What I brought back from the Peace Corps
50 years ago, President Kennedy established the Peace Corps, encouraging Americans to spread goodwill overseas. While the agency’s long history has not been without controversy, including recent reports of sexual assaults during service, more than 200,000 Americans have answered the call in 139 countries. About 7,700 volunteers have come from Massachusetts.
Diane S. Gallagher74, Brookline
Profession: Archivist, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University
Served: Cape Verde, 1990-1992.
Duties: Started a women’s sewing association that is still going; established a library for children in a grammar school; began an AIDS program; taught English to businesspeople and showed that “older” Americans could work as well as younger people.
Lesson: “We are all the same, the whole world over.”
Keepsake: A wooden/metal hoe she made in Guinea Bissau during training.
Honor: This month, Gallagher received the Lillian Carter Award, a national honor established in 1986 to recognize an exceptional Peace Corps Volunteer who served over the age of 50 and who has continued to make significant contributions in volunteering upon completion of service. (Carter, the late mother of Jimmy Carter, was a Peace Corps volunteer in India at age 68.)
Marcela Trask28, Waltham
Profession: Graduate student at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management
Served: Costa Rica, 2007-2009
Duties: Worked with a rural school to build a covered area for assemblies and functions and raised money to buy a playground; aided an eco-tourism project that erected an environmental center and cleared trails in Juan Castro Blanco national park; taught English and tutored.
Lesson: “The importance of respect and kindness, both in howI treated people and appreciating it when it was shown to me.”
Keepsake: A wooden plaque with a picture of the Costa Rican school imprinted in leather, presented at the primary school graduation held in the covered area that she helped to build.
Adam M. Rosenberg32, Cambridge
Profession: In September, will attend the London School of Economics
Served: Kingdom of Lesotho, 2006-2008
Duties: HIV/AIDS adviser to the country’s National AIDS Commission; collected data for UNAIDS Annual Report and educated citizens about the disease.
Lesson: “While death is inevitable, suffering does not have to be inevitable as well.’’
Keepsake: A khobo, a traditional blanket from Lesotho that is also used as a year-round article of clothing.
Joseph Kennedy III30, Centerville
Profession: Assistant district attorney, Cape & The Islands (grandnephew of JFK)
Served: Dominican Republic, 2004-2006
Duties: Assisted a group of local guides to take control of a national park — consisting of 27 natural water slides and cliff jumps; developed a sustainable business to increase wages and employment, improve safety for visitors, maintain the park, and provide community funds for local needs.
Lesson: “How far you can go when you have a good idea, get support from committed partners, and don’t care who gets the credit.’’
Keepsake: Two dolphins, carved by a friend, out of the limestone rock from the waterfalls at Río Damajagua.
Helen Drinan64, Boston
Profession: President, Simmons College
Served: Philippines, 1970-1973.
Duties: Volunteer in maternal child health care in Davao City; trainer, Peace Corps Rural Healthcare Development Program.
Lesson: “Learning how to cross cultural boundaries — as you do in a major way in the Peace Corps — will be a lifelong challenge you will benefit from eagerly pursuing.’’
Keepsake: A handmade brass container from Zamboanga, and its beauty represents the creative output of the Muslim community in the Philippines.