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Jamari Salleh

Peace Corps 50th Anniversary

Jamari Salleh (center).  Photo courtesy of Jamari Salleh

Jamari Salleh (center)

Jamari Salleh

Long before emails and social networks, we had "pen pals."   My first introduction to the Peace Corps (PC) was when I was in high school and had a pen pal who was a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) teaching in Sarawak, Malaysia.  We corresponded via aerograms. When she finished her PC assignment, she returned home to Connecticut.  My family and I visited her there and we continued our friendship.  Not only did I want her PC experience but I also wanted the beautiful crafts she brought back from Malaysia.
After graduate school and teaching in a New York City high school, I joined the Peace Corps.  My PC TESL group trained in Batu Muang, Penang.  I was assigned to Melaka and I trained teachers in English teaching in the Melaka schools. For fun and in addition to my assigned job at the Ministry of Education, I volunteered at a home for delinquent teenage girls.  Two afternoons every week, I taught them how to play American baseball.  I still remember the laughter of those girls and the trust we established just having fun together.
Once back home, I couldn't get PC out of my system.  I became a PC recruiter and subsequently launched the PC Recruitment Office in Puerto Rico.  The most famous PCV, Lillian Carter, was the guest of honor at the opening ceremony.  I still yearned to travel and to return to Malaysia -- except I had a family this time around.  I was accepted into the Foreign Service and it only took me 20 years to return to Malaysia as the US Embassy's Cultural Affairs Officer (CAO).  Of course, I reconnected with many of my old host country friends. Often times, attending official events as CAO, someone in the audience would say, "What happened to the Peace Corps?  Bring them back. They were our friends."  I wanted to raise my hand and identify myself as "a friend."
My husband, Bob Blohm, is a former PCV (Liberia) and PC trainer.  Our oldest daughter did two PC tours, Bangladesh and Togo.  Peace Corps lives in our hearts.  We are proud and grateful to have been Peace Corps Volunteers.  It is not the toughest job but certainly the one we will always love and treasure.