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By Kerstin Kent. March 21, 2012 - 2:24 pm
Edward F. Klein, HPU applied linguistics professor, spent a week last November reuniting with former Peace Corps volunteers on the Big Island.
From Nov 15 to 21, Klein joined in festivities such as a plaque dedicating, visiting old auxiliary training sites and leading 67 to 72 year olds through a 3-hour hike in Kilauea ‘Iki.
“You can’t believe how relieved I was when I didn’t have to call in any helicopters [during that hike],” Klein said with a laugh.
After President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, Klein was inspired to begin training for the Peace Corps in Hilo on the Big Island. The training center he began at trained people mostly for the Philippines, Thailand, Nepal and Malaysia.
Klein was sent to Korea, and to prepare him for his two years overseas, he learned the language, culture, dances and taekwondo. He learned basic survival skills, how to plow, hunt and kill chickens and how to raise rabbits, which weren’t useful skills in Korea, where the infrastructure and lifestyle were more advanced than other locations. However, the information was very valuable to other volunteers.
In June of 1966, 120 volunteers were set to go to Korea. Three months later, only 100 remained, and at the end of the two year mission, 60 returned after staying the full two years.
Empty schools were used for training centers until 1970, when the Peace Corps decided to begin training volunteers directly in the countries because the dropout rates were so high.
From Klein’s group, 23 went to Hilo for the reunion. It was the 45th anniversary for the group and the 50 year anniversary for the training center.
Klein still goes back to Korea every couple of years, where he taught English for two years: one year in high school, one year in college. He and his wife have since adopted a child from Korea and he still maintains deep friendships with volunteers as well as Korean citizens.
In September, a traveling exhibition of the 50 Anniversary for the Peace Corps came to Honolulu, making a stop at the Honolulu Hale.