The Peace Corps at 60

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Loret Miller Ruppe (PC Director) at 35th Peace Corps Anniversary Celebration
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Five Great Short Stories About the Peace Corps Experience
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The Non-Matrixed Wife (Venezuela)
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When the Right Hand Washes the Left (Nigeria)
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“Hurricane Greta” by Alan Jackson (Belize)
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Uzbek Zero by Bea Hogan (Uzbekistan)
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Tacoma-to-Liberia Peace Corps Journey — Kathleen Corey
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The Peace Corps and Us (Ethiopia)
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Changes in the 60 Years of the Peace Corps
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A Writer Writes: Letter from Pamplin by Mark Jacobs (Paraguay)

Loret Miller Ruppe (PC Director) at 35th Peace Corps Anniversary Celebration

    Loret Miller Ruppe’s Speech March 1-3, 1996   WHAT A GREAT HONOR to be here with all my fellow Directors — John Dellenback, who always warned me never to threaten to resign; Kevin O’Donnell, who has always given to Peace Corps; and Jack Hogan, who never lets anyone land a glove on Peace Corps. I am grateful to every Director. All of them helped me. First in line was Sargent Shriver, the Director of Directors — a man always with a vision. The Peace Corps is needed now more than ever. It is our nation’s greatest peace-building machine, which serves overseas and then brings it all back home. Charlie McCormick is here from Save the Children, as well as other great private volunteer organizations. And Senator Nancy Kassebaum, a returned Peace Corps Volunteer mother and a strong supporter, who just flew back from Africa, visiting eight countries in . . .

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Five Great Short Stories About the Peace Corps Experience

    The Mending Fields by Bob Shacochis (Eastern Caribbean 1975–76)   I WAS ASSIGNED to the Island of Saint Kit in the West Indies. Once on an inter-island plane, I sat across the aisle from one of my new colleagues, an unfriendly, overserious young woman. She was twenty-four, twenty-five . . . we were all twenty-four, twenty-five. I didn’t know her much or like her. As the plane banked over the island, she pressed against the window, staring down at the landscape. I couldn’t see much of her face, just enough really to recognize an expression of pain. Below us spread an endless manicured lawn, bright green and lush of sugarcane, the island’s main source of income. Each field planted carefully to control erosion. Until that year, Saint Kit’s precious volcanic soil had been bleeding into the sea; somehow they had resolved the problem. The crop was now being . . .

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The Non-Matrixed Wife (Venezuela)

    When Joseph Blatchford was appointed director of the Peace Corps in May of 1969 he brought with him a set of “New Directions” to improve the agency. Whether these directors were new or not is endlessly argued, but what was clear was this: Blatchford wanted skilled Volunteers, i.e. “blue-collar workers, experienced teachers, businessman and farmers.” While the Peace Corps has always found it difficult to recruit large numbers of such “skilled” Volunteers, Blatchford and his staff came up with the novel idea of recruiting married couples with children. One of the couple would be a Volunteer and the other (usually the wife) would be — in Peace Corps jargon — the “non-matrixed” spouse. The kids would just be kids. It would be in this way, Blatchford thought, that the Peace Corps could recruit older, more mature, experienced, and skilled PCVs. And the Peace Corps would stop being just . . .

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When the Right Hand Washes the Left (Nigeria)

   David G. Schickele first presented his retrospective view of Volunteer service in a speech given at Swarthmore College in 1963 that was printed in the Swarthmore College Bulletin. At the time, there was great interest on college campuses about the Peace Corps and early RPCVs were frequently asked to write or speak on their college campuses about their experiences. A 1958 graduate of Swarthmore, Schickele worked as a freelance professional violinist before joining the Peace Corps in 1961. After his tour, he would, with Roger Landrum make a documentary film on the Peace Corps in Nigeria called “Give Me A Riddle” that was intended for Peace Corps recruitment, but was never really used by the agency. The film was perhaps too honest a representation of Peace Corps Volunteers life overseas and the agency couldn’t handle it. However, the Peace Corps did pick up Schickele’s essay from the Swarthmore College Bulletin and reprinted . . .

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“Hurricane Greta” by Alan Jackson (Belize)

    I was a Peace Corps Volunteer assigned to the Fisheries Unit Laboratory in Belize City from August 1976 to October 1978. Initially I stayed in a small boarding house on Prince Street during a four-week Peace Corps orientation. After that I was expected to find my own housing. My monthly stipend was BZ$300 (US$150) a month, which would have to cover all my living expenses. Most Peace Corps Volunteers in Belize City doubled or tripled up and shared flats wherever they could find reasonable rent. I had heard good things about a family that had just hosted two Volunteers during our orientation. One of those Volunteers decided to continue boarding with that family while the other was moving to his jobsite in San Antonio, Toledo District. I asked the family if I could board with them, and they welcomed me into their home. They were a young and . . .

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Uzbek Zero by Bea Hogan (Uzbekistan)

  Uzbek Zero by Bea Hogan (Uzbekistan 1992-94) • “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” It’s Peace Corps gospel, which had served the agency well as it spread throughout the developing world. But what happens when a country doesn’t want your help, and you’re sent there anyway? I found out, when the Peace Corps sent me to Uzbekistan in 1992. The Cold War had ended, and the Peace Corps was expanding into the former Communist countries of the Eastern Bloc. When the Soviet Union collapsed, in December 1991, James Baker, then secretary of state under George H.W. Bush, said he wanted to see 250 Peace Corps Volunteers on the ground within a year. Volunteers, he said, would provide “human capital” to help these countries transition to market economies, Baker said, and advance U.S. . . .

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Tacoma-to-Liberia Peace Corps Journey — Kathleen Corey

    My Tacoma-to-Liberia Peace Corps journey proved to me I could tackle anything anywhere By Kathleen M. Corey (Liberia 1975–79) March 26, 2021 “I got a C?! I’ve never gotten a C in my life!” It was 1969. I was a senior at the University of Washington, preparing to become a high school English teacher. “You have an A+ for subject matter knowledge,” said my mentor teacher, Roy Feldstadt, “but a C in classroom management.” Depressed that I’d chosen a career for which I was clearly unsuited, I decided to go skiing in Sun Valley. After five fun but somewhat meaningless years, I decided to try teaching again and applied to the Peace Corps. Assigned to Liberia in Western Africa, I called my old mentor and told him the news. “Liberia!” he said. “I was in Group 2 in Liberia! Ask for Zorzor Central High — you’ll get the . . .

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The Peace Corps and Us (Ethiopia)

    Wayne and Laurie Kessler (Ethiopia 1964-66) • We first learned what impact we had on students when we made a quick unannounced return visit in 1969 to the Eritrean village where we taught three years prior as Peace Corps teachers.   On our way to the  “Peace Corps house” we surprised a small group of students who started to run away. They thought we were ghosts.  After our Tigrinya greetings settled them down, we asked them what they remembered about our teaching. To our surprise and dismay, they remembered how we dealt with small clouds of flies buzzing around our heads in stuffy classrooms stuffed with 40 to 60 students. They demonstrated how Mrs. Laurie blew at them out of the side of her month and Mr. Wayne waved his hand like a car window wiper.  Laughingly, we asked, “Is that all you remember?”  No, they said in . . .

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Changes in the 60 Years of the Peace Corps

    Established by President John F. Kennedy on March 1, 1961, via Executive Order, the concept for the public service agency was first introduced months prior in an impromptu presidential campaign speech delivered to college students. “How many of you who are going to be doctors, are willing to spend your days in Ghana? Technicians or engineers, how many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives traveling around the world?” then-Senator Kennedy asked the students. “I think Americans are willing to contribute. But the effort must be far greater than we have ever made in the past.” The response was swift and enthusiastic. Since the Peace Corps’ founding, more than 240,000 Americans have served in 142 host countries. Here’s a look back at some of the agency’s major accomplishments and milestones: 1961: President Kennedy hosts a ceremony in the White House Rose . . .

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A Writer Writes: Letter from Pamplin by Mark Jacobs (Paraguay)

  It’s a fact of Peace Corps life that a volunteer must learn to get by in a world not his own, not her own. It’s never a perfect adjustment, not a completely comfortable fit. Often you make mistakes, some of which can be serious. Others are hilarious. (Once, at the dinner table with our training family in Asunción, as we were learning Spanish, my wife, Anne, commented that she had been taking notes in her diarrhea, which completely cracked people up and may still rank near the top in their hall of conversational fame.) In our case, our Peace Corps experience of feeling our way, doing our best to understand what was going on, turned out to be good practice for the foreign service, which we joined a few years after returning from Paraguay. Our Peace Corps country was nothing like Bolivia, or Honduras, or Spain, despite the common . . .

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