2011.02.08: February 8, 2011: Lauraine Effress writes: Guinea RPCVs get together for 46th anniversary

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Guinea: Peace Corps Guinea : Peace Corps Guinea: Newest Stories: 2011.02.08: February 8, 2011: Lauraine Effress writes: Guinea RPCVs get together for 46th anniversary

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Lauraine Effress writes: Guinea RPCVs get together for 46th anniversary

Lauraine Effress writes: Guinea RPCVs get together for 46th anniversary

A lot has changed from when this writer trained in the early sixties, spending 12 weeks at Oberlin college studying French, the lingua franca of Ivory Coast (my country of service,) African history, American history, African culture, American, African and tribal politics and mastering some boot camp type physical training incuded to teach us to survive in a environment many of us could not even imagine. At our reunion, we all agreed that the most memorable thing we were told was that when we turned on the lights (if we had lights) everything would move. And, indeed, it did! Also, in those days there were no cell phones, email or Skype. None of us had television or telephones so we were pretty cut off from each other. The book locker provided by Peace Corps and swapping those books was the biggest lifeline. We visited a lot, getting there by "Mille Kilo," a large quasi pick up with a "U" of wooden seats in the back. There were always more people than seats and plenty of goats and chickens for companions. We made friends with host nationals, ate with them, celebrated their weddings and funerals and learned their cultures by making funny and not so funny faux pas. There was the time I had a giant spider as big as a starfish in my classroom, but, trying to call for help, I could only recall the word for spider as starting with an "a" and called for help about a poisonous, many-legged peanut, a word that also starts with an "a." It took all year to live that one down.

Lauraine Effress writes: Guinea RPCVs get together for 46th anniversary

50th Anniversary of Peace Corps

by spareribbon (Subscribe)

Posted on: Feb 8, 2011 at 9:42 AM PST

Year long Peace Corps anniversary celebrations

PEACE CORPS CELEBRATES ITS 50TH ANNIVERSARY

Lauraine Effress, 805-985-6472. 2831 Harbor Blvd. Oxnard, CA 93035

"Some of us have not seen each other since 1966, but some of us became best friends." So said Maggie Rodgers, a returned Peace Corps volunteer (Guinea, W. Africa) who was attending the 46th reunion of our training group last September at the 4 Points Sheraton in Ventura. It was 1964 when we trained together in Oberlin and Quebec for 2 years of service in one of three west African countries. "But, I feel like I just saw everyone yesterday," she added; "it was that intense."

This reunion and others, plus hundreds of "global house parties" for local RPV groups, most scheduled to take place on March 1, are part of the initiative of the National Peace Corps Association-the association of returned volunteers- to honor the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Peace Corps by President Kennedy in 1961. The varied gatherings will consist of anything from small house parties with groups of volunteers who served in countries on 5 continents over the 5 decades to more elaborate affairs with local officials and celebrity RPCVs in attendance.

Here in Ventura County we have an active RPCV group with a mailing list of 120 returned volunteers who served in countries such as India, Nepal,Ivory Coast, Paraguay, Brazil and Afghanistan to name just a few. We also have returned volunteers who have served in newer Peace Corps sites in south Africa and the former Soviet countries of Eastern Europe.

The Ventura group gets together quarterly in an ethnic restaurant or a home, chatting about what is happening in "our countries" and keeping up with Peace Corps gossip. We had 35 people last month at Moqueca, the Brazilian restaurant in Channel Islands Harbor, Oxnard. That night we met Sachi Stark a retired teacher in the LA Unified School district and now living in Thousand Oaks. Sachi was placed in a town called Timbauba in the state of Pernambuco, Brazil 1966-68. One of her projects was to complete a water tower. When done, the water tower and accompanying laundry room meant that the people of the village no longer had to get their water from the river which was contaminated with the deadly disease, shistosomiasis. Sachi's assignment was typical and its completion and the resulting improvement in the quality of life in her village is also typical. But this night, Sachi was making a happy discovery of her own. Her village was inland Brazil, so the Brazilian seafood we were eating was a special threat: food from "her country" that was previously not known to her.

The Ventura group does more than party and seek out ethnic cooking. We use our dues to support overseas projects being run by Peace Corps volunteers or by individuals on their own initiative. In the past 12 months we have bought school desks for a Peace Corps school project in Burkina Faso, W. Africa, and sent funds to Dr. James Rolfe and his Afghanistan Dental Relief Project (The Star, Nov. 23, 2010). We are presently looking for projects run by volunteers from Ventura County. That makes it easier to get feedback on what our funds have achieved and gives us a local connection.

A lot has been written about the Peace Corps in the past few months first with remembrances of Sargent Shriver, the first National Peace Corps director who recently passed away and then in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the famous Kennedy "ask notů" inaugural address that many feel was the impetus for Congress passing the legislation to establish the Peace Corps. Peace Corps was set up to accomplish three goals: to provide a needed skill and service in an underdeveloped part of the world; to allow average people in such countries to get to know Americans on a personal basis; and to help Americans learn how people in such countries live and work.

Selection and training has always been rigorous, but still, there is often a waiting list. Also, a lot has changed from when this writer trained in the early sixties, spending 12 weeks at Oberlin college studying French, the lingua franca of Ivory Coast (my country of service,) African history, American history, African culture, American, African and tribal politics and mastering some boot camp type physical training incuded to teach us to survive in a environment many of us could not even imagine. At our reunion, we all agreed that the most memorable thing we were told was that when we turned on the lights (if we had lights) everything would move. And, indeed, it did!

Also, in those days there were no cell phones, email or Skype. None of us had television or telephones so we were pretty cut off from each other. The book locker provided by Peace Corps and swapping those books was the biggest lifeline. We visited a lot, getting there by "Mille Kilo," a large quasi pick up with a "U" of wooden seats in the back. There were always more people than seats and plenty of goats and chickens for companions. We made friends with host nationals, ate with them, celebrated their weddings and funerals and learned their cultures by making funny and not so funny faux pas. There was the time I had a giant spider as big as a starfish in my classroom, but, trying to call for help, I could only recall the word for spider as starting with an "a" and called for help about a poisonous, many-legged peanut, a word that also starts with an "a." It took all year to live that one down.

Many of us lacked electricity and running water and that may still be the case for some recent volunteers. But they can stay in touch with their families at home, blog, send photos and video chat online; that makes recent Peace Corps experience very different.

And there was romance in the Peace Corps. Some folks went over as couples like Ron and Bonnie Counsellor retired teachers living now in Camarillo (India 1968-70.) Some went over single and came back as a couple like Darryl and Cynthia Paul who met and married when he was in Peace Corps Honduras. Later they adopted a Guatemalan son, Alejandro, went back to serve in Peace Corps, Guatemala and now, Alejandro, too, has returned from his own Peace Corps service in-where else? Guatemala. And Terry Talent, whose photo with his Samoan students appears below, brought home a Samoan wife.
Our group's most recently returned volunteer, Tracy Patterson of Ojai, just finished her service in December 2010 in South Africa, one of the newer venues. Tracy's initial assignment was as a school and community resource person in the northern most provinces of South Africa, near the Botswana border. But she also served in another town called "Nobody"." Changing towns or villages is common, as volunteers go where they are needed and where their skills fit the situation, but leaving the relationships you build bit by bit and starting over in a new village is even harder when you are in an exotic locale.

Originally, most volunteers were recent liberal arts college graduates whose main job was teaching English. Today the emphasis is on volunteers with special skills who can teach host nationals how to develop sources of clean water, organize villages to do for themselves by building a community or a health center or a school. Others set up music and arts programs, map local areas, create infrastructure or teach nutrition using locally grown produce with techniques that increase crop yields or address local pests. Older volunteers who have had careers and acquired such skills are much in demand. Couples are very welcome, as this can address the loneliness factor. Admittedly, though, most volunteers are so busy with their projects and are such sought after neighbors and guests that they rarely have time to get lonely.

So 50 years later after the skeptics said it was pretty crazy to send a bunch of young Americans to the far corners of the earth with nothing but their idealism and 12 weeks of language training, Peace Corps is stronger than ever. There is always a waiting list of Americans, of all ages and backgrounds, with a large variety of skills who want to do something to help people in less developed places, get to travel, learn a language and have an unforgettable adventure. So it turns out that asking what you can do for your country and what your country can do for you might, in fact, be one and the same when it comes to service in the United States Peace Corps. Happy 50th anniversary to a grand American idea




Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: February, 2011; Peace Corps Guinea; Directory of Guinea RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Guinea RPCVs; The 1960's; Country of Service Groups; California





When this story was posted in June 2011, this was on the front page of PCOL:




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Story Source: Keyt

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Guinea; 1960s; COS Groups

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