Half a century later, Peace Corps volunteer still hopeful

  • Article by: JEFF STRICKLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 4, 2013 - 2:38 PM

"A new story that continues to grow," says Earle Brooks.

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Earle and Rhoda Brooks spent part of their Peace Corps years in Ecuador, where they adopted their two children, Rico and Carmen.

A lot has happened in the 51 years since Rhoda and Earle Brooks were among the very first Peace Corps volunteers. They served two tours -- one in Ecuador and another in Chile -- were featured in a cover photo on National Geographic magazine and wrote the first book about the agency from the perspective of the volunteers.

A lot has happened to the Peace Corps, too. It has become one of the world's most influential aid organizations, accounting for more than 210,000 volunteers who have served in 139 countries. To celebrate that continued success, Rhoda Brooks (her husband died in 1989) has issued an updated e-version of their book.

"It's not just an old story," the Excelsior resident said. "It's a new story that continues to grow."

The Brookses spent their first two years with the corps in the fishing village of Manta, Ecuador. That's what inspired the title of their book, "The Barrios of Manta." It's also where they adopted two children, the older of whom, Rico, joined the Peace Corps in 1981, becoming the agency's first second-generation volunteer.

Originally published in 1964, the book's e-version has a new foreword and afterword, as well as 20 new photographs, and includes information about a return trip the family made to Manta in 1977. It is available for $4.99 from www.untreedreads.com.

Brooks, 77, remains an ardent Peace Corps supporter.

"The fact that the Peace Corps has continued to exist through multiple administrations and multiple budget cuts shows how important it is," she said. "It still brings excitement and hope to the people of the world."

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