Orrin Luc posted an articleAs a Child, She Fled Nazi Germany with Her Family. Two Decades After the War, She Was a Chemist Teaching at a University in Lagos with the Peace Corps.Sonja Krause Goodwin's extraordinary time in the early years of the Peace Corps see more
My Years in the Early Peace Corps
Nigeria, 1964–1965 (Volume 1)
Ethiopia, 1965–1966 (Volume 2)
By Sonja Krause Goodwin
Reviewed by Steven Boyd Saum
Sonja Krause Goodwin had already traveled far from home, earned a doctorate in chemistry, and worked for six years as a physical chemist when she joined the Peace Corps. Born in St. Gall, Switzerland, in August 1933, she had fled Nazi Germany with her family and resettled in Manhattan, where her parents opened a German bookstore. Sonja entered elementary school without speaking a word of English.
Science is where she found her calling. She earned her bachelor’s in chemistry at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1957. After working six years in industry, she joined the Peace Corps and headed for Nigeria. She led the physics department at the University of Lagos until she and the other Volunteers had to leave the country in 1965 due to a politically motivated “university crisis.”
She was reassigned to teach chemistry at the Gondar Health College in Ethiopia 1965–66, a college that also served as the local hospital. On her return to the U.S., she accepted a position at RPI and taught there for 37 years, advancing through the positions of associate professor and professor, and retiring in 2004. These memoirs were published in fall 2021, shortly before Goodwin’s death on December 1, 2021.
Story updated May 2, 2022.
Steven Boyd Saum is the editor of WorldView.
Orrin Luc posted an articleWhat Happens When Diplomats Fail to Understand the History of Nations Where They Serve — from the Perspective of the People in Those Nations?John Dickson provides lessons and insights from his 25 years in foreign service. see more
When History Collides with Foreign Relations
By John Dickson
University of Kansas Press
Reviewed by Nathalie Vadnais
John Dickson gleans insights from 25 years as a foreign service officer, much of which included hard lessons that came from not having a deeper knowledge of a host country’s history. That leads time and again to what he terms “history shock,” wherein dramatically different interpretations of history have blocked diplomatic understanding and cooperation.
Dickson served with the Peace Corps in Gabon 1976–79 before joining the U.S. Information Agency in 1984; he later served with the State Department when the two agencies merged. He uses vignettes describing personal interactions and an analysis of his experiences in Mexico, Cuba, Canada, Nigeria, South Africa, and elsewhere. “By cherry-picking those events that helped construct a nation that is exceptional,” Dickson writes, “the United States has consistently overlooked that slice of its history that does not correspond to its self-image.” And by “neglecting history, we are less able or willing to draw on memory to aid in how we learn, make decisions, behave, or develop new strategies.”
This review appears in the special 2022 Books Edition of WorldView magazine. Story updated May 22, 2022.
Nathalie Vadnais is an intern with WorldView. She is completing a degree in international studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Communications Intern posted an articleBill Josephson reflects on two key members of the Peace Corps see more
Kindred spirits who they helped shape the early years of the Peace Corps
By Bill Josephson
Pictured: Dr. Mahmud Hussain, vice chancellor of Dacca University — one of the host institutions for Peace Corps Volunteers serving in East Pakistan since October 1961 — chats with Peace Corps Representative to Pakistan F. Kingston Berlew of Washington, DC. Photo courtesy Peace Corps
F. Kingston Berlew, a distinguished lawyer, walked into my Peace Corps General Counsel’s office unannounced in 1961 and said that he wanted to join the Peace Corps. He had a wife and children; service as a Volunteer was out.
King sailed through the talent search with flying colors and went to Pakistan — East and West at that time — as the first Peace Corps director there. We were kindred spirits, and at his request, I conducted the close of service conferences for Pakistan I in both Dhaka and Lahore.
King then became associate Peace Corps director in charge of selection, training, and overseas support. He later led a career in international business and law and founded the World Law Group, today a network of 21,000 lawyers representing firms in 89 nations. He died in February 2021 at age 90. His brother, David Berlew, was the third Peace Corps director in Ethiopia.
Murray Frank was also a kindred spirit. In the early days of the Peace Corps, the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted full-field investigations of all staff, domestic and foreign. Sarge decided that the Peace Corps should not have an identifiable security office. The task of reviewing investigations that raised issues fell to the general counsel’s office, as did liaison with other intelligence and law enforcement agencies. In Murray’s field, the identified “red flags” were numerous, generally unintended and inconsequential.
Murray began serving as a field associate Peace Corps director beginning with Nigeria I and was there for three years. He often said it was the most exciting time of his life. He distinguished himself by his concern for and rapport with the Volunteers.
He was born in 1927 and served in the Pacific during World War II; he went to New York University on the GI Bill. In 1965 he joined the Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights. His long and distinguished career included serving as dean of the College of Public and Community Service and as a fellow of the McCormack Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. We remained close throughout his life, talking on the telephone just a few weeks before he died in January at age 93.
This story appears in the 60th-anniversary edition of WorldView magazine.
Story updated January 17, 2022.
Bill Josephson is the Founding Counsel for the Peace Corps and is co-author of the memorandum “The Towering Task,” which laid out the architecture of the Peace Corps. Read his conversation with Bill Moyers, Joe Kennedy III, and Marieme Foote about the establishment of the Peace Corps in the 60th-anniversary edition of WorldView magazine as well.
Communications Intern 2 posted an articleThe globe in 1961, the year nine countries welcomed the first Peace Corps Volunteers see more
In 1961, nine countries welcomed the first Peace Corps Volunteers.
THE GLOBE IN 1961, the year nine countries welcomed the first Peace Corps Volunteers — and the year after 17 nations in Africa gained independence. For the first Peace Corps programs, demand is strongest for teachers and agricultural workers. Volunteers are urged to embark on their journey in the spirit of learning rather than teaching. To lay the groundwork, Sargent Shriver, the first Director of the Peace Corps, undertakes a round-the-world trip to eight nations from April to May.
Photos by Brett Simison. Words by Jake Arce and Steven Boyd Saum
St. Lucia, an island in the Eastern Caribbean, is the third program to host Volunteers: 16 train at Iowa State University and arrive in September. The island will gain independence from the British Commonwealth in 1979.
Volunteers arrive in Colombia on September 8: All are men, ages 19 to 31. The endeavor involves a partnership with CARE. Some work in community development with the Federation of Coffee Growers, some in the Cauca River Valley in the southwest.
In Chile, 42 Volunteers train to provide assistance in community development and education as part of the Chilean Institute of Rural Education, a nonsectarian private organization. They're in service by October, working with Chilean educators in developing programs in hygiene, recreation, and farming.
Shriver tours Latin America in October. Four countries sign agreements to host Volunteers in 1962. In Brazil Volunteers will work in rural education, sanitation, and health, and in poor urban areas in the northeast. In Peru they will work in indigenous highlands and impoverished urban areas. In Venezuela, work will include teaching at a university and as county agricultural agents. Bolivia asks for engineers, nurses, dental hygienists, and food educators.
Ghana’s President Kwame Nkrumah speaks at the U.N. and meets JFK in March. Shriver visits him in April — not long after the Ghanaian Times denounces the nascent Peace Corps as an “agency of neo-colonialism.” But after hearing Shriver, Nkrumah says, “The Peace Corps sounds good. We are ready to try it and will invite a small number of volunteers ... Can you get them here by August?” They arrive August 30, the first Volunteers in service.
President of the Philippines Carlos B. Garcia has pursued a Filipino First policy, noting, “Politically we became independent since 1946, but economically we are still semi-colonial.” The final stop on Shriver's spring round-the-world tour, the country welcomes 128 Volunteers in October to supplement teaching in rural areas, focusing on English and science.
Nigeria gained independence from Britain on October 1, 1960. Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa asks Shriver to send teachers; the country has only 14,000 classroom slots for more than 2 million school-age children. First Volunteers arrive by end of September.
India, a country of half a billion people, is led by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru — de facto leader of the nonaligned nations, those allied with neither the United States nor USSR. When Shriver visits in spring 1961, Nehru is skeptical but allows, “In matters of the spirit, I am sure young Americans would learn a good deal in this country and it could be an important experience for them.” He agrees to host a small number of Volunteers in Punjab. A cohort of 26 arrives December 20. After India agrees to host Volunteers, so do Pakistan, Thailand, and Malaya.
Pakistan’s President Mohammad Ayub Khan came to power in a coup in 1958 and was elected by a referendum in 1960. Addressing the U.S. Congress in July 1961, he calls for more financial assistance. The first group of Volunteers arrives in West Pakistan in the fall to serve are junior instructors at colleges, as well as teachers of farming methods and staff at hospitals.
First Volunteers arrive in Tanganyika on September 30: civil engineers, geologists, and surveyors, there to build roads and create geological maps. The country is a U.N. trusteeship that achieves full independence in December. Also note: in October, 26 Volunteers begin training for service in Sierra Leone in 1962.
Communications Intern posted an articleLeader of Peace Corps programs, top diplomat, and fighter for civil rights see more
He led Peace Corps programs, served as a top diplomat, and achieved important milestones in civil rights.
By Jonathan Pearson
One of the first country directors appointed by Sargent Shriver in 1961, Walter C. Carrington led Peace Corps programs in Tunisia, Senegal, and Sierra Leone in the 1960s before serving as Regional Director for Africa. But that was just one facet of a remarkable life.
Prior to that, at Harvard he founded the chapter of the NAACP. He was the youngest-ever member of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, and in the late 1950s his commission work included leading an investigation into the racist practices of the Boston Red Sox — the last team in the majors to break the color barrier on its roster.
He was a diplomat: Under President Jimmy Carter, Carrington served as U.S. ambassador to Senegal, and under President Bill Clinton as ambassador to Nigeria. That service came at a critical time; Carrington spoke for human rights and democracy and against the dictatorial rule of Sani Abacha.
He stood down a confrontation when armed police interrupted a reception near the end of his appointment. Nigerian leaders praised Carrington for his contributions leading to that country’s return to democratic rule.
He taught at many institutions of higher learning, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Simmons University, Marquette University and Howard University, where he directed the international affairs department. He died August 11, just a few weeks after celebrating his 90th birthday.
Each month we share news of members of the Peace Corps community whom we have lost: peacecorpsconnect.org
This story appears in the Fall 2020 edition of WorldView magazine. Read the entire magazine for free now in the WorldView app. Here’s how:
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Alan Ruiz Terol posted an articleThis month, the NPCA recognizes the hard work and dedication of the Friends of Nigeria see more
Friends of Nigeria was born as a group in 1995, just one year after the Peace Corps left the country. Nowadays it has grown into a community of almost 2,000 expatriates who served in Nigeria, which is an impressive number if we take into account that 2,094 volunteers served in the country. In featuring Friends of Nigeria as the group of the month we want to highlight their longstanding commitment to our community and the thrilling initiatives they've championed. (Don't miss their own wiki page!)
Name of Group: Friends of Nigeria (FON)
Three words that best describe your group:
Historic, tenacious, (still) enthusiastic.
What makes Friends of Nigeria successful:
Fond memories of Nigeria, the sense that service in Nigeria shaped our lives, dedicated work by key individuals, optimism and fun. Basically, whenever one volunteer gets telling a story of an incident from his or her service, most other volunteers can relate. This makes for a very interesting newsletter, good presentations during our meetings, and active socializing when there is any free time during our meetings. Our members like being reminded of their time in Nigeria and they like to support groups that are doing specific, concrete, on-the-ground projects in Nigeria. A number of years ago we created our own wiki (WikiFON). We encourage our members to put their stories and pictures there.
How does your group still connect to your Country of Service:
We have identified key non-profits operating in Nigeria and we donate to projects they organize. We have a review committee that rejects applications that only contain staff training, headquarters PCs, or other overhead items. We fund building projects, agricultural inputs that will actually be used by farmers, or equipment that will be used by end users.
Give a brief summary of your group’s history:
Friends of Nigeria was founded in 1996. However, we have a newsletter from 1987 that indicates there was an earlier attempt to bring the organization to life. We have regular newsletters dating from 1996. By 1998 we were incorporated in the State of Connecticut, we had applied for 501-c-3 status, and we had a board-approved set of bylaws. Friends of Nigeria has thrived despite the fact that there have been no new PCVs sent to Nigeria in the intervening years. All of our newsletters can be found on our website.
What is the best thing your group has done in the past year:
We had an outstanding roster of speakers who put the future of Nigeria in perspective at our Washington meeting in September in conjunction with Peace Corps Connect. We migrated to a new, interactive website using Wild Apricot technology. Unfortunately, just as we were beginning our parallel run, NPCA announced they are doing the same thing using SilkStart technology. But most of the work is independent of the particular technology chosen, and we would be glad to share our experience with the process.
Key advice that you can offer to other NPCA Affiliate Groups:
Bring members together to build cohesion. Do that by having regular meetings, an active newsletter, and an interesting website. Behind that lies a database of member information. You cannot reach all your members via electronic means, so a printed newsletter is the way we stay in touch with our non-technical users.
What is a key skill/activity/resource that you can offer to other NPCA Member Groups?
We have incorporated, and we have gone through the process to become a 501-C-3.
Are there any key challenges or needs that your group faces and could use some help?
Peace Corps left Nigeria in 1972, so our membership is aging. Do we just tell the last person standing to throw away the key, or is there a way to give our organization a future?
Are there any monthly/annual activities that you conduct?
We hold an annual meeting in conjunction with Peace Corps Connect. We make an annual appeal for donations to projects in Nigeria.
Why is your group affiliated with the National Peace Corps Association?
Because we are returned Peace Corps Volunteers. In fact, some of our members were involved in the creation of the NPCA. Also, we have learned many things from other affiliated groups. We have one of the highest attendance rates of any COS group at Peace Corps Connect meetings, and as a percentage of the total of volunteers who served in Nigeria, probably the highest.
Please share a phrase, tradition or custom that exemplifies the spirit of the country where you served:
Hubba, Bature! (White man, you must be joking.)
What else should RPCVs know about your group?
We hope newer groups, primarily of younger members, can see from our example that being an RPCV is a lifelong commitment, opportunity and resource.
Thanks to Greg Jones and other members of Friends of Nigeria for providing this profile.
Get connected! There are over 150 NPCA member groups – geographic groups, country of service groups, and special interest groups. Find links to all of them on our website. Get involved with an affiliate group today!
Want your NPCA member group to be featured in the coming months? Contact us.