The First 9 Peace Corps Projects

As we progress on events during this 50th year of the agency, here are a few of the historic “firsts.”

The First Nine Projects

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.

West Pakisan: 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 academy, and the faculty of a university. They will also help build a planned satellite city. Volunteers required: 30 Volunteers in West and 33 in East Pakistean. Training: Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado August 30–November 1, 1961. It was directed by Pauline Birkey, Coordinator of the Peace Corps’ West Pakistan Project Commitee. Trainees also went to Arrecibo, Puerto Rico from November 10–December 7, 1961.
East Pakistan: Volunteers Trained at The Experiment In International Living, Putney, Vermont, August 21-Octrober 14, 1961. It was directed by Reed Alvord, Administrator of the Peace Corps’ East Pakistan Project, and Director of Information, the Experiment in International Living.

Philippines: Peace Corps Volunteers in the Philippines will assist in improving the quality of English spoken in rural areas and in raising teaching standards in both English and general science. They will help Filipino teachers of rural elementary schools teach their students to speak better English and increase understanding of scientific principles. Volunteers will be assigned as eductional aides on Filipino treaching staffs in four major regions. They will supplement, not replace, Filipino teachers. It is expected that by June 1962 up to 300 Peace Corps Volunteers will be serving as educational aides. The first group of 128 Volunteers arrived in the Philippines in October, 1961. Training was at the Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania. July 25-September 15, 1961. It was directed by Dr. Paul Bixby, Assistant Dean, in Charge of Continuing Education.

St. Lucia: The agricultural and rural community development project on the island of St. Lucia is designed to serve as a pilot project for other isalnds in the West Indies Federatin which have similar economic and social conditions. 16 Volunteers were in the first group. Training was at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa from August 1-31, 1961. It was directed by Dr. Franklin P. Gardner, Professor of Agronomy, Iowa State University.

Tanganyika: Engineering, surveying and geological mapping–these were the tasks of the Peace Corps Volunteers in Tanganyika, a UN trust territory that gained full independence in December 1961. Volunteers were assigned to build a network of small farm-to-market roads extending to even the most remote agricultrual areas, to develop a system of main territorial roads that will be passable in both the rainy and dry seasons, and to do preliminary geological mapping for exploration of mineral resources. Volunteers required: 10 civil engineers, 5 geologists (4 hard rock, 1 soft rock) and 20 surveyors were requested. Training was in three phases, covering four and one-half months in the United States, Puerto Rico and Tanganyika. The U.S. Training Center was at Texas Western College, University of Texas, El Paso, June 25-August 20, 1961. It was directed by Dr. Clyde Kelsey, Jr., Texas Western Professor of Psychology and Chair of the Inter-American Institute.

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 Volunteeer and 4 Volunteer Leaders, who have guidance responsibilities. Nine weeks of study and training in the United States, followed by another five weeks of study in Colombia. The U.S. Training took place at Rutgers University, from June 25-August 25, 1961. It was directed by Dr. Ralph W. Greenlaw, on temporary leave from his posiiton as Director of Program Development, CARE, Inc.

Ghana: To prepare students for Ghana’s countrywide examination, Volunteers teach according to well-defined syllabuses adapted from the English system of education. All subjects are taught in English which is the national language of Ghana. 51 Peace Corps Volunteers were selected to teach in Ghana’s secondary schools. Volunteers spent nearly two months in the United States and a third month in Ghana. The U.S. Training took place at the University of California at Berkeley, California, from July 3-August 20, 1961. It was directed by Dr. Morton Gordon, Associate Director of University Extension, University of California.

India: Assigned to the Punjab State in northern India, Peace Corps Volunteers will work in an experimental Intensive District Agricultural Program, in village workers’ training centers, in an industrial training centre, and in engineering and agricultural colleges.The first contingent of 25 Volunteers will work in the Punjab. Volunteers trained for 10 weeks in the U.S., and starting in January 1962, train for 6 weeks in India. The U.S. Training took place at the Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, from October 1-December 8, 1961. It was directed by Dr. Richard H. Bohning, Ohio State’s Assistant Dean, College of Agriculture and Home Economics.

Nigeria: Two Peace Corps projects are scheduled for Nigeria. One will provide teachers to assist in improving the secondary school system; the other will aid in expanding the University of Nigeria at Nsukka. It is expected that by January 1962 approximately 115 Peace Corps Volunteers will be serving in Nigerian educational system. Three U.S. Training Programs were set up. The earliest group started training at Harvard to teach at secondary schools: July 24-September 6, 1961. Dr. John Monro, Dean of Harvard was project director. Michigan State University Training Project was from September 18-November 13, 1961. Dr. Donald Grummon, was project director and accompanied the group overseas. The third group trained at the University of California (UCLA) in Los Angeles from September 20-December 16, 1961. Elwin Svenson, Associate Director, Univerrsity Extension, was the project director. These three training types of programs represented an experiment approach upon which some future programs will be based.


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  • Interesting information. Thank you. Just a tidbit on Pauline’s tenure. When the question of her driving herself “on tour” was sent to DC, Shriver said, “She will drive. She doesn’t need a man to do that.” Pauline had stepped in to direct the Pakistan program when the former missionary tapped for the job had a nervous breakdown (I am not making this up) attributed to the disorganization of Peace Corps (as compared to the orderly character of church-directed work). He and his wife left the country abruptly. Pauline, used to the chaos of working with the super-charged Maury Albertson, took it all in stride. She was quite a gal.


  • I believe, and both John and Jane may correct me on this, but West Pakistan was the first and maybe the only project, where the University trained the Volunteers and then managed the project in-country.

    The archives of at Colorado State University have the final report of the project, aurthored by Pauline Birkey.

  • If I am correct, all of these were paid for under the President’s Executive Office’s budget, assuming that they were all in the field before the actual Peace Corps legislation was signed into law in September, 1961.

  • I don’t know who “Jane” is or where she was when all this happened. We were there. We are great fans and were great friends of Pauline and must say that neither the missionaries described nor the events portrayed are accurate. The former missionaries left because PC evaluator Charles Peters found them unsuited for the PC challenge, not because of any nervous breakdown (after all, these were a couple who had survived World War II in a Japanese internment camp with no known visible after effects.) They were kind, generous, and truly dedicated, but simply out of their element in the PC. We loved Pauline, and she did a remarkable job, but the record needs to be set straight.

  • I am just wondering if anyone can give me info. on a Wilmot McDowell, who was one of the early PC volunteers (along with his wife and daughter). I think he went to Africa but not sure. He was originally from Michigan.


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