|By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, May 18, 2003 - 11:36 am: Edit Post|
Frank Usher, Peru '67
Frank Usher, Peru '67
Frank Usher '67
Frank Usher's involvement in the Peace Corps could be construed as destiny.
As a child, the 1967 UCR graduate grew up hearing stories of his great aunt who spent time with the Kennedy family when they vacationed in New Hampshire. As a young man, he developed a political interest in John Kennedy and made a vow to himself that he would somehow make a connection with the future president.
That vow took him to the steps of the University of Southern California library, just one week before the 1960 elections. Kennedy had just made a speech and the 15-year-old Usher managed to shake hands with the future president as he was leaving in a motorcade. As he followed Kennedy's car on foot, the crowd pushed him through one of the opened car doors. He found himself in the back seat.
"I put my hand out and said, 'Good Luck Jack.'"
It was then that Usher promised himself to join Kennedy's proposed organization, which became the Peace Corps.
Usher remembered that promise, when, as a political science major in his junior year, he saw a flier on a campus bulletin board advertising the Peace Corps. He signed up to become an agriculture teacher in the Rural Community Development Training Program. His group was the first to be trained outside the U.S. After months of intense training, an enthusiastic Usher was on his way to Checacupe, Peru, 11,000 feet up in the Andes Mountains.
Usher got off to a rough start. On his third day, after eating at a restaurant owned by the mayor, he became ill.
"I woke up at midnight feeling like a balloon ready to burst," he said. Violently ill with food poisoning, he found himself alone and sick. "I looked up at the sky and said, "Frank, if you can get through this, you can get through anything.'"
The next morning, feeling weak from dehydration, he caught a bus to the Peace Corps headquarters where an American doctor treated him. After some rest, a shower and some clean clothes, he surprised everyone by saying he wanted to stay.
He spent his time helping to educate local farmers on agricultural techniques. He and his partner walked five miles a day for two years. They visited farmers and encouraged them to participate in the seed and fertilizer loan program, which was designed to help them increase their crop return.
"When we started, we had 30 families using the loan program and by the time we were done, 115 families were participating," Usher said.
His duties often went beyond his job description. On one occasion, he was called to a nearby hut where a small boy, gored by a bull, lay with his intestines sitting on top of his stomach. Usher helped the boy as much as he could and then commandeered a military truck to get him to the hospital. His quick thinking saved the boy's life.
Shortly thereafter, he delivered a baby using only a two-page summary in his Peace Corps-supplied first aid handbook as a guide.
Usher remembers fondly those two years in the Peace Corps that took him thousands of miles away from home for the first time in his life.
"I can look back at my life and honestly say that my time in the Peace Corps is when I had the most peace of mind."