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1966: John J. McEneny served in Colombia in Village of Momil, State of Cordoba beginning in 1966
Returned Peace Corps Volunteer John J. McEneny can be contacted at albassblyaaoldcom
Country of Service: Colombia
Training Group: PINA - New Mexico State University
Cities you served in: Village of Momil, State of Cordoba
Arrival Year: 1966
Departure Year: 1967
Work Description: Rural Community Developement
Bring us up to date on your life after the peace corps:
Married, four kids, entered "war on Poverty"programs run by local
government, wrote a local history, finally entered elective politics, have a
full biography in the New York State Assembly web page. I've been a state
legislator since Jan. 1993.
Any thoughts you have now looking back on peace corps days?:
Peace Corps was a defining period in my life. I bought the whole JFK
idealism and call to service and still hold to it. I served without any English
speakers, started a Jr high school by helping local people add a 7th grade
to their school by combining the resourses of three villages on different
shores of a great swamp. Schools ended at 6th grade, and it was my idea
to combine resources from the greater area, supplament meager
government teacher pay by tuition, to create at least a central school
system for grade seven with the hopes of adding a new grade every year.
The "schoolbuses" were to be the dugout conoes the kids played in all day
anyway on the swamp. Many grown-ups were fishermen, some raised
cattle for the large farmers, which were exported to the highlands. We
rarely had meat, it was just too expensive. Most folks seemed to be
unemployed most of the time, especialy the kids. Frankly, I downplay my
Peace Corps experience a bit because I had to be an early return due to a
family health emergency at home, and though in good standing, I was
never able to return. I don't want to claim whatever status is entitled to a
person who finished two years, when I completed less than one. I think
Peace Corps changed my life, all for the better. It taught me tolerance,
gave me a confidence I never had before, and taught me what things were
really important in life. Ironically, while the experience gave me a new
appreciation for this country, it made me very unsympathetic when friends
and family complained about the normal aggravations of life. Trying to look
concerned with potholes in the road, when you'd just come from a world
where there the roads dissapeared during the rainy season, or listen to
people complain about power bills when I was used to seventeen power
outages a night when you were trying to read a book, or listening to
complaints about health when you had seen children wasted and dying
from TB, just seemed so unappreciative for what we had. It's tough to
feign sympathy over such day to day problems, and that can make you
seem pretty cold to people. I suppose its one reason I gravated to solving
urban problems, they seemed more real to me, and I really wanted to help
solve them. I could be much more specific on many things but just want to
finish filling out this form for the moment.
Anyone you are looking for or would like to hear from?:
I used to call Ed Rowley in Rochester, Minnisota from time to time. I
always enjoyed his company, admired his values and was enourmously
proud of him for not only sticking it out in Colombia but going on as a
Peace Corps staff with his family in south east Africa.
Any message for returned volunteers?:
I separated from Peace Corps over 35 years ago and have gone on to do a
great many things and had many experiences. Peace Corps remains one of
the defining moments in my life.As you go on in life you will come to
appreciate the effect your experience, good and bad, has had on your
undestanding and way of looking at life. Americans, whether or not they
realize it, are citizens of the world, yet isolationism and denial of our place
in history cause us to turn our backs on problems which we not only ignore
but exaccerbate. Today, we are the only remaining superpower. how we
behave with that responsibility is of enormous importance to us and the
world's peoples. We can't afford to be illinformed or fail to understand and
respect other cultures. RPCVs can play a major role in mobilizing
Americans to do the right thing. The strength of Peace Corps is that while
the goal was global, the action took place on a small, personal scale,
person to person, teacher to students. village by village and neighborhod
by neighborhood. Such work is not always high profile but its results can
be very genuine and lasting. Get involved in your schools, clubs, labor
movements, international exchanges. The job is still not done. As always,
your job is not the job, the goal is to foster self help and self iniative. Start
a group as if you know you won't be around in a year or two, so your focus
will be to have the work continue. If you teach a man to fish......
Originally posted: April 27, 2002
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