Tag Archives: Paraguay

Interview with Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Robert Meade

The following post features an interview with Returned Peace Corps Robert Meade. Meade served in Paraguay from 1968-1969, and remained active in training future PCVs. In 2013, Robert Meade donated many of his Peace Corps materials to the Peace Corps Community Archive, including his correspondence, 35mm slides, training materials, reminiscences, and additional publications from his time in Paraguay.  We thank Robert Meade for his time in answering our questions.

 

"Volunteer Robert Meade on the patio of the Hotel Terraza in Asuncion. The hotel was the unofficial Peace Corps home-away-from-home for Paraguay PCVs when they came to Asuncion from their posts." PCCA

“Volunteer Robert Meade on the patio of the Hotel Terraza in Asuncion. The hotel was the unofficial Peace Corps home-away-from-home for Paraguay PCVs when they came to Asuncion from their posts.” PCCA

Q: What inspired you to enter the Peace Corps?

A:  I was in high school when John F. Kennedy proposed and established the Peace Corps. The idea struck me as something I might want to do once I got through college.  Like many people of that era, I was motivated by the idea of service to my country. I had an idealistic streak, too.  My older brother was encouraging. He was close to people in the Kennedy administration and a backer of the Peace Corps from its beginning.

 

"Paraguay II PCV Vince Francia (far left) and PCV Bob Meade (center) at the health center  in General Artigas with U.S. YMCA representatives and Paraguayan nurses and student nurses." PCCA

“Paraguay II PCV Vince Francia (far left) and PCV Bob Meade (center) at the health center in General Artigas with U.S. YMCA representatives and Paraguayan nurses and student nurses.” PCCA

Q: What surprised you most about your first few weeks outside the United States?

A: I think I was surprised by how little I really knew about the work I was supposed to do. My service involved work in rural public health and sanitation. I asked myself, “how I could play a useful role during my time in Paraguay?”

It all seemed a bit overwhelming at first. Even though the people I worked with were very friendly, they didn’t quite know how to deal with the whole notion of a “volunteer” who left behind a “rich” life in the US to live with them and help them improve their lives.  Such altruism was very foreign to the Paraguayans.

 

"PCA Bob Meade and PCV Bpb Caruso (P-III) play soccer with the shoeshine boys who frequented the area around the Peace Corps office in Asuncion. The volunteers "adopted" these boys and took them on excursions to parks, professional soccer matches, picnics, etc." PCCA

“PCA Bob Meade and PCV Bob Caruso (P-III) play soccer with the shoeshine boys who frequented the area around the Peace Corps office in Asuncion. The volunteers “adopted” these boys and took them on excursions to parks, professional soccer matches, picnics, etc.” PCCA

Q: What projects did you work on during your Peace Corps service and what challenges did you face during their completion?

A: The principal focus of my work was public sanitation, especially the effort to control the parasitic hookworm among the general population in rural Paraguay.  This involved projects aimed at providing clean water and the use of sanitary latrines (outhouses). I also educated people in basic hygiene such as washing hands, wearing shoes, and constructing latrines at their houses and schools. Fortunately, I had a Paraguayan counterpart who had a pretty good idea of how to attack these problems.  One of the challenges we faced were the lack of financial and physical resources to carry-out our work. We also had to confront the basic ignorance of the population about preventing an endemic disease that was just part of life for many of them. Explaining the life cycle of the hookworm, an intestinal parasite, to a mainly illiterate population was no easy task.

We also had to confront the fairly ubiquitous presence of “curanderos” (witchdoctors) in rural areas who, because they sometimes prescribed an efficacious herbal remedy, had some credibility in the local population. Another challenge was transportation. We had to use my counterpart’s motorbike to get around or take public transportation and walk to many of the sites we had to get to.  The problem of hauling equipment such as pumps and piping for wells had to be arranged. We had no budget for this purpose, nor did we have money to buy cement, bricks, wood, etc. to build latrines.  This money problem was a constant struggle and, often, I used my PC living allowance to purchase supplies.

 

"PCV Bob Meade working in the garden at Kilometro 5." PCCA

“PCV Bob Meade working in the garden at Kilometro 5.” PCCA

Q: How has your Peace Corps service influenced you in your post-Peace Corps work?

A: Despite the difficulties of Peace Corps service, my two years in Paraguay made me decide to pursue a career focused on Latin America and in public service of some sort.  Immediately after Paraguay, I completed a Master’s Degree in Latin American studies at the University of Texas at Austin. I also worked for 15 months as a trainer for the Peace Corps in California and Puerto Rico.

In 1973, after having passed the written and oral exams, I joined the U.S. Foreign Service as a commissioned officer with the U.S. Information Agency (now part of the State Department).  In this role, I worked for 23 years overseas and in Washington.  I had assignments working in cultural and educational affairs in Panama, Ecuador, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Spain, with domestic tours for eight of those years.

My Peace Corps experience continued to serve me throughout my professional life. My experience gave me excellent command of the Spanish and Portuguese languages. I also gained an ability to work in foreign countries and develop meaningful relationships with people of different cultures while serving my country at the same time.

 

Q: What advice would you give current and future Peace Corps volunteers?

A: The Peace Corps experience is a very personal one, and how a volunteer reacts to an assignment and “fits in” varies greatly from person to person. I would recommend that you enter into service with an open mind. Do not have too many preconceived ideas about how things should be done.  Remember that you are only “passing through” your place of service.  In all probability, you will get a lot more out of the experience than you will leave behind. You will be a better person for having been a PCV. Lastly, bring back your new-found knowledge and perspectives to your fellow citizens.

 

Brienne Thomson in Paraguay

Brienne Thomson

Country of Service: Paraguay
Place of Service: San Estanislao
Service Type: Community Economic Development
Dates in Service: 2013-2015
Keywords:Paraguay, San Estanislao, Community Development, Economic Development

Accession Date: November 17, 2014
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 9 items

Document Types

https://wayback.archive-it.org/1435/20141020140854/http://brienne.yolasite.com/b-blog/an-update-on-perspectives-n-plans-in-paraguay-peace-corps-volunteer-reporting-form/

https://wayback.archive-it.org/1435/20141020140848/http://brienne.yolasite.com/b-blog/the-peace-corps-asked-i-indulged/

https://wayback.archive-it.org/1435/20141020140857/http://brienne.yolasite.com/estudio-de-la-comunidad-san-estanislao.php

Peace Corps through Images: The People

Below are images of local citizens taken by Peace Corps volunteers.  Each photograph captures local culture and customs through the nation’s people — as artisans, students, families, and participants in celebrations.

“Paraguayan artisan making ‘nanduti’ (spider-web lace) in her home shop in Itagua, the center of the nanduti artistry.” Caption written by Robert Meade.

 

“Students husking–polishing the floor with a coconut husk. At 7:00 AM–before school duties.” Caption written by Joyce Emery Johnston

 

“Campesino home and family.” Caption written by Robert Meade.

 

PC Boge- Snake Charmer edit

Snake Charmer

 

Celebration. Captured by Norm and Janet Heise while working for Walt Sangree, professor of anthropology. circa 1963-1965.

 

Worth A Thousand Words

Images offer a chance to peak inside someone else’s world.  Often, they provide the best means for understanding an event in the past, or an experience beyond our own comprehension.  This is especially true when it comes to the many exciting and exotic opportunities encountered by Peace Corps volunteers.

Reading about these experiences, or hearing RPCVs recall stories from the past, doesn’t convey the same understanding as seeing it with your own eyes–even if that means through a photograph.  While they may have faced difficult challenges and unpleasant moments, Peace Corps volunteers also witnessed beautiful landscapes, sampled local cuisine, and embraced traditional cultures and customs.

From ordinary to the unusual, images in the PCCA depict the wide variety of Peace Corps volunteers’ experiences.  Enjoy a few of the images found in the collection.

Miango Village near Jos. Home of the Irigwe people studied by Walt Sangree, professor of anthropology at Rochester University. circa 1963-1965.

 

Pearl Diver

A Peace Corps volunteer followed by a crowd of children. Winifred Boge remembered, “she always got a big ‘following’–she was smiling and friendly to all.”

 

Peace Corps volunteer on top of a termite mound in Concepcion, Paraguay.

 

 

 

New Arrivals: Peace Corps Orientation in Paraguay

As Paraguay III arrived in December 1969, Peace Corps staff greeted and educated new volunteers about the place they would call home for the next two years.

“Arrival of Paraguay III volunteers, Asuncion International Airport, December 1969.”

 

“Assistant Director Tony Bellotti addressing newly-arrived Paraguay III volunteers in Peace Corps office, Asuncion.”

The previous images, as well as the ones that follow, are part of the Robert Meade collection.  As a member of Paraguay II from 1968-1969, Meade travelled throughout Paraguay documenting his experiences.  Those images enabled Meade to create a slide show to educate new trainees, as well as others, about Paraguay.  Included in his slide show are images of eastern Paraguay, historic sites, Peace Corps activities, and the capital city Asuncion.  Meade’s orientation slide show presents unique images of the country and people, and ultimately provides volunteers with an idea of the places and work they might experience.  After completing his two-year commitment, Meade continued working as a trainer in Peace Corps training centers located in Escondido, California and Ponce, Puerto Rico. [Note: All image captions were written by Robert Meade.]

“Itinerant vegetable vendor, Asuncion.”

“‘Campo’ about 50 miles east of Asuncion along the main road.”

“Paraguayan girls selling ‘chipa,’ a chewy cheese bread found throughout the country, Eusebio Ayala.”

“Near Colonia Sroessner, far east Paraguay.”

 

“The Church of San Roque in Caazapa. Caazapa was founded in 1607 as a Franciscan mission. The town’s name means ‘after the forest’ or ‘in the clearing’ in Guarani.”

 

“Curing yerba mate over a mud over. Mate, an herbal tea, is the favored drink in the Paraguayan countryside.”

To see more images from Paraguay, visit the AU Archives and browse the Robert Meade Collection.

Agricultural Extension Work in Paraguay

Peace Corps work in Paraguay began in January 1968.  The majority of volunteers in Paraguay I worked as agricultural extension agents.  It was their job to help local farmers improve the efficiency and output of small, rural farms.

“P-I Volunteer Rich Stockton and interim PC Paraguay Director Mike Doyle.”

In addition to assisting farmers, PCVs helped to establish and promote the 4-C clubs—an equivalent of 4-H in the US—among Paraguay’s youth.

“P-I PCV Rick Mines with ag. extension agent Ojeda doing grafting demonstration with a 4-C club in Pedro Juan Caballero.”

 

“4-C garden in Cheiro-Cue.”

Peace Corps Volunteer Robert Meade served in multiple locations throughout Paraguay promoting public health and agriculture.  According to Meade, PCVs played an instrumental role in encouraging local farmers to plant new crops and experiment with diverse agricultural projects visible in the images below.     

“Two Paraguayan farmers (“campesinos”) showing off melons grown in their gardens. PCVs were instrumental in getting farmers to try new crops for the market. Eusebio Ayala.”

 

“An ag. Extension agent with a local farmer with a tank to grow tilapia, another project started by Peace Corps Paraguay, Eusebio Ayala.”

 

“Raising rabbits for food and fur, another 4-C program backed by Peace Corps.”

All image captions above were written by Robert Meade.

These are only a few of the fascinating images documenting the work and experiences of PCVs in Paraguay.  To view more images, visit the Archives and Special Collections.

Robert Meade in Paraguay

Robert Meade

Country of Service: Paraguay
Place of Service: Carmen del Parana, Asuncion, Puerto Rico
Service Type: Public Health
Dates in Service: 1968-1969
Keywords: Agriculture, Community Development, Health

Accession Date: October 29, 2013
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.75 linear feet

Document Types

  • Correspondence
  • 35mm slides
  • Training Materials
  • Reminiscences of Paraguay I (1997)
  • Publications- Image of Paraguay and Paraguay (Paraguay’s geography, culture, and history)