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 the world.”
For the purpose of information and, perhaps amusement and recollections for those who served in these projects, here are the countries, the training sites, and dates of the first nine projects.
About 98% of the PCVs who went into Training in the very first years of the Peace Corps went to train on college campuses. Peace Corps Training was moved into host countries in the late ’60s because it was thought that would be more “real,” and it was a lot cheaper for the agency to train overseas and not house Trainees on college campuses and in dormitories around the U.S.
This list of the Very First Training Groups in the summer of ’61 might be a trip down memory lane for some readers of this blog. [It will be interesting to see what these RPCVs might remember, and might post as comments on this site about their early Peace Corps Training. Write back.]
Also, this Moyers’ document might “set in stone” the actual dates of those first projects and settle who was first where and when! which, of course, is a constant argument among PCVs who went overseas during the first summer of the Peace Corps. Have you ever met a Colombia I Volunteer, for example, who didn’t introduce himself and then quickly add, “I was the first Volunteer overseas.”
Now we know Ghana I Volunteers were the first Volunteers to land in Accra, the capital of Ghana, on the afternoon of September 1, 1961. But the FIRST VOLUNTEERS to go into Training were Colombia, June 25, 1961 [Rutgers] and Tanganyika, June 25, 1961 [Texas Western College, El Paso, Texas] so giving the time changes….the first Volunteers were Colombia I…..so, I guess, we will have to listen to all those Colombia guys telling us how ‘they’ were the first Volunteers, at least to go into Peace Corps Training.
Congratulations and now be quiet.