FAQs
Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Peace Corps Training Program in Hawaii, with links to more information. This should give you the basics about Hawaii’s role in assisting in establishing the organization. If you have more questions, we encourage you to continue exploring this site. If you have questions about Peace Corps service visit the Peace Corps website or get in touch with a Peace Corps recruiter.

If you are a recently Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and want to discover resources for continuing involvement with the Peace Corps’ from administrative necessities such as keeping your records up-to-date, to more enjoyable opportunities such as finding RPCV groups in your area, visit Returned Volunteer FAQs.

When was the Peace Corps created?
The Peace Corps traces its roots and mission to 1960, when then-Sen. John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries. From that inspiration grew a federal government agency devoted to world peace and friendship.

On Mar 1, 1961, within weeks of his inauguration, President Kennedy Signed Executive Order 10924 establishing the Peace Corps on a temporary pilot basis. Throughout its history, the Peace Corps has adapted and responded to the issues of the times. In an ever-changing world, Peace Corps Volunteers have met new challenges with innovation, creativity, determination, and compassion. From AIDS education to emerging technologies to environmental preservation to new market economies, Peace Corps Volunteers have helped people build better lives for themselves. Their work in villages, towns, and cities around the globe represents a legacy of service that has become a significant part of America’s history and positive image abroad.

This unique heritage continues to inspire and, since 1961, 210,000+ Americans have served in the Peace Corps, working in 139 countries and making a difference every day.

Why was Hawaii selected as a Peace Corps Training Site?
President Kennedy originally proposed that 6 to 12 college sites be chosen to train young adults for overseas duty. In 1961, despite the lack of a strong Peace Corps presence in Hawaii, students from the University of Hawaii Student Senate went ahead with plans to send Henry Stotsenberg, head of the Student Senate Peace Corps Committee and two other student delegates to the National Student Association meeting March 29-31 in Washington, D.C.

The National Student Association had been asked to recommend Peace Corps sites to President Kenned. Stotsenberg believed Hawaii was the ideal place to train Americans who would be going to Asian countries as teachers, technicians and builders. The two other delegates who attended the meeting were George Naguichi, Association of Students president, and Kay Mihata, Senator. Their trip will be paid for by a $1,000 grant from the A.S.U.H. and contributions from local foundations.

On Jan. 31, 1962, U.S. Sen. Oren E. Long announced from Washington, D.C., that the Peace Corps training camp program in Puerto Rico had proven “highly successful” and that officials were considering the possibility of creating one or more additional facilities in the future.” Director Robert Sergeant Shriver also said “we are beginning to explore additional camp facilities and will be sending field investigators out to look at possible sites.” Shriver added: “In this connection I expect a staff member will visit Hawaii in the near future.”

It was decided that Hawaii`s position as the gateway to Asia and the Pacific as well as its climate, and diverse multicultural society provided an ideal training site for prospective volunteers. Negotiations began in Washington for the training of Peace Corps volunteers at the Hilo campus of the University of Hawaii during the summer of 1962.

When did training begin in Hawaii and when did it end?
Negotiations began in Washington for the training of Peace Corps volunteers at the Hilo campus of the University of Hawaii during the summer of 1962. Principals were William M. Wachter, University Administrative Vice-president, and Dr. John N. Stalker, Director of the Overseas Operations Program. In early May, a $134,000 contract was signed to train volunteers for service in the British possessions of North Borneo and Sarawak.

Burl Yarberry, director of the university’s Hilo campus, announced that an intensive, eight-week training course for volunteers would begin June 15, 1962. Training would emphasize language and studies of these destinations. Hilo staff members would be supplemented for the training project by technicians and teachers brought in from both Honolulu and the British possessions.

The women would be housed in the campus dormitory and the men would stay at Waiakea Elementary-Intermediate School, adjacent to the campus. “We’re quite thrilled that we have been selected for the training project,” Yarberry said, “and if we do a good job, perhaps it will lead to further training programs in the future.”

On June 15, 1962, the first 88 Peace Corps trainees arrived in Hilo. With the success of this pioneer complement, it was announced July 23, 1962, that another $317,273 contract had been signed by U.H. officials to train two more contingents destined for assignments in the Philippines. As the school campuses were not available for this next group, the former Hilo Hospital was selected because it had a dormitory and because the building could be repaired to house the Peace Corps center. During 1963, the Hilo Center began training volunteers for the Philippines.

Early staffing problems due to quick growth and 1-year contracts caused some turmoil. Local Peace Corps officials began studying Waipio Valley as a possible Pacific counterpart of the “outward bound” projects in Puerto Rico. The old 2.5 acre Waipio School site in the middle of Waipio Valley was secured for this experiment of having corps members live in field conditions before being sent to their respective assignments.

In July of 1970 the university re-organized the Peace Corps Training Center and it became the Center for Cross-cultural Training and Research. On Sept. 30, 1971 the Peace Corps dropped the “core” contract with the Center for Cross Cultural Training in favor of in-country training, and the Peace Corps presence on the Big Island disappeared.

Who managed the Hilo Peace Corps Training Center?
The first Peace Corps Training Camp Director was John “Jake” Stalker, who served as Training Director from 1964-1967. The second Director was Phillip Olsen who served as Director from 1967-1972. By 1972, the Peace Corps had initiated a transition to in-country training. The Big Island was a major Peace Corps training site from June 15, 1962 to January 14, 1972.

Who were the principle people involved in managing the Hilo Peace Corps Training Center?
Senators Hiram Fong (R) and Daniel Inouye (D) were strong supporters of Hawai‘i’s role in the formation of the University of Hawai‘i Peace Corps Training Center in Hilo. Director Robert Sergeant Shriver also said “we are beginning to explore additional camp facilities and will be sending field investigators out to look at possible sites.” Shriver added: “In this connection I expect a staff member will visit Hawaii in the near future.”

Negotiations began in Washington for the training of Peace Corps volunteers at the Hilo campus of the University of Hawaii during the summer of 1962. Principals were William M. Wachter, University Administrative Vice-president, and Dr. John N. Stalker, Director of the Overseas Operations Program.

Where did Peace Corps training occur in the Hawaiian Islands?
There were several training sites throughout the Hawaiian Islands including Molokai, Oahu, Hawaii and Kauai were also training sites. The primary site was near the northernmost point of the Big Island of Hawaii, a special place called Waipio Valley. Once the home of 50,000 Native Hawaiians, today it is a remote and little-visited place which time has forgotten – and nature has reclaimed. Additional sites on the Big Island included Pepeekeo (10 miles North of Hilo), Honomu, Ninole, Waiakea-Uka and Hoolehua.

How did training begin in Waipio Valley?
Local Peace Corps officials began studying Waipio Valley as a possible Pacific counterpart of the “outward bound” projects in Puerto Rico. The old 2.5 acre Waipio School site in the middle of Waipio Valley was secured for this experiment of having corps members live in field conditions before being sent to their respective assignments.

This program had been tried in Puerto Rico. There, mainland-trained volunteers were sent to special camps for two to three weeks to live in the field before assignment to Latin and African areas. The object was to provide a sort of transition between living conditions in the United States and those more nearly like the respective destination areas.

On April 10, 1963, 35 Peace Corps trainees bound for Thailand hiked down the steep trail from Kukuihaele as part of the first “ruralization” program for Asia-bound volunteers. In charge of this group was Volcano area rancher Alika Cooper, assisted by Raymond Arraujo, Waipio tour service operator, and R.M. Frazier Manager of Honokaa Sugar Company.

Accompanying the group were the language drill instructors. Trainees carried in rations of rice, augmented by kalua pig and fresh taro taken from the valley floor. Water was available from various springs located in the area, but there was no modern plumbing in any but one or two houses, and there also was no electricity except for one home on the Kukuihaele side, providing perfect conditions for this style of training.

With the success of this adventure, the Waipio Village was created, seat of the Transition Training Program., Dr. Stalker had now found the perfect training center, as he stated “most kids out of urban America never knew what it’s like without a push-button, air conditioned society.” Transitional Training coordinator Ray Kramer, with Cooper as his top aide and assistance by Arraujo, built a cook shack in a guava thicket. The first group arrived in the first week of July, 1963. The trainees were taught the trans-cultural process — in other words, how to adapt. As most trainees were bound for Southeast Asia destinations, a composite village was built reflecting various permanent but primitive facilities.

What type of training did trainees receive in Wiapio Valley?
In April of 1963, Peace Corps members built a camp at the old 2.5 acre Waipio School site in the middle of Waipio Valley. There, Peace Corps trainees lived in field conditions before being sent to their assignments in various Asian nations:

By 1964 a little village of Philippine and Thai-style homes with a Bornean longhouse and a few huts comprised the Peace Corps Waipi‘o Transition Training Center at the end of Highway 240, far below steep cliffs, in the fertile Waipi‘o Valley. Here future volunteers experienced the lifestyles, hardships and personal deprivations they would encounter overseas.
The village, built from funds “largely bootlegged out of training funds,” included two Philippine-type nipa huts, framed with bamboo and thatched with ukau grass from the swamps; a Borneo-style longhouse, a Nepalese stone house; two Thailand Rural Resettlement-type houses of bamboo and rough lumber with a galvanized iron roof, and garage sheds for the eventual fleet of seven jeeps and a 4-wheel drive truck.

There was no electricity and sanitary facilities were limited to Asian-style toilets and a couple of wooden latrines. Bathing was restricted to a nearby stream, and the climate was damp and filled with mosquitos, gnats and spiders.

Isolation huts were provided to allow trainees to be strictly alone for 12 to 24 hours to allow them time to think, as only the host country’s language was spoken during Transitional Training. Trainees toiled at a number of tasks, including construction, cooking with host country fare, net fishing, vehicle maintenance, fish pond construction and animal husbandry.

A separate five-acre plot was for growing Asian-type crops such as rice, using the Asian beast of burden, the caribou, and also land to raise chickens, ducks, pigs, goats and rabbits. Trainees had to use simulated currency of the host country, butcher their own livestock, and under the supervision of two staff cooks, prepare their own meals from commodities available.

By the summer of 1968, under Arraujo’s guidance, the Waipio Valley Transition Station had grown to eight buildings, six of them sleeping huts in the style of various countries, a library and a kitchen. Of the seven jeeps and one truck, Arraujo stated, “most of the time we only have two (Jeeps) running, but we make do with what we have.”

How long was Peace Corps training in Hawaii?
Training ranged from 6-12 weeks depending upon the number of trainees in a group and planned country of service.

How many people were trained?
About 7,000 Peace Corps trainees participated in training.

What countries did Peace Corps Trainees serve following training?
Trainees who successfully completed training were subsequently sent to various countries in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia including to the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Korea, Indonesia, Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, Micronesia, India and Nepal.

Where can I learn more about the Hilo Training Center?
The Peace Corps Training Center library and documentation was originally archived in the UH Hilo Library. In 1996, the collection was transferred to UH Mānoa Hamilton Library: Hawaiian Collection.