institutional changes to the Peace Corps. Kelly’s study was foundational to initiating worldwide conversations around sexual orientation and gender identity within the organization.

The National Peace Corps Association currently encourages LGBT+ applicants and same-sex couples to serve abroad. Considerably more resources and support systems are available to volunteers during their time overseas, however individual experiences vary depending on the person and social climate of the country. Presently, the Peace Corps reports 18 countries with medical clearances to support HIV+ volunteers and allows applicants to choose specific countries of service.  

Do you identify as a LGBTQ+ Peace Corps Volunteer? The PCCA is interested in preserving your materials and understanding how your identities shaped your service. We accept both digital and physical blogs, journals, correspondence, videos, photographs, training materials, and more! Reach out to us at archives@american.edu.

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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!

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers in Hawaii

In 2009, The Hawaii Returned Peace Corps Volunteers began a weekly series of volunteer interviews. They interviewed a little over 70 volunteers who served in countries from Bolivia to Poland, and from Ghana to to the Philippines. Volunteers talked about their time in service, what work they did, and discussed their overall experience in the Peace Corps.

Listen to their stories here: RPCVHI Youtube Channel

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.

After the Move

The Peace Corps Community Archives (PCCA) began at American University in the spring of 2013, and by September already had 12 collections. Four years and a move later that number has grown to 69 collections, both from groups and individuals. With these collections come some interesting statistics that you can discover below about how the archive has grown over the years. (Note: Numbers refer to number of individual collections.)

People
*while most volunteers entered as single adults, a few of them served with their spouse

2013: 17 Men, 10 Women

2017: 37 Men, 31 Women, including 5 couples

Most Common Types of Work

2013: Education – Health & Sanitation – Community Development

2017: Education – Community Development – Environment & Health

Decades of Service
The Peace Corps was founded in 1961 and volunteers have been serving ever since, and continue to serve to this day. Every decade since 1961 is represented in our collections.

2013:  21, 1960s – 4, 1970s – 0, 1980s – 0, 1990s – 2, 2000s – 1, 2010s

2017:  42, 1960s – 6, 1970s – 6, 1980s – 1, 1990s – 6, 2000s – 2, 2010s

Where Served
Peace Corps volunteers serve all around the world in 60 different countries. Below is where the volunteers from our collections have served through the years.


Central America

2013: 2     2017: 10
Belize – Dominican Republic – Eastern Caribbean – Haiti – Honduras – Jamaica – Mexico – Panama

 

South America
2013: 13     2017: 20
Bolivia – Chile – Colombia – Paraguay – Peru – Suriname

 

Africa
2013: 5     2017: 19
Ghana – Kenya – Mali – Morocco – Nigeria – Senegal – Sierra Leone – Uganda

 

Eastern Europe/Middle East
2013: 2     2017: 4
Afghanistan – Turkey – Ukraine

 

Asia/Pacific Islands
2013: 6     2017: 8
Fiji – India – Malaysia – Philippines – Thailand

 

The archive has grown quite a bit since 2013, and we are excited about the diversity of the collections that are now available to the public. But we would love to keep growing! We are always looking to add to the PCCA, so if you can fill in the gaps or are interested in finding a home for your collection of Peace Corps materials please contact us.
Email: archives@american.edu     Phone: (202) 885-3256