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First group of 10 Peace Corps Response Volunteers in Nepal
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Rob Schmitz (China) is NPR’s International Correspondent
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2024 Peace Corps Writers Awards
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“Families — Four Stories” by Kathy Coskran (Ethiopia)
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NEW — WALKING WITH EVARISTO: A MEMOIR OF CELEBRATION AND TRAGEDY IN THE LAND OF THE ACHí MAYA by Christian Nill (Guatemala)
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Peace Corps Deputy Director E. David White Jr. arrives in Nepal
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The Passing of Gary Lynn Garrison (Tunisia)
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PCV Accused of Murdering His Wife in Tanzania
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The Placement Test for PCVs
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Naming the “Peace Corps”
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“Establishing the Peace Corps” by John Coyne (Ethiopia)
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Edward “Ned” Chalker Obituary (Colombia)
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“Writers from the Peace Corps” by John Coyne (Ethiopia)
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New Peace Corps Volunteers Touch Down in Belize
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Review | AUSTRALIA BY BUS by Steve Kaffen (Russia)

First group of 10 Peace Corps Response Volunteers in Nepal

KATHMANDU, May 18: Ten Peace Corps Response Volunteers were sworn in on Friday by Peace Corps Deputy Director David E White Jr, US Ambassador to Nepal Dean R Thompson, and Peace Corps/Nepal Country Director Troy Kofroth to begin their service in Nepal. This marks the first-ever group of Response Volunteers to serve in Nepal. The Peace Corps Response Program enlists US citizens with targeted experience for short-term, high-impact assignments identified by the Government of Nepal, typically lasting nine to twelve months. The new Response Volunteers will focus on three key sectors: promoting rural tourism in Gandaki province, supporting information technology and e-learning initiatives in government schools in Bagmati and Gandaki provinces, and enhancing research activities at agricultural colleges in Gandaki and Lumbini provinces. These Volunteers will work closely with their host organizations and community members on projects that address local priorities, fostering relationships, promoting knowledge exchange, and achieving measurable impacts. . . .

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Rob Schmitz (China) is NPR’s International Correspondent

In the news NPR newsletter   Rob Schmitz (China 1996-98) is NPR’s international correspondent based in Berlin, where he covers the human stories of a vast region reckoning with its past while it tries to guide the world toward a brighter future. From his base in the heart of Europe, Schmitz has covered Germany’s levelheaded management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of right-wing nationalist politics in Poland and creeping Chinese government influence inside the Czech Republic. Prior to covering Europe, Schmitz provided award-winning coverage of China for a decade, reporting on the country’s economic rise and increasing global influence. His reporting on China’s impact beyond its borders took him to countries such as Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand. Inside China, he’s interviewed elderly revolutionaries, young rappers, and live-streaming celebrity farmers who make up the diverse tapestry of one of the most fascinating countries on the planet. . . .

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2024 Peace Corps Writers Awards

To fulfill our goal of encouraging, recognizing and promoting Peace Corps writers, Writers & Readers is seeking nominations for the outstanding books published in 2023. If you have a book published (or know of a book) published in 2023 that you wish to nominate, please email John Coyne at: jcoyneone@gmail.com .The Awards will be announced in August, 2024. The awards are: 2024 Peace Corps Writer of the Year Award 2024 Peace Corps Writers Maria Thomas Fiction Award 2024 Peace Corps Writers Paul Cowan Non-fictionAward 2024 Peace Corps Writers’ Moritz Thomsen Peace Corps Experience Award 2024 Peace Corps Writers’ Marian Haley Beil Best Book Review Award 2024 Peace Corps Writers’ Rowland Scherman Award for Best Photography Book 2024 Peace Corps Writers’ Best Peace Corps Memoir 2024 Peace Corps Writers’ Poetry Award 2024 Peace Corps Writers’ Best Short Story Collection Award 2024 Peace Corps Writers’ Best Young Adult Fiction Award 2024 Peace Corps . . .

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“Families — Four Stories” by Kathy Coskran (Ethiopia)

  Families — Four Stories by Kathy Coskran (Ethiopia 1965-67)   Families are complicated. We all have them, somewhere, somehow. Families are formed in many ways, none are perfect, all are heartfelt—and the heart feels pain as well as joy, anxiety as well as comfort, gratitude as well as resentment. There is no one way to portray a family; no idealized family; no perfect family. So these little stories offer snapshots of the idiosyncratic joys and complications of families.     Pearl   The earrings were all she took from her mother’s meager estate and now she had lost one. They were a wedding present from her father to her mother, tiny, perfect pearls set in gold and glued to an earring clip. She wore the earrings almost daily when she was a child. They were the central ornament in her dress-up fantasies, a gift from the king, she would proclaim . . .

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NEW — WALKING WITH EVARISTO: A MEMOIR OF CELEBRATION AND TRAGEDY IN THE LAND OF THE ACHí MAYA by Christian Nill (Guatemala)

  “To do the thing that was necessary — wasn’t that at the heart of our mission? And wasn’t it obvious what we needed to do? Plant trees; teach others to plant trees; save the crops from the inexorable forces of erosion.  . . .  but was that the only task that would be needed of us?”   Walking with Evaristo is a gripping journey — at turns lyrical, occasionally boisterous — venturing deep into the heart of a breathtakingly beautiful country torn by strife. And as the story unfolds, it also becomes a radical exercise in the recovery of personal memory. Nill chronicles three turbulent years working as a Peace Corps volunteer in a deeply traditional Mayan community that fell under the shadow of the sinister forces of oppression. Immersing his readers in the vibrant tapestry of life in a town called Rabinal, the author gradually becomes a witness to Guatemala’s . . .

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Peace Corps Deputy Director E. David White Jr. arrives in Nepal

    While in Nepal, Deputy Director White will be meeting with government and civil society representatives to thank them for their long-standing support of the Peace Corps program since its founding and discuss plans to expand Peace Corps programming in Nepal. Deputy Director White will also participate in the swearing-in of ten newly arrived Peace Corps Response Volunteers. This is the first ever group of Response Volunteers to serve in Nepal. The Peace Corps Response Program brings U.S. citizen Volunteers with experience targeted to complete short-term (e.g., nine-twelve months), high-impact service assignments in countries that request them. During his visit, Deputy Director White will also meet currently serving Volunteers and their counterparts across Nepal. Volunteers in Nepal work on locally prioritized projects in agriculture, education, and health sectors, learning the Nepali language and other local languages to effectively communicate and engage with communities. Currently, there are forty Peace Corps . . .

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The Passing of Gary Lynn Garrison (Tunisia)

Gary Lynn Garrison (Tunisia 1966-69) died  on May 4, 2024, age 79, in Sarasota, Florida, surrounded by his family. Gary’s life served world peace through international cultural understanding. Born in Pittsburgh, Kansas, on November 2, 1944, he grew up in Kansas, graduating from The Chanute High School in 1962 and from Kansas University in 1966 with BA degrees in French, History, and International Relations. Upon graduation he served three years in the Peace Corps in Tunisia, using his knowledge of French and Arabic to teach English in the secondary schools and becoming a Peace Corps trainer in Yemen. In his first marriage to fellow Peace Corps Volunteer Jeannie Dodson he had daughters Shadia and Emily. He attended the CASA program, an intensive Arabic Studies year at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, and then worked briefly in Cairo for the Ford Foundation. He received an MA in comparative education from . . .

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PCV Accused of Murdering His Wife in Tanzania

PCV Accused of Murdering His Wife in Tanzania by John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962-64) OVER THE SIXTY PLUS YEARS OF THE PEACE CORPS more than one PCV has slipped a thick blank-paged journal into their luggage, ready to record their experience while on this great new adventure. Many, of course, think that perhaps someday they’ll turn all the notes into a novel or a memoir. Paul Theroux, for example, used his journals in writing his 1989 novel, My Secret History, which is set partly in Malawi and Uganda. Mike Tidwell turned to his journals when he wrote The Ponds of Kalamabayi about his time in Zaire. And Kathleen Coskran used the journals she kept in Ethiopia for several of her stories in her prize-winning collection, The High Price of Everything. But it was the journal of another PCV, William Kinsey, which first brought Peace Corps writers into international headlines. In 1966, five years after the founding . . .

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The Placement Test for PCVs

In the early days of the Peace Corps there was a Placement Test given to all applicants. Actually it was two tests. A 30-minute General Aptitude Test and a 30-minute Modern Language Aptitude Test. The areas of testing were in Verbal Aptitude, Agriculture, English, Health Sciences, Mechanical Skills, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, World History, Literature, United States History and Institutions, and Modern Language Aptitude. One-hour achievement tests in French and Spanish were also offered during the second hour. The instruction pamphlet that accompanied the tests said that the results would be used “to help find the most appropriate assignment for each applicant.” For those who missed the opportunity to take the tests, which were given — as best I can remember — from 1961 until around 1967, I am including a few of the questions. Lets see if you could still get into the Peace Corps back then. Verbal Aptitude . . .

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Naming the “Peace Corps”

Naming the “Peace Corps” by John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962–64) THOSE OF US WHO follow the history of the Peace Corps agency know the term “peace corps” came to public attention during the 1960 presidential election campaign. In one of JFK’s last major speeches before the November election he called for the creation of a “Peace Corps” to send volunteers to work at the grass-roots level in the developing world. However, the question remains: who said (or wrote) “peace corps” for the very first time? Was it Kennedy? Was it his famous speech writer Ted Sorensen? Or Sarge himself? Like in many situations, the famous term came about when a young kid — a writer! — working quietly away in a back office, dreamed up the language. In this case the kid was a graduate student working between degrees, for the late Senator Hubert Horatio Humphrey. I learned about the history of . . .

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“Establishing the Peace Corps” by John Coyne (Ethiopia)

  Let me start with a quote from Gerard T. Rice’s book, The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps “In 1961 John F. Kennedy took two risky and conflicting initiatives in the Third World. One was to send five hundred additional military advisers into South Vietnam; by 1963 there would be seventeen thousand such advisers. The other was to send five hundred young Americans to teach in the schools and work in the fields of eight developing countries. These were Peace Corps Volunteers. By 1963 there would be seven thousand of them in forty-four countries.” . . . Vietnam scarred the American psyche, leaving memories of pain and defeat, but Kennedy’s other initiative inspired, and continued to inspire hope and understanding among Americans and the rest of the world. In that sense, the Peace Corps was his most affirmative and enduring legacy. A historical framework Gerry Rice, in The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps, points . . .

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Edward “Ned” Chalker Obituary (Colombia)

Edward “Ned” Gould Rowland Chalker II, a Washington, DC resident for over 50 years passed away on April 21, 2024. “Ned” was born on September 30,1938 in Chester CT, to E. Gould Chalker and Florence Christiansen who predeceased him. He graduated with a degree in engineering from Trinity College in Connecticut in 1960. In 1961, Ned joined the newly formed Peace Corps and served in the inaugural group of volunteers in Colombia known as the Columbia 1 Compadres. Ned developed life-long friendships from his tour of duty and continued to help the Colombian community he cherished for the rest of his life. He later helped to establish the Peace Corps Park and Museum in Washington, DC. Ned moved to East St. Lous in 1968 to open a Job Corps program at Westinghouse Consultants. In the early 1970s, he moved to Washington, DC to begin work at what later became the . . .

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“Writers from the Peace Corps” by John Coyne (Ethiopia)

  John writes — Since 1961, Peace Corps writers have used their volunteer service as source material for their fiction and nonfiction. Approximately 250,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps. Of these volunteers and staff, more than 1,500 have published memoirs, novels, and poetry inspired by their experience. Many former volunteers have gone on to careers as creative writing teachers, journalists, and editors, while others have discovered a variety of jobs outside of publishing where their Peace Corps years have contributed to successful employment. A Peace Corps tour has proven to be a valuable experience — in terms of one’s craft and one’s professional career—for more than one college graduate. The first to write The first book to draw on the Peace Corps experience was written by Arnold Zeitlin (Ghana 1961–63), who had volunteered for the Peace Corps in 1961 after having been an Associated Press reporter. That book, . . .

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New Peace Corps Volunteers Touch Down in Belize

PCVs in the news —    May 7, 2024 Today, twenty-three eager Peace Corps trainees arrived in Belize, ready to embark on their 27 months of dedicated service to the people of this nation. They join forces with the pioneering cohort of the Youth Empowered by Sports (YES) Project, which landed eight months ago.  The Peace Corps Belize, in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Transport, partners closely with counterparts in the National Sports Council across the country. The YES Project aims to empower Belizean youth to lead healthy lives and fulfill their potential. Over the next eleven weeks of intensive pre-service training, these trainees will delve into the Peace Corps’ development approach, YES project objectives, technical skills, health and safety protocols, as well as language and cultural immersion in Kriol or Spanish and Belizean customs. Their goal: to become effective and capable volunteers. The group is slated to officially take their . . .

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Review | AUSTRALIA BY BUS by Steve Kaffen (Russia)

  Australia by Bus by Steve Kaffen (Russia 1994-96) Independently published 313 pages April 2024 Kindle Unlimited $4.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by N. Waheed Nasser (Peace Corps Auditor 2002-06 & 2011-16) • • •  In Australia by Bus, author Steve Kaffen states at the outset, “Bus travel is an ideal way to visit Australia,” and he proceeds to tell us why and how and to show us Australia: its cities, scenic highlights, and historic and cultural sites including those of the land’s indigenous groups. His events timing is right on: Sydney for New Year’s Eve, Melbourne for the Australian Open, Perth for its Perth Festival.  For the author, bus journeys are integral parts of the travel experience as riders “observe the passing scenery, local color and lifestyles and enjoy the photographic opportunities and the camaraderie of fellow passengers and drivers.” On a personal note, I have been to Australia and visited a good number of . . .

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