Author - John Coyne

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The Death of Idealism and Anti-Politics in the Peace Corps
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Review: ¿ERES TU? by Frank Tainter (Chile)
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RPCV Courtney Eker writes “Devastated, not fired” (Panama)
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Paul Theroux Reviews “A Towering Task” (Malawi)
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Two Items Of Interest to RPCVs
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Peace Corps Volunteer comedy series — “Lost in Moldova”
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Glenn Blumhorst’s letter in the Chicago Tribune
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Ending the Peace Corps program in China is not smart says Lex Rieffel (India)
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The Peace Corps isn’t just bringing home 7,300 volunteers because of the coronavirus. It’s firing them.
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RPCV medical expert Anne Rimoin (Benin) on MSNBC

The Death of Idealism and Anti-Politics in the Peace Corps

The Death of Idealism Development and Anti-Politics in the Peace Corps by Meghan Elizabeth Kallman Columbia University Press 320 pages $24.48 (Kindle), $110.00 (Hardback), $28.00 (paperback) April 21, 2020     Meghan Elizabeth Kallman is an assistant professor at the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is coauthor of The Third Sector: Community Organizations, NGOs, and Nonprofits (2016) and an elected official in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. A case study of the conflict between professionalization and idealism in the Peace Corps. Shows how organizational practices affect people’s ideas and values in ways that have long lasting consequences for their lives and careers. Based on interviews with over 140 current and returned Peace Corps volunteers, brings a new perspective on how people lose their idealism and why that matters. Peace Corps volunteers seem to exemplify the desire to make the world a better place. Yet . . .

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Review: ¿ERES TU? by Frank Tainter (Chile)

    ¿Eres tú?: A History of Lonquimay Frank Tainter (Chile 1964–66) Go to Publish December 2019 328 pages $17.80 (paperback), $2.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by David Mather (Chile 1968-70)   There are several reasons why I was eager to read “?Eres Tu?.”  The author and I were both forestry volunteers (different groups) in the mid to late ’60s in Chile. According to the jacket of the book, his time there, like mine, was “the most significant experience of his life.” We both ended up writing “novels” about ‘our’ Chile and both books have a young American fall in love with a campesina who was taller than most, had long black hair, and, of course, beautiful eyes. Even the consummations of the two love affairs are similar in that his takes place in a canelo(tree) grove whereas mine was in an alerce grove.  Finally, both of us used the love stories as the vehicle to demonstrate our . . .

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RPCV Courtney Eker writes “Devastated, not fired” (Panama)

Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Jim McCaffery (Ethiopia 1966-69)     Devastated, not fired March 23, 2020 by Courtney Eker (Panama) • It was 9 PM and I was sitting on a plastic lawn chair with my favorite family, barely able to communicate over the sound of loud accordion “típico” music, when my phone started buzzing out of control in my pocket. I remember thinking I did not want to take it out because I wanted to enjoy my evening, as it would be one of the last family gatherings I would have in my site before leaving the following Saturday. I was one week away from finishing my two years of service in Peace Corps Panama. I looked at the screen anyway, only to read the text, “You may pack two checked bags and one carry on. You must get on your earliest transport out of site whether . . .

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Paul Theroux Reviews “A Towering Task” (Malawi)

A Towering Task Reviewed by Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963-65) “A Towering Task” puts a human face on the Peace Corps – and makes sense of its history of idealism, improvisation, politics, and at times its failings. It is the most coherent and satisfying documentary I know, of the Peace Corps, and I can’t imagine a better one. For its truth and its scope, its arc is complete – from the germ of an idea to help the world, spoken late at night by JFK on his presidential campaign, to its execution later, an Act signed into law and carried out – thousands of young women and men leaving for remote places, to teach, to advise, to inspire – and to be inspired themselves by their work. I was an early volunteer, my group was “Nyasaland III” (1963) – we went to Central Africa and saw Nyasaland become the independent republic of Malawi; . . .

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Two Items Of Interest to RPCVs

  The current issue of The New Yorker, March 30, 2020, has an article entitled, “Life on Lockdown” Forty-five days of avoiding the coronavirus in China by Peter Hessler (China 1996-98). Peter and his wife with their nine-year-old twin daughters, Ariel and Natasha, went to China in August where his next book will be set. And then came the virus. Two weeks ago Peter wrote about the China PCVs being terminated in his host country for The New Yorker. Peter Hessler joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2000. From 2000 until 2007, he was the magazine’s correspondent in China and, from 2011 to 2016, he was based in Cairo, where he covered the events of the Egyptian Arab Spring. His subjects have included archeology in both China and Egypt, a factory worker in Shenzhen, a garbage collector in Cairo, a small-town druggist in rural Colorado, and Chinese lingerie dealers . . .

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Peace Corps Volunteer comedy series — “Lost in Moldova”

Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Beatrice Hogan (Uzbekistan 1992-94) An American in Moldova: a Peace Corps volunteer is the subject of a new comedy series‎ The Calvert Journal Hi, my name is John E. Lewis, and I’m an RPCV from the Moldova III group (1995-97). I am also the creator, writer, and executive producer of the web series “Lost in Moldova”. I wrote the first few episodes while I was getting my MFA in TV and Screenwriting in LA. It’s loosely based on my own Peace Corps experience—as well as the experiences of my fellow volunteers and other RPCVs I’ve spoken to over the years. The story is about a guy named Diego, who joins the Peace Corps in a last-ditch effort to win back his ex-girlfriend. He goes expecting an exotic tropical paradise and ends up…”Lost in Moldova”. Strangely enough, while I was writing it, I ended up . . .

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Glenn Blumhorst’s letter in the Chicago Tribune

  Commentary: Peace Corps evacuated all 7,300 of its volunteers due to coronavirus. They need immediate help. by Glenn Blumhorst in the Chicago Tribune 02/21/20 01:24 PM EST • Imagine, if you can, a scenario in which the Department of Defense saw the need to recall for emergency security purposes the entirety of its service corps in one fell swoop. That’s essentially what happened over the past week, when the U.S. Peace Corps agency made the difficult and unprecedented decision to suspend its programs indefinitely, evacuating all 7,300 volunteers serving in more than 60 countries — including 280 from Illinois — due to the coronavirus outbreak and informing them their service has ended. As the virus spread rapidly worldwide, travel restrictions quickly tightened, risks to the personal health of volunteers rose rapidly and the window to bring America’s “grassroots diplomats” home was closing swiftly. Understandably, the top priority of the agency was . . .

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Ending the Peace Corps program in China is not smart says Lex Rieffel (India)

BY LEX RIEFFEL, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR 02/21/20 01:00 PM EST   Last month, before the corona virus outbreak, the Peace Corps informed the Congress that it would begin terminating its program in China in Sen. Marc Rubio (R-Fla.) applauded the decision, noting that China no longer is a developing country and, echoing the sentiment, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) told reporters: “I’m glad the Peace Corps has finally come to its senses.” I beg to differ. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in India (1965-67) and I’ve done research on what America gains from allocating funds in the federal budget for the Peace Corps. Measured against our country’s long-term national interests, pulling the Peace Corps out of China now looks like a dumb move. Let’s start with a few facts. The Peace Corps was established in 1961 by President Kennedy in the midst of the Cold War with the Soviet Union when the U.S. was competing . . .

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The Peace Corps isn’t just bringing home 7,300 volunteers because of the coronavirus. It’s firing them.

Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Arnold Zeitland (Ghana 1961-63)     The Peace Corps isn’t just bringing home 7,300 volunteers because of the coronavirus. It’s firing them.  By Joe Davidson, Columnist Washington Post March 20, 2020 Peace Corps volunteers in Cambodia take an oath at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh in 2007. The 30 English teachers served in Cambodia teaching English and supporting teachers in Cambodian provinces and districts to improve their English language and teaching skills. • Because of the coronavirus, the Peace Corps is doing more than evacuating its 7,300 volunteers from 61 countries. It’s also firing them. In a March 15 open letter to the volunteers, the agency’s director, Jody Olsen, said, “We are acting now to safeguard your well-being and prevent a situation where Volunteers are unable to leave their host countries.” But nowhere in the statement posted on the agency’s website does it tell . . .

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RPCV medical expert Anne Rimoin (Benin) on MSNBC

Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Dick Lipez (Ethiopia 1962-64)   Last night on MSNBC Brian Williams had on Anne Rimoin (Benin 1993-95) who is a noted epidemiological. Williams said the daughter of a friend had just been brought home from her Peace Corps country, and Dr. Rimoin said she was confident all this would pass and the Peace Corps would resume its great work. Anne W. Rimoin, Ph.D., M.P.H. is a Professor of Epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and Infectious Disease Division of the Geffen School of Medicine. She is an internationally recognized expert on global health, emerging infectious diseases, vaccine preventable diseases and disease surveillance systems in low-resource settings. She is the Director of the Fielding School’s Center for Global and Immigrant Health. Dr. Rimoin’s research, conducted in the some of the most difficult areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has yielded several . . .

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