Book Reviews: Letters from the Peace Corps & Making a Difference: The Peace Corps at Twenty-Five

 So in our office library I found this gem of a book. Letters from the “Peace Corps: Collection of letters from various areas of the world written by members of the first band of Peace Corps volunteers” by Iris Luce in 1965. Written a year and a half after Peace Corps was started.

Peace Corps has been in Senegal for 50 years being one of the few first countries opened.  Sadly one of the things I’ve misplaced is the notes I took on the book. I found the book have strangely the same feel as we do now with Peace Corps. Unknown what successes or failures might await us along with homesickness, pride for our work and what our counterparts and work partners must/have thought of us when seeing and interacting with Americans for the first time. 

Soon after I started reading “Making a Difference: The Peace Corps at Twenty-Five” by Milton Viorst. In which the introduction the statement was made ” There [volunteers] enemies are hunger, ignorance and disease and serves humanitarian interests and Americans.” p.21

This statement I completely agree with. We deal with it in ourselves and in the countries, villages and people we worth with here. And many others struck a cord as well.

“You never have real privacy…Your every action will be watched, weighed and considered representative of the entire Peace Corps.” p.36

“I think I may have solved, or at least partially solved the problem of students making disruptive noise while I teach. The other teachers told me how to do it. “Tappaille le badmas haru lie pitnu parcha”, they said, which roughly translates as “You have to hit the bastards.”…Adaption isn’t a matter of choice out here. You simply have to do it, and this includes the adaptation (adulteration?) of your most strongly held principles.” p. 65-66

Of course these are only briefs of larger stories, lifetimes of 2 years wrapped up in a 200 page book that you expect being about a government organization to be a biased and feel like a marketing tactic rather than what is is. A very fair and balanced view of what the Peace Corps is. Crazy, developmental, governmental public relations organization with a built-in high turn over rate.

Many of the stories, antidotes and ideas still ring true 50 plus years later, which is crazy. How has this experience, with so much changing world wide, remained similar over the last half century?  Mind blowing and of course I’m proud to be part of it.

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