A Peace Corps Legacy Begins in Latin America

April 11, 2006

In celebration of the 45th anniversary, this is the first in a series featuring Peace Corps legacy families.

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 11, 2006 Strong desires to make a difference in the world, idealism, and adventurous natures compelled Steve Kehm and Pat Goggin to join the Peace Corps in 1977. Although Pat and Steve did not know each other before their service began, they bonded through their common experiences and married in Panama sixteen months into their Peace Corps experience. Today, nearly a quarter of a century later, a legacy has begun as their two children, Max and Molly, are currently Peace Corps volunteers in Honduras.

"The Peace Corps is such an important experience in our lives," Pat said. "We went into the Peace Corps separately and came out together. But it was good for us to have our own experiences, and also one together. It also made the adjustment of returning to the U.S. together easier because we had experienced the Peace Corps together."


Pat in the 1970s with children in her host Colombian community
In Colombia, where both Pat and Steve served, Steve worked with the blind in education, recreation, mobility and orientation and job training. Pat began working at a school for the blind, but she was relocated to an orphanage. She began a school there, working on education, health and nutrition. Their sites were 20 hours apart so it made their relationship a bit challenging at first. However, after their marriage, the Peace Corps gave them permission to be at the same site, where they spent the last year of their service and chose to extend that service an additional three months.

Pat and Steve's shared affection for their Peace Corps experience helped make the decisions to become volunteers an easy one for their children. Pat believes their experience in Colombia helped shape their family enabling them to teach their children to value experiences and people not material things. "Because Molly and Max both love to travel and love languages, the Peace Corps was a natural move for them," said Pat.


Steve in Colombia in the 1970s with the soccer team for the blind that he helped coach
Molly, 25, is finishing up her service this fall. She has spent nearly two years volunteering in AIDS education and prevention. Her brother Max, 32, is a civil engineer who is currently in training. He will begin his service in water sanitation when he completes the extensive Peace Corps language and cultural immersion program. Although it is a sheer coincidence that the siblings are in the same country, it has boded well for the Goggin-Kehm family: Max was able to watch Molly's baseball team play and even visited her site in the southwestern part of the country.

When it comes to being a Peace Corps volunteer, Pat noted that not much has changed in terms of living at a rural site and working with the local community to achieve common goals. The ability to communicate, however, has changed tremendously since Pat and Steve served. According to Pat, it is the biggest difference between volunteering then and now. Although Molly and Max do not have cell phones, Pat and Steve can get in touch with them, and they are frequently in contact via e-mail.


The Legacy: Steve and Pat with their two children, Max and Molly, who currently serve in Honduras
"People join the Peace Corps today for the same reasons we did in 1977 to find meaning in their lives, to be useful and to give back. Now, it is so important for us to put a positive light on being an American abroad," Pat said. Peace Corps volunteers represent the changing face of America abroad, and in an abroad," Pat said. Peace Corps volunteers represent the changing face of America abroad, and in a post 9-11 world, that role is constantly growing and becoming more relevant.

While Max and Molly are busy making their own Peace Corps memories today, Pat and Steve have a collage of memories from their experiences. But according to Pat, the fondest is the feeling of living totally in the present, not focusing on the future. "It hasn't happened since," she mused. "It was about the friendships and the people, the moments of delighting in those friends." Today, Pat and Steve still keep in touch with several of their fellow volunteers.

"As you go through life, you meet many challenges along the way. Our Peace Corps experience has helped us face those challenges. The Peace Corps is the most important experience of our lives, and the one I am most proud of. As the Peace Corps celebrates 45 years of service, we are so very proud to have been a part of it and to have our kids serving today," Pat said.

The Peace Corps is celebrating a 45-year legacy of service at home and abroad, and a 30-year high for volunteers in the field. Since 1961, more than 182,000 volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 138 countries where volunteers have served. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.

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