Peace Corps History and the Peace Corps Archive

Were you a Peace Corps Volunteer?  If so, please consider donating letters, diaries, and/or other items to the Peace Corps Archive at American University.

I made the video above about the Peace Corps Archive at a recent history event organized by Jesse Bailey who is the Historian of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington (RPCV/W).  He moderated a panel discussion about the history of RPCV/W.  The participants were all former board members of RPCV/W.  There were even many audience members who were very steeped in the history of the Peace Corps.  The event lasted more than 2 hours.  Here is a teaser:

Part one of the panel discussion can be found here:


New Peace Corps Promotional video (13 minute)

I’m looking forward to the 50th Anniversary commemoration of the Peace Corps next weekend. There is going to be a story slam, a gathering of Peace Corps authors, a Third Goal Bash, Embassy receptions, and a march to President Kennedy’s Tomb. Below is the latest recruitment video from the Peace Corps. While it is good, it seems to have omitted the traditional refrain, “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love,” which is too bad because it was quite apropos. Also, the video seems to gloss over some of the real challenges of living in the third world. Anyway, its worth watching if you are considering the Peace Corps. Another, more time-intensive way to learn about the Peace Corps is to read some of the books written by Peace Corps volunteers. This is one of my favorites, but there are dozens that I have really liked and none that I have not liked: Under the Neem Tree, by Susan Lowerre (Senegal 1985–87). Without a doubt, the Peace Corps is not for everyone, but if it is right for you, it will be a remarkable, life-changing experience that you will cherish. It will alter your life path in a significant way.

Appropriate Projects

I just donated to a project that is building a water tank at a school in the neighborhood where I used to live in the late 1980s, when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer.  At the time, I took this photo. I wonder what these women are up to now?

The project was funded in advance by Appropriate Projects which is an initiative of Water Charity, conceived to slash through the red tape and get projects done immediately.

Access to safe water is a human right, and they are fighting to achieve this goal for every person on this planet. they don’t sit around while people are dying and suffering from illness due to lack of water, contaminated water, and unsanitary conditions.

They use appropriate technology, meaning that the simplest and least-expensive methods are utilized to bring about the biggest impact at the least cost.

They do not deal with studies, reports, evaluations, nitpicking, reviews, administration, overhead, talk, delays, processes, procedures, format, overseeing, micro-directing, or excuses.

They start with the understanding that there are about 8,000 Peace Corps Volunteers stationed in over 74 countries around the globe. Each Volunteer is living in a city or community making a great contribution toward world peace.

Each Volunteer is competent and dedicated, having gone through a rigorous selection process, and having trained for the tasks to be done.

Each Volunteer has identified crucial projects that will affect the lives of those around him, but remain undone due to lack of funds.

Each Volunteer has the skills and capacity to manage the projects and funds, and complete the projects on time and within budget.

The projects submitted to Appropriate Projects by Volunteers are small, but they indeed have a big impact.

At the same time, there are millions of individuals around the globe who would like to do the right thing, to help those in need, and to make the world a better place to live.

Your contribution will bring to being a needed project in a distant place. It will affect the lives of individuals and communities, by letting them have the necessities of life.

Join The fight. Adopt a project.

Peace Corps Video Contest

The Peace Corps changes lives and wants to hear your story.

This summer, the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) is running a video contest in celebration of the upcoming 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps. We’re asking you to submit a one- to two-minute video about how the Peace Corps, a Peace Corps Volunteer, or Returned Peace Corps Volunteer changed your life.

  • Perhaps it was a teacher whose stories of cultures overseas opened your eyes to the world.
  • Maybe it was your co-worker whose unique ability to connect with people made all the difference.
  • It could be a Peace Corps Volunteer living in your community who inspired you to dream big.
  • Or maybe it’s your mother, whose service overseas proved that you’re never too old to have an adventure.

Whether you served in the Peace Corps or not, we all share its legacy.

Tell us your story. Tell us about your piece of the Peace Corps.

  • Grand Prize: $2,500
  • Second prize: $1,000
  • Third prize: $500

* This contest is generously sponsored by Juliane Heyman, Peace Corps Staff, 1961-66.

How to Enter

Note that you must complete both steps in order to enter the contest.

Step 1:

Upload your video to the NPCA contest group on YouTube. Videos not submitted to this online group will not be eligible to win.  All videos must meet contest requirements below.
Go to YouTube

Step 2:

Submit your completed online entry form here.
Complete and Submit Your Form

Enter now and share your story with the rest of the world!  We look forward to receiving your entry.  The winners will be announced in October 2010.

Stoves for the Masses

You must get the print version of the December 28th edition of the New Yorker to read this article (excerpt below) about folks trying to save the world, one stove at a time. Something I spent two years doing in Guatemala in the late 1980s.

From The NEW Yorker Blog, December 16, 2009

The Perfect Stove

Posted by Burkhard Bilger

This week in the magazine, I write about engineers who have set their sights on the low end: a ten-dollar stove that even the world’s poorest people can afford. In the past few years, though, industrial giants like Bosch-Siemens, British Petroleum, and Philips Electronics have all tried their hand at building more expensive and sophisticated devices—stoves that cost between twenty and a hundred dollars retail, and are clean enough to run indoors. The results have been mixed.

The Germans, at Bosch-Siemens, developed an elegant oil-burning unit called the Protos, but it never really took off. (It’s as noisy as a blast torch, I was told). The British, at BP, spent millions designing a stove that runs on pellets, then promptly abandoned the project and sold the design to an Indian company. The Dutch, at Philips, have just finished field tests of a stainless-steel fan stove, a prototype of which I tried out this fall. The Philips stove has a rechargeable fan in its base that works as a kind of bellows: it helps the fire light quickly and keeps it burning hot and clean. The stove that I used boiled a pot of water faster than my GE gas range, produced almost no smoke, and left only a thin residue of ash behind.

Even more promising is a stove designed by an Italian-American engineer named Nathaniel Mulcahy. The LuciaStove, as he calls it, is a gasifier made of beautifully injection-molded aluminum. It’s modular in design, so its most intricate parts can be packed flat and shipped inexpensively, while the rest can be manufactured locally. (In the Congo, the combustion chambers have been made of spent munitions shells.) Mulcahy, who is a former research director at Emerson appliances, claims that his stoves can cut fuel use nearly in half and burn fuel with ninety-three per cent efficiency. Whether they can also overcome the tetchiness inherent to gasifiers remains to be seen, in ongoing programs in Africa, Mongolia and Afghanistan.

Finally, Dean Still and the engineers at Aprovecho have joined with a start-up firm called Biolite to create a new generation of low-emissions stoves. Their design incorporates a thermoelectric fan designed by Jonathan Cedar and Alec Drummond, co-founders of BioLite. The fan runs without batteries or external electricity. Instead, it uses the heat from the fire to generate its own power. Cedar and the Aprovecho staff built the prototype in October and presented it for the first time at an international stove meeting in Bangkok, in November. The new stove reduces emissions by more than ninety per cent, compared to an open fire, and should cost about twenty dollars a unit to build. Best of all, it’s user-friendly: unlike other fan stoves, it has a side-feeding combustion chamber that’s easy to refuel. Aprovecho and BioLite hope to make it commercially available by 2011.