Stone Soup


If Peace Corps history were a meal, Stone Soup would head the menu. In the fable, a poor village had nothing to eat but the people had a pot, water, fire and a stone.  They heated the water using the ancient technique of heating the stone and dropping it into the pot. Soon someone tossed in a carrot. Somebody else had a small piece of meat. Little by little, they made soup. The RPCVs who have made such giant efforts at preserving Peace Corps history are the water, the fire, the pot and the stone. 


I am speaking, of course, of  RPCVS such as John Coyne and Marian Haley Bell (Ethiopia) who created “Peace Corps Readers and Writers” many years ago to showcase literature written by Peace Corps Volunteers. Now they publish this blog.  Robert Klein (Ghana I) author of Ghana I – Being First.  Bob started the Returned Peace Corps Archival Project, which compliments the collection begun by NPCA. All can be found through the JFK Library. Hugh Pickens (Peace Corps Peru) is the creator and publisher of a comprehensive website which includes Peace Corps historical documents as well as current events. Lawrence Lihosit, is the author of many books including the soon to be published  Peace Corps Chronology. Lorenzo lobbies the Library of Congress to create a special collection of Peace Corps memoirs. To acknowledge these efforts is not to ignore so many other RPCVS who work to gather and preserve Peace Corps history. We all toss in what we have. Thank you all for the work.


Bob Klein cited the Papers of Peace Corps Volunteer collection at the Smithsonian to this blog, an excellent “secret cache.” Here is more information from the reference archivist, Leanda Gahegan

The Smithsonian Institution’s National Anthropological Archives has a collection of Peace Corps Volunteer papers, 1920-1984. The collection includes contributions from 101 former volunteers or administrators. Included are diaries, correspondence, writings, printed and processed material, sound recordings, and administrative materials. There are also photographic materials that show such subjects as traditional and modern agriculture, architecture, body scarification, ceremonies, dance, dress, fishing, food preparation and other domestic activities, industry, medicine, and transportation.

You may find more information about the contents of the papers by viewing the online finding aid here:

The collection is open for research. Please schedule an appointment to visit the National Anthropological Archives here:

The NAA is located a short distance from Washington, DC.

You may also request photocopies of certain material. If you have any questions, please contact Leanda Gahegan, Reference Archivist at<> or (301) 238-1310.

Leanda Gahegan Reference Archivist

National Anthropological Archives Smithsonian Institution

Museum Support Center  4210 Silver Hill Road

Suitland, MD 20746

(301) 238-1310 PHONE

(301) 238-2883 FAX

Visit us online at

Access our online catalog at

The Smithsonian collection, as Leanda explained, is not at the Smithsonian on the National Mall but out at Suitland, Md.  This is also the location of Federal Records Management Center, the place where it is best not to take pictures!

Lorenzo posted his concern about the raising rate of crime involving serving Volunteers, specifically rapes, which he encountered while doing the research for his book, Peace Corps Chronology. Hugh Pickens’ covers this issue extensively. To read, key “Safety and Security” in the search box of that site.  “Peace Corps Performance and Accountability Report for Fiscal 2009” can be found on the Peace Corps website:

It is an important public document.  Everyone in the Peace Corps Community should read it.  The Peace Corps site also lists current public documents which are available online.

I am grateful to all these sources for information. I think again of the Stone Soup fable. I first heard it in my son’s kindergarten class. But I recognized it immediately. When people in my Colombian village began a school lunch program, we had CARE commodities – powdered milk, beans, flour, bulgur, but no fresh vegetables or meat. The women in the village started making soup with the CARE products. And as the children came to school on that first day of the program, one brought a carrot, another a small piece of meat.

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