Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Stephen Callahan, February 13, 2021

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

 

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00:00:00 - Motivation for joining Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Good morning. Today is February 13, 2021. This is Candice Wiggum, RPCV from North Macedonia, 2009 to 2012. And I am interviewing Stephen Callahan who was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines from 1980 to 1982 as a rural bank development Volunteer. He then worked at Peace Corps headquarters from 1982 to 1986, then for USAID until retirement. He is currently on an expert appointment providing HR expertise to the Peace Corps.

Segment Synopsis: Callahan was aware of the Peace Corps because his father was an official in the Kennedy-Johnson administration. After Callahan finished college and started working, a Returned Volunteer encouraged Callahan to consider joining the Peace Corps. Subsequently, following the sale of his family's nursery/gardening business, Callahan joined the Peace Corps.

Keywords: Conversations; Encouragement; Influences; Jobs; John F. Kennedy; Lyndon B. Johnson; Peace Corps staff; Returned Peace Corps Volunteers; Rural areas; Sargent Shriver; Telephone calls; West Virginia

Subjects: Africa; Ethiopia; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--1980-1990; Peace Corps (U.S.)--2020-; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Philippines; Retirement; United States. Agency for International Development; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Philippines
Map Coordinates: 13, 122
GPS: West Virginia
Map Coordinates: 38.6409, -80.6227
GPS: Ethiopia
Map Coordinates: 9, 38.7
GPS: Africa
Map Coordinates: 1.7331937, -16.5138449
00:02:10 - Peace Corps application process

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Partial Transcript: What was the application process for you back then?

Segment Synopsis: Callahan wanted to go to Latin America and improve his Spanish fluency. Callahan was offered a posting in Honduras but then the program was canceled. Soon after, Callahan was offered a posting to the Philippines.

Keywords: Arrangements; Belongings; Changes; Conversations; Disappointment; Fluency; Letters; Mail; Medical clearance; Peace Corps recruiters; Preparation; Spanish (Language); Staging; Support; Telephone calls; Uncertainty; Waiting periods

Subjects: Emotions; Honduras; Language and languages; Latin America; Peace Corps (U.S.); Philippines; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Latin America
Map Coordinates: -9.066609, -113.32832
GPS: Honduras
Map Coordinates: 15, -86.5
GPS: Philippines
Map Coordinates: 13, 122
00:03:53 - Reactions to his joining Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: But, what did your parents think? What did your friends think at that point?

Segment Synopsis: Callahan applied about a year after his father's death. Callahan's mother was encouraging and his friends were supportive.

Keywords: Deaths; Encouragement; Family; Friends; Invitations; Siblings; Support; Waiting periods

Subjects: Families.; Honduras; Parents; Peace Corps (U.S.); Philippines; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Honduras
Map Coordinates: 15, -86.5
GPS: Philippines
Map Coordinates: 13, 122
00:05:05 - Staging / Pre-service training

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Partial Transcript: And what was staging and training like for that program?

Segment Synopsis: Callahan's staging was in Seattle, Washington. At the staging were 101 trainees in 5 different programs. Callahan's central bank group had about a dozen trainees. Callahan had pre-service training at Pandi, Bulacan. Callahan was posted to Manila and, accordingly, studied Tagalog. The training facility for Callahan's group was being used for the first time which resulted in a number of problems which Callahan describes.

Keywords: Adjustment; Food; Ilocano (Language); Inoculations; Language training; Living conditions; Local languages; Manila (Philippines); Mount Saint Helen's (Wash.); Pandi, Bulacan (Philippines); Problems; Seattle (Wash.); Tagalog (Language); Technical training; Training centers; Vaccinations; Weather

Subjects: Language and languages; Peace Corps (U.S.); Philippines; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Seattle (Wash.)
Map Coordinates: 47.609722, -122.333056
GPS: Philippines
Map Coordinates: 13, 122
GPS: Manila (Philippines)
Map Coordinates: 14.6, 120.98
GPS: Mount Saint Helen's (Wash.)
Map Coordinates: 46.1912, -122.1944
GPS: Pandi, Bulacan (Philippines)
Map Coordinates: 14.87, 120.95
00:08:20 - Assignment to Manila, Philippines

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Partial Transcript: You got assigned not to a specific village in a, in a sense, but to Manila. Is that correct?

Segment Synopsis: Callahan's program was involved with a type of loan program new to the Philippines. Many of the borrowers were defaulting on their loans. Callahan's work involved visiting various borrowers to improve their financial situation so they could continue to service their loan. Volunteers in other locations were more focused on establishing new loans. One other Volunteer in the banking program was also assigned to Manila.

Keywords: Banks; Different; Finances; Loans; Manila (Philippines); Problems; Site mates; Traveling

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.); Philippines; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Philippines
Map Coordinates: 13, 122
GPS: Manila (Philippines)
Map Coordinates: 14.6, 120.98
00:10:28 - Living situation

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Partial Transcript: Although I could have found an apartment in Manila, I chose to find something about an hour south. And, uh, I was at a rural bank and I'd asked the bank manager if he knew of a place that I could rent.

Segment Synopsis: Callahan chose to live an hour south of Manila with a family that had hosted a Volunteer 10 years earlier. Callahan integrated well with his host family and is still in contact with them.

Keywords: Acceptance; Anxious; Batangas (Philippines); Choices; Contact; Food; Host family; Host fathers; Language skills; Manila (Philippines); Rural areas; Socializing; Tagalog (Language); Traveling

Subjects: Emotions; Interpersonal relations; Language and languages; Lifestyles; Manners and customs; Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Batangas (Philippines)
Map Coordinates: 13.83, 121
GPS: Manila (Philippines)
Map Coordinates: 14.6, 120.98
00:13:39 - Language fluency

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, and it sounds like you got fairly fluent in Tagalog.

Segment Synopsis: Callahan found that most young adults had some fluency in English. Callahan usually used English with the bank managers.

Keywords: Books; Communication; English (Language); Local people; Locals; Norms; Tagalog (Language); Women

Subjects: Language and languages; Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers

00:15:22 - Assisting the borrowers

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Partial Transcript: Yeah. And how would you work with the people in the programs that were in default?

Segment Synopsis: Callahan helped explain the program to borrowers whose loan was behind in payment. Many of the borrowers were owners of small, viable businesses.

Keywords: Banks; Encouragement; Finances; Loans; Support; Understanding

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.); Small business--Developing countries; Voluntarism; Volunteers

00:16:59 - Surprises during his service

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Partial Transcript: What surprised you most when you got to the Philippines and started your work?

Segment Synopsis: Callahan had to get used to the heat and to the culture. Callahan had traveled to parts of the United Kingdom, but he had never lived in an Asian country. When in-country, Callahan physically stood out.

Keywords: Acclimation; Adjustment; Bulacan (Philippines); Children; Clothing; Kids; Mosquito nets; Pre-service training; Santo Tomas (Philippines); Skin color; Traveling; Weather

Subjects: Acculturation; England; International travel; Ireland; Peace Corps (U.S.); Scotland; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Bulacan (Philippines)
Map Coordinates: 15, 121.08
GPS: Ireland
Map Coordinates: 53.416667, -8
GPS: Scotland
Map Coordinates: 57, -4
GPS: England
Map Coordinates: 53, -1
GPS: Santo Tomas (Philippines)
Map Coordinates: 14.8, 121.18
00:18:48 - Greatest challenge

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Partial Transcript: What was hardest for you?

Segment Synopsis: Callahan had bouts of loneliness. The central bank to which Callahan was assigned was lax in providing direction. It took time for Callahan to find his niche in the banking administrative system where he felt he was making a positive contribution.

Keywords: Banks; Contributions; Finances; Loans; Lonely; Manila (Philippines); Site mates; Support; Traveling

Subjects: Emotions; Finance; Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Manila (Philippines)
Map Coordinates: 14.6, 120.98
00:20:28 - Adventures

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Partial Transcript: What adventures did you have?

Segment Synopsis: Callahan spent most of his time traveling to rural banks which became an adventure, especially if he needed to stay overnight unexpectedly.

Keywords: Manila (Philippines); Rural areas; Santo Tomas (Philippines); Socializing; Transportation; Traveling

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Manila (Philippines)
Map Coordinates: 14.6, 120.98
GPS: Santo Tomas (Philippines)
Map Coordinates: 14.08, 121.18
00:21:08 - Vacation

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Partial Transcript: I did get out of country, uh, halfway through and went to visit Hong Kong and, and southern China.

Segment Synopsis: After his first year, Callahan traveled to Hong Kong and China. Callahan also visited other Volunteers on Luzon. Callahan discusses some of the differences between various locales in Luzon.

Keywords: Customs; Differences; Ilocano (Language); Local languages; Luzon (Philippines); Site visits; Tagalog (Language); Traveling

Subjects: China; Hong Kong; International travel; Language and languages; Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Hong Kong
Map Coordinates: 22.3, 114.2
GPS: People's Republic of China
Map Coordinates: 35, 103
GPS: Luzon (Philippines)
Map Coordinates: 16, 121
00:22:25 - Additional training

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Partial Transcript: What trainings did you have while you were over there?

Segment Synopsis: Every two months, the central bank gathered the Volunteers in the program for an additional week of technical training in Manila. The Volunteers also supported each other. Furthermore, Callahan took advantage of formal opportunities to improve his language fluency.

Keywords: Language training; Manila (Philippines); Support; Technical training; Traveling

Subjects: Language and languages; Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Manila (Philippines)
Map Coordinates: 14.6, 120.98
00:23:49 - Transportation

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Partial Transcript: How did you get back and forth?

Segment Synopsis: Callahan often traveled by bus, which provided an opportunity for socializing. The bus system was good so traveling was easy. Callahan found the local people to be very hospitable.

Keywords: Buses; Hospitality; Local people; Locals; Manila (Philippines); Santo Tomas (Philippines); Schedules; Socializing; Traveling

Subjects: Manners and customs; Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Manila (Philippines)
Map Coordinates: 14.6, 120.98
GPS: Santo Tomas (Philippines)
Map Coordinates: 14.08, 121.18
00:26:18 - Social life

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Partial Transcript: What did you do typically for social life?

Segment Synopsis: Callahan saw other Volunteers and Peace Corps staff in Manila.

Keywords: Deaths; Interviews; Manila (Philippines); Peace Corps directors; Peace Corps staff; Support

Subjects: Interpersonal relations; Jordan; Peace Corps (U.S.); United States. Agency for International Development; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Manila (Philippines)
Map Coordinates: 14.6, 120.98
GPS: Jordan
Map Coordinates: 31.24, 36.51
00:27:51 - Contact with family back home

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Partial Transcript: How did you communicate back home?

Segment Synopsis: Callahan maintained correspondence with several of his relatives in the U.S.

Keywords: Care packages; Communication; Family; Home; Letters; Mail

Subjects: Families.; Interpersonal relations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers

00:29:17 - Special occasions

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Partial Transcript: You said you went to, like, festivals and family celebrations with your, with your Philippine family?

Segment Synopsis: Callahan's host father, as part of his job, was obliged to visit local schools, especially when the schools were having a special festival. So, sometimes, Callahan would accompany him. Callahan describes the food and activities at these festivals. Callahan describes a typical gathering with his local friends.

Keywords: Activities; Community involvement; Drinking; Food; Friends; Host fathers; Inclusion; Questions; Second Goal; Social interactions; Socializing; Traveling

Subjects: Interpersonal relations; Manners and customs; Peace Corps (U.S.); Schools; Voluntarism; Volunteers

00:33:17 - Safety and security

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Partial Transcript: Did you ever feel like you were in danger?

Segment Synopsis: Callahan never felt in personal danger. However, Callahan describes some violent incidents which did occur in Manila while he was in-country. Callahan became a known figure in Santo Tomas, the town where he was living. At the time, it had a population of about 20,000 people.

Keywords: Acceptance; Batangas City (Philippines); Changes; Deaths; Manila (Philippines); Population; Santo Tomas (Philippines); Tourists

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.); Violence; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Manila (Philippines)
Map Coordinates: 14.6, 120.98
GPS: Santo Tomas (Philippines)
Map Coordinates: 14.08, 121.18
GPS: Batangas City (Philippines)
Map Coordinates: 13.75, 121.05
00:36:16 - Health

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Partial Transcript: Yeah. Did you have any medical issues while you were over there?

Segment Synopsis: Callahan got gastroenteritis from the water for which he received treatment in Manila. Callahan injured one of his Achilles tendons while playing basketball. Callahan was sent to Clark Air Base for treatment which involved wearing a cast on his leg for 6 months.

Keywords: Clark Air Force Base (Philippines); Difficult; Illness; Injuries; Luzon (Philippines); Manila (Philippines); Recreation; Sickness; Traveling

Subjects: Hygiene; Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Manila (Philippines)
Map Coordinates: 14.6, 120.98
GPS: Luzon (Philippines)
Map Coordinates: 16, 121
GPS: Clark Air Base (Philippines)
Map Coordinates: 15.185833, 120.559722
00:38:30 - Gender roles

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Partial Transcript: Did you notice any gender related issues that kind of popped out at you while you were over there?

Segment Synopsis: Callahan attended multiple weddings between male Volunteers and local women, as Filipino women were often seen as attractive by the Americans. Callahan notes that women in the Philippines were treated with more deference whereas women in the U.S. tended to be treated more as equals. Callahan found the female bank managers with whom he came into contact to be very professional and responsible.

Keywords: Americans; Attitudes; Characteristics; Marriage; Treatment of women

Subjects: Manners and customs; Multiracial families; Peace Corps (U.S.); Philippines; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Philippines
Map Coordinates: 13, 122
00:40:07 - Career path

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Partial Transcript: Can you talk about what was happening when it came time for you to leave the Philippines?

Segment Synopsis: At the end of his service, Callahan planned to work at a Vietnamese refugee camp on the island of Palawan. However, just around the time of his close of service, Callahan's mother died, so he returned home to Virginia. Callahan found the Peace Corps staff at headquarters to be supportive. Callahan was hired there initially to answer phones and then worked in recruitment for 4 years. Callahan left Peace Corps to assume a position with USAID. Callahan describes the clumsy manner in which he was informed of his mother's death. Work has twice brought Callahan back to the Philippines.

Keywords: Changes; Close of Service; Coming home; Criticism; Deaths; Disappointment; Encouragement; Friends; Jobs; Manila (Philippines); Marriage; Mothers; News; Noncompetitive Eligibility; Palawan (Philippines); Paperwork; Peace Corps directors; Peace Corps interviews; Peace Corps staff; Plans; Questions; Re-entry; Recruitment; Returning; Siblings; Site visits; Support; Telephone calls; Traveling; Uncertainty; Virginia

Subjects: Emotions; International travel; Mental health; Non-governmental organizations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Philippines; United States. Agency for International Development; Vietnam; Voluntarism; Volunteers; Washington (D.C.)

GPS: Manila (Philippines)
Map Coordinates: 14.6, 120.98
GPS: Vietnam
Map Coordinates: 16, 108
GPS: Palawan (Philippines)
Map Coordinates: 9.5, 118.5
GPS: Virginia
Map Coordinates: 37.5215, -78.8537
GPS: Washington (D.C.)
Map Coordinates: 38.904722, -77.016389
GPS: Philippines
Map Coordinates: 13, 122
00:46:14 - Working for USAID

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Partial Transcript: Alright. So then, you had a long career in AID, USAID.

Segment Synopsis: Callahan describes getting hired at USAID and being assigned to Kenya.

Keywords: Applying; Conversations; Encouragement; Excited; Jobs; Marriage; Peace Corps directors; Traveling

Subjects: Emotions; Haiti; International travel; Kenya; United States. Agency for International Development

GPS: Haiti
Map Coordinates: 19, -72.416667
GPS: Kenya
Map Coordinates: 1, 38
00:47:38 - Experiences before joining Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: And what was your college degree in?

Segment Synopsis: Callahan had earned a degree in communication arts. Because of his small business work experience, Callahan was placed in the Peace Corps banking program. This work experience was helpful when Callahan was a Volunteer, as a Peace Corps staff member, and in subsequent management positions..

Keywords: Career paths; College majors; Decisions; Peace Corps staff; Siblings; Skills; Undergraduate education

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.); Small business--Management; United States. Agency for International Development; Voluntarism; Volunteers

00:50:00 - Return to Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: And now, you're working for Peace Corps again.

Segment Synopsis: Callahan is working remotely, part-time, consulting on reorganization of Peace Corps staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. Callahan is excited to see the on-going commitment and spirited attitude of the current Peace Corps staff. Callahan describes the process of returning Volunteers to overseas assignments.

Keywords: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‑19); Excited; Peace Corps staff; Quarantines; Remote work

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Emotions; Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers

00:52:36 - Personal development

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Partial Transcript: Uh, you know, I was looking at the three goals and how you're, you're, you're, your basically the face of America and you're there to help support in, in a technical capacity.

Segment Synopsis: Callahan believes he benefited more from being a Volunteer than he gave in return. Callahan has many friends because of his involvement with the Peace Corps and Foreign Service community. The Peace Corps has had a great impact on Callahan and many others. Callahan encourages any interested people to apply to the Peace Corps.

Keywords: Advice; Career paths; Children; Close of Service; Family; First Goal; Friends; High schools; Impact; Marriage; Returned Peace Corps Volunteers; Second Goal; Spanish (Language); Study abroad; Third Goal

Subjects: Africa; Botswana; China; El Salvador; International travel; Interpersonal relations; Kenya; Language and languages; Malawi; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peru; South Africa; United States. Agency for International Development; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: El Salvador
Map Coordinates: 13.683333, -89.183333
GPS: Peru
Map Coordinates: -10, -76
GPS: People's Republic of China
Map Coordinates: 35, 103
GPS: Africa
Map Coordinates: 1.7331937, -16.5138449
GPS: Kenya
Map Coordinates: 1, 38
GPS: Botswana
Map Coordinates: -24.658333, 25.908333
GPS: Malawi
Map Coordinates: -13.5, 34
GPS: South Africa
Map Coordinates: -30, 25