Fran Hopkins Irwin and Will Irwin publish The Early Years of Peace Corps in Afghanistan with Peace Corps Writers

This month Frances Hopkins Irwin (Afghanistan 1964–67) and Will A. Irwin (Afghanistan 1966–67) published The Early Years of Peace Corps in Afghanistan: A Promising Time with Peace Corps Writers. Here’s what they say about their book:

The Peace Corps in Afghanistan
The first four years of Peace Corps in Afghanistan was a promising time. Nine Volunteers, perhaps the smallest Peace Corps program around the world, arrived in 1962. They were greeted with skepticism and all placed in Kabul. What skills could they contribute? Wouldn’t their presence cause trouble in this country bordering the Soviet Union? The Early Years tells how within a year the five teachers, three nurses, and a mechanic had demonstrated their skills, how they and the following Volunteers connected with the Afghan community through jazz, folk music, and basketball and used sawdust stoves to avoid paying for oil. By 1966, over 200 Peace Corps Volunteers were serving across the country as the number of secondary school students doubled, Kabul University opened a new campus, a new constitution gave women and men equal rights, and the Salang tunnel reduced travel times from days to hours.

Our book
early-years-pc-afgA conversation with first Peace Corps/Afghanistan Director Robert L. Steiner, who brought a knowledge of Persian language and culture from growing up in Iran to setting up the program, frames the story of The Early Years of Peace Corps in Afghanistan: A Promising Time. A Foreword by former Deputy Minister of Education Saif Samady, who in an earlier role at the Ministry cooperated with Steiner on programming, notes his very special experience of working with Volunteers.

Contributions from a dozen Volunteers and other staff, and records from government and personal archives expand the story. Sami Nour recalls how he found a part-time job helping find housing for Volunteers to supplement the low salaries of Kabul University instructors. Deputy Director Robert S. McClusky provides memories and pictures of the royal family’s 1964 reception for Volunteers. Len Oppenheim’s letters record his arrival in Kandahar and his feelings as he prepares to leave after two years of teaching.

In addition, an 80-page section makes available pieces written by Volunteers during this period for newsletters, and training materials that are now difficult to find.

A quote about the book from Nour Rahimi,
former editor of the
Kabul Times
“The arrival of Peace Corps Volunteers in the 1960s was one of the best things that happened in Afghanistan. They were welcome helping hands as the country began taking small steps to improve education and health and reform governance. What makes this book a must-read — for Afghans, Americans, and others interested in international cooperation — is that it provides an example of an appreciated and cost-effective aid program, one that worked.”

The Early Years of Peace Corps in Afghanistan: A Promising Time
by Frances Hopkins Irwin (Afghanistan 1964–67) and Will A. Irwin (Afghanistan 1966–67)
Peace Corps Writers Imprint
312 pages
$17.00 (paperback), $6.00 (Kindle)
February 2014

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