Archive - 2020

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Talking with Paul Theroux (Malawi)
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Paul Theroux to Speak Saturday, March 7, at DC Travel Adventure Show (Malawi)
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COVID-19 update from Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen
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Review — ERADICATING SMALLPOX IN ETHIOPIA edited by Barkley, Porterfield, Schnur and Skelton
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Making Lemonade In The Maiatico Building (Repost)
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Review — POSTHUMOUS by Paul Aertker (Mauritania)
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NPCA is urging support for increased Peace Corps Funding
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The Creation of the Peace Corps, March 1, 1961
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Review — ALL THE DAYS PAST, ALL THE DAYS TO COME by Mildred D. Taylor (Ethiopia)
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Peace Corps Mongolia To Be Evacuated Due to Virus

Talking with Paul Theroux (Malawi)

Talking with Paul Theroux . . . an interview by John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962–64)This is an interview I did with Paul around 2002. Since he is speaking in Washington this Saturday, March 7th, I thought I would republish it to fill in everyone about his early years in the Peace Corps.PAUL THEROUX (Malawi 1963-65) has produced some of the most wicked, funny, sad, bitter, readable, knowledgeable, rude, contemptuous, ruthless, arrogant, moving, brilliant and quotable books ever written. In doing so, he has been in all regards the most successful literary and commercial writer to come out of the Peace Corps.For those not familiar with Theroux’s life, he was born in Medford, Massachusetts in 1941, one of seven children, and studied premed at the University of Maine before transferring to the University of Massachusetts and taking his first creative writing class from the poet Joseph Langland. He graduated in 1963 from . . .

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Paul Theroux to Speak Saturday, March 7, at DC Travel Adventure Show (Malawi)

Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Steve Kaffen (Russia 1994-96) Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963-65) Saturday, March 7 12:15 pm – 1:15 pm Travel Theater Paul Theroux, Bestselling Author, Novelist, Travel Writer My travels began in 1963 when I joined the Peace Corps and became a teacher in Central Africa. At last, I had something to write about, something that mattered, something inspired by travel. I traveled throughout Africa for the next six years and published four works of fiction. After three years in Singapore and travels in South East Asia, I published Saint Jack which became a movie. Resident in Britain, I was stumped for an idea, but decided that travel had always served me well: so I set off on the trip that became The Great Railway Bazaar, a book that led to ten other long trips, and ten more books – some of the trips risky, but all of them fruitful, in . . .

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COVID-19 update from Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen

March 4, 2020 WASHINGTON – The following is an open letter to Peace Corps volunteers from Director Jody Olsen. Dear Volunteers: As you are aware, the number of countries that are reporting confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus continues to grow. We currently have 11 Peace Corps countries with reported cases and the expectation is that the list will grow. There is a lot of media attention being given to the virus and how countries across the globe are responding to it. These variations in responses have had a direct impact on many of you. And I want to thank you for your patience as we continue to implement measures that we believe will help keep Volunteers and staff safe. It is in this spirit that I want to share with you some of the steps that the Peace Corps has taken over the past 8 weeks to prepare for, . . .

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Review — ERADICATING SMALLPOX IN ETHIOPIA edited by Barkley, Porterfield, Schnur and Skelton

    Eradicating Smallpox in Ethiopia: Peace Corps Volunteers’ Accounts of Their Adventures, Challenges and Achievements Editors: Gene L. Bartley (Ethiopia 1970–72, 1974–76), John Scott Porterfield (Ethiopia 1971–73), Alan Schnur (Ethiopia 1971–74), James W. Skelton, Jr. (Ethiopia 1970–72) Peace Corps Writers 486 pages; 69 photographs November 26, 2019 $ 19.95 (paperback) Reviewed by Barry Hillenbrand (Ethiopia 1963–65) • At 465 pages, Eradicating Smallpox in Ethiopia is a hefty and important book which rightfully deserves an honored place on any shelf of serious books about epidemiology and public health. The book tells the tale of the work that some 73 Peace Corps Volunteers did in the early 1970s with The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Smallpox Eradication Program (SEP), a massive project which ultimately eliminated smallpox from the world. But fear not. The book is entertaining to read. This serious story is served up with large dollops of nostalgia, humor, delightful tales . . .

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Making Lemonade In The Maiatico Building (Repost)

First published on our site on April 22, 2010 (Reprinted on this anniversary week.) There is a lot one can write about those early days of the agency when the Peace Corps attracted the best and the brightest. An early document of the agency said that the staff in D.C. and around the world was composed of “skiers, mountain climbers, big-game hunters, prizefighters, football players, polo players and enough Ph.D.’s [30] to staff a liberal arts college.” There were 18 attorneys, of whom only four continue to work strictly as attorneys in the General Counsel’s office and the rest [including Sargent Shriver] did other jobs. Also, all of these employees were parents of some 272 children. In terms of staff and PCVs, the ratio was quite small. Figures from WWII show that 30 people were required to support every soldier in the front lines. After the war, the peacetime ratio . . .

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Review — POSTHUMOUS by Paul Aertker (Mauritania)

    Posthumous (Children: age range: 7–12 years, grade level: 2–6) by Paul Aertker (Mauritania 1988–89) Flying Solo Press 202 pages May 2018 $12.97 (paperback), $6.41 (Kindle) Reviewed by Thomas L. Weck (Ethiopia 1965–67)  • Posthumous begins by revealing the resolution of the principal event of the story — the slow death of 12-years old Ellie’s mother, Etta, from cancer. Rather than focusing on the “suspense” of whether the Etta will live or die, it centers on the gamut of emotions that Ellie and her father, Calvert, experience as they watch Etta fight bravely against the inevitable. It is written with powerful emotion and compassion. It is almost impossible not to tear up on some of the truly magnificent prose that permeates the story. The bravery that Ellie and Calvert exhibit as witnesses to this tragic event mirrors the bravery of Etta’s fight against it. For any child who must bear . . .

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NPCA is urging support for increased Peace Corps Funding

  House Peace Corps Funding Letter Circulating The co-chairs of the House of Representatives Peace Corps Caucus, RPCVs John Garamendi (D-CA) and Joe Kennedy (D-MA), along with Representative Garrett Graves (R-LA) are now circulating a letter that their colleagues can sign, asking that Peace Corps funding for the fiscal year that begins this coming October (FY 2021) be increased to $450 million. TAKE ACTION NOW! Read the letter here. Ask your House Rep to “sign the Garamendi – Graves – Kennedy Peace Corps funding Dear Colleague letter that is now circulating”. Write and Ask your House Representative to Sign the Letter Find the Phone Number of Your House Representative if you want to contact them by phone The deadline for members of the House of Representatives to sign this letter is Friday, March 13th. Our goal is to meet or surpass last year’s record-breaking 181 signatures. A similar Senate Dear Colleague letter will . . .

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The Creation of the Peace Corps, March 1, 1961

On March 1, 1961, President Kennedy signed the executive order to create the Peace Corps. Three weeks later, on March 22, he would name Sargent Shriver as its first Director. Sargent Shriver believed deeply that the Peace Corps was a cornerstone of peacebuilding, and that it needed to play a central role in our foreign policy and diplomacy. A disruptive, innovative idea at the beginning of the 1960s, the Peace Corps continues to play a significant role in allowing Americans to serve in communities abroad, bringing us closer to our brothers and sisters in developing countries. With new challenges coming about from the effects of climate change, war, pandemics, and other crises, Peace Corps volunteers could play an even bigger role in serving vulnerable communities everywhere — if our leaders would dare to innovate and evolve as President Kennedy and Sargent Shriver did. Below Sargent Shriver’s Remarks at the Peace . . .

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Review — ALL THE DAYS PAST, ALL THE DAYS TO COME by Mildred D. Taylor (Ethiopia)

    All the Days Past, All the Days to Come Mildred D. Taylor (Ethiopia 1965-67) Viking Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House L.L.C January 7, 2020 483 pages $19.99 (Hardcover), $10.99 (Kindle)   Reviewed by Marnie Mueller (Ecuador 1963-65) • Mildred D. Taylor’s ALL THE DAYS PAST, ALL THE DAYS TO COME is a young adult novel, the final book in a ten volume series for which Taylor has won innumerable awards, among them a Newbery Medal, four Coretta Scott King Awards, a Boston Globe—Horn Book Award, a L.A. Times Book Prize and the PEN Award for Children’s Literature. I have never before read a young adult novel as I have no children and during my teens so many decades ago, they didn’t call them by that name. When I was asked to review the novel, I Googled Taylor, and up came effusive accolades on literary sites followed by reader comments that . . .

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Peace Corps Mongolia To Be Evacuated Due to Virus

Philly-area Peace Corps volunteers are forced to evacuate due to coronavirus: ‘I wasn’t ready to leave’ by Ellie Silverman, Updated: February 28, 2020- 2:02 PM Courtesy of Kaelynn Williams Kaelynn Williams, 25, thought she had about six more months in Mongolia, where she has been working as a Peace Corps volunteer for almost three years. But this week all volunteers in her program were told they had to go home. For Williams, that means returning to Southwest Philadelphia and hoping she can get back to Mongolia.   “We’re crossing our fingers to make sure, to see if that’s possible,” she said. There haven’t been any confirmed cases of coronavirus in Mongolia, but it has hit nearby countries hard. Mongolia borders China, where the virus began, and Mongolian Airlines has canceled flights to and from China, South Korea, and Japan. The Peace Corps is a service program run by the U.S. government . . .

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