DAVID FLEISCHER: MEMORIES OF PEACE CORPS IN BRAZIL

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Dr. David Fleischer, Professor Emeritus University of Brasilia

Brazil I Fiftieth Anniversary Reunion, Washington, DC

Brazil I Fiftieth Anniversary Reunion, Washington, DC

The following article was originally posted in waisworld.org, permission was granted by our fellow RPCV David Fleischer to have it posted here.

David Fleischer writes:
 
Memories of Peace Corps in Brazil
 
As a comparison to Richard Hancock's memories of Peace Corps in El Salvador (6 July), I would like to describe my experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Brazil at about the same time (1962-1964).
 
Our Brazil I group began training at the National 4-H Club Center in Washington in early January 1962. Most of our group had been 4-H Club members or local 4-H county agents in several states before joining the Peace Corps. Some were college graduates, some had only a high school education, and the rest (like me) had dropped out of college to join this project. A few were 18 years old and some were older. I turned 21 shortly after we arrived in Brazil.

Some had been "IFYEs"--had participated in the International Farm Youth Exchange program and spent six months living on a farm in a foreign country. I had been a 4-H club member in Columbia County in upstate New York and worked on several projects--dairy calf, chickens, sheep, gardening, and reforestation. I was recruited by my county 4-H club agent in mid-1961 and dropped out of Antioch College in December 1961 to join the training group.
 
Our training in Washington permitted the participation of many area and technical experts regarding Brazil, Latin America, foreign relations and economic development. My only "foreign travel" before then was a family summer camping vacation trip to Canada in 1956.

The National 4-H Club Foundation had been contracted to administer our group in Brazil. The Foundation had a very good relationship with the Brazilian national rural extension service (ABCAR) and that was the "foot in the [Brazilian] door" to get Peace Corps into Brazil. This happened in some other countries. For example, in Senegal, the UAW (United Auto Workers) had a very good relationship with labor unions there and so was hired as the contractor for the first Peace Corps project in that country--to train local auto mechanics.
 
After six weeks of training in Washington we had four weeks of "Outward Bound" training at the same Camp Cozier in the mountains near Arecibo, PR. Our group had 006six volunteers from Puerto Rico. We were grouped into several "boy-girl" teams and did one week of "internship" with the Puerto Rican extension service teams to observe their 4-H club activities. Then in late March 1962 we landed at the international airport in Rio de Janeiro. The Portuguese language teachers at the US Embassy were horrified to find that our level in that language had regressed since we left Washington, because of our four weeks interaction in Spanish Peace Corps 1962-1963 Puerto Rico #02in Puerto Rico. So it was decided that we would have eight weeks of intensive (eight hours a day) language training at the rural agricultural university outside of Rio, living in the dorms with Brazilian students. Several times, the latter invited some of us to go into Rio with them to participate in student demonstrations and protests--a good learning experience.
 
When we arrived in Brazil, Tancredo Neves was still Brazil's Prime Minister during the short-lived parliamentary government period. The US Ambassador who received us was Lincoln Gordon, a Harvard professor who JFK had recruited into the foreign service.
 
Then, we came back into the city of Rio for three weeks of training regarding Brazilian rural extension activities by ABCAR specialists and more language training--plus family home stays. I was placed with a family in the city of Niteroi, across the bay from Rio de Janeiro--so I got to ride the ferry boat every day. Our group of 54 volunteers was then distributed to several Brazilian states--from Rio Grande do Sul (in the South) to the Northeastern state of Ceará. I was sent to the central state of Minas Gerais. There, we received an additional two weeks of training in how rural extension was done in that state--where these activities first began in 1949. So by the time we finally got out to our work sites in mid-June 1962--we had had 5.5 months of training--probably the longest training program ever in Peace Corps history.
 
Our country Peace Corps Representative George Coleman had previously worked with the OAS and his wife Peggy (and four children) were part of our Brazil I family. Francis Pressly had been recruited as a volunteer but because he had been a county 4-H club agent in North Carolina, he was hired by the National 4-H Club Foundation to be its contractor's representative. He and his wife Sybil and two children also became part of our family.
 
Because our group arrived in Brazil with 11 more men than women, the Brazil II project that worked with community development in the San Francisco River basin in central Brazil as of November 1962 also trained 11 women to compliment our project--they were nicknamed the MOBs (mail order brides).
 
We were in Brazil during two difficult periods for the US--first, the Cuban missile img129crisis, and then the assassination of JFK. Most of our group returned to the US in December 1963, but I extended for seven months through July 1964 to finish some of my 4-H (called 4-S in Brazil) projects. Thus, I was in Brazil during the 31 March 1964 military coup that toppled the João Goulart government. My wife, Edyr, and I were married in Lavras, MG in August 1964, just before our return to the US.
 
Our Brazil I group has had several reunions, beginning with our 20-year encounter at the same National 4-H Club Center in August 1981. My wife and our then 7-year old daughter also participated. Our last reunion was during the 50th anniversary celebration of Peace Corps in September 2011--also at the National 4-H Club Center.
 
My Peace Corps service "changed my life." When I returned to Antioch College in Fall 1964, I switched majors from chemistry to political science and eventually ended up at the University of Brasília in January 1972.

JE comments: Outstanding reminisces from David Fleischer. I had often wondered what circumstances led David to choose a career in Brazil. David, together with Richard Hancock, were Peace Corps pioneers--truly one of the brightest spots in International Relations during the tension-filled 1960s.
Perhaps David Fleischer or Richard Hancock could answer this question:  how long and how intense is the training for new volunteers presently?
Who else in WAISdom served in the Peace (Pax...et Lux) Corps? We'd love to hear your story.


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This message has been published on WAISWorld.org forums. To rate, comment or reply to this or any other message in the hierarchy, please follow the corresponding link below:

Forum: Nations
Topic: El Salvador (John Eipper, USA)
Posts:
  Memories of Peace Corps in El Salvador (Richard Hancock, USA)
  Memories of Peace Corps in Brazil (David Fleischer, Brazil)
 
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For information about the World Association of International Studies (WAIS) and its online publication, the World Affairs Report, please visit waisworld.org

 

INTRODUCTION

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This content have been created and organized by Juan E. Rosario a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) from the first project to Brazil from January 1962 to December 1963. The Brazil I Peace Corp Project was administer by The National 4-H Center, Chevy Chase, MD, The Associação Brasileira de Credito e Assistência Rural (ABCAR) and the Agriculture Extension Service of every state served.

Our project was responsible to provide support to the work of the Brazilian Agriculture Extension Service personnel with the 4-S Clubs. Those clubs, similar the our 4-H Clubs, were integrated by young and adolescent children of the rural communities of the regions served by the Agriculture Extension Service of each state.

For comments or suggestions write to: brazilone6263@gmail.com

PEACE CORPS - BRAZIL 4-H/4S PROJECT

Welcome to this mean of communication that will allow us to be informed about our activities. You will have the opportunity to comment to every post of this blog. We hope you can participate and let us know your views, concerns and opinions.
These two pictures represent the volunteers during their initial training phase at the National 4-H Center in Washington, D.C. The second group was known as the Mail Order Brides (MOBs), there were needed to complete the original group.
Brazil I Peace Corps Volunteers worked in teams of one man and one woman.
“These volunteers were requested by the Brazil Agricultural Extension Service (ABCAR), to provide needed manpower in this field. Basically an agricultural country, Brazil does not suffer for a lack of potential 4-S Club members. The main problem is finding adequately trained agricultural and home economics personnel to work with the agricultural extension service which supervises 4-S work.” W. Francis Pressly, Project Director, 1964.

THE PROJECT

A Peace Corps experience is something to be remembered. The volunteers in the original Brazil 4-S project felt this was particularly true of their experience. They were the pioneer group in Brazil, blazing a trail for others to follow, and setting standards of performance for others to emulate.
They reached out into the interior of Brazil, exposing many rural people to the first Americans they had ever seen. They helped to introduce a significant education program, 4-S Club work into many rural communities.
They have shared the fun and laughter, the sweat and toil, the hopes and dreams, and the sorrows and fears of many new found friends across this infinite country. Brazil will always be their second home!
The joy of success and the struggle of adversity has drawn them together, fostering a spirit of friendship, loyalty and esprit de corps.
They have had their share of problems and satisfactions. The joy of success and the struggle of adversity has drawn them together, fostering a spirit of friendship, loyalty and esprit de corps.
These things are are worth remembering. The Brazil I 4-S Peace Corps project provided the first opportunity for the U. S. 4-H Club Movement to actively assist with the development of a counterpart rural youth movement abroad.
The National 4-H Foundation has been pleased to share in this effort with the volunteers and the Peace Corps. It has been a source of great satisfaction to follow the successful efforts of this group.
We commend the work of the Brazil I volunteers.
Warren Schmidt, Coordinator, 4-H Peace Corps Projects National 4-H Club Foundation
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THE TRAINING

The Brazil project actually began in January 1962 when 55 volunteer trainees gathered at the National 4-h Foundation in Washington, D.C for the initial phase of the training program from January 3 to February 14. Then the volunteers went to the Peace Corps training camp in Puerto Rico for three weeks of physical and health training. They also spent a week observing the 4-H work in county offices of the Puerto Rican Extension Service. On March 24, forty-three volunteers left for the final phase of their training. They spent six weeks at the Rural University near Rio de Janeiro where the studied Portuguese six hours a day.
On May 5, the PCVs returned to Rio for thee weeks of special training by the Brazilian Agriculture extension personnel as well as additional language classes.
The final week-long phase of training was held in the states to which the PCV were assigned. The volunteers worked in nine states stretching nearly 2,000 miles from north to south. They received orientation on their state's 4-S Club programs. At the end of this period they moved to their assigned municipios and settled into permanent quarters to begin their jobs. From then the volunteers worked under the local Brazilian extension agents, who introduced them into their communities and have helped them to become acquainted with specific local conditions.

THE VOLUNTEERS

We are getting close to our 50th Anniversary even thou we are about four years away, but the time passes very fast and we should be prepare to plan our reunion activities. The Peace Corps 50th Anniversary is in 2011 and our in 2012.

There is a chance our group - Brazil I and MOBs will meet at the 4-H Club Center in Washington, DC, some time in 2011 o 2012. Let make it happen.

The training began on January 2, 1962 at the National 4-H Center in Washington, D.C. It took from four to six weeks to provide the first phase of the training which included many subjects: leadership, agriculture and home economics, history and culture of Brazil, Portuguese language and others. The had the opportunity to visit the Capitol Building invited by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The second phase took place at the Peace Corps Training Center in the mountains of Puerto Rico. There the group continue with their training in Portuguese language, physical conditioning, survival skills and emotional control. Also an internship at the local Agriculture Extension Service offices was provided to get a feel of the type of service the volunteers will encounter in Brazil.

The last phase took place mostly at the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro from April to June.

PEACE CORPS REPRESENTATIVES VISIT TO CAMP CROZIER

The Peace Corps will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2011.
To record personal stories from former Peace Corps Volunteers,, camp construction workers and camp employees, a group of staffers from Washington, DC and Atlanta came to the former Peace Corps Training Camp at the Rio Abajo Rain-forest in Utuado, Puerto Rico last Saturday, September 19, 2009.
Their first task was to walk around the camp facilities (as their are today) to have a first hand experience of what this was back en the 1960 decade. The camp was last used by the Peace Corps 1969. Probably this area will be considered to be part of the 50th anniversary.
Afterward there was a gathering was all the attendees at a nearby Community Civic Center. Besides the Peace Corps representatives there was the City Mayor of Utuado and the Chancellor of the University of Puerto Rico at Utuado.
These facilities are been rescued by a group of the community that had organized a Cooperative and the will convert them into a EcoTurism lodge and recreational area. It was abandoned for more than fifteen years and now are looking as before.

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REUNIONS IN PUERTO RICO

25th Anniversary Reunion of Brazil I, 1987

This reunion took place at Camp Crozier, the former Peace Corps Training Camp in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. It was held from July 5 to July 11, 1987 to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of this Peace Corps project, known as Brazil I 4-H Peace Corps Project. There were many activities and trips across the Island. As part of the activities we visited the Arecibo Astronomical Observatory, the City Halls of Arecibo, Ponce, San Juan and Juana Diaz. Also a reception at the Governor’s Mansion “La Fortaleza, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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45th Anniversary Reunion of Brazil I, 2007

During the week of June 25 – 30, 2007 members of our Brazil I 4-S Project gathered in the city of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico to celebrate its 45th Anniversary. The reunion site was a collaboration of the Department of Sports and Recreation of Puerto Rico’s Leadership Training Center (CECADER) located at the former Ramey Air Force Base.

During that time we had the opportunity to share experiences, visit various locations in the neighborhood.

RPCVs Dr. José M. Huerta [Dominican Republic], Garred Giles [Ecuador and Colombia and Miriam Acevedo [Ecuador] were part of the organizing group. Both of these friends and colleagues came to give their support by petition of Gloria Lyons just before her death in May.

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Homage to Dr. David Fleischer, Professor Emeritus, University of Brasilia

Dr. David Fleischer, worked as Peace Corps Volunteer in Lavras, Minas Gerais, Brasil img171for the Agriculture Extension Service of Minas Gerais, as part of the first Peace Corps Project in Brazil.
On March 12, 2008 a group of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers from Brazil I Peace Corps Project and many from other projects and countries got together to honor Dr. David Fleischer at that time attending a Political Sciences Congress in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The activity was held at the El Faro Hotel, Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.
Among those attending were RPCVs:
Gloria Lyons, Brazil I ; Juan E. Rosario, Brazil I; Esther Díaz, Brazil I;  Modesto Ortiz, Brazil I; Dr. José M. Huerta, Dominican Republic; Garred Giles, Ecuador and Colombia; Miriam Acevedo, Ecuador, and many others whose information is unknown to me at this time.

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Peace Corps 50th Anniversary Celebration in Puerto Rico
This commemoration was organized by a group of Puerto Ricans Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and the Peace Corps Regional Office in Atlanta, GA. It took place during June 3 in San Juan, Puerto Rico and June 4, 2011 at the former Camp Crozier in the mountains of Rio Abajo Rainforest, Arecibo, Puerto Rico. There were various speakers addressing the audience: a representative of the Mayor of Arecibo, PR; the Secretary of State of Puerto Rico, Mr. Kenneth McClintock; the Peace Corps Public Relations Regional Director, from the Atlanta Office, Mr. David Leavitt D’Agostino [RPCV Dominican Republic]; Mr. Angel Maldonado, former camp employee; Prof. Juan E. Rosario [RPCV Brazil]; Miss. Karen Bengoa [RPCV Paraguay and Bosnia]; Mrs. María Victoria Roberts [RPCV Colombia]. The main speaker was Dr. Luis Díaz [RPCV Chile]
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PARTICIPATE

We Brazil 1962would like Ito encourage all RPCVs from the Brazil I Project, MOBs, Replacement group or anyone who served in this country to use this blog to share their thoughts, comments or suggestions for this event or any other. You only need to click on any Comments link to get access to the writing pad.

Your participation will be public. For private messages, please use our email: jerosario722041@aol.com.

Sharing your photos - if you have photos from your work in Brazil and want to share them, please send them to our email address. Please include the accompanying information to each one.

THE BLOGGER

This site has been created by Juan E. Rosario-Rivera, a former Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) in the Brazil I 4-S Project. Our goal is to serve as a resource to every member our project to communicate and stay informed of any activity organized as a group.

E-mails:

  • jerosario41@hotmail.com
  • jerosario722041@aol.com
  • juan.rosario7@upr.edu

To write a comment, please go to PLEASE PARTICIPATE.

If you are looking for an organization to volunteer for a limited time, other than the Peace Corps, check this organization - Cross Cultural Solutions. Check opportunities in Brazil (Salvador).