Early training for the Peace Corps–this was in 1961–was on college campuses like the University of Michigan, but for some Trainees it also meant ”field training” in Puerto Rico, the Rocky Mountains, and other locations.
The first Puerto Rico site ws located in the mountains south of Arecibo. This training came about, or so it seems, because Shriver in February and March of ‘61 reviewed the British Volunteer Service Overseas (VOS) program. These schools exposed their student to unexpected challenges and the students were judged by how well they reacted to new situations. This method, I understand, was developed during World War II and was later adopted by the British industry as a technique for training potential leaders.
Shriver got in touch with the Outward Bound Trust, governing body of the schools, and got the help of two of their members, Sir Spencer Summers, chairman of the Trust, and Captain Frederick Fuller, Headmaster of the oldest Outward Bound School at Aberdovey, Wales.
The site for the Peace Corps was made available to the Peace Corps by Puerto Rico’s Governor Luis Munoz Marin. Aerial searchers were undertaken until a site for the camp was found. Most of this development was handled by Sancho-Bonet who coordinated the early Peace Corps work in Puerto Rico. Captain Fuller remained ‘on site’ for six months to set up the camp.
It was here, in the mountains of Puerto Rico where some of the early Trainees got their first exposure to another culture, the tropical life of the Caribbean, and a new language. The Trainees also were exposed to physical fitness program that included mountain climbing, swimming, four-day survival treks and mastering an obstacle course.
All of this, of course, proved to be utterly useless to 99% of all PCVs when they reached the Third World.
Shriver (and others), however, saw this training as a means of strengthening self confidence through challenge, and revealing to the Trainees of their own unexpected capacities. Also the shrinks (remember them?) had an excellent opportunity for a “total evaluation and selection of the individual Volunteer.”
Two camps were built in Puerto Rico. Other training took place at the Experiment in International Living in Putney, Vt. for PCVs to East Pakistan, Venezuela and Chile, as well as in the Rocky Mountains for PCVs headed for the high Himalayas of Nepal. The Tennessee Valley Authority also trained Volunteers for a project comparable to TVA in the So Francisco Valley of Brazil.
By the mid to late ’60s, the Peace Corps realized that such training was a waste of time and effort, and it was much cheaper and more effective to do Peace Corps training overseas, and this was the end of universities making a tidy sums of federal money off the Peace Corps, and the end of rappelling off mountains in Arecibo.