Why I call myself a Peace Corps Child

March 3rd, 2016 by bobebill


Why I call myself a Peace Corps Child
By Danielle Green on Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016


Bill Strassberger and Alphonse in his front yard. Njinikom, 1982

Like millions of people around the world, Chia Tasah encountered a Peace Corps Volunteer and it changed his life. Here, in honor of Peace Corps Week, we share his story.

My autobiography is the story of how I came to call myself a Peace Corps child. It begins in Cameroon 1980 when my life became entangled with a Peace Corps Volunteer and continues until I became a U.S. citizen in 2012.

My story begins with me being unable to continue my secondary education because of my family’s financial situation. At age 14, I was lured into Club 185, a popular bar in Nijinikom, to work as a bartender. It was there that I met Alan Lakomski and Danny Hunter who were serving as Cameroon Peace Corps Volunteers at the time. Lakomski occasionally visited the bar and was appalled at me working a bartender instead of attending school. He offered to sponsor my secondary education and allowed destiny to take its course.

Learning Self-Reliance

When Lokomski and Hunter left, I was fortunate enough to met Bill Strassberger, another Peace Corps Volunteer, who offered to continue the payment of my school fees. Strassberger instilled a self-reliant spirit in me. He encouraged me to work holiday jobs to support my schooling. Eventually, I was able to receive a tuition scholarship that paid the rest of my school fees until I passed the General Certificate of Education Exam.

The confidence I gained propelled me to the University of Buea, Cameroon. It was here that I met my third Peace Corps mentor, Christine Swanson. She advised me to apply to the Human Resource Development Program at the University of Minnesota. I was admitted and Swanson assisted my visa process.

With only $85 in savings, I arrived in the U.S. to attend university. Swanson provided me temporary lodging in her neighbor’s condo but when money began to run low I fled to a friend’s home for fear of homelessness.

Reconnecting with Volunteers

I decided to reach out to my previous Peace Corps benefactors and Swanson was able to provide me with a contact list of returned Peace Corps Volunteers. I was able to reconnect with Lakomski and Strassberger!

Both of them readily accepted and supported me as they had years ago in Cameroon. Strassberger educated me on American culture and Lakomski forestalled the threat of homelessness by providing me with financial support.

I now hold a Master’s Degree of Education in Human Resource Development and am married with two kids. A world of thanks goes to the Peace Corps Volunteers that helped raise me.

Long live the Peace Corps!

Want to know more?

Currently Chia Tasah works at All World Languages and Cultures, Inc., in Kansas City. Check out his new book, “The Life of An African Peace Corps Child”.

Do you think more people should hear stories like this? Here are two things you can do:

Support NPCA’s National Day of Action for a bigger better Peace Corps.
Ignite our community by supporting the production of A Towering Task: A Peace Corps Documentary.

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