I Get Mail….from RPCV writers

Once a week or so I get a book in the mail sent by an RPCV. Usually I know the book is coming, or there is a letter inside the package, saying, “hi, I’ve written a book about my time in….” Yesterday, however, I got an oversize (9×12) beautiful book of text and photos entitled colombia-pictures-storiesColombia: Pictures & Stories from someone named Sandy Fisher (Colombia 1962-64). No explanation. No note. No nothin’ as my son use to say when he was six.

Plus, it was autographed! Well, someone had scribbled “Sandy Fisher” on the title page, no date, no comment, no nothin’.

(You’ve got to love Peace Corps Writers. They are surely not into self-promotion.)

This “Sandy,” as I said, was a PCV in Colombia from 1962-64, first doing community development work in Tenjo, outside of Bogota. After one year there, he went to be a volunteer leader on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia, based in Barranquilla. He was responsible for 20 sites and god knows how many PCVs.

Following the Peace Corps, Sandy returned to Columbia University and got a B S. Then he went back to Colombia to run an experimental cattle ranch in the los llanos for eight years along with his wife Rossie (not sure where they got together.) When they came home again, he became one of the first Executive Directors of a camp in Virginia for medically handicapped kids. Today, the couple run a cattle farm on 300 acre in Goochland, Virginia.

The place is called Brookview Farm. They have owned it for 25 years, raising cattle on a diet of grass and clover. The farm also provides “education, and opportunities for people to connect with their food source while consistently practicing responsible, sustainable agriculture.”

Along the way, Rossie and Sandy had two children. Son Murray graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1998 and worked with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in Garrison, New York with Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance, and then founded and now directs the New York Harbor School. Their daughter Jane went to Salem College, worked for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, earned an MBA from Bainbridge Graduate Institute in 2004, and later she worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society in Africa. Today Jane is executive director at the Charlottesville Community Design Center in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Wouldn’t we all like to have our kids turn out like these two?)

But back to the book. It is full of striking black-and-white photos that have been beautifully reproduced and the history of Sandy’s years in Colombia are explained in simple, clear prose that plainly tells the story of his life in the Peace Corps, his love for Colombia, and his connection to the people. This is really a first class book produced by a small team: one editor, a graphic designer, and  printer at Capital Offset Company. It is sold for $60 from a Post Office Box (126) in Manakin-Sabot, Virginia 23103!

Oh, there is one other ‘connection’ I should mention. The foreword was written by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.  It, too, is nicely done.  Young Kennedy met Sandy Fisher in 1969, when he was still in high school and would go down to the Rio Meta region of the Colombian llanos to work on Mozambique, a ranch then managed by Sandy. The ranch, Kennedy writes, “was owned by Gus Stroud, a philanthropic friend of Uncle Jack’s friend Lem Billings.”

See, with the Peace Corps we always keep going back to the beginning….no matter how far we travel, or how long we have been away.

4 Comments

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  • John:

    A little personal touch on Sandy, he bought my Peace Corps issue horse and rode it 50 miles overland, in a day, to his site!!!

    Sandy Fisher is contending with Huntingdon’s Disease on a daily basis so note writing is difficult. I am amazed he self -published this beautiful book.

    Sandy was a member of Colombia II (1962-1964) , the second group of all males who came to Colombia, prior to Peace Corps declaring the country safe for female volunters. Sandy originates from Baltimore and his uncle, Lem Billings, was Jack Kennedy’s roommate at Harvard. He beacme a Volunteer Leader ( one of the guys with a jeep cruising the countryside checking whether PCV’s were actually in the sites!” and not living the monikor “Cuerpo de Paseo!”)

    Sandy stayed on in Colombia for twnenty years as a cattle rancher in the Llanos, ( the plains and jungle ) wearing jeans, boots and a plaid shirt ( an outfit he still sports today on his farm in Southern Virginia where he and Rosie, his wife, of 44 years raise organic beef) ) Sandy left Colombia in 1985 ( the Peace Corps left in 1981) when the FARC started slaughtering his cattle and ranch hands.

    He came to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in a wheelchair and vows to return in September for the 50th..

  • Sandy’s story is one of those that capture the spirit and legacy of the Peace Corps. The experience massages the soul and leads ordinary Americans to dedicate additional years of their lives to helping others.

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