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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

ILO: Women Still Losing Out in Global Work Place

International Labor Organization says women are marginally better off now than they were 20 years ago 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.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

Country-pop singer, Lizzie Sider sits down with "Border Crossings" host Larry London to perform songs from her new album, “Butterfly,” and to talk about her anti-bullying tour.

Blogs

African Music Treasures