Pat Lowther and Kathy Scruggs were seniors in college when they were moved by President Kennedy’s call to service with the Peace Corps. They applied, took the exam, and reported to Peace Corps training at Georgetown University. At Georgetown, they studied with about 100 other volunteers to become English teachers in Turkey.
It was terribly hot and humid that summer in 1963. There was no air conditioning in the dorms. They studied Turkish every day for 3 hours, took classes on American studies, ESL teaching, and rigorous physical education. There were inoculation clinics and most of the trainees had their wisdom teeth pulled as a precaution.
Pat and Kathy became friends soon after they met. After a week in Ankara they traveled to their sites: Pat to Bursa and Kathy to Bandirma. Their second year Pat taught in Adapazari and Kathy in Ankara. It was difficult to be new teachers without family and old friends but the volunteers relied on each other and new Turkish friends at their schools. Adjusting to a new culture and language and dealing with homesickness was a challenge, but the kindness and hospitality of the people in Turkey made the two years a remarkable experience.
Since then, Turkey has held a special place in their hearts which is true for all the rest of their Peace Corps group, known as “Turkey II.” It was their home away from home. In 2009 there was a reunion for the group in Washington, DC and they immediately bonded with folks they had not seen for 45 years because of their shared experiences in Turkey. They traded stories of the various recent volunteer projects they had been involved with in their communities across the US.
Pat and Kathy have known Nevzer Stacey for over 40 years and admire her for founding HasNa. They have been glad to volunteer in the past, helping with museum and shopping tours for program participants. Since they are both retired ESOL teachers, it was natural to volunteer to teach English.
This project–teaching English to people working in non-governmental organizations–particularly resonated with them. They are a little apprehensive, especially since their once-fluent Turkish is almost non-existent, but excited as well. They set about writing lesson plans and dialogs. When they learned that HasNa’s budget could only fund the purchase of one set of textbooks, Kathy reached out to the Turkey II members for donations. In a short time, dozens of new textbooks were donated as well as over $500 to purchase additional books.
Pat and Kathy will keep journals while they are in Diyarbakir in May so they can regale their Peace Corps colleagues at the Peace Corps 50th celebration in September 2011.
By Pat Lowther and Kathy Scruggs