FIRST VOLUNTEERS TO SERVE: On this day — August 28, 1961

From National Peace Corps Association


FIRST VOLUNTEERS TO SERVE: On this day — August 28, 1961 — Peace Corps Director R. Sargent Shriver leads 80 Volunteers who are headed for Ghana and Tanganyika, now Tanzania, to the White House, where President John F. Kennedy will give them a personal send-off. JFK thanks them for embarking on their service, “on behalf of our country and, in the larger sense, as the name suggests, for the cause of peace and understanding.”

On August 30, 1961, after a 23-hour flight form Washington, 51 Volunteers will land in Accra, Ghana, to begin their service as teachers. We’re grateful to them and the communities that have worked together with Volunteers over six decades. The mission of the Peace Corps, then as now, is to build peace and friendship. As if we needed reminding, that’s work far from finished.

Photograph by Rowland Scherman, Peace Corps, in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.


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    • It is a beautiful shot! It captures for all time the hope, idealism, and spirit of great and risky adventure, which marked those very early years of the 1960s!

    • Dear Rowland,

      Seems to me that you were just about everywhere, including Ghana, and getting outstanding shots every step of the way.


  • I was in that group going to Ghana now referred to as Ghana One. Once a month now we zoom together usually about a dozen.

    • Edward, Your poetry is so meaningful. I think it is wonderful that Ghana One still can get together. Thank you.

  • Thank you Ghana I for your work. Because of you, I left grad school in June of 1965 for a Peace Corps training program at Portland State University in Oregon. We were the first in-country training program, sworn in after a month on the plane as we headed for Ankara,Turkey and Middle East Technical University. After two more months of training, it was, for me, two years in a mixed Kurdish-Turkish village in SE Turkey, a year on staff in D.C., and two more on staff in Turkey. Although we were asked to leave–courtesy the Vietnam War–and Turkey has had and has its problems, many of us in Turkey IX still treasure our time there and maintain relations with people and the country. Thanks again to Ghana I!

      • No, we email. We were on a group on Facebook, but it was decided that was really too personal. So we email as a group. Some of us are also on Facebook as individuals. We are a small group, but they are a gift for me! They were and are wonderful friends – and brave, caring women!

  • Great story and photo!!! THANKS!! A very special day! Peace Corps still alive with a super future!! A service of great value to the World!!


  • Great photo.
    Sixty years is a long time. I had forgotten being at the head of the line (flowered dress) on that historic walk. What I can never forget is how my Peace Corps service permanently changed my life and outlook. Ophelia De Laine Gona, GhanaOne

  • I was at that airport to greet the group in Ghana, at age 10, with my family. My father was with the Embassy — he thought it was important that his children see this new initiative and understand what the volunteers were there for. I was very struck by the idea of the Peace Corps and 11 years later I went off to Zaire as a PCV, and my sister followed a few years later to serve in Mali. Being “struck” by the idea of Peace Corps never lapsed – I continue to think of it as a formative experience for myself, and, hopefully, for my students. I was the first white person they had met that was around their age (I was about 3 years older than most of my high schoolers, and actually a couple were older than I), who was not a Belgian “colonist,” or a priest. I dressed like they did, shared their taste in music, and loved the beer. In turn, they exposed me to a view that was at the grass roots level, unlike the worlds I moved in as my parents followed their job from Embassy to Embassy around the world. My time in Peace Corps is the job I am most proud of.

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