2019 Summer Travel Grant Series: Peace Corp Volunteer Training Sites on the Island of Hawai‘i

Summer Travel Grant 2019 Recipient
Stephanie Sang
Graduate Degree Fellow
MA in Anthropology

In pursuit of the MA in Anthropology, I traveled to my field site of Hawai‘i Island for a week to conduct preliminary research and to forge contacts with research participants. This trip was crucial in gaining access to archival material at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo (UH-Hilo) as well as meeting and building rapport with informants. The most important contact made was with Hilo resident Bill Sakovich, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Indonesia & Thailand) who trained in Waipi‘o Valley in the 1960s and organizer of the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps in Hawai‘i. He provided me with DVDs on Peace Corps training in the 60s. He was also gracious enough to offer me a map of Peace Corps training sites and took me on a driving tour to document them in photographs. During our meeting, I was invited back by Bill to conduct interviews with him and other informants willing to participate in my study. He helped me to obtain a list of 17 contacts who would be rich resources for my study.

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Archival Material gathered from Peace Corps volunteers who have trained on the Big Island including site maps, training syllabi, and volunteer reflections.

At the Hawaiian Collection at UH-Hilo, I was fortunate to have the help of Mary Louise Haraguchi who provided me with open shelf access to four boxes of archival material. She has also invited me back to speak about the Peace Corps to her staff and to present on my finished research to the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer community on the Big Island. Most fortunately, she introduced me to Aiko (Ethel) Oda – past staff psychologist for the Peace Corps with rich information on the logistics of land loans and training in the ’60s and ’70s.

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Stephanie interviewing Aiko (Ethel) Oda about her time as staff psychologist to Peace Corps trainees on the Big Island.

Additionally, I was able to visit North Hawai‘i Education and Research Center in Honoka‘a and speak with Dr. Momi Laughton who had curated an exhibit on Waipi‘o Valley featuring the Peace Corps. They were gracious enough to let me look through past collections of photographs and memorabilia from the training sites. Dr. Laughton gave me contacts for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers in the Honoka‘a community and Hilo community who may be willing to speak to me about their reasons for settling back on Hawai‘i Island.

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The current exhibit on Peace Corps presence in Waipi‘o Valley between 1962-1971.

A huge Mahalo to the EWCA for sponsoring this fruitful trip to the field site of the Big Island.

 

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