Tag Archives: Photographs

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] american.edu


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.











Every Picture Tells a Story

Steven Orr served in the Peace Corps in Panama from 1964 to 1966. While in the city of Santiago de Veraguas, Orr worked with Emilio Jose Batista Castillo, the director of the Instituto Vocacional de Veraguas, a small vocational school.

With funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, Orr, additional PCVs, and Emilio transformed the small institute (consisting originally of essentially an empty shed) into a three building campus. Orr worked with Emilio to create the school’s curriculum. The school later became the Central Provinces Branch of the University of Panama and grew to include close to 20 buildings and classrooms. Emilio would later work in deep-water port management, working internationally in places such as Odessa, London, San Francisco, and Tokyo.

The photo below, taken in 1965 in Santiago, shows local Panamanian youths, students of the vocational school, and Peace Corps volunteers. This photograph showcases how collective efforts of various groups can make lasting changes throughout the world.


Panamanian Youths, students, and PCVs in Santiago de Veraguas, 1965. (extreme left, back row: Steven D. Orr; fifth from left, back row: Pauline Malone (PCV) ; ninth from left, back row: Louise Foy (PCV) ; eleventh from left, back row: Merrill Mazza (PCV) ; extreme right: Peace Corps Regional Director Emory Tomor.



Charlotte Daigle-Berney in Uganda

Charlotte Daigle-Berney

Country of Service: Uganda
Place of Service: Masaka, Mbale
Service Type: Education
Dates in Service: 1966-1968
Keywords: Masaka, Mbale, Sebei College

Accession Date: December 22, 2014
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.25 linear feet

Document Types

  • Correspondence
  • Photographs
  • Publications
  • Collection of African superstitions
  • Training materials
  • CD of photographs from RPCVs submitted to the New Mexico Peace Corps Association commemorating the Peace Corps 50th Anniversary

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.




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.

“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/

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.