Review: Chic Dambach's Exhaust the Limits

exhaust-limits-170Exhaust the Limits: The Life and Times of a Global Peacebuilder
by Charles “Chic” F. Dambach (Colombia 1967–69)
Apprentice House
$18.95
314 pages
November 2010

Reviewed by Bob Arias (Colombia 196466; Peace Corps Crisis Corps: Panama, Paratuay 20092010; Peace Corps Staff: Training Center/Puerto Rico 196668; Colombia APCD 196873; PC/DC 197677; CD/Argentina, Uruguay 199395))

IN READING ABOUT CHIC DAMBACH´s compelling and moving journey, I am struck by the need to label his efforts as seeking Peace as his Target!  I was moved. It began for Chic Dambach in college, and it has never ceased. Attending the University of Oklahoma on a football scholarship — an outstanding college prospect — he came upon racism on the playing field of his school. He met it head on. It wasn’t just another game for Chic. Fighting racist attitudes was his first challenge, and he reached out to make a difference.

This is his  trademark, whether on a football field in Oklahoma, in Colombia, Washington, DC, or later in Ethiopia and Eritrea. He also had the drive, and leadership, to get others involved with him. His book is filled with photos of Chic and United States presidents, from Clinton to Reagan to Bush to Carter. All would join with Chic Dambach in his causes.

I have yet to meet Chic, although our paths could easily have crossed. I began as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia in 1964 and by 1968 I was back in Colombia having been assigned to Barranquilla and later Cartagena as the Peace Corps representative for the region.

Reading Chic’s journey as a “global peacebuilder” I would have liked to hear more about how it all began for him in Colombia. I wanted to hear more about his site, the people, and community and barrios, and the first woman he married in his first year as a PCV.

I wanted Chic to tell me more about his Colombian son, where is he now and what is he doing. And now that Peace Corps has returned to Colombia — Cartagena to be specific — will Chic be going back to offer his ideas for making a difference once again in his host country? I truly hope so for he has much to offer, having achieved so much in his many years of public service.

What comes through Chic´s book, Exhaust the Limits, is the love and attention that Volunteers pay to their country of service. Our newly adopted country becomes part of our lives. Chic is part Colombian and he will always have a special place in his heart for the people of Colombia.

I believe that Chic Dambach has demonstrated that international diplomacy can use more seasoned citizens (like him!) as Peacebuilders.  Perhaps this may give new meaning to the Third Goal of the Peace Corps…¨Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.¨

Beyond the work that Chic did in Cartagena, he also reached out to both sides of the conflict in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Our own State Department thought he and his friends were amateurs and would fail in their efforts to bring peace to the Horn of Africa. They did fail, but the Ethiopians and the Eritreans sensed a true sincere effort by these “amateurs” to try and achieve peace between the warring nations.

Chic’s book joins a long list of other classic tales of one man’s struggle and journey, from Gerry Adams’ A Father Shore: Ireland Long Road to Peace to Richard Holbrooke’s To End A War. His book has opened new avenues for many of us as Citizen Volunteers to follow. Now what more can Chic — and all of us! — do to make a difference?

To order Exhaust the Limits from Amazon, click on the book cover or the bold book title — and Peace Corps Worldwide, an Amazon Associate, will receive a small remittance that helps support our awards.

Bob Arias has had a long history with the Peace Corps, first as a PCV, then PC staff memeber overseas and finally as a Special Consultant to the Peace Corps Director to review the Safety and Security for the agency following the attack on 9/11, and then again as a volunteer with the Crisis Corps.

5 Comments

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  • Thanks John…but it is now called Response not Crisis Corps, and it is the great nation of Paraguay. What do you think Chic?
    Bob Arias
    Peace Corps Response Volunteer/Paraguay

  • Thanks, Bob. I know of the new name, but since I thought of the name “Crisis Corps,” and the concept, and Mark Gearan took that name and idea and “ran with it,” I think I’ll keep calling it Crisis Corps.

    Anyway, “Response” is such a wishy-washy,, weak-sister, and basically silly name, that no one in their right mind would use it.

  • Bob,
    I am honored that you were selected to write the review. I’m not sure we ever met either, but I have known of you and admired you ever since we were both in Colombia at the same time – you on staff and me as a Volunteer.
    On the Crisis Corps / Response Corps issue, I agree with John. I like Crisis Corps better. As indicated in the book, it grew out of the Emergency Response Network we created at the National Peace Corps Association. Very few people know that piece of Peace Corps history.
    I appreciate everything in the review. It is far more gracious and positive than I deserve. I just have two points of dissent. First, I went to Oklahoma State, not the U of Oklahoma. That is a very important distinction. We’re the Cowboys, not the Sooners! Second, our RPCV team felt that we were remarkably successful in our effort to help end the border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The heads of state from both countries expressed deep appreciation for our central role in bringing the war to an end. Even though the State Department didn’t appreciate our intervention into their territory, Sec of State M. Albright was effusive in her praise for our role and our success when we were together in Algiers for the peace treaty ceremony. A few weeks after the treaty was signed, a Washington, DC street vendor from Eritrea recognized me and exclaimed, “i know you… You brought peace to my country.” I would call that success.
    Let’s meet one of these days! All the best. – Chic

  • Chic, Congratulations on the book! You may remember our paths crossed several times: Peace Corps, National Endowment for the Arts, Museums (and George Sebolt), and maybe more.

  • David, Of course I remember you! Where are you now? What are you doing? You’ll enjoy the parts of the book about the early days of NALAA and our efforts to get Local Arts Agencies recognized by Congress and the NEA. Those were great times! – Chic

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