Like other foreign assistance agencies and organizations of the U.S. government, the Inter-American Foundation (IAF) was born in the social and political changes of the turbulent 1960s. Shortly after President John F. Kennedy’s famous call for self-sacrifice and for Americans to participate in public service, he laid the foundation for U.S. foreign assistance, bringing the U.S. Peace Corps into existence. The establishment of the IAF followed soon after.
From February 26 to March 4, 2017 we at the IAF stand with the volunteer agency to celebrate Peace Corps Week. We share a long history with the Peace Corps not only in solidarity because of similar goals but also as a virtual magnet for former volunteers and staff. Our staff’s history with the Peace Corps has influenced our approach to foreign assistance and certainly affects how we work with our grantee partners.
As Peace Corps Week commemorates Kennedy’s establishment of the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961, we celebrate how the U.S. Government continues to make a difference at home and abroad.
Here’s how some of our staff remember being welcomed into their communities as Peace Corps Volunteers:
Lesley Duncan, Chief Operating Officer
RPCV Paraguay 1987-1990
Administrative Officer Thailand 2002-2007
Country Director Bulgaria 2007-2011
Roving Expert (2011-2013)
“Welcomed with open arms and chilled terere!”
Mark Caicedo, External Affairs Specialist
Honduras 1983-86, Apiculture Extension (Beekeeping)
“I ate meals with a family that allowed me to integrate into the community more quickly and easily.”
Rosemarie Moreken, Foundation Representative for El Salvador
Guatemala 1988-90 Nutrition
“Community members were mostly curious and became accepting following my fortunate invitation to visit communities with the health clinic staff, who had a good reputation of service to the communities.”
Ginger Deason, Foundation Representative for Ecuador and Panama
Guatemala 1995-1997, Agroforestry
“My very first night in my site the neighbor family, who was to become MY family over the next two years, sent their tiny, shy son Milo up to my house to ask me if I wanted coffee. Writing it sounds like the silliest thing, but I’ll never, ever forget that moment when he knocked on my door and asked me in a voice so soft I could hardly hear him, ‘My mom wants to know if you’d like some coffee.’ Of course the answer was yes!”
Bryon Wells, Writer-Editor
Honduras 2005 – 2006
Crisis Corps/Peace Corps Response El Salvador, 2007-2008
“At my most recent post in El Salvador, my community welcomed me by showing me how much they put my well-being first by looking out for my safety.”
Marcy Kelley, Managing Director, Grants and Portfolio Management
Dominican Republic 1977-1979
Country Director Ecuador, 1998-2003
“I am still regularly in touch with my counterpart, and I am so fortunate to get to see her every few years. I’m not sure I would do what I do today if it wasn’t for her helping me understand community dynamics.”
Kaitlin Stastny, Program Staff Assistant
Panama 2014-2016, Community Environmental Conservation sector
“During my first day at my indigenous site, the village elders gathered together and, upon considerable reflection and back-and-forth banter, named me ‘Komeli Yogüibo,’ adopting me into their community and culture.”
Margaret Francis, Foundation Representative for Paraguay and Argentina
Honduras 1997-1999, Natural Resources
“When visiting neighbors, there was always hot coffee, fresh corn tortillas and smiles from the kids.”
Karen Vargas, Executive Assistant
Mozambique 2011 – 2013, Community Health Worker / NGO Capacity Building Volunteer
“I was taken in by a family in Quelimane. The first time was temporary after a cyclone closed off access to my house. The second time was when my home was broken into. I remember them saying, ‘Pack your clothes and essentials, you’re moving into the family home.’ They fed and housed me for the remainder of my service without asking for anything in return.”
Carolina A. Cardona, Foundation Representative for Haiti and the Dominican Republic
Honduras 1985-1987, Rural Development
“On New Year’s Eve, Marina, one of the leaders of the women’s group, made me a roasted chicken. We chatted and ate as fire crackers went off in the background.”
Kara Rogers, Management Analyst
Rwanda 2009-2011, Health and Community Development Volunteer
“Murakaza neza! (Welcome in Kinyarwanda). My community welcomed me as one of the first Peace Corps volunteers in their village and true to Rwandan culture, welcome all with greetings, dancing, and sharing food.”
Kristie Jacobs, Program Specialist
Dominican Republic 2012-2014, Community Environmental Development Volunteer/ Regional Peace Corps Volunteer Leader
“My community, Boca de Yuma and the Playita worked with me on many different types of projects and integrated me into their everyday lives.”
Susan Stine, Program Staff Assistant
Dominican Republic 2013-2015, Education Specialist
“My community organized two surprise birthday parties for me, complete with cake and spaghetti (a classic Dominican party dish).”
Talk about community-led development!
What does it mean to “stay at home” when you’ve been spending months or even years searching for one? For Venezuelan migrants, recent events have further complicated their ability to create a sense of home.
In a context like Honduras in which violence and poverty abound but jobs do not, how do young people find hope? Many IAF grantees have been working to provide it.
Looking for scenes of beauty and strength during these challenging times? In early March 2020, several IAF staff members traveled to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Lucia to visit potential grantee partners. Get a peek into community-led innovations in the Caribbean through their photos.