Peace Corps -- Third Time Around For Iowa Resident; Bob Findlay Finishes Crisis Corps Assignment in the Cook Islands

October 27, 1998

Washington, D.C. October 27, 1998—When Bob Findlay of Des Moines, Iowa returned from his Crisis Corps assignment this summer, he had actually completed his third assignment with the Peace Corps. Findlay, 57, spent the month of August in the Cook Islands in the South Pacific, helping the inhabitants of Pukapuka develop cyclone management procedures. Findlay's volunteer work with the Peace Corps began in 1963, when he signed up for a two-year architectural project in Colombia. In 1970, the Peace Corps magnet drew him again, this time to spend two months in Lima, Peru. Lima had just been hit by a devastating earthquake, and Findlay was asked to help reconstruct homes using locally-accessible materials.
The Cook Islands were in desperate need of assistance after Cyclone Martin hit the islands in November 1997. Findlay learned about the island's request for a Crisis Corps volunteer who could work with the Pukapuka community to analyze and document cyclone-related risk on the atoll. They needed someone with professional experience to develop a model of preparation for the periodic and inevitable storm events. Findlay eagerly answered the call, and said his time there was extraordinary.
"My Crisis Corps assignment reminded me of why I joined the Peace Corps 30 years ago," Findlay said. "In Pukapuka, I met new people, heard new music, learned a few things, and helped out a little. When Pukapukans learned that I was doing a Peace Corps assignment, they told me many wonderful stories about Peace Corps volunteers who had worked on the island years ago."
Findlay worked closely with Pukapukans, and was especially pleased with his enthusiastic and dedicated local counterpart. Together, they interviewed Pukapukans to gain their perspectives on preparedness, storm histories and experiences, and recovery practices. They then wrote a report, including assessments and recommendations. Their document will be used by the Cook Islands government, and will be included in secondary school lesson books on Pukapuka.
Findlay has taught architecture at Iowa State University since 1972. Throughout his career, he has been called upon to assist his local community on various projects, including rebuilding after natural disasters. In 1993-94, Findlay was instrumental in obtaining funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to repair the extensive damage from floods that had hit Iowa. He also worked during that time as a consultant for structural restoration along the Mississippi River.
Findlay received his bachelor of architecture degree from the University of Minnesota in 1967, and his master of architecture degree from Iowa State University in 1975. In 1997, he earned his Ph.D. from the Joint Center for Urban Design, Oxford Brookes University.
President Clinton announced the formation of the Crisis Corps, a Peace Corps program, in June 1996. It was formed as a rapid response to international emergencies. By drawing on the unique combination of language, technical, and cross-cultural skills of current and returned Peace Corps volunteers, the Crisis Corps plays an effective role in disaster response. Crisis Corps sends volunteers, for a period of up to six months, to work with non-governmental organizations and other relief and development agencies to provide short-term assistance following natural disasters or during humanitarian crises.
Crisis Corps volunteers have worked on disaster relief projects in Paraguay, Chile, the Czech Republic, Madagascar, and Antigua. They also provide assistance to refugees living in Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, and Thailand. Since 1996, 93 Crisis Corps volunteers have served in 13 countries.

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