A Journal of the first Peace Corps project

Book Cover: Guatemala One
Part of the Non Fiction series:
  • Guatemala One
Editions:Paperback: $ 10.95
ISBN: 978-1470001384
Size: 6.00 x 9.00 in
Pages: 268

Personal journal of a volunteer from the first Peace Corps project in Guatemala in 1963.


On a cold January day in 1960, John Fitzgerald Kennedy took the oath of office to become our 35th President. In his inaugural address he spoke of “A New Frontier which included space exploration and a reaching out to the rest of the world in new ways. Probably the most memorable line of his speech was, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

There were many of us who looked for a way to fulfill that challenge. He gave us an option when on March 1st of 1961 he formed the Peace Corps under the direction of Sargent Shriver.


In November of 1962, I was invited to begin training for the first Peace Corps project to the Central American country of Guatemala. We flew to New York City for some orientation, then to Puerto Rico, where we spent twenty-six days of physical training, evaluation and selection. Obviously being in the mountains of Puerto Rico, we also became very familiar with tropical climate, mold, mildew, heat, bugs and other assorted unfamiliarity’s. Home for a Christmas break, then to University training for two and a half months at New Mexico State College.

What follows is the exact reproduction of what I wrote in a journal of feelings, opinions, and all that went on. The majority of the names of my fellow volunteers have been changed to protect the innocent. . .or guilty. The names of all our coworkers, contacts and officials in-country have been left pretty much alone.

It is my hope that you, the reader, will gain some insight into how some of the young people in the early sixties felt about life and all of its varied opportunities and obstacles.

I would love to be able to say that we made a huge difference in the world by what we accomplished. It is far more likely that we were changed significantly by our involvement, more than those people we were sent to serve.

This journal was not originally written for anyone to read other than myself, at some future date to remember and reminisce. I ask the reader to remember that a journal is just words. The emotions and feelings are there in some instances, but mostly not. As I was encouraged by fellow writers to make this public, I hesitated in letting my personal prejudices and peccadilloes out of the box, so to speak. At this age, it doesn’t really matter. It was a long time ago and I’m certainly not the same person. I beg forgiveness of anyone who reads this and is offended. That is not my intent.

At the end of each month’s journal entries, I have endeavored to make some reflections from this distant vantage point, explain some things and perhaps clarify some points of confusion.

Reviews:Bernadette Crepeau on Amazon wrote:

George Gurney has written a staggeringly beautiful book on what it feels like, what the consequences are and above all, what society must do to help these countries. He has opened my eyes to what life is like for Peace Corp volunteers. He is a natural storyteller and a deeply profound thinker who not only brings Guatemala to life for us but also offers a kind of eye opening introduction to the thoughts and feeling of a young man in a strange and somewhat scary situation. You will learn more of our history as peacekeepers and be entertained as well.

E. Hoberg on Amazon wrote:

After reading this book, it gave me pause to reflect upon my misconception of the Peace Corps. As a young teen during this time period, I was led to believe Peace Corps Volunteers were 'draft dodgers', spoiled college kids looking for adventure and hippies looking to 'find themselves'. WRONG! I got great insight as to the preparation, education and hard work it took to survive in an undeveloped country, the cultural differences, the 'old' ways versus the 'new' ways. I am ashamed to admit my ignorance and greatly admire the dedication and self-sacrificing of these wonderful young people. George did a fantastic job of bringing the reader along for the ride. A great writer and a great read!

Sherry on Amazon wrote:

George has a knack for bringing us along on his journey. You won't want to put "Guatemala One" down. His time capsule of his journey in the Peace Corps awakens the senses with his adept deliverance of his pursuits and trial. Lay back and see this land from the comfort of your living room. By Sheron Donahue author of The Rascal in All of Us: A Journey into an Impish Child's Life

Brad Gore on Amazon wrote:

What a delightful read to look back in time at rural Guatemala through the eyes of George Gurney, as he engaged the local Guatemaltecos as part of the first batch of U.S. Peace Corps volunteers to serve there. I truly found it fascinating to ride along on the many adventures shared by George in a time before much political upheaval, better roads and of course, computers! You will find this unique journal compilation a nice escape into what it was like to go altruistically into what many Americans must have considered the great unknown.

Bob White on Amazon wrote:

Since I was unable to be part of the Peace Corps in 1963, it was extremely interesting to read a daily journal of someone who was sent on the first Peace Corps mission to Guatemala. I felt like I was walking with him. A great read.