“Video Postcards” to Showcase the Peace Corps Experience
By Guest Contributor on Wednesday, October 26th, 2011
[The website for Peace Corps Postcards (www.peacecorpspostcards.com, a Peace Corps 50th anniversary project by journalist Maureen Orth, has launched today. In addition to featuring "video postcards", it allows anyone in the Peace Corps community to post his or her story. We've asked her to share with us a bit about the project.]
By Maureen Orth (Colombia 1964-66)
On 9/11 this year I was in the remote Muslim village of Bzou, in Morocco, about to eat a communal meal prepared by the grateful mother of a local artist whom a Peace Corps volunteer named Juan Camilo Guzman had helped to market his art and become an accepted member of the community. Guzman spoke perfect Arabic and thanks to the Peace Corps, Americans were respected and liked here. Although Bzou was very poor, most of the mud houses had a government provided satellite dish and I was able to see the moment that Paul Simon began singing “Sounds of Silence” from Ground Zero. It gave me chills and set me wondering, “What if the Peace Corps had grown to 100,000 volunteers a year for 50 years as President Kennedy envisioned when it was created a half century ago? Would we have been attacked?”
I came to Bzou because of the videos posted here. To commemorate the Peace Corps 50th birthday, filmmaker Susan Koch, and I decided to make a series of Peace Corps “Video Postcards”, short slices of life of Peace Corps Volunteers around the world today answering the call to serve while making friends for America. We also decided to highlight former Peace Corps volunteers like myself for whom the Peace Corps had been a profound influence throughout our lives. When I served in the sixties in Medellin, Colombia, for example, I helped build a school that the small community in the mountains above the city named for me: Escuela Marina Orth. Today the Marina Orth Foundation helps support three schools with the One Laptop per Child computer program.
What fun this video project has been! With the help of funding from Bank of America and American Express, so far we have been able to film in Mongolia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia and Morocco. We also plan to go to Africa and China next—our goal is to produce fifty videos for the fifty years of the Peace Corps. What we have seen in our exotic travels so far is that the Peace Corps is about the best use of soft power that the U.S. has ever made. It costs 12 times the amount to send one soldier overseas as it does one Peace Corps volunteer, and these are Americans who are able to speak the language and adapt to very different cultures, to be accepted and loved.
We have met the most terrific people representing us—Donna Shanor, the beautiful young woman in Costa Rica who joined the Peace Corps in the wake of her brother’s senseless murder, because, “I want to live life to the fullest; I want to love, not hate.” We came across Moses Waterland of Platteville, Colorado, in a Moroccan village so far off the beaten path that we had to travel the last hour on a rocky, washed out road.. Moses has taught shepherd boys who have never seen a baseball game how to run the bases barefoot over rocks using an axe handle for a bat. Their joy in rounding the bases gives a whole new meaning to Take Me Out to the Ball Game.
We hope you enjoy these videos as much as we did making them. Please share them with your family and friends. You can see all of the Postcard videos made to date on this YouTube Channel Playlist.
[Editor's note: To learn how you can ensure that more Americans have the opportunity to serve overseas, and that the Peace Corps remains strong and independent, visit the NPCA Advocacy section of our website.]