Tag Archives: Peace Corps Act

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.

Maureen Carroll in the Philippines

Country of Service: Philippines
Service Type: Education
Dates in Service: 1961-1963
Keywords: Castilla, Sorsogon

Accession Date: October 28, 2016
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.5 linear feet

Document Types

  • Photographs
  • Correspondence
  • Publications
  • Reports
  • Memoir
    • “Answering Kennedy’s Call: Pioneering the Peace Corps in the Philippines”

Guatemala Group 11 Oral History Interviews

Country of Service: Guatemala
Dates in Service: 1968-1970
Keywords: Oral History, Interviews, Training, Community Development, Language

Accession Date: September 27, 2016
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.25 linear feet

Document Types

  • Digital Audio of Oral History Interviews with:
    • Milt Berg
    • Louis Weinstock
    • Kendall Collins
    • Jack Miller
    • Paul Kugler
    • Peter Shack
    • David Milholland
    • Douglas Noble
    • Bud Ourom
    • Nicolee (Miller) McMahon
    • Bill Brock

“The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love”: Serving in the Peace Corps

Since President Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, over 220,000 volunteers have served in 140 different host countries across the world. Once assigned to a country, volunteers serve a variety of roles. Departments of specialization include education, development, and health. While actively working with communities, Peace Corps volunteers have to adapt to life in a new culture and environment.

Volunteer Meghan Keith-Hynes speaking to a Haitian woman near a stone circle plot.

Volunteer Meghan Keith-Hynes speaking to a Haitian woman near a stone circle plot.

Although passionate and eager to serve developing communities, Peace Corps volunteers may not necessarily have previous experience in their field of work. The sense of being “thrown into” such work can create both excitement and anxiety for new volunteers. Through their previous connections at home and their new connections abroad, Peace Corps volunteers successfully navigate their exciting and unexpected experiences.

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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.

 

“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.

The Kennedy Legacy Abroad

Last week, the Peace Corps Community Archive blog featured a post on Sargent Shriver, the first director of the Peace Corps. This week, we are focusing on Shriver’s brother-in-law, President John F. Kennedy, who established the Peace Corps in 1961. While campaigning the previous year, Kennedy gave an impromptu speech to a number of students at the University of Michigan. He asked the assembled students, “I think in many ways it is the most important campaign since 1933, mostly because of the problems which press upon the United States, and the opportunities which will be presented to us in the 1960s. The opportunity must be seized, through the judgment of the President, and the vigor of the executive, and the cooperation of the Congress.” Inspired by the spirit of volunteerism Kennedy encountered among young voters during the 1960 campaign, he issued an executive order in 1961 establishing the Peace Corps as “responsible for the training and service abroad of men and women of the United States in new programs of assistance to nations and areas of the world, and in conjunction with or in support of existing economic assistance programs of the United States and of the United Nations and other international organizations.” 

Child, Jack. Tribute to John F. Kennedy, 14 April 1964. Jack Child Stamp Collection. American University Library. Archives and Special Collections.

Tribute to John F. Kennedy, 14 April 1964. Jack Child Stamp Collection. American University Library. Archives and Special Collections.

Many Peace Corps volunteers serving in the 1960s were likewise inspired by the legacy of John F. Kennedy’s presidency. Peace Corps volunteer Terry Kennedy (Colombia 1964-66, no relation), wrote to his parents less than one year after JFK’s assassination about the reverence the Colombians had for President Kennedy. Terry wrote home,  “How do you like the Kennedy Stamps? The Americans that the people down here admire are JFK and Lincoln and Washington.” This and other letters from Terry Kennedy during his time in the Peace Corps are available to research in the Peace Corps Community Archive at American University.

Colombia issued these stamps in memory of John F. Kennedy. These stamps demonstrate the respect other countries had for the recently assassinated President. Colombia was not the only South American country to honor President Kennedy. Argentina also created their own version of a Kennedy Stamp, one of which (pictured, right) is found in the Jack Child Collection at the American University Archive and Special Collections.

 

Going Above and Beyond: Community Partnerships

In a statement issued March 1, 1961, President Kennedy acknowledged that Peace Corps Volunteers would never make a fortune from their service abroad.  Most made enough to subsist. Nevertheless, volunteers often went above and beyond—taking on additional projects to satisfy the community’s needs.  Projects included recruiting volunteer labor and additional funding for renovating and construction projects.

During his service in Paraguay, Robert Meade oversaw a school partnership project to build an elementary school.  A school in Bethesda, Maryland partnered with the Paraguay community and raised $700 for the construction.  Meade documented the efforts of local volunteers, as well as the entire building process, through photography.  The partnerships created during the school project represent the essence of the Peace Corps.  Robert Meade created the captions below.

 

Paraguayan workers on the building of Maria Auxiliadora Elementary School. Bricks were made nearby and all labor on the school was voluntary.

“Paraguayan workers on the building of Maria Auxiliadora Elementary School. Bricks were made nearby and all labor on the school was voluntary.”

"Putting on the roof of Maria Auxiliadora."

“Putting on the roof of Maria Auxiliadora.”

"Oxcart delivering bricks for the school project."

“Oxcart delivering bricks for the school project.”

To learn more about Peace Corps Volunteers in Paraguay, visit the Peace Corps Community Archive at American University.

“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.