Archive for January, 2008

Sarasotan in Peace Corps teaches and builds in Africa

January 29th, 2008 by admin

Published Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2008, Sarasota Herald-Tribune

For most recent college graduates, living in over 100-degree temperatures with no air-conditioning, television or fast food in sight would not be a top choice, but Kate Donovan, 24, chose to do exactly that when she graduated from Boston College in 2006.

Donovan is one of the thousands of Peace Corps volunteers who have enlisted with the organization every year since its creation by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. Donovan felt that “this was an experience that only came around once,” and that this was the best time in her life for it.

So, rather than returning to Sarasota, where she was born and raised along with her sisters, Patricia and Deirdre, and her brother, Sean, she packed her bags and flew, drove and rode to Mayo-Oulo, a small village in a northern province of Cameroon, Africa. Donovan has already completed 15 months of her commitment, and will return to Cameroon soon to finish her last year.

In her time in Mayo-Oulo, Donovan has been hard at work teaching elementary students about basic hygiene and high school students about the importance of HIV/AIDS prevention and testing, and doing prenatal consultations with expectant mothers.

In addition, she recently completed a project to build latrines at the local elementary school where previously there were 900 students and 12 teachers, but no bathroom facilities, save a garbage pile behind the school.

After returning to the village, Donovan will begin planning her next project: repairing three wells in low-income areas of the village and four in “the bush,” with construction beginning in February.

Without these wells, villagers have had to walk three kilometers each way to get to the nearest water source. Donovan hopes that the repairs will allow the wells to provide water during the dry season, which usually lasts from December to March. In the last year, Donovan has become a teacher, a nurse and a civil engineer

But she said she was most excited to return to the United States to begin her next chapter as a law student and fiancée to Brian Pennington, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis.

FOC January 2008 Newsletter

January 28th, 2008 by admin

Click to view FOC January 2008 Newsletter

Thirty-Eight Peace Corps Agro-Forestry and Community Health Trainees Sworn In

January 25th, 2008 by bobebill

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Thirty-eight Agro-Forestry and Community Health trainees were sworn in as volunteers on December 5, 2007, after having completed their pre-service training in Bangangte, West Province of Cameroon. Since her arrival in Cameroon three months ago, this was the first group of Peace Corps volunteers U.S. Ambassador Janet E. Garvey has sworn in. The ceremony was additionally presided over by the Senior Divisional Officer of Nde Mathieu Hubert Mouafo Manbou, Mayor of Bangante Celestine Ketcha Courtes and Peace Corps Country Director James T. Ham.

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Prior to the swearing-in, the twenty-one Agro-Forestry and 17 Community Health trainees successfully completed an intensive ten-week training program, which included language and technical training as well as sessions on personal health, safety, security and cross-cultural issues. During this training period, trainees lived with Cameroonian host families to stress language immersion and cross-cultural adaptation.

The new Agro-Forestry and Community Health volunteers have been posted to villages and towns in seven of Cameroon’s ten provinces (Southwest, Northwest, West, Adamawa, Center, South and East provinces), where they will serve for two years. Agro-Forestry extension volunteers work in close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINADER), non-governmental organizations and farmer leaders to increase public awareness regarding sustainable farming systems and improved natural resource management. Community Health volunteers support the Ministry of Health and MINADER to empower communities and to improve their quality of life, by assessing needs and resources and undertaking projects to strengthen local health and community conditions.

All Peace Corps volunteers support the organizations three goals: to help the people of Cameroon meet their need for trained man and woman power; to promote a better understanding of the American people on the part of Cameroonians; to promote a better understanding of Cameroon and the Cameroonian people on the part of Americans.

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NY Times: Too Many Innocents Abroad

January 11th, 2008 by bobebill

An op-ed from the New York Times on Jan. 9, 2008, written by former Cameroon Peace Corps Director Robert Strauss. He presents an interesting discussion about the Peace Corps Volunteers posted these days.
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January 9, 2008
OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR, New York Times
Too Many Innocents Abroad

By ROBERT L. STRAUSS
Antananarivo, Madagascar

THE Peace Corps recently began a laudable initiative to increase the number of volunteers who are 50 and older. As the Peace Corps’ country director in Cameroon from 2002 until last February, I observed how many older volunteers brought something to their service that most young volunteers could not: extensive professional and life experience and the ability to mentor younger volunteers.

However, even if the Peace Corps reaches its goal of having 15 percent of its volunteers over 50, the overwhelming majority will remain recently minted college graduates. And too often these young volunteers lack the maturity and professional experience to be effective development workers in the 21st century.

This wasn’t the case in 1961 when the Peace Corps sent its first volunteers overseas. Back then, enthusiastic young Americans offered something that many newly independent nations counted in double and even single digits: college graduates. But today, those same nations have millions of well-educated citizens of their own desperately in need of work. So it’s much less clear what inexperienced Americans have to offer.

The Peace Corps has long shipped out well-meaning young people possessing little more than good intentions and a college diploma. What the agency should begin doing is recruiting only the best of recent graduates — as the top professional schools do — and only those older people whose skills and personal characteristics are a solid fit for the needs of the host country.

The Peace Corps has resisted doing this for fear that it would cause the number of volunteers to plummet. The name of the game has been getting volunteers into the field, qualified or not.

In Cameroon, we had many volunteers sent to serve in the agriculture program whose only experience was puttering around in their mom and dad’s backyard during high school. I wrote to our headquarters in Washington to ask if anyone had considered how an American farmer would feel if a fresh-out-of-college Cameroonian with a liberal arts degree who had occasionally visited Grandma’s cassava plot were sent to Iowa to consult on pig-raising techniques learned in a three-month crash course. I’m pretty sure the American farmer would see it as a publicity stunt and a bunch of hooey, but I never heard back from headquarters.

For the Peace Corps, the number of volunteers has always trumped the quality of their work, perhaps because the agency fears that an objective assessment of its impact would reveal that while volunteers generate good will for the United States, they do little or nothing to actually aid development in poor countries. The agency has no comprehensive system for self-evaluation, but rather relies heavily on personal anecdote to demonstrate its worth.

Every few years, the agency polls its volunteers, but in my experience it does not systematically ask the people it is supposedly helping what they think the volunteers have achieved. This is a clear indication of how the Peace Corps neglects its customers; as long as the volunteers are enjoying themselves, it doesn’t matter whether they improve the quality of life in the host countries. Any well-run organization must know what its customers want and then deliver the goods, but this is something the Peace Corps has never learned.

This lack of organizational introspection allows the agency to continue sending, for example, unqualified volunteers to teach English when nearly every developing country could easily find high-caliber English teachers among its own population. Even after Cameroonian teachers and education officials ranked English instruction as their lowest priority (after help with computer literacy, math and science, for example), headquarters in Washington continued to send trainees with little or no classroom experience to teach English in Cameroonian schools. One volunteer told me that the only possible reason he could think of for having been selected was that he was a native English speaker.

The Peace Corps was born during the glory days of the early Kennedy administration. Since then, its leaders and many of the more than 190,000 volunteers who have served have mythologized the agency into something that can never be questioned or improved. The result is an organization that finds itself less and less able to provide what the people of developing countries need — at a time when the United States has never had a greater need for their good will.

Robert L. Strauss has been a Peace Corps volunteer, recruiter and country director. He now heads a management consulting company.

Cameroon RPCV killed in Sudan

January 4th, 2008 by admin

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John Granville poses with his mother, Jane.

“John’s life was a celebration of love, hope and peace. He will be missed by many people throughout the world whose lives were touched and made better because of his care.”

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MEMORANDUM
Cameroon

TO: All Volunteers, PC Cameroon Staff and Cameroon RPCVs
FROM: James T. Ham, Country Director
DATE: January 3, 2008
SUBJ: John Granville, USAID Officer Killed in Sudan was a Cameroon RPCV

It was reported in the media that US Diplomat, John Granville was killed in Sudan. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22461187/ and http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7167393.stm. Mr. Granville was an RPCV from Cameroon. He entered training in June 1997 and swore in as an official volunteer in August 1997. He served in the Education program as a TEFL/AIDS teacher at a high school in in the village of Bamendjou in the West Province. His work was well received and appreciated by his community.

Among his many activities , he created an English Club, planted trees around the school, organized IST workshops for his counterparts, developed his English Teacher colleague into a very good trainer who later became a Peace Corps Cross Culture trainer and served several generations of Volunteers from 1998-2001. He was responsible for building one of the first bilingual primary schools in his village; the first students will attend the university this year. Mr. Granville completed his service on July 01, 1999. Upon his departure he was given an honorary title of “Notable” by the Chief of the village. This is an honor bestowed upon exceptional volunteers for the work they do in and for their community.

Mr. Granville was an outstanding volunteer and model RPCV. He was a Fulbright Scholar and completed research on HIV AIDS in Cameroon focusing on two provinces the West and the Extreme North. His work was well received by Peace Corps Cameroon and during his time here in country he gave several presentations of his findings at the US Embassy in Yaoundé. During his research in Cameroon he came and spoke with volunteers and trainees on his experience as a volunteer.

Peace Corps Cameroon will be sending a card to the family of Mr. Granville and will officially send condolences to his community in Bamendjou. Our prayers are continually with the Granville family and the RPCV Community.

James T. Ham
Country Director
Peace Corps
B.P. 215 Yaoundé
Cameroon
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The John M. Granville ’93 Memorial Scholarship has been established at Canisius High School in Buffalo, N.Y., by his family, classmates and friends. Scholarship recipients will be selected on the basis of good character, financial need and scholastic endeavor.

Memorial contributions may be sent to:

The John M. Granville ’93 Memorial Scholarship
Canisius High School
1180 Delaware Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14209-1494

(http://www.wivb.com/Global/story.asp?S=7566837)

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ABC News:
FBI Joins Investigation Into U.S. Diplomat’s Murder
January 02, 2008 2:41 PM
Kirit Radia and Jason Ryan Report:

The FBI said today agents are on their way to Sudan’s capital to assist the State Department in investigating the death of a USAID worker there.

“The FBI will provide investigative assistance to State Department investigators concerning the murder of USAID employee John Michael Granville in Sudan,” FBI spokesman Special Agent Richard Kolko told ABC News.

The State Department investigators will include agents of the department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

Granville, along with his Sudanese driver, was shot and killed as he was heading home after midnight on New Year’s Day.

According to an internal State Department incident report, the attack happened minutes after Granville dropped off a female colleague at her home around 2:15 a.m. local time.

Granville, who attempted to get out of the car when the shooting began, was shot repeatedly.

The attackers fled once residents came out of their homes, apparently disturbed by the sound of gunfire.

Granville was first taken to a local clinic and then to a Khartoum hospital. Although he was talking while being treated, the staff was unable to get any details out of him before he died, according to the report.

State spokesman Sean McCormack offered his condolences today, saying the shooting started the year off “on a note of sadness.”

He said the department still doesn’t know the motive for the shooting or who is responsible.

Granville was a well-respected volunteer in Africa.

In 1997, he became an official volunteer for the Peace Corps and served in the village of Bamendjou in Cameroon, where he was bestowed the honorary title of “Notable” by the village chief upon his departure, according to a U.S. government official.

In Sudan, Granville and his driver were “deeply committed to their work and highly respected by their colleagues in Sudan and throughout our organization,” a USAID statement said.

USAID is the leading international donor to Sudan, having contributed more than $2 billion since fiscal year 2004.
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Slain diplomat was devoted to Africa

By CAROLYN THOMPSON
Associated Press
Jan.1, 2008

John Granville knew his work toward restoring peace in Sudan put him in harm’s way, but he told his family he wouldn’t want to do anything else. Africa had been “very special to John” since his time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon, his family said in a statement Tuesday, after Granville, 33, and his driver were shot to death in the Sudanese capital.

Granville, who was from Buffalo, was working for the U.S. Agency for International Development as part of a team trying to implement a 2005 peace agreement that ended decades of civil war between north and south Sudan.

“He told his mom several times … that it’s dangerous, what he’s doing, but he wouldn’t want to be doing anything else,” said U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, who spoke with Granville’s mother, Jane Granville, after her son’s death.

Officials were working to return Granville’s body to the United States, possibly by Wednesday or Thursday, the Buffalo-area congressman said.

Granville, who last called his mother on New Year’s Eve, graduated from Fordham University and got a master’s degree in international development from Clark University, his family said. While in the Peace Corps, he helped a Cameroon village build its first school.

“John’s life was a celebration of love, hope and peace,” the family’s statement said. “He will be missed by many people throughout the world whose lives were touched and made better because of his care.”

Granville had surgery after being struck several times in the attack, which instantly killed his Sudanese driver, identified by the Sudanese Interior Ministry as 40-year-old Abdel Rahman Abbas.

He was being driven home at around 4 a.m. when another vehicle intercepted his car, the Sudanese Interior Ministry said. Gunmen in the car opened fire on Granville’s vehicle and fled the scene, the ministry said in a statement.

Higgins said the pair had been in a car with diplomatic plates, and investigators are trying to determine a motive.

“They don’t know if it was random or if it was targeted for USAID or targeted for John,” Higgins said.

Higgins, a member of a House subcommittee for international relations in emerging threats, has been to Sudan twice and praised the work of agencies like USAID “for doing the work that government over there won’t do and can’t do.”

“He was doing God’s work,” Higgins said.

Granville’s work included bringing radios to residents of south Sudan to maximize USAID’s broadcasting initiatives in the region, according to the organization’s Web site, which posted pictures Granville surrounded by some of those who received radios.

The shooting came a day after a joint African Union-United Nations force took over peacekeeping in Sudan’s Darfur region. Though Darfur, far to the west, is engulfed in violence, the Sudanese capital of Khartoum and its surroundings rarely see political violence or attacks by Islamic militants.