Ben Moyer (Colombia) — Profile in Citizenship

By Jerry Norris (Colombia 1963-64)

 

In my time as a country director for a Cooperative Development Group in Colombia, one of the Volunteers in that group was posted to the country’s poorest and most under-resourced area: the Choco. It is on Colombia’s west coast, has a rainfall of some 400 inches a year, is largely jungle, thinly populated — mostly by indigenous native tribal groups and decedents of former African slaves, and it has few schools beyond the primary level. It is probable that in the Peace Corps long history of having thousands of Volunteers in Colombia, not more than 5 were ever posted in the Choco.

Ben Moyer

Yet, into this unpromising site with two Volunteers, Ben Moyer (1965-67), a recent graduate of Yale University, was posted as their replacement. Those early Volunteers had teed-up the El Valle Agricultural Cooperative in its formative stages, such as securing its Legal Charter with the Government. But it was Ben, as their replacement, that hit the long ball down the fairway, shepherding it through the day to day mundane processes of tedious bookkeeping, the election of Board Members, the opening of a bank account, various annual reports to government agencies — all requisite organizational elements which ensured that the Cooperative retained its legal standing.

After his service, he went to Cornell Business School and upon graduation joined the international department of the Bank of Boston in 1969, with his first assignment in Australia for two years. For the next seventeen years, he lived overseas in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Panama and Taiwan. He took early retirement in 1996 and immediately joined Wainwright Investment  Counsel where he worked for the next fifteen years. In 2002, he joined the Board of ProMujer International, a micro finance institution providing micro loans to women in Central and South America. Over a two year period, he served as its CEO. In 1993, Ben joined the Board of Copper Cannon, a summer camp in Franconia, New Hampshire for under-served young people.

There are thousands of “Ben Moyer stories” on the careers they pursued after their active service as Volunteers. This is the dividend that continues to justify our country’s investment in the Peace Corps. Yet, it has taken a virus to get Peace Corps into our national consciousness.
Jerry Norris (Colombia 1963-64), then on the staff in 1965. He then worked at HQ from 1966-70.

12 Comments

Leave a comment
  • Thanks, Jerry! I was in Cordoba, Colombia. from ’63 to. ’65. You have continued a wonderful life of service! Carol Whitacre Hall. Col. VIII

  • Hi Jerry – nice bio. Thanks for posting. I never met Ben, but was part of the first group of PCVs posted to Choco in 1963. I think there were eight of us, with Joe Hardy as our Leader, soon replaced by Gar Murtha when Joe moved to Antioquia as Leader of a larger group of PCVs. Gar and I were initially posted to El Carmen del Atrato which was in Choco but was more like Antioquia. To say we were parachuted into Choco is putting it mildly. No PC staff had ever visited the Department and no one in El Carmen (or any of the other sites) was expecting us when we got off the bus or the boat. Nevertheless, those were great days. Kelly Kammerer Colombia VIII

  • Jerry:

    Thanks for the info. This provides a lot more about what Ben did for the Coop. I have a memory about him. He and Dan did the trek through the rainforest, all the way to Quibdo. So, he had the right stuff.

  • Aloha Jerry!

    I was your housemate in La Plata for a couple of months when I first arrived in Colombia in ’63 with Col. VIII. Along with Jaime and Roberto. You were my instant hero because you flew a crazy airplane, a Stearman bi-plane if I recall correctly. I had flown my Cessna 140 around the USA as my great adventure so we surely traded some flying stories.

    After a couple of months in La Plata, without a mandate for my Architectural services, I found Eduardo Hakim, the Architect for the Huila school system, and discovered the source of the handwritten note that was in my invitation to join PC, which Bogota PC administration had forgotten existed. He put me to work immediately.

    You might remember him; he was an incredible guy, who went on to become the Colombian Cultural Ambassador to Russia and lived in Moscow for eight years. He was actually of Lebanese parents and born in Colombia; they called him “El Turko”. He loaned me his jeep to go to various communities to manage the construction process and community interaction.

    Eduardo facilitated the Alliance for Progress program for the construction of 12 or 13 rural schools, a project that was initiated with the previous PC group (who left three months before we arrived, so no communication). I am pleased to report that all the schools were completed with community involvement and many trips to government offices to sign multiple copies of requests for payments for materials. It was a great program and a very rewarding experience for me.

    Many more reminisces if you read this and get in touch. I emigrated to Hawaii after PC service and been here ever since practicing Architecture.

    I was Phil Harvey then, now I am Aza Summers. They don’t reveal my email address here; I’ll leave a website link that you can contact..

    Hey Carol and Kelly! I remember you too! We were an awesome group Col VIII.

    • Hi Aza,
      I have read several of your posts in recent years and am glad to know you are doing well. I keep in touch with Gar, Willie Dow, Pete Koch and Pat Breslin on a pretty regular basis. There was at least one other architect in our group – Sam Haffey, who I went to Notre Dame with, but have lost contact with. My wife and I have been living in France for the past twenty years, after spending most of my post-law school years working in various capacities with USAID. All the best. Kelly

  • Thank you, Jerry, for writing a wonderful tribute to my husband Ben about his time in the Peace Corps. Sadly, Ben passed away a month ago after struggling with a series of medical issues, but he was always the determined and kind person you have described. In our 48 years (and three children and 17 years overseas) my children and I heard many of Ben’s (sometimes wild) stories and continue to share them with our seven grandkids . Our house is full of walking sticks and paddles and wooden carvings, so many from his Peace Corps days. He always said that his Peace Corps experience influenced everything he did the rest of his life and for that, I and my children will continue to be grateful.

  • Hola Jerry,
    Very nice story. Good to hear about you. I worked building rural schools with Eduardo Hakim and with
    Phil (Asa) when he was the PC Leader for Huila …. and traveled all over Huila checking on the new Schools
    under construction in the rural veredas. I fondly remember my many trip to La Plata when you, Roberto and Jaime
    were there spending time with. you guys and the famila Perez. Margie Sorock forwarded this website link to me.
    I am in San Antonio, Texas …. retired from architecture now but still very busy with numerous project. It’s so
    good to know you are still around and active. My very best regards, John Larcade

  • This is also a tribute to Jerry Norris who keeps us aware of Peace Corps contributions and has an enviable record of his own. I did not know Ben, but I salute his service/. I knew many of the Coop volunteers and they did exemplary work in Colombia

    Best,

    G.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Copyright © 2019. Peace Corps Worldwide.