Within the RPCV crowd from those early days there is a lot of joshing about who was first in Training, first in-country, first on the job. Mostly the discussion (argument?) goes on with RPCV from Ghana, Tanganyika, Colombia, and the Philippines. (The rest of us couldn’t care less.)
But for the record:
Colombia I started Training on 6/25/61 (48 Trainees)
Tanganyika on 6/25/61 (35 Trainees)
Ghana on 7/2/61 (51 Trainees)
Nigeria I on 7/24/61 (39 Trainees)
Nigeria II on 9/18/61 (24 Trainees)
Nigeria III on 9/20/61 (45 Trainees)
Sierra Leone on 11/7/61 (32 Trainees)
Philippines I on 7/13/61 (272 Trainees in 4 Training Projects)
Philippines II on 8/25/61
Philippines III on 12/7/61
Philippines IV on 3/29/62
Thailand on 10/9/61 (45 Trainees)
Chile on 7/20/61 (45 Trainees)
St. Lucia on 8/1/61 (15 Trainees)
India on 10/1/61 (26 Trainees)
Pakistan-West 9/15/61 (28 Trainees)
Pakisten-East 8/30/61 (29 Trainees)
Malaya I 10/16/61 (67 Trainees)
We also know that Ghana arrived first overseas, landing in Accra on September 1, 1961, so they can claim that record.
But who was the very first PCV? Who was #000001?
That’s a harder question to answer, but one person, a Volunteer who went to the Philippines, has a pretty good claim to the honor, and thanks to Maureen Carroll (Philippines 1961-63; PC/Staff DC 1963-68; CD/Botswana 1991-93; PC/Staff DC 1993-99) who alerted me, I found through emails RPCV Pera Daniels (Philippines 1961-63) who lives in Nevada and he wrote to say, “There are many definitions of the “first” volunteer so I am careful in talking about it.”
Nevertheless, this is the story that Pera tells, all these years later, and it is an interesting tale to tell when someone asks: “How did you get into the Peace Corps?”
“In January, 1961,” Pera wrote me, “I had completed all my course work for a BA degree at San Francisco State College. I took a little longer to graduate than most because I worked full time while going to school. The brokerage firm that I worked for offered me a full time professional job at that time but I asked them to wait a couple of months so I could see our country.
“I hopped on a Greyhound bus and puddle-jumped across the country arriving in the D.C. area around the end of February or early March. After a week of sightseeing, I saw an article in the Washington Post that the Peace Corps was opening an office on Lafayette Square. Curious to discover what this organization was all about, I went to find out.
“I arrived early in the morning, and typical of the Peace Corps organization during those years, there was no office but a building and a moving truck. As I recall there were two women who seemed to be in charge and they were moving these large boxes from the moving van to the third floor of this building. Like a true volunteer, I offered to help. Again, as I recall, there were three others like me, plus a Washington Post reporter.
“After we were interviewed and all the boxes were moved to the third floor, the other three ‘volunteers’ and I talked about what it would be like to join the Peace Corps. They had all filled out applications before so they talked me into filling one out also. It seems that the boxes we took upstairs contained all the applications. So, I went back upstairs, filled out an application and placed it on top of the stack. I can only assume that the next morning they started to process the applications and mine was entered as the first Peace Corps Volunteer.”
Now, of course, we are left with a new mystery: Who were those other three guys?