Early Days — When the Peace Corps Had Innovative Training



Early Days — When the Peace Corps Had Innovative Training


One of the first and most unique Training site programs for the Peace Corps was in October of 1962 with 90 training for Colombia. They went to train in slum neighborhoods in New York City. Manhattan’s lower East Side, East Harlem, and Chelsea.

Organized by the New York School of Social Work of Columbia University, the Training program had seven hours a day of community work with New York City welfare agencies, in addition to classes in social work and in Spanish.

This phase of Training for Colombia followed eight weeks of training at the University of New Mexico and four weeks in Puerto Rico. The total Training program of 16 weeks at the time was the longest ever undertaken by the Peace Corps and the first to include fieldwork in a specifically urban environment.

The New York program was designed to prepare Volunteers for community development under the auspices of CARE in eight cities of Colombia.

Assignments in Colombia included work in initiating and developing neighborhood self-help projects and in helping to establish programs in adult education, home economics, health education, child care, and recreation.

The city’s Departments of Health and Welfare and the Neighborhood Conservation Bureau of the Redevelopment Board supervised the training. They were assisted by 10 private agencies, including the American Friends Service Committee and several settlement houses.

Working directly with the staffs of these welfare agencies, the Trainees were engaged in such projects as adult education, recreation for all ager groups, housing rehabilitation, painting, carpentry, and rat control. Other Trainees were assigned to children’s day-care centers, welfare homes, and shelters and day centers for the aged.

Although some observers, according to the Peace Corps, treated with skepticism this New Peace Corps approach to Training (see cartoon), most editorial comments at the time in New York newspapers favored it.

New York Mayor Wagner expressed New York’s desire to co-operate with the Peace Corps and offered the services of city department and various voluntary agencies.

This article appeared in the first issue of Peace Corps Volunteer in November 1962. With this issue the Peace Corps newsletter, PEACE CORPS NEWS was merged into the Peace Corps Volunteer. The merger eliminated duplication and more importantly meant that the agency could put out a more substantial publication, capable of covering a great variety of topics at greater length.

One new feature was a monthly section devoted to one host country or area. Volunteers were urged, as they had been in the past, to contribute articles and pictures. 

The first issue featured a half dozen articles on Colombia, the first Peace Corps country. Notes–John Coyne


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  • John,

    I believe this was Colombia III Urban Community Developement. The University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research has these items in Box 8 of the Peace Corps Collection:
    Colombia III – Biographical Sketches/Syllabus 1962-7/15 to 9/9
    Box 8
    Colombia III – Field Feedback 1962
    Box 8
    Colombia III – Final Report 1962- 7/15 to 10/9
    Box 8
    Colombia III – Syllabus 1962- 7/15 to 10/9
    Box 8
    Colombia III – Training Proposal 1962
    Box 8
    Colombia III – Volunteers 1962

    The collection is the most complete training archive. Its organization would be a model if Peace Corps were ever to get a Library.

  • I have a recollection of my first encounter with Colombia III. I hope I am remembering right. My site partner and I arrived in the Cali airport on our way to our assignment south of the city. We were not met by anyone. We had been expecting the PCL. So, we hailed a car and asked to go to Cuerpo de Paz. Cali was a city, then of hundreds of thousands of people. The driver immediately took us to a poor barrio and dropped us off at a nondescript house. We knocked and the door was opened by an American young woman who asked us who we were. I said, Colombia 11(Eleven). She said omg, and closed the door.

    I knocked again and she reopened. She told us the night before a member of Colombia III had married the mayor of Cali. PCVs had been celebrating all night. They had no idea Colombia was being inundated by more PCVs, namely us. Eventually, our PCL was located and drove us to our new site. He dropped us at the hotel and told us to write when we found work.

  • Gob-smacked Joanne by your briefly simply-penned exquisite crying goat’s commentary
    about your engagement as a youthful pc “ambassador” that was and remains in the telling disquieting.
    The dream has been deflated, but the story is the revelation and so regardless we press
    on through growing-up stumbling into progressions of maturities so as “when we get it right” to demise.

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