Following in the footsteps of the Korean RPCVs, the first groups of PCVs to the Philippines have produced a collection of essays and photos from their early years for the 50th anniversary. Unlike, Through Our Eyes: Peace Corps In Korea, 1966-1981, edited by Bill Harwood (Korea 1975-77), a book that focused on Korea, Koreans, and the amazing changes in that country, the RPCVs from the Philippines have, for the most part, compiled a manuscript of essays about their memories of “being first” in-country, and what has happened to them in the years since. It stretches to 500+ pages, and is entitled, Answering Kennedy’s Call: Pioneering the Peace Corps in the Philippines.

This book (published this week and available for $25.00 at CreateSpace or under its title at Amazon.com) was edited by four RPCVs from those early years (1961–63): Parker W. Borg, Maureen J. Carroll, Patricia MacDermot Kasdan, Stephen W. Wells.

About the Korea book
The idea for the Korea book began in October 2008 at a reception hosted by U.S. Ambassador to Korea, Kathleen Stephens (Korea 1975–77), for the RPCVs who had returned to visit their host country. Old photographs of the Peace Corps in Korea had been collected for that evening’s event and it showed how much Korea has changed over the years. These were pulled together by Bill Harwood, and with other photos and commentaries, the book was published in time for President Obama’s trip to Korea.

Seeing the book in Korea, a White House advance person liked the edition so much she told the Embassy to buy 300 copies (beyond the 200 ordered by Ambassador Stephens). And the book sells for $50 a copy. Well, the State Department and the White House have lots of $$$.

answering-kennedy0012About the Philippines book
For the Philippines RPCVs their book began at a gathering in the fall of 2009 in Pasadena, California. Maureen Carroll reminded everyone about the upcoming 50th anniversary of Peace Corps and floated the idea of creating a book of reflections about their service. Another member of the group, Parker Borg, volunteered to help her. Maureen recalls, “we had only vague notions of the end product at that time. I was imagining a collection of essays, photocopied and bound and distributed to everyone for costs of reproduction and mailing. However, I felt strongly that the recollections would not only be interesting to share with each other and our families after so many years, but could also serve as an archival record of the Peace Corps during its first years in the voices of those who served.”

Parker and Maureen then decided to expand the contributions to Philippine Groups II and III and picked up two more editors, Patricia and Steve.

Philippine RPCVs are an amazing group. For example, since 1983 they have supported through their “Friends” group scholarships to bright and poor in-country kids. “Over the years,” according to Maureen Carroll, “we have graduated 130 scholars and currently support 45 at universities throughout the Philippines. Scholars are selected not only for grades and financial need but for a commitment to community service. We now have a thriving alumni association, which is mounting community projects, supporting each other and current scholars, and representing the RPCVs  in-country. Former Philippines Volunteers provide the funds to run the program.  Last year, we raised $50,000.”

All the profits from the sales of Answering Kennedy’s Call will be donated to the scholarship program for the Peace Corps Alumni Foundation for Philippine Development (PCAFPD).

An unsupported Third Goal project
The publication of this book is yet another great example of Third Goal work being done by RPCVs, and all of this work, and these sorts of projects by the Philippines Volunteers and many other groups, have never been recognized or supported by the agency, though the Third Goal is one of the THREE GOALS of the Peace Corps.

There really should be a congressional investigation into the mismanagement of the agency — since so many investigations are going on right now on the Hill — into why the Peace Corps does not fulfill all of its Three Goals. Something to think about.

Meanwhile, support the Philippines RPCVs and buy their book. You’ll be doing yourself a big favor and helping kids in the Philippines.