The following is a note from Jon Darrah who will soon be completing his time with the Peace Corps in Cambodia. We featured Jon in the early days of our website in the first “Note from Cambodia” as one who had purchased the History and Stories of Clyde River and earned the indisputable distinction of being the buyer from the furthest away.
It is timely to feature Jon after our introduction of the Clyde River Notes series, as it shows how much smaller the world has become since that time. Where in the 1920s, a trip to Kingston or Charlottetown was newsworthy; now we can instantly receive some news to publish from one of our relations from across the world. The website has been predominantly focused on local Clyde River news, but we welcome hearing from our international readers connected to Clyde River who have their own tales to tell and how growing up in or visiting Clyde River may have added to their experience. We extend our appreciation to Jon for sharing his story with our readers and for following an honourable career that would have made his ancestors proud.
Note from Cambodia – Jon Darrah
Thank you for sharing the Clyde River Website with me. It constantly amazes me that it is possible to be half way around the world and still follow comings and goings of Clyde River.
For much, but not all, of my adult life I have worked for the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps was founded by the late President John F. Kennedy exactly 50 years ago this month. President Kennedy had three goals for the Peace Corps: provide assistance at the working level to countries that request it; let other countries come to know about the American Volunteers who come to serve and, finally, to have the Volunteers who have served return to America to share their experience with people back home.
All Peace Corps Volunteers serve for two years. They are given language and cross cultural training prior to commencing their work. Volunteers do not receive a salary but are given a living allowance that is close to the amount that the Volunteer co-workers make. At present, the Peace Corps has programs in about 74 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Every country with the Peace Corps program has staff in country. For much of my time with the organization, I have been the person in charge of the Peace Corps program in country, the Country Director. Over the years, I have served as the Country Director in the Solomon Islands, Malaysia, Thailand, Nepal, Philippines, Russia, Poland, Czech Republic, China and now Cambodia. I make sure that the Volunteers have work to do, that they are paid on time, their medical needs are met, and that the needs of the host country are being addressed.
For the past five years, my wife and I have been working in China and Cambodia. The Peace Corps program in China operates in four provinces in the southwest of China: Sichuan, Gansu, Guizhou and Chongqing. About 100 Volunteers teach English in colleges and universities in those four provinces. Most of the students are the first members of their families to attend college or university. As you might suspect, the students are hard-working. The program is run from Chengdu in Sichuan Province. The two and a half years that I lived and worked in China were the most fascinating of my working life.
About three years ago, my wife and I were transferred to Cambodia. The Peace Corps program in Cambodia has only been operating since 2007, so the work was more focused on getting the program under way. At the moment, there are 80 or so Volunteers working in Cambodia. About three-quarters of them serve as high school English teachers in very rural high schools. The rest of the Volunteers work as health outreach workers in rural health clinics in the rural areas of the country. All Volunteers live with Cambodian families. Cambodia has had a difficult recent history, so there is still considerable rebuilding work that goes on. Schools are being repaired and a whole new generation of teachers is being trained to teach the slightly more than half of the population which is under 30 years of age. My tour with the Peace Corps will be coming to an end this July.
On a more personal note, I am proud to say that our son serves as a Peace Corps math teacher in Tanzania in east Africa. His given name is John Duncan Darrah which, of course, was the name of his great-grandfather. It will surprise no one in Clyde River to know that we call him Jack. As you can see, I have upheld the Darrah family tradition of borrowing from a short list of names that has been in constant use in the family ever since the first John Duncan Darrah came over from Colonsay in Scotland.
Again, thank you for sharing the Clyde River website with me. The stories and the names bring back pleasant memories of conversations that I used to have with my grandfather, John Duncan Darrah.