Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Dollye McClain, August 22, 2021

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

 

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00:00:01 - Experiences before joining Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Uh, my name is Joyce Jenkins. I'm a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Cambodia. I served there as an English teacher, 19--or 20--I'm sorry, 2011 to 2013. And today, I'm talking with Dollye McClain who served in Ecuador. Her Peace Corps service, uh, spanned from 1978 to 1981. And she was working in home community service.

Segment Synopsis: While working on a master's degree at Howard University, McClain met on campus with a Peace Corps recruiter. McClain applied to the Peace Corps and was interested in Latin America and the Caribbean as those areas were the focus of her graduate studies. Subsequently, McClain was offered a posting in Ecuador.

Keywords: Applications; Applying; College majors; Howard University; Master's degrees; Peace Corps recruiters

Subjects: Africa; Caribbean; Emotions; Latin America; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--1970-1980; Peace Corps (U.S.)--1980-1990; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ecuador; Universities and colleges; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Ecuador
Map Coordinates: -2, -77.5
GPS: Howard University
Map Coordinates: 38.922222, -77.019444
GPS: Africa
Map Coordinates: 1.7331937, -16.5138449
GPS: Latin America
Map Coordinates: -9.066609, -113.32832
GPS: Caribbean
Map Coordinates: 18.412309, -81.3388177
00:01:47 - Peace Corps application process

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Partial Transcript: How long did that application process take?

Segment Synopsis: McClain's application was processed in a few months without complication. McClain had requested assignment in Colombia but accepted an assignment in Ecuador instead.

Keywords: Applications; Applying; Colombia

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

GPS: Colombia
Map Coordinates: 4, -72
GPS: Ecuador
Map Coordinates: -2, -77.5
00:02:27 - Staging

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Partial Transcript: Um, and did you have a, a staging, uh, where you met in the U.S. with the folks going down to, um, uh, Ecuador?

Segment Synopsis: McClain had a 3-day staging in Miami which included trainees headed to various destinations in South America. McClain's cohort began with 36 trainees, of whom 22 were sworn in as Volunteers.

Keywords: Miami (Fla.); Orientation; Swearing in; Vaccinations

Subjects: Ecuador; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ecuador; South America; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Miami (Fla.)
Map Coordinates: 25.775163, -80.208615
GPS: Ecuador
Map Coordinates: -2, -77.5
GPS: South America
Map Coordinates: -15.6192144, -100.9204189
00:05:26 - Passport problems / Arrival in Ecuador

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Partial Transcript: So, the day before, uh, we were supposed to leave to go to Ecuador, uh, they had a meeting with all the Volunteers, and--all of the--all the Peace Corps--all the Ecuador Peace Corps Volunteers.

Segment Synopsis: Instead of departing for Ecuador, McClain and another trainee returned to Washington, D.C. as there was an issue with their passports. Previously, McClain had attended an international youth festival in Cuba which subsequently delayed her departure for Ecuador. But after a week, McClain and the other trainee were cleared to go. However, nobody from the Peace Corps office in Ecuador met them at the airport. So, they took a taxi to the American embassy which turned out to be close to the Peace Corps office.

Keywords: Arizona; Background checks; Distance; Lack of communication; Language barriers; Legal paperwork; Peace Corps offices; Politics; Quito (Ecuador); Resilience; Taxis; Traveling; Waiting periods; Washington, D.C.

Subjects: Cuba; Ecuador; International travel; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ecuador; Voluntarism; Volunteers; Washington (D.C.)

GPS: Washington (D.C.)
Map Coordinates: 38.9101, -77.0147
GPS: Ecuador
Map Coordinates: -2, -77.5
GPS: Arizona
Map Coordinates: 34.2744, -111.6602
GPS: Cuba
Map Coordinates: 22, -80
GPS: Quito (Ecuador)
Map Coordinates: -0.22, -78.5125
00:10:48 - Reactions to her joining Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Uh, did your family and friends, uh--were they supportive of your, uh, decision to go to Peace Corps?

Segment Synopsis: McClain's older sister opposed the Peace Corps as it had been involved with the sterilization of women. McClain's aunt was her greatest supporter and wrote her weekly while McClain was overseas.

Keywords: Communication; Family; Letters; Siblings; Support; Unsupportive

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

GPS: Africa
Map Coordinates: 1.7331937, -16.5138449
GPS: Ecuador
Map Coordinates: -2, -77.5
00:11:46 - Description of cohort

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Partial Transcript: Um, how would you describe the demographics of your, uh, cohort, of the folks that went to Ecuador?

Segment Synopsis: Of the 200 Volunteers in Ecuador during McClain's service, 4 were Black. McClain didn't notice any other Volunteers who were people of color. Most of the Volunteers were in their 20s, like McClain. McClain's cohort had slightly more women than men.

Keywords: African Americans; Age ranges; Black Americans; Cohorts; Diversity in the Peace Corps; Older volunteers; People of color; Traveling

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

GPS: Ecuador
Map Coordinates: -2, -77.5
00:14:35 - Pre-service training

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Partial Transcript: How about training? Uh, where was--where did you do your training in-country?

Segment Synopsis: McClain's pre-service training occurred in Quito. Manuals were provided for various aspects of technical training. Later on, McClain had a beekeeping project and a rabbit raising project.

Keywords: Animal husbandry; Examinations; Exams; Expectations; Fluency; Food; Language skills; Language training; Quito (Ecuador); Spanish (Language); Technical training

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

GPS: Quito (Ecuador)
Map Coordinates: -0.22, -78.5125
00:17:28 - Work sites

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Partial Transcript: My first town that I was in was in the Andes Mountains in Pimampiro.

Segment Synopsis: McClain was first assigned to the town of Pimampiro in the Andes. McClain had a site mate but their work didn't go well. McClain felt they did not receive the necessary support from their Ministry of Agriculture counterpart. Later, McClain was moved to the town of Quininde, along the coast, where she had a much better relationship with her counterpart. McClain felt welcomed by the local people in both locales. After about 5 months in Pimampiro, McClain and her site mate were called in to Quito for meetings about their service. McClain's site mate then decided to get married and to return to the U.S. McClain was moved to Quininde where she had a very positive experience. McClain was able to blend in there as there was a significant Black population among the local people.

Keywords: Activities; Adaptability; Ambuqui (Ecuador); Blending in; Buses; Changes; Choices; Chota Valley (Ecuador); Communication; Counterparts; Decisions; Differences; Distance; Esmeraldas Province (Ecuador); Expectations; Friends; Gender roles; Inoculations; Leaving; Local people; Locals; Marriage; Peace Corps directors; Pimampiro (Ecuador); Pre-service training; Quininde (Ecuador); Quito (Ecuador); Racial discrimination; Returning; Safety; Site mates; Site visits; Support; Transportation; Traveling; Unsupportive

Subjects: Andes; Ecuador; Interpersonal relations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ecuador; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Pimampiro (Ecuador)
Map Coordinates: 0.390833, -77.939167
GPS: Andes
Map Coordinates: -32, -70
GPS: Quininde (Ecuador)
Map Coordinates: 0.33, -79.48
GPS: Quito (Ecuador)
Map Coordinates: -0.22, -78.5125
GPS: Chota Valley (Ecuador)
Map Coordinates: 0.466667, -78.066667
GPS: Ambuqui (Ecuador)
Map Coordinates: 0.40194, -78.007583
GPS: Esmeraldas Province (Ecuador)
Map Coordinates: 0.966667, -79.652778
00:27:06 - Living conditions / Transportation

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk about your living arrangements, uh, in training and in your two, uh, sites you were at.

Segment Synopsis: During pre-service training, McClain stayed with a host family. However, after a couple of weeks, McClain was moved as McClain's host mother was found to have cancer and traveled to Washington, D.C. for treatment. At Quininde, McClain stayed upstairs from a local family. Besides working in Quininde, a town with a population of 10,000 people, McClain traveled to 8 surrounding villages to work. For transportation, Peace Corps provided McClain with a bicycle and a horse. McClain gives several examples of how the local people around her second work site looked out for her. In Pimampiro, housing was found for McClain with an older woman. When the second Volunteer arrived in Pimampiro, McClain moved into a house with her.

Keywords: Amenities; Buses; Changes; Cultural differences; Fluency; Food; Friends; Host family; Host mothers; Illness; Language skills; Learning; Living alone; Local people; Locals; Malimpia (Ecuador); Outhouses; Pimampiro (Ecuador); Population; Quininde (Ecuador); Quito (Ecuador); Roommates; Schedules; Sickness; Site mates; Transportation; Traveling

Subjects: Ecuador; Health; International travel; Interpersonal relations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ecuador; Voluntarism; Volunteers; Washington (D.C.)

GPS: Quito (Ecuador)
Map Coordinates: -0.22, -78.5125
GPS: Washington (D.C.)
Map Coordinates: 38.9101, -77.0147
GPS: Quininde (Ecuador)
Map Coordinates: 0.33, -79.48
GPS: Malimpia (Ecuador)
Map Coordinates: 0.415856, -79.4268918
GPS: Pimampiro (Ecuador)
Map Coordinates: 0.390833, -77.939167
00:41:18 - In-country travels

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Partial Transcript: Did you have an opportunity to travel around the region?

Segment Synopsis: During pre-service training, McClain's cohort was taken to Otavalo a lot. McClain visited other Volunteers in Cuenca. McClain often traveled on weekends. McClain learned many things including the history of Black people in Ecuador.

Keywords: Chota Valley (Ecuador); Cuenca (Ecuador); Esmeraldas Province (Ecuador); History; Impact; Limones (Ecuador); Otavalo (Ecuador); Outhouses; Pimampiro (Ecuador); Pre-service training; Traveling

Subjects: Africa; Andes Mountains; Ecuador; Emigration and immigration; Health; Immigrants; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ecuador; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Ecuador
Map Coordinates: -2, -77.5
GPS: Otavalo (Ecuador)
Map Coordinates: -0.230278, -78.2625
GPS: Cuenca (Ecuador)
Map Coordinates: -2.897414, -79.004481
GPS: Chota Valley (Ecuador)
Map Coordinates: 0.466667, -78.066667
GPS: Esmeraldas Province (Ecuador)
Map Coordinates: 0.966667, -79.652778
GPS: Pimampiro (Ecuador)
Map Coordinates: 0.390833, -77.939167
GPS: Limones (Ecuador) [also known as Valdez (Ecuador)]
Map Coordinates: 1.25, -79
GPS: Africa
Map Coordinates: 1.7331937, -16.5138449
GPS: Andes Mountains
Map Coordinates: -32, -70
00:50:35 - Projects

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Partial Transcript: It sounds to me, and--is that your work actually is in response to whatever the need was that you saw in front of you, like with the outhouses, for example.

Segment Synopsis: In Pimampiro, McClain had to take the initiative to identify projects. At Quininde, McClain was able to work more with existing women's groups on projects like specialized sewing or at schools with raising rabbits.

Keywords: Activities; Adaptability; Animal husbandry; Children; Contributions; Pimampiro (Ecuador); Quininde (Ecuador); Resources; Sustainability; Taboo topics; Women

Subjects: Ecuador; Health; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ecuador; Student activities; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Pimampiro (Ecuador)
Map Coordinates: 0.390833, -77.939167
GPS: Quininde (Ecuador)
Map Coordinates: 0.33, -79.48
00:52:39 - Accomplishments and challenges

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Partial Transcript: Well, how would you--what is your fondest accomplishment?

Segment Synopsis: McClain says her greatest disappointment was getting pulled out of Pimampiro. In Quininde, McClain won the acceptance and approval of her supervisor. McClain's greatest satisfaction came from working with the women at her second work site. McClain shares an anecdote where she helped a little boy find help to cure a malaria-related health issue and consequently have a normal life.

Keywords: Acceptance; Books; Communication; Counterparts; Disappointment; Disease transmission; Distance; Gender roles; Illness; Living alone; Malaria; Medication; Peace Corps offices; Peace Corps staff; Pimampiro (Ecuador); Quininde (Ecuador); Quito (Ecuador); Resilience; Sickness; Traveling; Women

Subjects: Ecuador; Healthcare; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ecuador; Teaching; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Pimampiro (Ecuador)
Map Coordinates: 0.390833, -77.939167
GPS: Quininde (Ecuador)
Map Coordinates: 0.33, -79.48
GPS: Quito (Ecuador)
Map Coordinates: -0.22, -78.5125
01:02:12 - Personal impact of Peace Corps service

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Partial Transcript: How would you say that Peace Corps has impacted your life?

Segment Synopsis: In the Peace Corps, McClain became much more people-oriented and no longer aspired to work as an archivist. McClain worked as a Peace Corps recruiter for a year and then accepted a job at Ohio University as a preservationist. Eventually, McClain returned to Washington, D.C. and found a job teaching English as a second language for the Montgomery County schools and later became a school administrator.

Keywords: Career paths; Changes; College majors; Future plans; Interests; Jobs; Maryland; Master's degrees; Montgomery county (Md.); Ohio University; Peace Corps recruiters; Peace Corps staff; Personal growth; Retirement; Social interactions; Teaching English as a second language; Telephone calls; Traveling; Undergraduate education

Subjects: College students--Employment; Ecuador; Finance; Immigrants; Interpersonal relations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ecuador; Universities and colleges; Voluntarism; Volunteers; Washington (D.C.)

GPS: Washington (D.C.)
Map Coordinates: 38.9101, -77.0147
GPS: Ohio University
Map Coordinates: 39.324, -82.102
GPS: Montgomery County (Md.)
Map Coordinates: 39.13638, -77.20424
GPS: Maryland
Map Coordinates: 39.055, -76.7909
01:06:10 - Advice about joining Peace Corps / Future plans

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Partial Transcript: Well, what would be your advice to people, uh, who want to go into the Peace Corps when it gets geared up again?

Segment Synopsis: For people interested in learning about other cultures, McClain encourages them to join the Peace Corps. Peace Corps service can pave the way for numerous other opportunities. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, McClain hopes to return to Ecuador.

Keywords: Changes; Community involvement; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Cultural differences; Friends; Host sisters; Influences; Invitations; John F. Kennedy; Learning; Montgomery County (Md.); Motivation; Peace Corps recruiters; Returned Peace Corps Volunteers; Returning; Stipends; Traveling

Subjects: Africa; COVID-19 (Disease); Ecuador; Finance; International travel; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Ecuador; Voluntarism; Volunteers

GPS: Africa
Map Coordinates: 1.7331937, -16.5138449
GPS: Montgomery County (Md.)
Map Coordinates: 39.13638, -77.20424
GPS: Ecuador
Map Coordinates: -2, -77.5