The Peace Corps

Agency history, current news and stories of the people who are/were both on staff and Volunteers.

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Theme of Peace Corps Week “Optimism in Action”
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Creating Peace Corps Week
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US will resume Peace Corps program in Palau
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“How a Guinea Fowl Led Soldiers to Pound on My Door at 4 AM” by Curt Mekemson (Liberia)
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To the Family of Jane Campbell by Gwen Griffin Bates (Nepal)
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Melvin Foote (Ethiopia) – Foreign Policy Research Institute
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Celebrate babywearing and its African origins
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“And the Wall Came Tumbling Down” by John Chromy (India)
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“The Glamour” — a short story by Mark Jacobs (Paraguay)
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John McAuliff (Peru) | People of the Year Awards Winner
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Suffering isn’t mandatory. Bake a cake!
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“What am I doing in Paraguay?” by Troy Schneider
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“Overcoming Grief and Assault With 29 Marathons” by Summer Willis (Mexico)
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Charles Murray (Thailand) . . . “The Most Dangerous Conservative.”
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Peter Navarro (Thailand) sentenced to prison

Theme of Peace Corps Week “Optimism in Action”

Peace Corps Week commemorates March 1, 1961, the day that President John F. Kennedy established the agency. The annual celebration honors how the Peace Corps fosters connections and contributes to meaningful change – in the United States and around the world. Optimism in Action Since 1961, at the invitation of foreign governments, more than 240,000 Americans have served the United States and countries around the globe as Peace Corps Volunteers. There are currently over 2,400 Volunteers working alongside community members in 58 countries addressing the persistent impacts of COVID-19 and climate change, and tackling local development priorities across the Peace Corps’ six programming sectors: Agriculture, Community Economic Development, Education, Environment, Health, and Youth in Development. The theme for this year, “Optimism in Action,” not only celebrates the myriad ways the Peace Corps collaborates with communities to confront formidable challenges but also embodies a steadfast belief in the possibility of positive . . .

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Creating Peace Corps Week

John writes —   With the stroke of a pen, President John F. Kennedy created the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961. With his signing of Executive Order 10924, and his subsequent press conference where he outlined his vision of service, Kennedy fulfilled a campaign pledge he made the previous year in an extemporaneous speech at the University of Michigan. Each year in late February and early March, that call to service is renewed in the form of Peace Corps Week. This celebration, with activities both in the United States and at posts all around the world, is a way for current and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to share their service with others. According to former Peace Corps Director  Mark Schneider (1999–2001), it was started as a way, “to shine a spotlight on the agency, the development work of Volunteers around the world, and the continuing service that returned Volunteers bring . . .

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US will resume Peace Corps program in Palau

  Biden administration continues moves to counter growing Chinese influence in the region     WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States will resume a long-suspended Peace Corps program in the North Pacific island of Palau as the Biden administration continues moves to counter growing Chinese influence in the region. The Peace Corps said Friday that it would start sending volunteers back to the island in 2025 following an agreement reached between the agency’s director and Palau’s president, whose country is one of the few in the world to have diplomatic relations with Taiwan . “Volunteers will live and work side-by-side with community partners to improve childhood literacy and math and science skills, along with teaching English as a foreign language,” Peace Corps director Carol Spahn said in a statement. Palau’s president, Surangel Whipps, said the return of the Peace Corps reflects the strong relationship between his nation and the United States. He said prior Peace . . .

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“How a Guinea Fowl Led Soldiers to Pound on My Door at 4 AM” by Curt Mekemson (Liberia)

CURT MEKEMSON JANUARY 29, 2024 First the story about the soldiers. I’ve told it before in my book about my Peace Corps experience, The Bush Devil Ate Sam, and on my blog. Because it involved Guinea fowls, it deserves being told again. It was 1967 and I had just returned from my Peace Corps job of teaching history and geography at the nearby Gboveh High School in Gbarnga, Liberia. Much to my surprise — and dismay — I found soldiers standing in our yard pointing guns every which way. It was an ‘Ut-Oh’ moment. Liberian soldiers were scary. “What’s up?” I asked, trying not to sound nervous. You learned early on not to mess with Liberian soldiers. There was a reason why the government refused to issue them bullets. “Your dog ate one of the Superintendent’s Guinea hens,” their sergeant mumbled ominously. The Superintendent of Bong County was the equivalent to . . .

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To the Family of Jane Campbell by Gwen Griffin Bates (Nepal)

  I am sending my sincere condolences to Jane’s family. I was a friend of hers in 1962 when we were both working at the Peace Corps for Pat Kennedy, the Director of the Division of Volunteer Support, in the Washington headquarters. Jane and I joined this office about the same time as it was evolving from scratch. She along with several other very competent and smart young women were the core of the senior staff reporting to Pat. I was brought on as Pat’s secretary sitting just outside his office. It was heady days for all of us since we were often making up the rules and policies for how the office would function as issues and challenges came to us. There were long days and into the night discussions about how to handle a particular volunteer issue and many discussions about how best to support the Peace Corps . . .

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Melvin Foote (Ethiopia) – Foreign Policy Research Institute

INTERNATIONAL NEWS Melvin Foote – Foreign Policy Research Institute JANUARY 31, 2024   Melvin P. Foote (Ethiopia 1973-76) has worked on African issues for more than 40 years!  He is well known across Africa, and is highly respected by opinion-makers and decision-makers in Washington, D.C. for his work with Africa over many decades. Mr. Foote is the Founder and President of the Constituency for Africa, (CFA), a 32-years old Washington, D.C. based not-for-profit organization that advocates for Africa in the United States and throughout the Diaspora.  The mission of CFA is to educate the public about Africa and African development issues, and help to shape U.S. policies towards Africa.  Mr. Foote also is the founder of the African American Unity Caucus (AAUC), which was established in 2002.  The AAUC is a network of African-Americans, African immigrants, and others of African descent, who are leaders of Africa-focused organization or who are leaders . . .

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Celebrate babywearing and its African origins

 I would love for everyone this month in honor of Black History month to celebrate babywearing and its African origins writes Rachnel Nicks Here is a history of babywearing…As Black women, we have been wearing our babies for centuries. In fact, the first American version of a babywearing device was invented by a woman who had just returned from a trip to West Africa. She was traveling with the Peace Corps and had observed women in Togo carrying their babies on their bodies. She invented the “Snugli” when she got back to the United States and decades later, babywearing has boomed into an entire industry. There are so many reasons why this tradition has become a mainstream practice and we even have a week to celebrate its benefits; International Babywearing week is in the month of October.Necessity and convenience are likely what led to this creative innovation. Wearing their babies allowed them . . .

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“And the Wall Came Tumbling Down” by John Chromy (India)

  It was in June of 1964 when the “wall came tumbling down” during a sitdown dinner for 6 people. The setting was in a private home in the town of Zaheerabad in Andhra Pradesh State. Four of us Peace Corps Volunteers had been temporarily assigned to develop and teach a pilot health/nutrition/gardening curriculum to be used in training village school teachers throughout Andhra State (population 36 million). This experimental course was conducted at the Zaheerabad Basic Training Institute (BTI), where some 160 future primary school teachers were undergoing training. Amongst the faculty and students at the BTI there was considerable excitement to have Americans teaching at their school. In the 1960s America was mostly an admired country and there was much curiosity about the American people, their way of life and the work of these four American guest instructors. In fact, one of the faculty members very cautiously and . . .

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“The Glamour” — a short story by Mark Jacobs (Paraguay)

By Mark Jacobs (Paraguay 1978-80)   Lace likes how Deed touches her tits. His hands, cupping and brushing, send electric squigglies through her body. But it’s not just that, really it’s how the touch is like talking. Deed’s touch is part of the conversation they are always having about Sausalito. They’ll live on a boat, eat fish, get tanned, fuck under the stars. They’ll be their own avatars. The pictures are so vivid in Lace’s mind, she’s pretty sure she’ll slit her wrists if something goes wrong and they don’t go there. “So is Calhoun this son of a bitch’s first name or his last name?” “I don’t know. I don’t care.” Calhoun is Rhonda’s latest mistake. Rhonda is Lace’s mother. She specializes in getting things wrong. Rhonda won’t come out and say it, but she intends to invite Calhoun to move in. The dude has no job and even . . .

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John McAuliff (Peru) | People of the Year Awards Winner

  John McAuliff (Peru 1964-66) is Executive Director and Founder of the Fund for Reconciliation & Development, and has been a lifelong activist in student, civil rights, and peace movements. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Peru. In 1985, he founded the Fund for Reconciliation and Development to achieve normal US diplomatic, educational, cultural, and economic relations with post-war Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. After that was achieved in the late 1990s, he changed the primary focus of the organization to obtaining similar normal US relations with Cuba, working especially in policy, travel, and educational and cultural exchange. The Times Review Media Group, publisher of The Suffolk Times, Riverhead News-Review, Shelter Island Reporter, Northforker and Southforker, recently gave John McAuliff one of its annual People of the Year Awards. John has been working since the early 1960s to promote reconciliation and healing and build commonality all over the world. John . . .

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Suffering isn’t mandatory. Bake a cake!

  by Troy Schneider (Paraguay 2023-)   Something that I’ve slowly started to realize about the Peace Corps is that it is not as terrible as some make it sound. From the outside, it seems like the Peace Corps is some kind of monastic tradition, where you leave all attachments, belongings, and comforts behind to live as an ascetic. This is just not true. Sure, a Peace Corps Volunteer goes to where there are far fewer modern comforts, and we definitely live a much humbler lifestyle, but this is not some strict rule. It is just the everyday reality of our service. For example, I went on a beach camping trip last weekend! It was for a music festival in the river town of Alberdí. I went with a group of around 6 other volunteers, and we all had a blast. We went out a couple of times, cooked our . . .

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“What am I doing in Paraguay?” by Troy Schneider

  by Troy Schneider (Paraguay 2024-)   At this point, I’ve probably been asked the question “Why did you join the Peace Corps?” a hundred times. Yet each time, I think I’ve given a different answer or at least a variation of an old answer. Truth is, there was no one reason why I sent off that application back in December of 2022. There was quite the variety. Peace Corps Volunteer Recipe: 2 cups of wanting to help people and make myself feel good (by the way, I’ve decided I’m going to be very honest in this blog) 1 cup of adventurous desire to see the world 1/2 cup of ability to be uncomfortable (add more later) 1 tbsp of restless spirit syndrome 1 tbsp of wanting to experience new cultures and ways of existing 1/2 tsp of language skills 3 cups of not wanting to get a 9-5 job . . .

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“Overcoming Grief and Assault With 29 Marathons” by Summer Willis (Mexico)

. . . and Now Helping Others Do the Same   Hello! Who are you? Hello, I’m Summer Willis (Mexico 2019-20). My journey has taken me from meeting my husband in the Peace Corps in Mexico, where we both served as volunteers, to impactful experiences in Teach for America in New Orleans. My passion for teaching also led me to Tanzania and Chile. Currently living in Lexington, Virginia, with my husband and two sons, Alfred and August, my life is a blend of family, adventure, and commitment to values like faith, health, and service. My endeavors have recently taken an exciting turn with a newfound joy in running. This year, I’m undertaking a remarkable challenge of running 29 marathons. As the founder of the nonprofit Strength Through Strides and a soon-to-be-published children’s book author, my life is a testament to pursuing passions and living by one’s values. My favorite cuisine, Mexican food, . . .

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Charles Murray (Thailand) . . . “The Most Dangerous Conservative.”

  The New York Times put Charles Murray on the cover of its Sunday Magazine, calling him “The Most Dangerous Conservative.”   That was after he co-wrote the book, The Bell Curve, which argued that different ethnic groups have, on average, different IQs. As Murray puts it in my video this week, “Blacks on average have a lower IQ than whites. However, whites are not at the top. East Asians, on average, have a higher IQ than whites. Ashkenazi Jews have higher IQs.” Other researchers agree. An article in ScienceDirect journal puts it this way, “East Asians and their descendants average an IQ of about 106, Europeans and their descendants about 100, and Africans and their descendants about 85.” But many people don’t believe it. Many don’t even want such topics discussed. Last time Murray tried speaking to college students, a mob shouted him down. “They’re angry at you because you’re . . .

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Peter Navarro (Thailand) sentenced to prison

In the news —  Ex-Trump adviser sentenced to 4 months in prison   Former Trump adviser Peter Navarro (Thailand 1965-68) speaking outside a federal court in Washington, D.C., in September 2023. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images Former Trump adviser Peter Navarro was sentenced to four months in prison on Thursday for defying a 2022 congressional subpoena from the House committee that investigated the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Why it matters: Navarro is now the second Trump adviser to receive a prison sentence for refusing to testify before the panel and provide it documents related to attempts to overturn the 2020 election. In addition to his prison sentence, Navarro was ordered to pay a $9,500 fine. Catch up quickly: Navarro was accused by the Jan. 6 committee of working with fellow Trump adviser Steve Bannon and others to develop a plan to delay Congress’ certification of the 2020 election. Bannon was the first high-ranking Trump official to be sentenced . . .

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