Angelina comes running up after school yelling ‘Sister Johanna, Sister Johanna!’. I smile and can’t help laugh as she looks up at me in her faded school dress. She smiles the biggest smile you’ve ever seen and grabs a stack of nets to carry on her head to help. We’re in the middle of a net distribution as part of Ghana Health Service’s ‘Roll Out Campaign’.
As we distribute and hang net in every household, one per married couple and one for every two children, Angelina runs back and forth from where we store the nets, making the process go a little quicker. She’s one of my most favorite people in my village but her name can be deceiving. Asking for a coin to buy a water sachet because she’s thirsty, she comes back smacking on a piece of bubble gum. My counterpart George Atoanan and I try to scold her but end up laughing instead! Even though she’s devious, she our little helper for the day and puts a smile on our face.
I’ve visited with her family since the campaign and see that the treated mosquito nets are still hung and I can rest assured she’s sleeping safe every night. Because she’s healthy and malaria-free, she can continue to smile her mischievous smile every day.
As a librarian, I was particularly tickled to hear about Peace Corps Volunteer Karri Stout’s endeavor to establish a library at a school in a small African village in Tanzania. Education and access to information are important developmental tools everywhere in the world.
Of course, this young lady wasn’t just thinking of a standard library, but a bilingual library that would serve students as well as adults living in the village of Utelewe. For the 2013 school year, the school has 342 students enrolled; a library serving this many children will improve literacy rates, and can have a far-reaching impact on their lives.
Bismark, my small boy, and Kwame’s son, decided to jog with me this morning and do a lil yoga.
He doesn’t speak English and my Twi is terrible. But talking doesn’t matter when you lead through example. I’m just doing me and suddenly I realize I’m not just a Peace Corps Volunteer telling cashew farmers what to do, I’m a role model to kids.
"I can’t say this experience is for everyone, it takes serious commitment. But if you are a traveler at heart, if you recognize that you are not done learning but are tired of being taught from a book or lecture, if you want a serious challenge, self-growth and the chance to try to make a difference, then this is for you.
Nothing I have ever done prepared me for this, but nothing has ever been so rewarding either. It has defined me and given me more purpose for whatever I may chose to do next and empowered me with skills that will apply to every aspect of my life, be it work or personal. If any of this seems appealing, I would say, at the very least look it at it, consider it. There’s so much to gain.”
- Peace Corps Health Volunteer Mariana Andrade-Bejarano, Madagascar
“Peace Corps is an organization for which I have a strong personal affinity. The dedication and professionalism of Peace Corps Volunteers in our education system made a great impact on me during my formative years. Since 1962, Peace Corps Volunteers have been great ambassadors to my country and I know they will continue to play a critical role as we write the next chapter in the history of my country.”
During his visit to Peace Corps Headquarters today, President Ernest Bai Koroma of the Republic of Sierra Leone was reunited with Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Sharon Kasper Alvarado. Alvarado served in Sierra Leone from 1964 to 1966 as an education Volunteer and got to know President Koroma’s family and schoolmates. The two had not seen each other for nearly 50 years.
Peace Corps Education Volunteer Jennifer Jiggetts is currently serving in Lesotho, southern Africa and shared this photo of the Peace Corps-inspired manicure she did for Peace Corps Week early this month. We love it!
85% of the world population lives in the driest half of the planet
6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases
About 66% of Africa is arid or semi-arid and more than 300 of the 800 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live in a water-scarce environment
Water for irrigation and food production constitutes one of the greatest pressures on freshwater resources. Agriculture accounts for ~70% of global freshwater withdrawals (up to 90% in some fast-growing economies)
Reading is definitely one of the more popular leisure activities for Peace Corps Volunteers. What were some of the books you read during your service? Did you bring home any books from your country? How many times did you read War and Peace during your 27 months overseas?
Yesterday I spent six and a half hours in a round table meeting with all possible community partners of the Linguere High School. It started out extremely well - the student government had put together a great (albeit rather dramatic - can a school really be in agony?) presentation about the problems facing the school and what they would like to do to change things. Then community member after community member came up to pledge their association’s support - the gendarmes are giving 100,000 CFA, the Association for the Development of Women is giving a ton of cement, etc. Then this one man comes up and goes, “Well, this is great and all, but why don’t we just have an NGO build us an entirely new school? That’s what they’re there for.”
He’s partly right. There are plenty of NGOs whose sole mission is school construction. But the attitude of “oh, we could do this ourselves but why bother because an NGO could do it for us” is one of the biggest obstacles that we come across in the Peace Corps. Many NGOs here provide resources of the monetary sort, while we are primarily here to work on capacity-building, and a lot of people have trouble understanding that. Not to mention that when a community has the motivation and capabilities to do a project themselves, I have a huge problem with them taking resources from an NGO that could be building a school for a community that has no resources whatsoever. (All of this rant glossing over the fact that the school is supposed to be a governmental project anyways, but the administrations of both the previous and current presidents have done nothing to fix things.)
Luckily, I think those who are most involved with the project, including Ngouille Sec (pictured above) and her sister Jamma, are pretty set on getting things done themselves. If everything goes well, by next October when classes start up for the fall 2013 semester, the high school will have at least two new classrooms. And that will be very inspiring to see.
Cashew nursery at the primary school cashew farm - Reality, most of these kids may become farmers or inherit the land of their fathers and mothers. Might as well start easy with some hands on lessons in tree nurseries and grafting. My hope is that the school cashew farm can be a leading example in the village for other farmers. We will see!
Peace Corps Community Development Volunteer Elizabeth Ogunwo is working with her host community in Senegal to build working bathrooms at a local primary school and establish a trash removal system in her neighborhood.