Adjusting to New Worlds

When browsing the collections of the Peace Corps Community Archive it is difficult to miss material that demonstrates excitement, fatigue, curiosity, or frustration surrounding issues of adjustment to life in a foreign country.

Often, volunteers expressed these sentiments through letters, diary entries, and artwork. In some cases, notation of adjustment can even be found in the official Peace Corps paperwork.

In this post, we’ll explore the materials of three new collections to illustrate how volunteers adapted: Gabe Skinner (Chile, 1964 – 1966), Susan Shepler (Sierra Leone, 1987 – 1989), and Bobbe Seibert (Honduras, 2000).

Gabe Skinner, an anthropologist by training, joined the Peace Corps in 1964. As one of the first groups of Peace Corps volunteers, Skinner used his time in Chile to teach Mapuche Indians the practice of beekeeping. But he was unaccustomed to the long hours spent traveling by foot around rural Chile, so Skinner inquired about horses for sale in nearby towns.


Sunday, February 14, 1964, Skinner wrote about walking four hours “back into the hills” to see a horse “offered for sale.” PCCA.

Skinner purchased a horse in late April 1964. To document the event, he glued this picture drawn by his little brother Greg into his journal.


This drawing by Greg of Skinner’s horse appears in Skinner’s personal journal. PCCA.

In an earlier entry, dated January 13th, 1964, Skinner journals about how difficult it could be for volunteers to acclimate to their housing. As seen on the page below, he bemoans the uncomfortable living conditions in his first home in Chile:

“There are chickens and cats in the kitchen. They are flea-ridden. They defecate on the floors. There are flies in the kitchen.”


Wednesday, January 13th, 1964, Skinner described his housing situation in rural Chile.  PCCA.

Susan Shepler, who taught mathematics in Sierra Leone in the late 1980s, offers little in her notes about discomfort. In fact, a survey she filled out in the April 1989 issue of Di News De, a local newsletter produced by the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, reveals Shepler’s openness to the new cuisine and customs.


This is the second page of a “Volunteer Survey” filled in by Susan Shepler from the April 1989 issue of Di News De. PCCA.

In this same issue of Di News De, however, researchers will encounter comics, short stories, and other creative expressions that indicate some of the challenges many volunteers faced. Two examples include a bus ride gone awry and a recipe to recreate familiar food.









April 1989 issue of Di News De. Susan Shepler collection. PCCA.


April 1989 issue of Di News De. Susan Shepler collection. PCCA.

Unlike Shepler, Bobbe Seibert described distaste for some local foods and created her own recipes abroad. Seibert, who joined the Peace Corps later in her adult life, detailed her cooking practices in a letter to her father and stepmother, Jean.

On October 17, 2000, Seibert wrote to her parents to explain how she used corn to make a “wonderfully hot, smooth, and comforting” cream soup because she was “not particularly fond of” the homemade tortillas.


Letter from Seibert to her father and stepmother on October 17, 2000. PCCA.

In the same letter, Seibert  enclosed a photograph of her house. On the back of the image she cautions her parents about visiting, noting “Honduras is not a comfortable country.


Photograph from a letter to Seibert’s father and stepmother dated October 17, 2000. PCCA.

Seibert served on an agricultural team in Honduras in 2000 until a family emergency brought her back home to Alaska. Yet, her time as a volunteer is well chronicled in her journals, artwork, and correspondence.

In a letter to her husband John, for example, Seibert expresses excitement regarding her new host family and housing:

“My family is perfect.”

“Dona Marlen is a housekeer – not a maid, and they have two wonderful kids, Marleny – she’s eight years old and we go everywhere together and Edward who is two years old and mostly just smiles all the time.”

“The roof is corrugated but of very good quality it sounds wonderful when it rains as it did last night – quite hard.”


This letter from Seibert to John on February 6, 2000, offers a positive reaction to a new housing arrangement. PCCA.

Celebrating or overcoming adjustments is part of the Peace Corps volunteer experience. By carefully studying the collections in the Peace Corps Community Archive, researchers can build an enriched understanding of a volunteer’s daily life, including the joys and struggles associated with adjusting to a new world.

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]


Bobbe Seibert in Honduras

Bobbe Seibert

Country of Service: Honduras
Service Project Title: Hillside Farming Extension
Dates in Service: 2000
Keywords: Agriculture, Business, Community Development

Accession Date: July 29, 2015
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.5 linear feet

Document Types

    • Correspondence
    • Photographs
    • Reports
    • Diaries
    • Training Materials
    • Artwork
    • Memorabilia

Ann Hofer Holmquist and Richard Holmquist in Nigeria

Ann Hofer Holmquist
Richard Holmquist

Country of Service: Nigeria
Dates in Service: 1966-1968
Keywords: Nigeria, Education, Audiotapes

Accession Date: June 18, 2015
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 7 items

Document Types

  • Audiotapes (open reel 2-3”)
  • Audiotape Excerpts (9mp3s)

Ripples of Influence

This morning, CNN posted a fascinating article about business life in Lagos, one of the fastest growing cities in the world. To better understand business culture in Lagos, CNN asked Lagos business workers to tweet responses to the question, “You know you’re running a business in Lagos when….” Some of the responses included Nigerians telling CNN the importance of electric generators, proper business meeting etiquette, and an ability for creativity and flexibility.

52 years, ago Peace Corps Volunteer Duane Hudson arrived in Nigeria to assist youth in science education. He educated young Nigerians as they prepared for their futures. Many of his students wrote to Hudson, telling him about their hobbies, their favorite subjects, and what they wanted to be when they grew up. Many wanted to give back to Nigeria with the hope of becoming doctors and lawyers. In one letter, responding to why he liked math, a student wrote, “It is this subject I like in school Since I have wished to become an engineer by profession, and this math is one of its main branches, I liked it much. It also helps the doctors, scientists, technologists, and lawyers in their studies. You can earn your living by teaching math. You can study mathematics for a Ph.D.”

From the time of Hudson’s service to today’s article on Lagos business culture, Nigeria has experienced much economic, cultural, and developmental change. Although difficult to quantify the results of Peace Corps service, the qualitative influence of volunteers such as Hudson on developing communities and individuals makes the Peace Corps an evergreen opportunity for fostering positive change throughout the world.



Peace Corps Service in 1960s Honduras

Peter Cooey served in Honduras from 1966 to 1968. He worked on community development in the town of Orocuina. While there, Cooey used his camera to document his experiences. Below are a selection of his images recently donated to the PCCA. These photographs highlight not only the Peace Corp’s community development projects, but also the vibrant communities which Cooey was immersed in during his time abroad.


Community Development Project, PCCA.

Community Development Project, PCCA.








Peter Cooey on Mule, PCCA.

Peter Cooey on Mule, PCCA.









Boy with Box in Honduras, PCCA.

Boy with Box in Honduras, PCCA.







Man in Honduras, PCCA.

Man in Honduras, PCCA.







Participants at Community Development Program

Participants at Community Development Program, PCCA. 







Instructor with Students, PCCA.

Instructor with Students, PCCA.











Strengthening Female Education Worldwide

Earlier this month, the Peace Corps announced it would partner with Michelle Obama to expand educational opportunities for women around the world. This partnership plans to accomplish this goal through specialized community training, raising public awareness and support for international partnership programs, and recruiting and training hundreds of new Peace Corps Volunteers working to serve as advocates for female education.

The Peace Corps Community Archive’s holdings reflect the Peace Corps’ continuing commitment to promote female education. From 1968-1970, Christine Hager served in Colombia working as a community developer. Part of her duties included educating women about self-sustainable work such as cooking and sewing. Winifred Boge worked on the Health Nutrition Project from 1965-1967, which educated men and women in India about healthy daily practices. The more recently announced initiative by Michelle Obama and the Peace Corps will build upon the already impressive work of the Peace Corps in addressing the need for increased female educational opportunities throughout the world.

Winifred Boge with female students in India

Winifred Boge with female students in India. PCCA

American University Celebrates Peace Corps Week

In celebration of Peace Corps Week, on Tuesday, March 2, American University hosted Peace Corps recruiter Chuck Cascio and more than 10 Returned Peace Corps volunteers, many of them American University students and alumni. Along with the opportunity to talk with Peace Corps volunteers, the event included displays of photos and objects related each RPCV’s service. These RPCVs shared their Peace Corps experiences, demonstrating how they each made a difference in their respective communities.

Last month, the Peace Corps ranked American University as one of the top medium-sized colleges and universities producing Peace Corps volunteers. As shown by Tuesday’s event, American University will continue its already strong relationship with Peace Corps service.

RPCV Lauren Kovach (Zambia, 2012-2014) and Rachel Teter (Panama, 2011-2013) inform American University students about the merits of Peace Corps service.

RPCV Lauren Kovach (Zambia, 2012-2014); left, and Rachel Teter (Panama, 2011-2013) ; right. inform American University students about the merits of Peace Corps service.

Happy Birthday, Peace Corps!

On March 1, 1961, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps. 54 years later, the Peace Corps still reflects its original mission to “promote world peace and friendship.”

This year’s celebration of Peace Corps Week includes the video challenge, “Host Country Heroes: Who do you wish Americans knew from your Peace Corps country?”, digital “video chats” with Peace Corps Volunteers serving around the world, and multiple Peace Corps “festivals” and information sessions taking place throughout the country.

The Peace Corps Community Archive reflects the variety of contributions and experiences of 54 years of Peace Corps service. From training materials and community development reports, to photographs and correspondence, our collection helps document the 54 years of continued international service of the Peace Corps.

The photos from our collection below, feature Peace Corps volunteers in action.

PC Boge- Rose Ann Crimmins edit

Winifred Boge served in India from 1965-1967.










22. This is our boat that will take us up the river on our spray mission. These boats are flat-bottomed, with automobile engines mounted on long propeller shafts.

Jonathan Green served in Thailand from 1973-1975.



Randall Children 2002

Alanna Randall served in Belize from 2001-2003.