Peace Corps offers much to individuals
Jane Edwards
Letter to the Editor

In 1971, my husband and I became Peace Corps volunteers in Colombia, South America. He was recruited to work as an economist with the Colombian Land Reform Agency, which bought under-used land from absentee landowners and redistributed it to poor farmers to give them the opportunity to build a new life. I was assigned to work for the Colombian Coffee Growers' Association in their efforts to maintain a school lunch program for children in rural coffee producing regions. The lunch provided the school children 70 percent of the necessary daily calories and nutrients and, yes, kept them in school with enough energy to learn. It was really difficult for me to relate these personal experiences to Drew Chebuhar's article in Friday's Daily (Feb. 21).

Were our efforts somehow related to the multinational bad guys he was describing? Were the efforts of other volunteers in Colombia who were nurses, nutritionists, conservationists, animal scientists or agronomists, working for Colombian organizations, related? I'm sorry, but I don't think so.

Most of us who completed our programs left Colombia with more education, experience and sensitivity than we could have ever gained had we decided to enter the U.S. corporate world. We knew we had not contributed as much as we had hoped, but that was the beginning of our professional lives and without question, it was the most worthwhile experience we could have had in two short years.

Before we were accepted by Peace Corps, our backgrounds were investigated to be sure we had never worked for any U.S. intelligence gathering agency. This was to prevent any implication that we might be government agents because the Peace Corps did not want to endanger its reputation or its welcome in our host country. Yes, there were volunteers who returned home early for various reasons; among them health, the desire to return to graduate school and in some cases, for unwelcome behavior, but I truly can't remember anything related to mistreatment of volunteers or a hidden Peace Corps agenda as the reason (and the Peace Corps rumor mill was pretty well established).

Our experience, and that is what I know best, was probably the most significant, single experience in our lives. We would recommend it to anyone who has enough idealism to keep going when the job seems tough and enough education to know that the U.S. can do a lot worse for the world (and it has) than send out its people to peacefully serve and learn.

Jane Edwards

International Student and

Scholar Adviser

Office of International Students and Scholars


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This article was published on Thursday, February 27, 1997.
Copyright 1997 by the Iowa State Daily Publications Board. All rights reserved.
No redistribution without the express written consent of the Iowa State Daily Editor in Chief.