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When President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in March of 1961, he hoped to promote world peace and friendship through service to countries in need. What he probably didn’t envision were the bonds and lifelong relationships it would cultivate both abroad and right here at home.
See also: Thinking of joining the Peace Corps.
Meet Chuck Ludlam, one of the first volunteers to answer President Kennedy’s call to work for peace and progress in the developing world. He was sent to Nepal in 1968, where he spent two years helping farmers improve their crops. At the same time, 8,000 miles away, Paula Hirschoff had also heard the call and was serving in Kenya. “I wanted to see the world and serve in some way,” Paula says. Even though they were continents apart and had never met, the Peace Corps instilled in both of them the same passion to serve and confidence that would stick with them throughout their lives.
It wasn’t until 20 years later, decades into their respective careers, that the Peace Corps brought them together. They met during a 1988 Peace Corps event honoring JFK. Their common background and passion for volunteerism set the stage for a budding romance that ultimately led to marriage. After tying the knot, Chuck and Paula vacationed around the world, but both felt the desire to serve again just as they did during their Peace Corps years.
Following their retirement, the couple re-joined the Corps and was sent to Senegal, an experience they say helped their relationship flourish even more. “It makes or breaks a marriage,” Chuck says. “You couldn’t have something that would deepen a marriage more.”
The Peace Corps has been a guiding thread throughout Chuck and Paula’s lives. In their 20s, it ignited their passion for service. In their 40s it brought them together and kindled their love affair. And in their 60s it renewed their bond as a married couple.
Today, they continue their lifelong commitment to serving others. Paula is a volunteer guide at an African Art museum and Chuck is a community activist. They are also vocal supporters of Peace Corps reform, aiming to make their beloved organization even better for future generations of volunteers.
Join My Generation as we celebrate 50 years of Peace Corps service and the vast impact it’s had on people around the world.