1
President Obama, Listen to Concetta
2
Rajeev Goyal Rallys The Corps!
3
Four Remaining Peace Corps Projects
4
What Where Those First Peace Corps Projects?
5
The Peace Corps in the DR, 1965
6
Shriver And The First Trainees
7
Madoff's Friends in Palm Beach
8
Who Were The Very First Peace Corps Volunteers?
9
When Writing Meant Typing
10
Vote For God!

President Obama, Listen to Concetta

When I was the Manager of the New York Recruitment Office, back in the mid-90s, I worked for Concetta Bencivenga (Thailand 1992-94). Well, actually I was her boss, but all of us in the office seem to end up working  for Concetta! After her tour as a Recruiter, she won a full scholarship to Texas (given to RPCVs by the University, another benefit of being a PCV) and got her masters degree. She now is a hotshot VP at the Please Touch Museum in Philly. This is a letter that she wrote the President recently asking for an increase in funding for the agency. (A word to the wise…If I were you, President Obama, I’d listen to Concetta) Dear President Obama: I am saddened by your decision to overlook a funding increase for the Peace Corps.  I served as a volunteer in Thailand from 1992 – 1994 and as a Recruiter . . .

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Rajeev Goyal Rallys The Corps!

Rajeev Goyal (Nepal 2001-03) is the Coordinator of the MorePeaceCorps Campaign. Actually he is the only person working full time on this project. He works out of New York City, and is being funding by an RPCV, but the NPCA takes credit for his work. Don’t believe those folks in D.C. Rajeev is beating the bushes  for RPCVs to rally around an increase in funding for the Peace Corps. The President has a bill now to provide $450 million to the Peace Corps in 2010 in his early April budget from OMB. The $450 million mark is what is laid out in the recently introduced “Peace Corps Expansion Act 2009” (HR 1066) The reason for the necessary increase in funding is because if there is no new funding the Peace Corps will shrink. It has already been downsized by 500 volunteers in 2009, dipping below 3,500 Volunteers, this is at a time when the White House pledged 16,000 . . .

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Four Remaining Peace Corps Projects

Four remaining projects that Bill Moyers listed in his early memorandum started Training in the summer of ’61. Come fall, the number of new Training groups rapidly increased on the campuses of the U.S. and at the Peace Corps Training Site in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. The Peace Corps was in full swing. I’ll stop listing them now, before I run out of space. Pakistan (East and West): Two pilot projects in agriculture, education, and community development are being undertaken–one in West, the other in East Pakistan. Peace Corps Volunteers will serve as junior instructors in Pakistan colleges; teach new farming methods and maintenance of improved farming implements; organize youth clubs; and work in hospitals. In West Pakistan, Volunteers stationed in Lahore and Lyallpur will work on hospital staffs, on college faculties and staffs, and as members of agricultural extension teams. Volunteers to East Pakistan will be assigned to government ministries, a village development . . .

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What Where Those First Peace Corps Projects?

[I received a comment from Leo Cecchini asking what where Those First Projects. Here’s are 5 of the first 9 PC Training programs. PCVs from those early groups might want to respond with personal stories from these groups.] Chile: Peace Corps Volunteers will assist in programs of community development and rural education as members of development teams of Chile’s Instituto de Educacion Rural. 45 Volunteers, men and women, were requested. Training was four months, two in this country and two in Chile. The U.S. Training took place at the University of Notre Dame, from July 20–September 11, 1961.It was directed by Dr. Walter Langford, Professor of Romance Languages at the University of Notre Dame. Colombia: Increasing farm productivity, improving village health and eduction, raising rural living standards, and helping Colombia achieve economic and social stability in its rural areas are the goals of this Peace Corps project. 57 Peace Corps . . .

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The Peace Corps in the DR, 1965

Let me end the week with another piece of Peace Corps history.  No, not about the Kennedys or Shriver, but about Peace Corps Volunteers, the heart, the soul, the real reason for the agency.  I’m not going to write about Ethiopia and the wonderful Volunteers who served there [but I could!]. No, I want to tell you about the Dominican Republican Volunteers of 1965. Back in ’65 the PCVs of the DR were overwhelmingly against the 1963 right-wing military coup that overthrew Juan Bosch’s newly elected, leftist government (which had invited the Peace Corps to the country). These Volunteers lived and worked among the poor, they were working to remove the stain of the US’s long standing support for Rafael Trujillo, and when the civil war broke out in ’65 the Volunteers sympathized with the “legitimatist” rebels. Then President Johnson sent in 500 Marines “to protect American lives” and the American . . .

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Shriver And The First Trainees

From the day after JFK’s inauguration until June 26, 1961, Sarge Shriver was surrounded by staff he recruited from among the best and the brightest.  But not on the 26th. That day, the Director was surrounded by strangers, trainees selected by others, the Volunteers for Colombia I. Sarge was ill at ease, with reason. The selection committee complained of the “paucity of good, fully qualified candidates.” Some were high school graduates, others had completed only two years of college. About a dozen had not even taken the Peace Corps test. References for most were incomplete, few met minimal language qualifications, and the “special skills” fell far short of what the Colombian government, Peace Corps and CARE, the project administrator, had requested. It was a hot, humid day in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and Sarge removed his jacket. With the Bay of Pigs fiasco the most recent media story on Latin . . .

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Madoff's Friends in Palm Beach

BOOK REVIEW If  you have read anything about Bernie Madoff, the $65 billion swindler, who took most of the fortunes of his good friends in Palm Beach (and elsewhere) in the giant Ponzi scheme he operated since the early ’90s, you’ll appreciate this book on his Palm Beach crowd. Written by RPCV Larry Leamer the book was published just weeks before Bernie the Bandit went down. Madness Under the Royal Palms: Love and Death Behind the Gates of Palm Beach by Laurence Leamer (Nepal 1965-67) Hyperion 2009 Reviewed by Richard Lipez (Ethiopia 1962-64) Laurence Leamer has written gossipy books about the Kennedys and Arnold Schwarzenegger that have brought some actual thought to celebrity-mongering.  Now he has come up with an exercise in commercial star-fuckery, dull-withered-rich-people division, that some of his readers may find considerably less alluring than his takes on Jackie and Ethel.  Others might cruise through this stuff with . . .

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Who Were The Very First Peace Corps Volunteers?

I found an old document, a pamphlet really, published by the Peace Corps with a letter from Bill Moyers, then Associate Director for Public Affairs. The pamphlet has a date of November 1, 1961 [Moyers’ letter, which is with the pamphlet, is addressed “FOR YOUR INFORMATION and dated November 8, 1961. This ancient Peace Corps document is the “Descriptions of the first 9 projects, including purpose, training, Volunteer skills needed, technical qualifications of Volunteers, and information about the taining officials.” In his letter, Moyers adds, “Since this edition of PROFILES was prepared, three additional projects have been announced. They are Thailand, Maylaya and Sierra Leone.” Moyers sums up, “I hope you will find the PROFILES helpful in providing you with specific information about the work of the Peace Corps overseas and of the role it is playing in the struggle for economic and social progress among the developing nations thorughout . . .

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When Writing Meant Typing

I loved my Lettera. My Olivetti Lettera 32. My slim, blue 13-pound typewriter. It told the world I was a writer, even when I wasn’t. It meant adventure. Romance. It meant I was heroic and daring. (Even if I wasn’t.) But most of all, it meant I was a writer. My Olivetti Lettera 32 was the touchstone of my ambition: to be a writer. Though, in truth, at first all I wrote home were letters. In the fall of 1962, I slipped a thin blue air letter under the platen, spun the knob, and typed: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Dear Mom & Dad. A letter home from Africa. For the next twenty years, my Olivetti helped me write more than just letters home. Letters from Nairobi, Kenya; Tel Aviv, Israel; Mahon, Menorca; Galway, Ireland; Beijing, China. I began to bang out — in its tiny pica type — articles, poetry, essays, travel . . .

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Vote For God!

BOOK REVIEW Roland Merullo who served in Micronesia back in the day has written a political book that is “right on” when it comes to what is happening in Washington today. And Matt Losak, who served as a PCV in Lesotho, and later worked  as an advance man for President Clinton,  reviews the book for our site. You might say it is a match made in heaven, or… American Savior by Roland Merullo (Micronesia 1979-80) Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2008 Reviewed by Matt Losak (Lesotho 1985-88) So, you’re thinking we may have just elected the ideal candidate for President of the United States:  he’s black and white and well-read all over, he’s good looking, he’s from everywhere U.S.A. and possesses a political mind that synthesizes the nation’s best visionary thought into today’s kitchen-table problem solving. But in Roland Merullo’s, American Savior, there comes along a third-party candidate, or, should I say, then comes along . . .

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