News / Arts & Entertainment

Photo Exhibit Reflects Peace Corps Experiences

Preparing the day’s first meal (Submitted by George Bergeman)
Preparing the day’s first meal (Submitted by George Bergeman)
Faiza Elmasry

Since 1961, hundreds of thousands of young Americans have been sent around the world as Peace Corps volunteers: teachers, community organizers… and friends. The program was the brainchild of President John F. Kennedy, but the youthful enthusiasm of the volunteers really was what brought this idea to life.

Those volunteers come back from the experience with a wealth of memories and photos. More than two dozen of those images are now on display at Round Hill Arts Center, a non-profit art organization in Virginia.

"Bringing The World Home" showcases photographs submitted by Peace Corps volunteers who served in Africa and Latin America from 1971 to 1991.

Jill Evans-Kavaldjian, spokeswoman for the Art Center, said some of the volunteers attended the show's opening and shared their stories with the public, especially youngsters, who had a lot of questions for the Peace Corps veterans.

“For example, how they got their water? How they lived from day-to-day? And the pictures are part of the answer," she said.

  • Lisa and Leisi stroll to the church ruins. Built by Americans, the church was a daily reminder of the important adage of ‘development’ work. (Submitted by Lisa Zimmer-Chu)
  • Exhibit Poster: Little Girls in the Window tells a friendship story with two Panamanian young girls who became like family. (Submitted by Lisa Zimmer-Chu)
  • Preparing the day’s first meal (Submitted by George Bergeman)
  • Fish headed to the local market from one of the local dugout fishing boats. (Submitted by George Bergeman)
  • Clarissa Bergeman and students. Sometimes things really did look like a Peace Corps recruiting poster. (Submitted by George Bergeman)
  • This friendly devil danced in celebration of a local tribal chief’s birthday. (Submitted by George Bergeman)
  • Regina baked bread which her daughters delivered to houses in the community. (Submitted by George Bergeman)
  • She’s a neighbor who happened to be the granddaughter of a Liberian government official. Aunt Annie is picking small rocks out of rice. (Submitted by George Bergeman)
  • Three Panamanian children taught Meredith Cornett (served in Panama between 1991 and 1993) to harvest clams during the dry season, and so many other important skills. (Submitted by Meredith Cornett)


Girls in a window

The poster the Round Hill Arts Center printed to publicize the show features a photograph of two little girls in a window. It was taken in 1991 by Lisa Zimmer-Chu, who organized an environmental education program in Panama, and has remained in public service after her Peace Corps experience.

“The children were the first ones who kind of came over first with a great deal of curiosity about us,” she said. “They were really the ones who introduced us to the community in a greater way. These girls were at our house every day. They became family to us.” The girls, Laurena and Leisi, were five and three years old at the time.

Another photo shows  Zimmer-Chu holding hands with one of the girls at the ruins of an American church.

“My husband had taken the picture from inside of the church,” she recalled. “That church had not been built by the hands of the people in the community. And the basic tenant of development work is a phrase that goes; ‘if you give a person a fish, they eat for a day. If you teach them to fish, they eat for lifetime.' This church hadn’t been built by the people, not given to them. It was allowed to go to ruin.”

Time in Tranquilla

Meredith Cornett, who also served in Panama in 1991, submitted one picture for the exhibit.

“It’s a very animated shot of the four children who were most essential to my life,” she explained. "I saw them every day, several times a day. They were immigrants to Panama from Colombia. Their family was the  most welcoming to me, especially early on. They brought me fish. They sent me meals.

"They really embraced me in a way that I think the rest of the community had trouble doing," Cornett continued. "And I think it was really because of their sort of outsider and marginalized status. They sort of realized I was in the same position so they went out of their way to be kind to me.”

Cornett, who recently published her memoir, Heart of Palms: My Peace Corps Years in Tranquilla, worked in environmental education in the Panamanian town of Tranquilla, which was in the middle of a national park.

“We had 3,000 Panamanians living within the borders of a national park. So [we were] trying to figure out how to continue their farming lifestyle in what had just recently became a protected area,” she said.

Cornett, who is now a scientist with the Nature Conservancy in Minnesota, said her experience in Panama had an enormous impact on her.

“To some, people who are living in that park are viewed as a threat to the natural resources, the forest. I felt - and still feel having gone back and seen all of the amazing restoration work they have been doing - that much more than being a threat, people can also be part of an important restoration or healing process for the natural areas,” she said.

Teaching, Learning in Liberia

George Bergeman and his wife Clarissa taught college and high school students and elementary children in Buchanan, Liberia in 1972.

They submitted six photos of daily life in the country: images of women doing their daily chores, selling fish in the market, baking bread, picking out tiny rocks from rice.

“That is one of the things that you do before you cook rice," George Bergeman explained. "She [one of the women featured in the images] was quite elegant and had moved to Buchanan from Monrovia 30 years, 40 years before we arrived. It was fun visit with her. She talked about her life. She came down in a boat. She brought down a piano with her. The piano fell unfortunately in the ocean. So she regretted it ever since.”

Bergeman’s other images reflect community and traditions and rituals, like a "dancing devil."

“There were two kinds of devil in Liberia. Those that were more commercial that would dance in occasions, and others which were sort of religious. Those wouldn’t be allowed to look upon them.  But this was dancing in the occasion of the chief’s birthday," he said. "If you see the picture you would see someone who is dancing in parallel to this dancing devil and then two musicians are behind him playing large box instrument. It’s pretty fantastic music.”

Bergeman says he and his wife believe they gained a lot from their Peace Corps experience in Liberia.

“The longer we were there in Liberia the more we understood things that were in common from people to people and things that were different,” he said. “Today especially, I think Peace Corps volunteers can have an impact and make a difference in terms of the work they do but also just the people to people aspect.”

That’s what the “Bringing the World Home” exhibit highlights and celebrates.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: riano baggy from: ina
August 13, 2014 8:18 AM
we salute for young generations still contribution their power,mind and education for the other peoples who needs. the wisdom says: if you want success you must do the others success too. KEEP DOING.

by: Laura from: California
August 13, 2014 3:13 AM
The photos shared by Peace Corps always depict the work of volunteers in Africa assumingly due to the juxtaposition of the dark skinned host community and the light skinned volunteer. Pretty Weak!

by: heaven from: roseburg or
August 12, 2014 5:40 PM
My daughter is very interested in helping our environment and the animals with which we share it. Do we have to be a wealthy family for her to become a volunteer with green peace and make a difference?

by: kagunda stanley from: Kenya.Kitengela town
August 12, 2014 5:16 PM
How can I be part of this wonderful works and true inspired share?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”