[UW News] StoryCorps to Take Part in UW- Madison Peace Corps Event

UW- Madison News — February 8, 2011

StoryCorps, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to recording, preserving, and sharing the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs, will visit the University of Wisconsin-Madison from March 24-26 as part of “Peace Corps and Africa: 50 Years,” an event honoring and assessing a half-century of volunteer service.

Returned Peace Corps volunteers, Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams, musicians, artists, storytellers, and some of the Peace Corps’ early founders and present-day leaders will come together in Madison as part of the event to celebrate, reflect, and debate the legacy of the Peace Corps in Africa and beyond.

StoryCorps will partner with the event’s host, the university’s African Studies Program, to record three days of interviews with former volunteers and others touched by the Peace Corps.

Wisconsin is a great place to collect stories about volunteer experiences because since 1961 more than 5,550 Wisconsinites have served in the Peace Corps. Wisconsin Public Radio last hosted a StoryCorps visit in Madison in 2005.

“We are thrilled at this chance to return and add more stories from Wisconsin to our national archive,” says Abby Lesnick, the project’s coordinator for StoryCorps, “and the Peace Corps and Africa event is the perfect opportunity to capture powerful conversations about lives transformed.”

StoryCorps interviews are 40-minute conversations between two people who know each other well, or want to get to know each other better. A trained StoryCorps facilitator guides the participants through the interview process. At the end of each recording session, participants receive a complimentary CD copy of their interview.

With their permission, a second copy is archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, and at the Oral History Program at the University of Wisconsin Archives. Segments of select interviews may also air nationally on NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

“Stories provide us with truth; they take the flotsam and jetsam of our lives, and give those shards a sense of narrative, of form, and therefore of verity,” says UW-Madison scholar and renowned African storyteller, Harold Scheub, who is slated to participate in the Peace Corps celebration.

“The recorded human voice has the power to engage, to enlighten, and inspire. The stories we document with StoryCorps will provide a valuable archive of Wisconsin’s own voices to be shared with future generations, and also help trace Peace Corps histories spanning 50 years,” says Catherine Reiland, assistant director of the African Studies Program.

Other notable highlights of the “Peace Corps and Africa: 50 Years” program include talks and roundtables with Johnnie Carson, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs; former U.S. Ambassadors Mark Green, John Lange, and John Campbell; founder of Africare C. Payne Lucas; and award-winning poet Sandra Meek.

To register for the conference and to be considered for participation in StoryCorps’ project, click here. Registration and story submissions are due March 1.

Peace Corps and Africa is hosted by the African Studies Program in partnership with the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Madison and with support of the UW-Madison Division of International Studies, the Wisconsin Alumni Association, Global Studies, the International Institute, the Morgridge Center for Public Service, Wisconsin Public Radio, and the Chicago Peace Corps Regional Recruitment Office. The event is open to the general public. Registration is required.