For the past forty-five years

Lasting Peace

When President John F. Kennedy asked the nation’s youth to give two years of their lives to the Peace Corps, the goals were basic: Work alongside people who need assistance, understand them and their culture, and help them understand us. Sometimes this meant simply hauling water with villagers to irrigate crops; sometimes it meant building schools, or sharing their grief and joy, their evening meals or midday prayers.

Today’s Peace Corps is tackling grittier, less romantic issues in a changed world of political and cultural upheavals, unspeakable genocides and bloody coups d’etat. More than 7,800 people currently serve overseas with the Peace Corps, our country’s brightest and best. Nearly 100 percent have a college degree. Volunteers still haul water and build schools, but they also teach people who’ve never seen a telephone how to use a computer; explain hygiene to those who barely have enough water to drink; and try to change sexual habits that encourage the spread of AIDS.

Over the years New Canaan and Darien have supplied their share of volunteers. You need only talk to people who volunteered to see how great the impact has been on their personal lives, regardless of whether their service was last year or decades ago. “The Peace Corps made us venturesome,” says New Canaan resident Alan Haas. “It colored the rest of my life — every career choice, every life choice.”

Finding a Family

Alan Haas clearly remembers the two years he spent in the Peace Corps nearly forty years ago. To talk with him, you’d think it happened two weeks ago. He tells of the little hut of mosquito netting where he and his wife, Loni, lived in Micronesia. “You can’t imagine anything more beautiful,” he says. “Overlooking the mountains, the whole house was open to the sea.”

Mostly, Alan recalls the overwhelming hospitality and gratitude of the people. “When Loni was in labor, I was there, boiling the water, holding her hand, and I could hear this sort of humming. I went outside and all the villagers were seated on the ground, singing labor songs. And when our son was born, they changed the music to the song of birth.”

share this story

© 2022 Moffly Media. All rights reserved. Website by Web Publisher Pro