Interview with Shelley Horsley Cruz, July 29, 2022
Project: Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project
Interview SummaryShelley Horsley Cruz served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia from 1965-1967 working in Community Development, Economic Development, and Health Education. She was in high school when she first heard of the Peace Corps in a U.S. History class, and, while at Hollins College in Virginia, she attended a volunteer recruiting session during her senior year. She volunteered just after graduation and attended training for Colombia volunteers at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with Nursing and Health Care workers. Her training was an Outward-Bound type of experience with an emphasis on farming techniques. There were five levels of language training in Spanish and Shelley was functioning at just a Level Four proficiency. The training was a 12-week program and began with 64 volunteers whose numbers dwindled to 46 at conclusion. Shelley then went back home and had to wait for two weeks while the Peace Corps completed her background check. More training in Literacy and Health Education occurred in Bogota, the capital, for three or four more days and also in Medellin before she was sent to her locale of Copacabana to work with the Laubach Literacy program. She trained high school-aged students to teach literacy in rural areas. In Copacabana Shelley shared a house with a Peace Corps development volunteer. They shared one bedroom and had some running water and had a bucket rigged for a cold shower. She also set up some community service projects in her village which included the distribution of CARE food products. Shelley also set up some community service projects in her village. After three months of this routine, Shelley became frustrated because she was not doing what she thought she would be doing as a volunteer and wanted to resign from the Peace Corps. She was able to be reassigned in the Public Health field to the town of Dolores, Tolma eight hours by bus from Bogota. She worked there for one year and lived in the basement of a hospital with hospital personnel including a cook, a cleaning lady and a guard (who resided elsewhere). She had a private bedroom with some electricity and cold water. Her work was mostly in a pre-natal clinic as she assisted a local doctor who was not that cooperative with her and called on her only occasionally and treated her as nothing more than an assistant. The hospital received CARE packages from the United States, and she distributed products to tuberculosis patients in Dolores. She demonstrated to the locals how to boil water for hygienic purposes. Shelley was able to procure seeds for planting and showed the locals how to raise carrots and lettuce. She paid the equivalent of US $15. a month for her room and board (she ate hospital-prepared meals) and splurged on chorizo when she could. On her unstructured days, Shelley extended herself to the local populace, but she felt she was not contributing much that was meaningful or would have a lasting effect. She learned of a “School to School” program, she applied, and was assigned to a middle school in. Darien, Connecticut. The school provided US $1000. for two small classrooms for the girl’s elementary school to be built in Dolores. Shelley coordinated with another Peace Corps Volunteer who served as the architect for the new building. She was able to get local materials such as rocks and cement to start construction. When the building was completed, the local school director asked if she could provide 80 desks for the students. After contacting the Darien school, they sent funds for the desks which were then bought and installed in the school building in Dolores. Shelley’s brother was preparing to leave for service in Viet Nam in early May, and she requested an early release from her volunteer duties so she could see him before he left the States. While in Columbia, Shelley met a physician who was completing a rural year of public health service in a town adjacent to Dolores. She returned to Colombia and married Luis in Bogota in June, 1967. They both spent the next 18 months in Bogota. Shelley was able to secure a position at the English School of Bogota as a teacher while her husband taught physiology in the National University Medical School. When they returned to the United States, her husband completed medical training while Shelley worked for Pitney Bowes. Later, she worked at the Yale/New Haven Hospital as a social work assistant. After divorcing her husband in 1987, she worked for 25 years in the travel industry as a director of operations and general manager. Shelley was one of 12 returned Peace Corps Volunteers invited to return to Colombia for a “thank you for your service” presentation and tour of the country. In 2005 she again returned to Pereira, Columbia as a translator and travel coordinator for a group of American surgeons on a one-week mission with “Healing the Children.” Upon retirement from the travel industry in 2013, Shelley found part-time work as an online tutor in reading and mathematics for elementary school children. She has kept involved with a Peace Corps/Colombia Nurses’ Group.
Interview KeywordPeace Corps (US) Country of Service: Colombia Dates of Service: 1965-1967 Peace Corps Volunteer Job: Community Development, Economic Development, Health Education Peace Corps (US): 1960-1970 Language: Spanish Language Training: Albuquerque, Bogota, Medellin Cultural Training: Albuquerque, Bogota, Medellin, Copacabana, Dolores
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All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.
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Cruz, Shelley Horsley Interview by Donald C. Yates. 29 Jul. 2022. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Cruz, S.H. (2022, July 29). Interview by D. C. Yates. Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.
Cruz, Shelley Horsley, interview by Donald C. Yates. July 29, 2022, Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
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