If Those Chairs Could Talk: Korea RPCVs Reunite at Ghost Ranch Training Site
By Kelly Reid on Monday, August 5th, 2013
It is not uncommon for large groups to plan visits to Ghost Ranch in New Mexico—maybe a clique of neighborhood pals looking to get away for the weekend or a high school reunion that decided to get a little adventurous by choosing a ranch over the prototypical hotel ballroom. And really, what’s not to love? The ranch provides swimming, horseback riding, and some of the most beautiful views in the country, many of which provided the inspiration for the works created by famous American artist Georgia O’Keeffe.
Sometimes, however, the groups that plan their trips here can get a little more interesting! Janet Callis, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served as a member of the Korea IV (K-IV) group from 1967 to 1969, gathers with her fellow RPCVs for a reunion every few years at Ghost Ranch—one of the many sites where Korea Volunteers received their Peace Corps training.
K-IV was the first program to have Peace Corps Volunteers in rural areas, living in small villages; this environment made Ghost Ranch an ideal location for the Volunteers to complete their training so many years ago. The original program’s goal was to deal with maternal and child health, family planning, and tuberculosis, but the program eventually evolved into a primarily tuberculosis program.
“Our first reunion was at ten years,” says Janet, “and we have had them every few years since.” Group members claim that Ghost Ranch really hasn’t changed much and provides an excellent opportunity for members of K-IV to come together, reminisce on their time of service, and partake in activities such as rafting, hiking, and much more.
The level of involvement and participation Korea IV enjoys at their semi-annual reunions in New Mexico speaks volumes to the tremendous impact the Peace Corps has on the lives of Volunteers, staff, and host-country nationals. People travel from all over the United States, Canada, Japan, and Korea just to meet up with other members of K-IV at Ghost Ranch.
So, how did this all get started? Two RPCVs planned the first reunion and, since that time, Cassandra Gaines—another K-IV member—has worked with a few fellow RPCVs to coordinate the group’s returns to Ghost Ranch. The Ranch has become a special place for those involved in Korea IV, and many have given donations to the Ghost Ranch Foundation over the years.
After assessing a “needs list” regarding which types of donations could be most useful to the Ranch, the group recently decided that more chairs could be a great addition to both the group’s reunions as well as the atmosphere of the Ranch over all. A tall man by the name of Ted Collins is in charge of constructing the Adirondack chairs, which will be used as a way for guests at the Ghost Ranch to sit and view the mountains and magnificent scenery that surround the ranch.
Finding a lot in common the the K-IV group members, Ted is also a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served in one of the Peace Corps’ early Peru groups. The fourteen new chairs being constructed by Ted were financed with the generosity of 19 K-IVs and will be ready by the group’s next reunion in August. Members of K-IV say that they cannot wait for the extra chairs—RPCVs always have A LOT of stories to tell, and the extra chairs will provide much more room to gather together.
“Going to Ghost Ranch is like going home for a visit,” says Janet, “We have wonderful memories, funny stories, campfires, and just being together to share a time that was so special to us.”