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Alumnus Nick Hoesl Peace Corps volunteer in '60s

Nick Hoesl serves in Afghanistan during early Peace Corps years

Column written by Nick Hoesl, Phar '54, and previously published in the Cincinnati Enquirer

I contemplated joining the Peace Corps for two years before being sent to Afghanistan in 1965 at the age of 33.

I was single, out of UC’s Collage of Pharmacy for 10 years, out of the Army for eight years and active in parish and civic affairs.

My Peace Corps director had several jobs waiting for me. Foremost was teaching pharmacology to third-year medical students. The University of Nangrahar in Jalalabad was dubbed Peace Corps University because of the high number of American Peace Corps volunteers. I was also assigned as supervisor of the hospital pharmacy, in which I had the most confidence, reminiscent of my Army days at Ft. Riley , Kansas.

During the summer, I auditioned and was accepted in the capital as the short-wave English newscaster at the only radio station in the country, Radio Kabul.

Nick Hoesl and a camel

Try to picture students working for a medical degree without the aid of their own textbooks. They had the use of only a small number of library books donated by the Mayo Clinic. The faculty did have the use of mimeograph.

Even under difficult and impoverish conditions, students can excel. One of my most promising students is now a physician practicing in Virginia, Khodaidad Basharmal  M.D. After the Soviet withdrawal, he was Minister of Education and Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the U.N.

All of us received a great compliment one day from King Sahir Shah with this message before a large group of volunteers: “I do not wish to make light of the American ambassador (who was present), but I do wish to say that you Peace Corps volunteers are the true ambassadors of Afghanistan."

In 2002, I was asked to be the Dari language interpreter for an Afghan family of seven children refugees who arrived in Cincinnati. They were accompanied by their mother, whose husband was killed by the Taliban.

I consider myself fortunate to continue to serve those who have had so little, and yet have treated me with their great warmth and hospitality in Afghanistan.