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Pitching in to help build peace

Tuesday December 4, 2001              Marin Independent Journal

Marin Voice

Pitching in to help build peace

 Dwayne Hunn

In teeming Bombay of the late 60’s, he was a somewhat radical  Malaysian student journalist.  I was an Urban Community Development Peace Corps Volunteer.

The Bombay Gymkhanna had a rugby team that needed American footballers and a swift running back. The combination took us to the All South Asian Rugby Championship, and gave a few PCVs and a Malaysian student many meals we otherwise couldn’t afford.

Recently (about ten days ago), with him carrying a gimpy rugby back’s knee, I again tasted his renowned hospitality.

This time, however, Kadir was Malaysia’s Ambassador to Germany.  It is hard to imagine a more comfortable way to glean post 911 perspectives from Europe, ambassadors and Muslims.

None of them expressed hesitancy to America getting Bin Laden… “There is no one with an ounce of brains who would choose to live under the Talliban rather than with America… But you must do it carefully and not harm civilians… And if you attack other Muslims nations now you will be doing just what Bin Laden wants.  He wants you to strike out, so that he can rally extreme fundamentalists to bring those nations against you…And America must fix the Palestinian issue…”

Over and over it came back to America fixing this or that and Palestine….

When you are the toughest kid in the neighborhood even  grown-ups expect you to settle squabbles between foolish juveniles.  It’s not as easy as the strongest nation among nations that have centuries of wonderful civilizations intermixed with tragic warrings.

Nonetheless, so many point to young America as the world’s problem handler – militarily, diplomatically, economically.

At least when you were the toughest in the hood, you had experienced grown-ups who seldom hesitated to fill the roles you were learning.

In discourse, one hopes young America’s side is being heard.

No nation gives more aid to Afghanistan.

Who helped the Mujahadeen free their nation from Russians?

Who tried to nation build Somalia, perhaps the world’s poorest nation, and watched its Rangers lose 18 as they fought their way out of a downed helicopter and killed over 500 fundamentalist inspired warlords?

Who sent force to Kosovo, stopping Milosevic from cleansing Albanian Muslims?

Who, for decades and more than any other nation, pushed Arafat to control stone throwers and Israel to withdraw settlements

Yet who is constantly vilified for meddling too much – yet not doing enough?

No nation gives more aid to Afghanistan. Who helped the Mujahadeen free their nation from Russians?… Who tried to nation build Somalia, perhaps the world’s poorest nation, and watched its Rangers lose 18 as they fought their way out of a downed helicopter.

Yes, rich, strong America must do much.  But the world’s older, grown-up nations have a huge responsibility to take bold stands and implement solutions. They must educate against irrationalism. Aid and invest in needy countries.  Send  troops, food and foreign aid.  They should start their own Peace Corps, Habitat for Humanity, Doctors Without Borders, so they too can help make the world more livable for the poor upon whom fanatics prey.

Saudi Prince Alwaleed, whose $10 million check to benefit  911’s victim’s families was returned because he said: “America has to face reality (regarding Israel) if they don’t want to fight terrorism for the next 100 years. What the Americans are doing now in Afghanistan is right. I’m with them all the way.  They have to take revenge.  And you can quote me. I – am – an – ally – of – America.  Exactly like Mr. Guiliani and the United States. I want to eradicate terrorism also.”

The Prince echoes most of the world’s embassies and capitals.  Perhaps, however, his check ought to be the down payment that eradicates terrorism’s seeds in the world’s seething cauldron while  addressing his concern that, “ Israel is doing a better job getting its message out.”

With his millions, he ought to offer to build state-of-the art UN staffed schools in a children labeled peace zone along Palestinian Israeli borders.

These peace zones would allow children from both sides to learn, play and build relationships that destroy hateful stereotypes – those too often seen in Middle Easterners’ eyes on TV.

You want a public relations coup that will win the world’s hearts?  A stealth missile to obliterate the dark caves of poverty and ignorance where terrorisms lurks?

Bring students together.

Education and its relationships are how struggles – or jihads – are overcome.

Peace Corps: Planting the Seed of Hope

Glendora Press January 14, 1970

Peace Corps: Planting the Seed of Hope

(Editor’s Note: Following is the last in a series of series by Glendora High School teacher Dwayne Hunn relating his experiences as a member of the Peace Corps in India.)


These months were not like the first. These flew. Socially I was beginning to aculturize myself. I had my third and forth date. I swam more often at the British swimming pools. I and fellow volunteers met an American engineer, who dined us into better health and partied us into better spirits while arguing us back into remembering how the mainstream of Americans thought and life was filled more with doing projects than with searching for projects to do.

The garden, library, and milk program continued to func­tion well. The orphanage still held my heart and two days a week in my schedule. But the brunt of my work centered around the school. My philosophy regarding increased involvement by these well-to-do students in their nation’s needs became more sophisticated.

In other words, fewer words were spoken this semester but more action was achieved. A few pictures, like the beg­gar at the foot of the building, plus some talk in key circles got the program into motion.

The year before a half dozen students made a trip with two of the British teachers to help build wells in Bihar. No wells were actually built. Instead, the group got involved in food distribution and, more importantly, they lived with the hungry, ate as they did, and tried to work under those conditions.

This year I wanted to get more kids involved and get them to actually accomplish something. Through a rugby contact I found what I needed.

Sister Teresa and her three assisting nuns were amazing people. The home was a tragic and wonderful place. In Build­ing Three one couldn’t miss the deaf and dumb, groveling paraplegic as he squirmed and groaned across the floor. He made the other pathetic humans there pale in comparison,

The men in Building Two all had their senses, but were without the use of such things as their leg, or arms, or couldn’t control their urinary cycle. Building One had every­thing the other buildings had, only there the ancient people continued what was called life.

The Cheshire Home, and its patients unnerved me. But the four Spanish Catholic nuns prayed, worked and sang through their young lives as if they were cast far the Sound of Music.

I was pleasantly surprised at the ease with which I got 30 volunteers for the 10-day work camp. The British chairman on the board for the Cheshire Home was delighted with my idea of supplying labor while the board supplied money for most of the needed projects, the smaller other part of the money I was able to obtain from the Peace Corps.

After 10 days at the home we had built a new chicken house, painted and fixed much of the furniture, cleared and seeded some very tough terrain into a large garden, started and failed at establishing a handicraft class for the patients, painted and repaired the servants quarters and water pump, and helped cook meals for everyone.

For all but two or three of the group this was the first extended manual labor they had done in their 16 or so years of life. It was also the first time that any had worked for the lowest castes of Indians, rather than the reverse which they were accustomed to. It was the first time they had roughed it.

We slept under the stars near the newly developed gar­den and ate mostly rice, tasteless chowpatis, platins and gallons of tea. It was a hard diet for them to adjust to but, I think, it showed them something. They had engaged in a so­cially responsible act and had made it succeed. If the thought of the deed would linger, if the thought would plant a seed, if the seed would sprout into a habit, then this capable class of Indians could start adding richness to a great mass of humanity.

It was not all labor among the miserable. During the hot afternoons they found light, pleasant conversations taking place with the sisters adding a beauty to them. Afternoons also sometimes found fooling with their friends, the two Bri­tish teachers, or for those who thought they had energy to burn, jumping their two PCV’s and dousing — excuse me, trying to douse them in the nearby pond. It was hard work, but fun, and they were heroes when they returned to school after their summer vacation.

After the work camp I took my last break. I had been reading about the famine conditions in Bihar, though the lo­cal cinema houses had shown only one documentary on the drought and famine conditions — what was shown all the oth­er times made one feel that India was sprinting into the 20th century amid religious festivities, steel mills and agricultural wonders; now I wanted to see some of those conditions. So I again threw some stuff in my green bag and climbed aboard a third class train out of Bombay.

If the monsoon doesn’t come before the middle of June, most of India’s farmers suffer dearly. This was one of the states in worse shape than Bihar, only the government did not want to reveal these plights. Well, I never tried digging in the fields outside of the train’s windows but its parched, brown, barren condition drove the small farmers plight home.

After some days, I reached Benares, India’s holy city. Since it was early morning and I was feeling better, I quickly hailed a bicycle-walla and toured the city. The temples, the pagodas, the university, and the Ganges, with its dirty brown, but believed drinkable, holy water, were sights; but by the time the heat of the afternoon arrived they had lost their appeal to me, I left the bike man for the benefits of a small but air conditioned room. I had dinner, took two quarts of beer to my room, wrote in my diary, and slept. The next day I decided on the hill air over that of India’s hot stuff.

I trained to Patna, and seeing wells, and green patches along the tracks of Bihar state, I figured that her notoriety was at least making something happen here about the drought. Not much was happening along those miles of tracks through the other three states.

From Patna I flew to Katmandu, Nepal where I spent about five days, and then on to the Pokhara valley at the foothills of Annapurna for three days of trekking. I stopped in Delhi where I again met Ambassador Bowle’s wife, who with her husband had visited my chawl work site; and then I returned to Bombay to finish up a few months of work.

I wrote a few radio scripts comparing American and Indi­an histories of development, continued checking on the chawl programs, played and coached basketball, went to the orphanage, and taught and coached at Cathedral School. The remaining months flew by and when the end approached I debated about extending. A fellowship at grad school, thoughts of preparing more for a career, and the draft pulled me back and cut my travels home to a month.

I still wonder if rushing home was the right path. I know it was a most intense period of my life, I was flooded with new physical, mental, and emotional experiences. I was forcing myself to work on my own, to contemplate, to read, to write and to wonder just what a world of perceived misery, new friends, new acquaintances and new thoughts were doing to me, the person. Still don’t really know what all those vibrations did. Do know, I wouldn’t trade those experiences.

Why build these cities beautiful

If man unbuilded goes

In vain we build the world

Unless the builder also grows

Edwin Markham

You know, when the Peace Corps left town the heart of the heart of the rugby team left with it. But some native heart blossomed at about the same time. The Indian Police team, coached some by John Fuller Sessions and prompted on by the PCVs played the Berahi Shabs of the Rugby Club when we were leaving.

For the first time, the Police beat them handily. It looked like it might be a pattern. Competition would be keener from then on. Respect would soon became two-sided, and sweet. Somebody had made those losers believe they could become winners.

To me, that’s what building’s about. To me, that’s what the Peace Corps was about. I like to believe that many peo­ple from our group planted some seeds, started some projects, laid some foundations that will help those men build their own world, and grow too.





India Elite Has Chance To Aid Own

Glendora Press January 11, 1970

India Elite Has Chance To Aid Own


It was during the first monsoon that I would take on an­other extra-curricular activity which would introduce me to another life style in India.

Dave, one of  our UCD23 basketball players, who was in the unsuccessful UCD land development attempt, was a founding manager and captain of Fordham’s revived Rugby program of l964-65. Thus he had become interested in playing the sport and accepted when he was asked by some British chaps to play for the Bombay Gymkhana Club.

Lynus, another PCV, but one who did very little work and devoted most of his time to partying, drinking, and girls, also played. Dave introduced me to a few of the Rugby play­ers and they invited me to play, as I did. Rugby, a combina­tion of the skills of football and basketball without the pads, was fun. But a major part of the game was the drinking and partying after the game. On a PCVs’salary, we could not go that route often, but the hospitality of the British helped us to do so.

Their parties were a welcome diversion, for they had good food and sometimes some pretty girls. The young Bri­tish chaps were obviously interested in the latter attraction of those parties. We were too. However, the pretty girls ran a poor second to the attraction the food they put on the table held over us. The British, at first, were amazed at how repeatedly we’d return to the serving table and how long into the party we’d eat.

Educationally, rugby was a good window into British thought concerning the Indians. Many of them were embarrassed for us because of the conditions we lived under and felt we were foolish to try to teach the Indians by working from their level.

John Fuller Sessions, a British teacher at Cathedral School and rugby captain, saw this ruler-shah philosophy among both whites and Indians at the club, social, and edu­cational level. I realized it by working and living with the lower echelon, being part of the rugby club, and through at­tending rich Indians’ parties.  Not wanting to believe this was a natural trait of the upper classes, I decided, following John’s suggestion, to do some teaching at Cathedral School.

I was interested in entering teaching as a profession aft­er returning to the states and thought this might he a unique teaching experience. But that was not my main motive for teaching at Cathedral School (CS). CS did not seem to need good teachers as much as good workers were needed in social action programs.

I realized this. I also realized my language deficiency and that I would not be here forever. I felt, though not without a retort from my Christian-bred conscience, that it was not my, or America’s, prime responsibility to rectify inequities in a nation that was not mine by birth or citizenship.

I felt, with support from my conscience, that if I could, in some way, make Indians who possess the native and economic tools to see and feel and work against the inequities, then I would have done my, and America’s, part.

 Cathedral School was one of the three best schools in Bombay. It had the likes of the son of the Chief Minister of Bombay and the niece of the Prime Minister Gandhi. It also had the sons and daughters of those struggling middle class-families who knew the value of a good school’s name in get­ting their kid a little further ahead.

I started teaching part way through their first semester. I taught, and in some cases first had to learn, subjects such as British and Indian history, Indian geography, moral sci­ence, physical education, journalism, world history, and an honors course.  In all of them I found a setting to express my philosophy that they, the well-to-do, must get involved with their nation’s problems, which they so easily ignore or over­look.

How hundreds of well-dressed and well-fed kids could he chauffeured daily past the beggars, pass them walking to lunch at the local restaurants, and when asked in class to de­scribe what they noticed on the back street — say nothing about the baby who lived on the sidewalk, or the others, was beyond me.

I continued to take my bike into the main street, grab onto a speeding truck, and whiz to the orphanage from Cathe­dral School. Worli was also still on my visit list. But with se­mester break I also found the other work situations condu­cive to a month break for personal travel. I threw a leather bag over my shoulder and with some money from home and what I had been able to save, I was soon flying to Thailand to visit a PCV buddy from the Pakistan group we had both trained in before switching to our present country programs.

Thailand was hosting the Asian games, Dave was hosting me and his Thai friends felt they must host us. What a con­trast Thailand offered. The people were healthy, strong, and proud. Bangkok, in parts, looked like street corner shopping centers back home. Stores had window displays, streets were clean and officers directed traffic, nights were clear, quiet and romantic.

Dave mixed very little with Americans other than PCVs. He was down on the military and the influence they had in Thailand and found his Thai friends much more entertaining.

Even the trains were a joy to ride and the rich, verdant scenery was part of the eason. The green land and healthy brown people were helping me unwind from the grimness of India.

I took a ferry to Penang Island, found a cheap, little room, and walked in the drizzling rain to attend Mass on Christmas Eve in Malaysia. It was a lonely, pensive, and happy, though not merry, Christmas. I thought the typical thoughts — home, family, old girl, the past year’s rich and different experiences.

Later I laid in bed trying to assess just what all those influences were doing to form me, the man I would be.

The next day I found the PCVs who had been in Bangkok the week before and accepted their then extended hospitality. They lived in a pleasant little suburban house, exemplifying the fact which the PCV no longer hides, that not all PCVs ­are living in gutters. I stayed for three or our days, and dug their food too. I also dug the island and its deserted beaches, rolling hills, and neat secluded huts, all of which I saw first hand during my one-day, 52 mile bike trip around the island.

In Ipoh I visited with the family of a Malaysian whom I played rugby with in Bombay. They treated me like an honored guest. Yet, it took me a day to realize just how far their hospitality was extending.

My arrival at the Deen’s home coincided with Ramadan, which meant that all Muslims were fasting and praying Koran from dawn ‘til dusk. The Deen family, being especially religious, was eating at 4 p.m. (sunset) only, while they were feeding me gigantic and scrumptuous portions three times a day.

It was comfortable being in a family setting again and nice being treated as an honored guest. It was more than nice to know that this was happening to a stranger from a land 7,000 miles away.

I left the Deen family knowing a bit more about one devoted Muslim’s interpretation of his religion. Watching Mr. Deen spend hours in front of his TV listening to the chants of the Koran reader, talking with him about his beliefs and mine, and reading a Muslim book he gave to me made me feel how insignificant any comparative  religious learning I had been exposed to was. I left the Deen home with gratitude, love, and another little inkling of what brotherhood was about. I left for the road, and I stuck out my thumb. A few days later, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and their people were just pleasant memories. I was back in Bombay to work for nine months.