Category: Peace Corps

The True Impact of the Peace Corps: Returning from the Dominican Republic ’03-’05

I am an RPCV: a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. For me the Peace Corps was an intense life experience, above anything else. As I continue to reflect on it, I am struck with the many and varied ways in which it continues to affect my life. As a PCV in the Dominican Republic from September 2003 to November 2005, I lived, worked, and learned in a small sugar cane-dependent community two hours outside of Santo Domingo…

In the Shadow of JFK: One Peace Corps Experience

I am often asked about the Peace Corps by students and recent graduates. The most frequent questions are, “why join?”, “what did you do?”, and “what has it meant for your career?” Here is my story. My earliest recollection of international curiosity was in the fourth grade when Sister Margaret Thomas described her experience as a recently returned missionary in Bangladesh. In high school, my sister Mary went to Peru on …

Small Loans Fund Big Dreams: From Peace Corps to ACCION

Six weeks after graduating from Harvard’s class of 1999, I joined the Peace Corps and became an Environment Volunteer. I moved to Nicaragua with rudimentary Spanish skills, unquenchable optimism, and no real idea of what I was getting myself into. In 1960, when John F. Kennedy first presented the idea of what would become the Peace Corps, he asked a group of Michigan students how many of them were willing to serve their …

Have You Ever Viu Na Vida?: A Peace Corps Experience in Brazil

In the very late sixties, as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Brazil, I scribbled a small poem in a travel delirium brought on by a heady combination of hunger and strong spirits—cachaça, to be precise—on a long bus ride between Recife and Rio de Janeiro. We PCVs in Brazil were poorly paid in those days and I had precious little money to spare on this trip. The Itapemirim bus stopped every so often for refueling and I basically ate bread …

Constructing Dreams: A Young Peace Corps Architect in Pasto, Colombia

My primary motivation for joining the Peace Corps in 1966 was one of answering my country’s call to service; and specifically one that was a substitute for the military. The Vietnam draft was a fact of life, and I had already received five years of educational deferments from the Selective Service for my architectural training. As was the case for so many young men at the time, I looked toward the post-graduate alternative …

How Can They Love Us When They Hate Us?: The Dominican Republic 1969

The U.S. Embassy went on red alert and urged all Americans, including me, to stay home to avoid being targets of violent attack. The Middle East today? No, the Dominican Republic, in May, 1969. The cause of the alert was a visit by New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, sent by President Nixon on a fact-finding tour of Latin America. I was in the Dominican Republic as a Peace Corps volunteer, and long before Rockefeller landed, …

My Hometown in Costa Rica: Carrying Out the 60s Vision

I served in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica from 1988-1990 as a soil conservation volunteer, one of only four serving there at the time out of over 200 volunteers. I was asked to do this work based on my Master’s degree in Soil Physics from the University of Massachusetts, which I had earned a few months before. My assignment was to a neighborhood that was fairly well-developed economically. I lived in Matinilla, a rural …

Under the Bridge: And Down from the Hills

I remember clearly the thirty seconds when I grew up. As we crossed the bridge over the river on the way from the airport, I looked down onto a multitude of shacks climbing crazily up the steep slopes of the sludgy riverbank. An awful truth was suddenly clear: in two years’ time, when I made the reverse trip on my way to the airport and home, I would look down on those same shacks climbing up the riverbank. Nothing I would …

The Call of Service: What JFK Wrought

My bellwether, my life-changing day—like that of so many others of my generation—will always be November 22, 1963. I was a third-grade student sitting in a classroom in the peaceful splendor of the Cherry Lane School in Great Neck, New York, when we heard of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The very word “assassination”—it was terrifyingly new vocabulary to an eight-year old—summoned the attention of everyone. …

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