Author - Joanne Roll

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Is there something missing from official Peace Corps/Washington’s celebration of the 50th?
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The Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 H.R. 2337 and S. 1280 – An Overview
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Groups, Batches, and Pods
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Friends of Colombia Peace Corps Archives at American University
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A plethora of public places for Peace Corps papers, publications, people and stuff: Sorting it all out.
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From Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen, Opening Statement at Hearing on Peace Corps Volunteer Safety
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“What?” I exclaimed. “Some reports compiled by Peace Corps Volunteers are actually permanently preserved at the National Archives!”
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An Actual Visit to View Peace Corps Records at the National Archives II in College Park, MD
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OnLine with NARA: More State Department electronic telegrams
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Wikileaks? No. National Archives? Yes.
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Listen to President Kennedy via recordings on Podcast speak about and to the Peace Corps
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Charlie Peters’ Excellent Adventurers and their Peace Corps Evaluation Reports 1961-1967
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The National Archives and Record Administration
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“In, Up, and Out” – Then and Now
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Peace Corps Panel at the National Archives 3.17.2011

Is there something missing from official Peace Corps/Washington’s celebration of the 50th?

Every Fall, Oklahoma empties out on one bright weekend and everyone goes to Dallas for the only football game that matters: In the Cotton Bowl – Texas Longhorns vs. Oklahoma Sooners, The Red River Rivalry. Austin comes to Dallas, too. Some people actually manage to have game tickets. There are class reunions; family get-togethers; stories told and retold of triumphs and defeat; old friends and new ones; a celebration of who it is they are. It is big deal. I think the 50th Anniversary Celebration in DC will be a little like that. Group reunions, parties, and rumors of parties; stories told and retold; old friends and new; a celebration of us. Except.There is no big game. There is no one event that symbolizes who it is we were and should become. No RPCVs will be reading their Journals of Peace, 24/48 hours in the Rotunda of the Capital- as was organized . . .

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The Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 H.R. 2337 and S. 1280 – An Overview

The Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 seeks to amend the Peace Corps Act to enhance the safety of serving Volunteers. The legislation has been introduced in both Houses of Congress with bipartisan support. It has already been voted out of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and is pending action in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The goal is to legislate administrative systems designed, first, to prevent sexual assault of Peace Corps Volunteers, and then, to provide for adequate treatment if such crimes occur and finally, to make Peace Corps officials accountable for the implementation of these provisions. The law draws  from the Congressional testimony of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who were assault victims as well as from experts in the field. The First Response Action Group, of RPCVs, is responsible for leading this effort. The legal status of Volunteers and the Five Year Rule . . .

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Groups, Batches, and Pods

As a Volunteer in Colombia when I was asked by a Colombian, “Quien es?” I would reply “Cuerpo de Paz.”  When asked the same question by an American, I would say “Colombia XI.”  Those were all the IDs I needed; designations I was proud to claim, then and now. One of the unique features of Peace Corps administration that gets too little attention is the organization of Volunteers into groups. Volunteers apply individually, are accepted individually and serve individually; but in between, they are “staged,” “trained,” and “sworn in,” as a member of a group. Everyone in the group goes to the same country; has the same starting and terminating date; usually the same program description; attends classes together; and serves under the same Host Country management. The groups are named by country and then by number; the numbers are sequential within each country, except when they are not.* Taken all . . .

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Friends of Colombia Peace Corps Archives at American University

Ghana I may have won the race to be the very first Peace Corps group to begin service, but Peace Corps Colombia may be the very first Peace Corps contingent to produce a comprehensive and complete history of programs in a specific host country. The Friends of Colombia Peace Corps Archives at American University is the reason why. In 1999, the RPCV alumni group, Friends of Colombia initiated an archive for Peace Corps at American University in Washington DC, focusing on Peace Corps programs in Colombia. AU Librarian and RPCV Pat Wand (Col VIII), RPCV Bob Colombo, and other members of Friends of Colombia were essential to the creation and success of this archive. Today, Archivist Susan McElrath guarantees its continued success. For over a decade, artifacts and materials have been collected from RPCVs and staff. The focus has been on Peace Corps Colombia, but the archive also includes important . . .

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A plethora of public places for Peace Corps papers, publications, people and stuff: Sorting it all out.

    The Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, The National Archives and the JFK Presidential Library, as well as the Peace Corps Agency are all involved in preserving and presenting elements of the Peace Corps Experience. For anyone coming to DC for any of the celebrations or just curious, here is how it all sorts out. The Smithsonian and the Library of Congress are located in downtown Washington DC.  The National Archives stores Peace Corps records at its facility in College Park, Md.  The JFK Library is in Boston, MA.    All others institutions have information available online; but few actual pictures and papers have been digitalized. This means that to access the actual material one has to physically visit the facility or pay for copies. First, the Smithsonian has three different divisions involved with Peace Corps. The first and perhaps the most currently relevant is the Smithsonian Folklife Festival that . . .

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From Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen, Opening Statement at Hearing on Peace Corps Volunteer Safety

“Despite critical reports by its own Inspector General, the General Accountability Office, and prior Congressional hearings, Peace Corps’ safety and security failures have been a recurrent problem with tragic consequences for thousands of volunteers. Some who seek to ignore those problems have asserted that volunteer service, itself, is inherently risky as an excuse for lax and ineffective safety and security measures. That attitude is unacceptable.” Read the complete statement at: http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/press_display.asp?id=1819 Please note:  The links for the actual testimony are no longer active.  The testimony should be available in hard copy at those public libraries that are federal depositories.  The hearings were held on May 11, 2011 before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.  A librarian should be able to help you access the hard copies, or tell you how to find them.  The links are now here just for reference. The hearings can be viewed at the link provided . . .

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“What?” I exclaimed. “Some reports compiled by Peace Corps Volunteers are actually permanently preserved at the National Archives!”

I was reminded, once again, that such outbursts are frowned upon in this establishment. Here is the description in the ARC catalog that caused me such glee: Mid-Service Conference Reports, compiled 1971 -1975, documenting the period 1970 – 1975. ARC Identifier 1512310 / MLR Number P92 – http://www.archives.gov Scope & Content This series consists of reports compiled by Peace Corps volunteers, concerning projects they were concerned with and the general situation in the country they were serving in. The Reports were generally compiled at the one-year mark of their two year service. I had been searching for anything written by Volunteers and had been frustrated at finding almost nothing.  All reports that I had seen were reports generated by or for PC/DC by administrative staff. The voices of serving Volunteers as well as those of Host Country staff and counterparts were not there. Absent such contributions, The Peace Corps collection is . . .

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An Actual Visit to View Peace Corps Records at the National Archives II in College Park, MD

Washington DC is a morning town. It is just 8 am when the first shuttle from the National Archives I pulls out from Pennsylvania Ave and 7th Street NW and heads towards Archives II in College Park Md. Although there are many different ways to get to College Park, this free staff shuttle almost always has room for researchers, like me, and perhaps you. I like to be on that first bus because finding and reading Peace Corps public records can take all day. Besides, I like the drive through early morning traffic. We pass TV studios, Fox News nestled right next to C-Span (who knew?); pass Union Station; the fabled Gonzana High School; out NE Washington; pass historic Glenwood Cemetery into the Maryland suburbs; and then the University of Maryland. About forty minutes later, we turn off the apt named Adelphi Road into the circle drive of Archives II. The mission . . .

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OnLine with NARA: More State Department electronic telegrams

I have found more State Department telegrams mentioning Peace Corps and available online on the NARA website. I  originally had been able to locate only three.   Using “hunt and peck,” “try different combinations,” and, of course, “when all else fails, read the instructions,” I was able to locate this very valuable collection. I apologize for the earlier incomplete information.  Peace Corps is mentioned in 87 items that include State Department telegrams from 1973-1976 and Memos for the Record of conversations. They have been declassified and posted online on the NARA website.  The telegrams can be read online; the memos are in PDF format.  Some of the situations described in the telegrams involve the closing of country Peace Corps programs.  Peru is one such country. This is how the collection can be accessed: 1) Go to http://www.archives.gov 2) Choose “Research our Records” on the home page. 3) On the next . . .

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Wikileaks? No. National Archives? Yes.

(Please note:  The information here on how to access records may well be too old to be useful. Please visit the National Archives and Records Administration for current information.)   So what was happening with Peace Corps in Afghanistan in 1974? There are a handful of records online.  One does describe Peace Corps in Afghanistan. To find out what was happening in 1974, read this: A State Department cable, dated Mar 75, reads, in part, ” THE PEACE CORPS HAS HAD A FRUSTRATING YEAR, PRIMARILY BECAUSE OF THE DIFFICULT IN OBTAINING FROM THE GOVERNMENT OF AFGHANISTAN ITS (THE GOA’S) WISHES AND GOA PROGRAMMING PREFERENCES FOR PEACE CORPS AFGHANISTAN, AND SECONDARILY AND RELATEDLY BECAUSE ATTEMPTS TO BECOME INVOLVED IN SEVERAL ATTRACTIVE PROGRAMMING AREAS HAVE SO FAR BEEN UNSUCCESSFUL BECAUSE OF THE COLLAPSE IN 1973- 1974 OF SOME MAJOR HEALTH AND AGRICULTURE PROJECTS AND NON-REPLACEMENT OF VOLUNTEERS IN OTHER PROJECTS, ENGLISH TEACHING . . .

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Listen to President Kennedy via recordings on Podcast speak about and to the Peace Corps

Hear President Kennedy speak at the University of Michigan in the Fall of 1960 and then in the Rose Garden sending off Ghana I. The National Archives administers the Presidential Libraries.  It has made available online podcasts of the Presidents speaking on historic issues. I have read the transcripts of President Kennedy speaking, but I have not listened to the Podcasts.  There are instructions on the website on how to connect to the Podcasts.  I can only link to the Home page of the National Archives and Records Administration, nara.gov.  It is not possible to hyperlink to a specific page from outside the web.  The steps I outline should take you to these valuable public records. Please note:  On January 31, 2013, I learned that the page with these podcasts was no longer operative.  I contacted the JFK Library and spoke with an archivist who was not aware that the . . .

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Charlie Peters’ Excellent Adventurers and their Peace Corps Evaluation Reports 1961-1967

Charlie Peters, lawyer, WWII Veteran, Kennedy campaigner,  Master’s in English and former West Virginia Legislator, was chosen by Shriver to head up the first evaluation unit in a federal agency.  He did so with relish, hiring professional journalists and fanning them out overseas to independently evaluate the fledging Peace Corps programs, many times to the consternation of those in the Program Department who had created those very same programs. ( See: Redmon, Coates, Come As You Are, Chapter six “Charlie Peters, the Burr under the Saddle”, Orlando, Florida, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 1986). These reports compose the first real public record of the Peace Corps and the National Archives has preserved all of them in its vaults at College Park, Md. The evaluators spent weeks or even months in-country traveling to sites and interviewing both staff and Volunteers. Upon their return, their reports circulated among staff at PC/DC as well . . .

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The National Archives and Record Administration

Please note:  This posting is more than 10 years old. Please visit the National Archives website for current information.   The National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) is the custodian of permanent public records. These are the public records generated by the public business of the United States but are no longer necessary to execute that business. The mission of NARA is to at once preserve original documents and also to make them available to the public. Only about one percent of all such documents are ultimately retained and archived. The ultimate decision to retain or destroy a public record belongs to the National Archivist. This designation is called “scheduling.” After a public record is scheduled, it may be stored in Federal Record Centers, managed by NARA. At the time dictated by the schedule, the record is either destroyed or permanently transferred to the vaults of the National Archives.  NARA . . .

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“In, Up, and Out” – Then and Now

What if returning Peace Corps Volunteers had run the agency from the earliest days? Would it have made a good and great difference? I say, “Absolutely!”  What do you think?  Read what the author of the original “In, Up, and Out” wrote in 1961 and says now. Dr. Robert Textor, Editor of “Cultural Frontiers of the Peace Corps“,  was a young anthropologist when Peace Corps hired him in the Spring of 1961. During his  tenure, he helped design the training programs for Malaya One and other Far East operations. He also worked on the Talent Search to find talented Americans to become country “Representatives.” Almost as a “participant observer” of the emerging Peace Corps culture, he turned his trained eye on its developing programs.  And from that perspective, he wrote the original memo advocating an “In, Up, and Out” policy for the Peace Corps, which became the basis for the . . .

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Peace Corps Panel at the National Archives 3.17.2011

I love visiting the National Archives. For this RPCV, pouring through the dusty records is like doing genealogy. Although, when I read the reports of Colombia and its  programs, I want to respond to them. But it is almost fifty years too late!  True to form, I will be in DC this March, arriving on the 18th, one day too late to attend this great panel.  For those of you lucky enough to be in the DC area for St. Patrick’s Day, here is the  information  from Susan Clifton of the National Archives. Peace Corps 50th Anniversary Thursday, March 17, at 7 p.m. William G. McGowan Theater The Early Years of the Peace Corps On March 1, 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed the Executive Order that created the Peace Corps. Since then, more than 200,000 Americans have served as Peace Corps volunteers in 139 countries around the world.  In . . .

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