Archive - March 7, 2010

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Peace Corps At Day One: #14 Yoo-hoo, yoo-hoo Peace Corps!
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Beth Oprisch (Sierra Leone 1984-86)
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Mary Anne Newell (Malaysia 1965-68)

Peace Corps At Day One: #14 Yoo-hoo, yoo-hoo Peace Corps!

At the time of Shriver’s February 22, 1961 memorandum to President Kennedy–stating that the Peace Corps should be established as a semi-autonomous agency–there was a lot of professional resistance to the whole idea of sending young Americans overseas to do good. Career diplomat like Elliot O. Briggs described the Peace Corps’ team cry as “Yoo-hoo, yoo-hoo. Let’s go out and wreak some good on the natives,” as Wofford reports in his book, Of Kennedys & Kings. Throughout the State Department diplomats were indifferent to hostile to the whole idea of a Peace Corps. But not Dean Rusk, Kennedy’s new Secretary of State.   He told Shriver that he thought the Peace Corps idea was “first-class.” (Rusk’s sister, during my time in Ethiopia, would serve as an APCD in the Empire.) Henry Labouisse, was appointed in 1961 head of ICA (International Cooperation Administration, Eisenhower’s foreign aid agency that had a policy . . .

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Beth Oprisch (Sierra Leone 1984-86)

Monday, November 21 7:30 pm MY NAME IS BETH OPRISCH. I live in Toronto, Ohio. I am a residential counselor at a group home for adolescent girls and currently working on my Master’s degree in Counseling. I was a Community Health Volunteer in Sierra Leone, West Africa from 1984 to 1986. What a difficult task. To talk for three minutes about one event that crystallizes my Peace Corps experience. How to select just one. I went through journals, read old letters, looked at pictures, watched my slides and finally a common theme emerged. That theme was Yeabul Kamara. I knew Yeabul was different from the start. She was spirited, feisty, sarcastic, assertive – not the typical characteristics of the women in the male dominated Sierra Leoneon society. Her firey temperament contradicted her slight, almost frail appearance. I’ll always remember her smile – those incredibly white, straight teeth, highlighted by her . . .

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Mary Anne Newell (Malaysia 1965-68)

Monday, November 21 3:42 pm 1959-1960. I was 20 and a college junior when I spent a school year abroad in Grenoble, France. Experiences of that year exposed me to conditions of poverty that my sheltered American life had prevented, and which left me with troubling questions about my life choices. Fall 1960. A young presidential candidate offered the possibility of an American “Youth Corps” that would be a source of aid to third world countries. Thousands like myself responded to the idea with an overwhelming enthusiasm. At Colorado State, my university, three professors were selected as an advance study team to s survey prospective governments in Asia, Africa and South America about their perceived needs for a “Youth Corps”; and I joined a student committee which distributed questionnaires soliciting attitudes about such an organization to many campuses. The vision that I had longed for had been articulated by John . . .

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