Partial Transcript: This is Evelyn Ganzglass. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Somalia from 1966 to 1968. Today is December 9, 2020 and I'm interviewing Jerome Nelson who was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Dominica from 2006 to 2008. And he served in a community economic development program.
Segment Synopsis: Nelson's father was a Volunteer in Costa Rica from 1973-1976 and married a woman from Costa Rica. Nelson was born and raised in Fargo, North Dakota. Nelson became interested in the Peace Corps when he met with a recruiter as a senior attending the University of North Dakota. Nelson thought that Peace Corps service could lead to a career in nonprofit, humanitarian work so he applied. Nelson earned a degree in business. In his junior year of college, Nelson started volunteering with the Special Olympics program.
Keywords: Altruism; Applications; Applying; Career paths; College majors; Community economic development; Extensions; Fargo (N.D.); First generation Americans; Influences; Peace Corps recruiters; Skills; Undergraduate education; University of North Dakota; Volunteering
Subjects: Costa Rica; Dominica; Emigration and immigration; Immigrants; Nonprofit organizations; Peace Corps (U.S.)--2000-2010; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominica; Student activities; Universities and colleges
Partial Transcript: So, what did your parents think about you joining the Peace Corps?
Segment Synopsis: Nelson's parents were supportive but cautioned about how it might negatively impact his career path. Like another Volunteer in his cohort, once in-country Nelson became involved with the Special Olympics there. Nelson and this other Volunteer ended up getting married.
Keywords: Career paths; Cohorts; Marriage; Rural areas; Special Olympics; Support
Partial Transcript: Was there anything memorable, that you want to talk about, about the application process, um, good, bad, or indifferent?
Segment Synopsis: Initially, Nelson was excited to be nominated for a business development program in South America. Nelson had some fluency in Spanish from living with his parents. Nelson did not study Spanish in college because he passed a Spanish mastery test. Nelson did not want to serve in Costa Rica because he wanted to be independent from his relatives. After Nelson submitted his medical paperwork, his application was put on hold so he stopped receiving notifications, which he was expecting, regarding his anticipated departure. Upon request from the Peace Corps medical staff, Nelson had a certain enzyme test re-done. Subsequently, Nelson was informed that most Peace Corps regions, including South America, were closed to service for him because he was more vulnerable to malaria. Finally, Nelson was offered a posting in a community economic development program in the Eastern Caribbean. Nelson, with some reluctance, accepted the posting and was able to avoid conflict with his temporary job and with his volunteer coaching obligation with the Special Olympics.
Keywords: Activities; Anxiety; Application process; Changes; Commitments; Disappointment; Doctors; Examinations; Exams; Excited; Family; First generation Americans; Jobs; Malaria; Medical clearance; Paperwork; Peace Corps interviews; Peace Corps recruiters; Peace Corps staff; Plans; Spanish (Language); Special Olympics; Telephone calls; Uncertainty; Volunteering; Waiting periods
Subjects: Eastern Caribbean; Emotions; Health; Parents; South America; Stress (Psychology)
Partial Transcript: And then I departed out to staging in Washington, D.C. right towards the end of, uh, of July.
Segment Synopsis: Nelson was feeling scared and anxious because of the complications with his medical clearance, the abrupt changing of his assignment, the brevity of time for him to prepare for the new assignment, and his ignorance about the Eastern Caribbean. After staging in Washington, D.C., Nelson's cohort flew to St. Lucia for pre-service training.
Keywords: Anxious; Cohorts; Medical clearance; Pre-service training; Preparation; Scared; Staging; Traveling
Subjects: Dominica; Eastern Caribbean; Emotions; International travel; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominica; St. Lucia; Washington (D.C.)
Partial Transcript: So, out of those six islands, our group flew to St. Lucia and we had, uh, appro--almost 70 Volunteers. So, it was a very big group.
Segment Synopsis: Nelson's cohort of nearly 70 Volunteers was dispersed among 3 villages in St. Lucia for their first month of pre-service training. Then, the Volunteers were assigned to specific nations within the Eastern Caribbean group and were sent to their country to complete pre-service training. On St. Lucia and Dominica, people speak English and Creole. Pre-service training did not include much language training in Creole. Later, Volunteers who wanted to study Creole could receive a stipend from the Peace Corps to cover the cost of this tutoring. The community economic development Volunteers were instructed to spend the first 3 months at their work site observing and to not to try to impose projects or solutions on the local people. Nelson recalls that his cohort started with about 3 African American Volunteers, 10 Hispanic American Volunteers, and 5 Asian American Volunteers. During training, the Volunteers stayed with host families. For the second part of pre-service training, Nelson was assigned to a village in the Kalinago Territory of Dominica which is inhabited by an indigenous people.
Keywords: African Americans; Asian Americans; Black Americans; Creole (Language); Cultural training; Diversity in the Peace Corps; English (Language); Expectations; Hispanic Americans; History; Kalinago Territory (Dominica); Language skills; Language training; Local people; Locals; Stipends; Technical training; Villages
Subjects: Dominica; Eastern Caribbean; Language and languages; Minorities; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominica; St. Lucia; Tutors and tutoring; Volunteer workers in community development
Partial Transcript: So, I lived, I lived with a family, um, and they, they placed me with this family particularly because they wanted, uh--they saw that I was supposed to be a business development Volunteer and they knew that they wanted me to, to connect with businesses in the area to see if I could assist.
Segment Synopsis: Things with Nelson's first host family in the Kalinago Territory in the village of Salybia did not turn out particularly well as the family members did not interact much with Nelson. In contrast, Nelson had an enviable relationship with his host family on St. Lucia and is still in contact with them. Nelson had been placed with this host family in Salybia because they were among the few people who still made cassava bread by hand.
Keywords: Cassava bread; Challenging; Crayfish River (Dominica); Differences; Expectations; First Goal; History; Host families; Housing; Kalinago Territory (Dominica); Living conditions; Problems; Salybia (Dominica); Special occasions; Villages
Subjects: Dominica; Friendship; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominica; Small business--Developing countries; St. Lucia
Map Coordinates: 15.5028346, -62.379347
GPS: Salybia (Commonwealth of Dominica)
Map Coordinates: 15.493458, -61.2597978
GPS: Crayfish River (Commonwealth of Dominica)
Map Coordinates: 15.5, -61.266667
GPS: St. Lucia
Map Coordinates: 13.8817, -60.9682
GPS: Commonwealth of Dominica
Map Coordinates: 15.416667, -61.333333
Partial Transcript: And so, uh, cassava, um, cassava, um, you know, thr--um, pretty well-known crop throughout South America.
Segment Synopsis: Nelson describes the production of cassava bread by his host family. Nelson helped out when he wasn't in pre-service training class. Nelson made several suggestions on how the family could expand their market but they didn't seem too interested.
Keywords: Classes; Culture; Host family; Pre-service training; Tourism; Tourists
Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominica; South America
Map Coordinates: -15.6071989, -100.9777614
Partial Transcript: You know, I got out of there about, uh, about 4 months. And on occasion, I would go back to visit them and just say, "Hey, let me know when your, uh--when you got more cassava and I'll stop by."
Segment Synopsis: Nelson found a different home stay in the nearby village of Crayfish River.
Keywords: Changes; Crayfish River (Dominica); Host family; Host fathers; Housing; Living conditions; Running water; Villages
Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominica
Map Coordinates: 15.5, -61.266667
Partial Transcript: And, um, I was--my business--my work site was really exciting and interesting place called the Kalinago Barana Aute. And, it was sort of referred to as the model village by the sea.
Segment Synopsis: Nelson's work site was Kalinago Barana Aute which was a tourist attraction that depicted traditional life of the indigenous people. The tourist site had recently opened. After several months, Nelson's counterpart moved without notice to the U.S. So, this made Nelson's work more challenging and difficult. Nelson and his new counterpart were unable to arrive at a satisfactory working arrangement.
Keywords: Attitudes; Challenging; Changes; Conflicts; Counterparts; Culture; Difficult; Kalinago Barana Aute (Dominica); Local people; Locals; Tourism; Tourists; Villages
Subjects: Emotions; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominica; Volunteer workers in community development
Map Coordinates: 15.5018932, -61.2606508
Partial Transcript: I was already doing Special Olympics in the village. Uh, there was another Volunteer who lived, um, actually, actually in the same village.
Segment Synopsis: Along with another Volunteer who lived in his village, Nelson got involved with Special Olympics in their area. Nelson made himself available at the school and around the community thus forcing himself to be flexible and trying to find his role in the community. About halfway through his service, Nelson contemplated quitting. Nelson discussed his struggles with the Peace Corps country director. Nelson has regrets about not having a more tangible Peace Corps legacy. However, Nelson feels that he was able to build positive relationships within his community and carries on with the third goal of the Peace Corps.
Keywords: Community; Flexibility; Peace Corps directors; Quitting; Regrets; Second Goal; Site mates; Struggles; Third Goal; Villages
Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominica; Schools; Volunteer workers in community development
Partial Transcript: When, when in this whole process did you meet your wife?
Segment Synopsis: During pre-service training on St. Lucia, Nelson and his future wife were at different villages and didn't know each other well. They started connecting more once their pre-service training moved to Dominica and when they both became involved with Special Olympics there and their teams had activities in the capital. Sometimes, Nelson would visit her at her village, Grand Bay, and vice versa.
Keywords: Buses; Grand Bay (Dominica); Local people; Locals; Pre-service training; Social life; Special Olympics; Transportation; Travel; Traveling; Villages
Subjects: Dominica; Interpersonal relations and culture; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominica; St. Lucia; Volunteers
Partial Transcript: When I finished, I traveled for a few months.
Segment Synopsis: After Nelson completed his Peace Corps service, he went to Costa Rica to visit relatives. Eventually, Nelson moved to San Francisco to be with his future wife. They continue to reside in that area.
Keywords: Family; San Francisco (Calif.); Traveling
Subjects: Costa Rica; Families.; International travel
Partial Transcript: So, as you think about your Peace Corps experience, in addition to meeting your wife and your history of being born because of Peace Corps, what do you think the impact of Peace Corps has been on your life?
Segment Synopsis: Nelson feels it was an advantage to grow up being exposed to two different cultures and learning two languages. Growing up, Nelson had only visited his relatives in Costa Rica twice. Now, Nelson feels more connected to these relatives both emotionally and technologically. Nelson is grateful that he and his wife did not have any major health or security issues during their Peace Corps service. Nelson's two children attend a Spanish bilingual school. Nelson plans to travel back to the Eastern Caribbean with his nuclear family, especially to see his former host family in St. Lucia. Nelson feels that through Peace Corps service, he underwent a lot of personal growth and became more flexible and open-minded.
Keywords: Advantages; Culture; Distance; Flexibility; Future plans; Host family; Host mothers; Kids; Language skills; Personal growth; Safety; Siblings; Spanish (Language); Technology; Traveling
Subjects: Costa Rica; Dominica; Eastern Caribbean; Finance; Health; International travel; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominica; Schools; St. Lucia