January 1, 1963 - Personal Web Site: The 1963 Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding to the Peace Corps

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The 1963 Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding to the Peace Corps

The 1963 Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding to the Peace Corps




The problem of achieving peace amidst the tensions and dangers of a nuclear age occupies the mind of much of the human race, yet few within it discover a useful way to contribute. In reaffirming the essential community of interest of all ordinary people, regardless of creed or nationality, the PEACE CORPS Volunteers belong to that small but growing fraternity who by their individual efforts do make a difference.

Recognizing that the PEACE CORPS depends entirely upon the quality of its Volunteers, the screening process is rigorous. More than 70,000 Americans have volunteered. Less than 10 per cent have been accepted as trainees and of these some 16 per cent have been selected out during training.

The first Asian contingent arrived in the Philippines on October 12, 1961. By mid-1963 some 1,400 Volunteers were serving in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Ceylon, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and the Philippines. They represented a cross-section of urban and rural America. The youngest was 18 and the oldest a 76-year-old water supply engineer working in Pakistan. A few were married couples, but most were single men and women in the early summer of their lives, who had come to unknown countries to learn and share with unknown peoples their energy and technical skills.

Tasks performed by Volunteers in Asia reflect the wide spectrum of middle-level, and sometimes advanced-level, skills requested by respective governments. Nurses, doctors, and laboratory technicians came to help staff district hospitals, rural clinics and leprosaria in Sarawak, Malaya and four other Asian countries. Mechanics have taught repair of vehicles in Afghanistan and of farm machinery in India. Instructors of vocational agriculture have been at work in Thailand. Mathematics teachers have been in Ceylon and athletic coaches in Indonesia. Engineers have built roads in North Borneo and schools in Nepal.

In the Philippines, the 628 Volunteers were measured against the demanding earlier example of the "Thomasites" who arrived in 1901 to found the public school system. Crossing the Pacific after the Battle of Manila in a converted cattle ship, the transport "Thomas", they journeyed often by carabao cart, banca and on foot to start the schools that became a mainstay of democracy in the Republic. The PEACE CORPS Volunteers, serving mostly as teachers aides in English to strengthen that public school system, are proving worthy successors to those intrepid pioneers.

Far more consequential than these technical contributions are the difficult-to-measure achievements. By choosing as Volunteers to share the lot of their fellow workers in each country, economic and status barriers have been minimized. In the process of jointly tackling the problems that must be solved for progress, the Volunteers and their hosts discover the human interdependence and mutuality of satisfaction that must provide the personal basis for an enduring peace.

In electing the UNITED STATES PEACE CORPS IN ASIA to receive the 1963 Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding, the Board of Trustees recognizes their voluntary service to the cause of peace and humanity in a direct and personal way.

While the Award cites specifically the accomplishments of "persons in Asia," the Board of Trustees also commends the PEACE CORPS Volunteers serving in the Near East, Africa and Latin America.

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Philippines; Special Interests - Awards



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