Archive for the 'Events' Category

Aiken native in Africa for two years

March 6th, 2014 by bobebill

Aiken-PCV 1
Submitted Photo Spencer Snyder with the brothers of his host family during training. Snyder, a recently enrolled Peace Corps member, is on a two-year assignment in Cameroon.

Spencer Snyder of Aiken is spending his first Peace Corps assignment in Africa, tending to the health of the residents.

Snyder, a South Aiken High School graduate, joined the Peace Corps last September. After two months of training, he was assigned to the village of Badjouma, located in northern Cameroon, Africa.

Cameroon is a country about the size of California and is located in the central western region of Africa. It is a microcosm of Africa geographically and culturally with a topography ranging from coastal beaches to mountains and rain forests to deserts.

There are approximately 200 Peace Corps volunteers currently serving in Cameroon, involved in the education, environmental and health programs.

Snyder was one of 55 volunteers in the new wave assigned to Cameroon. He personally is working with a local UNICEF team, dealing with malnutrition and HIV/AIDS education.

Snyder will be on assignment to the village for the next couple years.

Getting there

When he first wanted to join, his parents, Larry and Judy Snyder of Aiken, were apprehensive. However, the extensive training and infrastructure that the Peace Corps provide helped them accept the risks that would come with Spencer’s adventure.

During the two months of training, volunteers like Spencer live in remote villages with a local host family. During this time, they are totally immersed into the culture, language and primitive living conditions in order to prepare them for similar experiences in their future assignments.

During his training period, Spencer lived with a local Cameroonian family of eight. He had six “brothers” ranging in age from three to 20.

While the home provided basic shelter, there was no running water and only an outdoor latrine. “Bucket baths” were the norm, with water hauled daily from the local town’s well.

Since French is the primary language of the country, Spencer’s training also included daily French lessons.

Settling down

Spencer’s assigned home in Badjouma is typical of those provided to Peace Corps volunteers – a small, two-room concrete block dwelling with a tin roof located within a walled compound.

There is no running water, and the bathroom is a simple latrine in the back yard. Water for bathing and cooking is carried daily in buckets from a neighbor’s well.

The Peace Corps provides water filters and mosquito nets to all the volunteers.

Electricity is only on about half the time so Spencer uses a solar panel purchased from the previous Peace Corps volunteer in his village. The solar panel keeps his cell phone and other electronics charged.

Volunteers are assigned local community coordinators. This person helps the volunteer transition into the village and assists the volunteer in the project work that he or she will perform during their two-year assignment.

Spencer’s coordinator is Moussa, a local farmer who is dedicated to his role and has proven to be an invaluable asset to Spencer’s transition into his village.

The Peace Corps maintains a medical staff at each of its four regional offices and provides the volunteers with health care on the local economy. If a volunteer becomes ill, they are quickly transported to the regional offices for treatment by the in-house medical staff and, if necessary, at the local hospitals.

All volunteers are medically cleared before they are allowed to leave the country.

Getting around

All volunteers are provided bicycles and helmets for getting around their assigned villages and nearby areas.

In addition, they are provided a motorcycle helmet for riding the “moto” taxis that take them to the more distant villages and larger towns. The moto taxi is simply a small motorcycle for hire that is the primary form of local transportation throughout the country. Many motos can be seen carrying as many as five passengers at once.

For longer trips between the larger towns, there are commercial cars and buses available that are often overloaded with passengers and with all kinds of baggage and other personal belongings strapped on the roof.

The Peace Corps volunteers are not allowed to operate any motor vehicles while they are in service and can be terminated immediately for breaking this rule.

Daily life

Recently, Spencer attended a Catholic church service where one of Moussa’s sons was baptized. During the rather long service, many of the parishioners tended to doze off. One of the elders of the church would walk around continuously with a long stick and tap people on the head when he caught them nodding off.

Spencer said he managed to stay awake throughout the service.

In spite of the hardships of the primitive living conditions, Spencer says he is enjoying the challenges of his work and the once in a lifetime opportunity that it is giving him to experience African cultures and to see firsthand the beauty of the varied landscapes of Cameroon.

While electricity is sporadic, the cell phone service in Cameroon is very good. Most volunteers purchase a local cell phone as soon as they arrive in the country, and are able to communicate among themselves, the Peace Corps offices and friends and family back home with fairly reliable service.

His parents are comforted by Spencer’s weekly phone calls, when he tells them of his latest experiences.

Read more: Aiken native in Africa for two years | Aiken Standard
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R.I. volunteers recall Peace Corps on its 50th anniversary

September 20th, 2011 by admin

The Providence Journal
September 18, 2011
By Donita Naylor
Journal Staff Writer

Nanci Martin (Smith), right, served in Buea, West Cameroon, in 1964. On the left is Mrs. Musako, head senior tutor at the Baptist Teacher Training College, and her children.

In 1959, Tom Wilson drove his Vespa back to college in Indiana from his summer job in a national park in California.

Two summers later, the Lincoln, R.I., native made the same trip in reverse, with his new wife, Anne, on the back of the scooter.

“We had to push it up the Rockies,” he recalled recently by way of telling how he and Anne came to join the Peace Corps in 1961. Wilson, now 73, lives in Warwick. The federal agency that President John F. Kennedy created to give Americans and people in developing countries a chance to work together and get to know each other is celebrating its 50th anniversary this week with events in Washington, D.C., and around the globe.

Kennedy had stopped at the couple’s campus, Earlham College in Indiana, during his run for president the year before. And they’d heard about his speech at the University of Michigan, when — with 5,000 students cheering at 2 a.m. — he issued an impromptu challenge from the steps of the student union, calling on students to “contribute part of your life to this country” to help solve “the problems that press upon the United States.”

In January, Tom and Anne Wilson were in Washington visiting Anne’s parents, while Kennedy and speechwriter Ted Sorensen drafted Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you” inauguration speech. The Wilsons caught a ride back to Earlham with Sorensen’s wife, who was going to see her sister, the wife of an Earlham history professor.

From D.C. to Indiana, Tom Wilson remembers, “We did nothing but talk about the Peace Corps.”

That semester, the Wilsons drove their scooter to Ohio to take one of the first Peace Corps entrance exams. Their applications were in the first 11,000 that Peace Corps Director R. Sargent Shriver reported having received by mid-June.

By then, via scooter and helicopter, the Wilsons had reached their summer job in California, a fire tower at 10,000 feet in King’s Canyon National Park with Ansel Adams views.

“The call came through on the park radio that President Kennedy wanted to talk to us, which wasn’t at all true,” he said. “It was the Peace Corps.”

The new agency needed to know if the Wilsons wanted to be in the first group of volunteers sent overseas.

“We said no, we wanted to stay in our fire tower.”

Another Rhode Islander, Frank Krajewski of Woonsocket, now 72 and living in Richmond, was in the first group sent to the Philippines in 1961. He’ll be in Washington this week attending some of the 50th anniversary activities, which culminate in a black-tie (or native-dress) gala on Saturday, with “Hardball” host Chris Matthews as emcee.

As one of the first wave of volunteers, “We’re having a lot of our own activities,” said Krajewski, who taught at the University of Nevada for 20 years and now does professional development for teachers at Rhode Island College. Out of 128 volunteers who went in 1961, “there are about 80 of us left.”

Krajewski’s group trained at Penn State, he said, then had to go home because Congress hadn’t yet authorized the Peace Corps. Finally, letters arrived with plane tickets to San Francisco, from there they were flown to the Philippines — the men on one plane, which stopped at every island, and the women on another. “The girls left a day later and landed the same time we did.”

Krajewski volunteered for a hardship assignment, on a remote island where he lived on the beach in a hut with a thatch roof and bamboo floor. He worked in an elementary school in the morning and a high school in the afternoon.

“They trained us, but the training was almost irrelevant to what we were going to do,” he said.

“We were kind of the guinea pigs. We had to create our own jobs.”

After their summer in the fire tower, Tom and Anne Wilson drove to Washington, this time in a VW panel truck, to Peace Corps headquarters. “They signed us up for Philippines III.”

Training started Dec. 27, 1961, and in February of 1962 they became the third wave of volunteers helping Filipino teachers improve their teaching of English and science. “My wife worked in the main school, in Daran,” Tom Wilson recalled, “and I paddled a boat to another village a mile away.”

Life in the Philippines wasn’t like life back home. He remembers being late one morning, paddling to his school in the heat of the day and arriving just in time for lunch and the siesta on his bamboo mat at the head teacher’s house. “I woke up in time to paddle home.”

And he recalls a morning when “I had to go down to deliver a document to the ferry boat that left at 5 in the morning.” He described the quiet road, the luminous water and the company of Tex, a dog belonging to one of the priests who lived next to the Americans.

Near the municipal building, “Tex took off, chasing a goat. A security guard at City Hall said, ‘He can’t do that, that’s the goat of the judge.’ I said, ‘That’s the dog of the priest,’ ” The guard weighed the social complexities. “You mean the dog of the priest bit the goat of the judge?” It was too much. “He just walked away. It blew his mind.”

And as idealistic young Americans ready to change the world, the volunteers learned quickly “how difficult real change is.”

Getting an idea or a project squashed, Wilson said, “made you more patient. You learned to watch and take advantage of opportunities instead of just having grand schemes.”

And working in a different culture, he said, “gives you an observing edge.” Outside your own culture, “you had to pay much more attention” — to grasp how things get done, “to learn quickly what this person is like,” to hear what people are really saying.

The skills worked well at home, too.

Back in Washington, he and other Peace Corps veterans turned around a school for inner-city youth. In Chicago, he helped invent a “school without walls.” He became a pioneer in education reform.

When he returned to Rhode Island with his second wife, Leslie Oh, to whom he has been married 26 years, he used the same skills to study the British system of evaluating schools. He helped develop the state’s SALT, or School Accountability for Learning and Teaching, program, and now he helps accrediting agencies improve how they evaluate schools.

“There’s no question that for me, it was one of these root experiences that really changed my life,” Wilson says now. “It’s had a lot to do with how I think about what’s good and what’s true.

“It really does have an idealism to it, an American idealism. It’s really a good thing to go try and really help somebody, even though you screw up. We felt really solid that we were doing something, and what we were doing was very American at its heart.”

Kennedy had hoped that men and women “doing the same work, eating the same food and speaking the same language” as those they helped would be a “source of satisfaction to Americans and a contribution to world peace.”

Nanci Martin was a senior at the University of Connecticut when Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. She and a group of friends took the Peace Corps test in response.

In June of ’64, she started training and by September, she was one of about 70 volunteers in the western part of the African nation of Cameroon. She was stationed in Buea, which had only a few buildings: a post office, a prison, a large hotel, the Buea Mountain Club, the prime minister’s palace and the Baptist Teacher Training College, where she worked alongside Baptist missionaries and African educators.

Students who wore uniforms to school came from families that still wore loincloths, she said. She remembers girls spending whole Saturdays plaiting their hair in spectacular designs, like those that only recently became popular in the United States.

“We shared a Jeep with four other stations to allow us to get groceries at Victoria,” she said, and once the gas tank sprang a leak. “We came up with the idea to chew lots of gum and stuff it in the hole in the tank until we could reach help.”

Now Nanci Martin Smith, she lives in Portsmouth with her husband, a retired Navy officer, and keeps in touch with her friends in Cameroon. She still volunteers. She co-manages the thrift shop at the Navy base and serves on Portsmouth committees and the juvenile hearing board. She and her husband sponsor Cameroonian naval officers when they come to the Naval War College and keep in touch after they go home.

She helps support a women’s group that one officer’s mother started “way out in the bush,” and she collects books for the group. The Peace Corps gave her confidence and started her on a lifetime of service.

“It hasn’t stopped,” she said. “It just keeps going.”

On Oct. 25, the Rhode Island Returned Peace Corps Volunteers will walk on the South County Bike Path to honor those who died in service. The walk starts at 11 a.m. at the Kingston Amtrak station on Route 138.

NOTABLEThey also served


Lillian Carter (India, ’66). President Jimmy Carter’s mother was a volunteer at the age of 68. An award in her name is given each year to recognize an outstanding volunteer older than 50.

Christopher Dodd (Monción, Dominican Republic, ‘66-’68). U.S. senator, Connecticut.

Chris Matthews (Swaziland, ‘68-70). Host, NBC’s “Hardball.”

Jim and Jessica Doyle (Tunisia, ’67-’69). Former governor and first lady of Wisconsin.

Samuel Gillespie III (Kenya, ‘67-‘69). Senior vice president, Exxon Mobil.

Robert Haas, (Ivory Coast, ‘64-‘66). Chairman of board, Levi Strauss.

Edward Dolby (India, ’66-‘68). Director, Family Dollar Stores.

Reed Hastings (Swaziland, ‘83-‘85). Founder, CEO of Netflix.

Michael McCaskey (Togo, ‘62-‘64). Chairman of board, Chicago Bears.

Priscilla and Thomas Wrubel (Liberia, ‘61-‘63). Founders of the Nature Company.

A2Empowerment benefit featuring The Mood Swings

June 5th, 2011 by admin

A2Empowerment will hold a phenomenally fun benefit event featuring Boston’s fantastic, one-and-only all-women swing orchestra, The Mood Swings. Join us June 18th, 2011 at the George Dilboy VFW Post in Davis Square, Somerville, from 7-11 pm. Premier dance instructor Liz Nania, director of OUT to Dance, will teach a fun and friendly swing lesson at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $20 at the door: enjoy the cash bar, free appetizers and a raffle stocked with really cool prizes. 100% of ticket and raffle proceeds will fund scholarships for girls in Cameroon. Step out and enjoy a night of music and dance while making a difference in the lives of women. Download the flyer for the event at here.

A2Empowerment is a Somerville-based nonprofit company dedicated to empowering women through education. Since its founding in 2008, the company has awarded over 150 scholarships to young women in Cameroon. The project is coordinated by A2Empowerment and Peace Corps Volunteers working in Cameroon. Recipients are chosen by A2Empowerment based on need and merit. In 2011, approximately $65 USD will cover tuition, fees and books for a year of school. The project is set up as a Peace Corps Partnership Project, so all funding is strictly monitored by the Peace Corps and A2Empowerment. To date, all company overhead costs have been covered by the company co-founders, allowing for the full amount of all donations to be put toward scholarships. To find out more, please visit our website at

EFA International Continues to Grow, Bringing the Message of Hope to D.C.

July 5th, 2010 by admin

домейнBy Whitney Isenhower (RPCV Cameroon ’06-’08)

(pictures by Amber Byrne of Live It Out Photography, LLC)

Nearly 100 Washington, D.C.-area residents gathered in the Eighteenth Street Lounge’s warmly lit Gold Room on the evening of April 29 for a fundraiser supporting Education Fights AIDS (EFA) International, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that empowers African youth infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS in Cameroon and Rwanda.

Alim Ousmanou, EFA International’s Cameroon country representative, spoke at the fundraiser—one stop on a visit marking his first time in the U.S. Invited to participate in the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program from April 3-23, Ousmanou remained in the country for two weeks after the program to visit supporters of EFA International’s work carried out in Cameroon.

Alim Ousmanou

“It was wonderful to see how young Americans are helping the community of youth living with HIV and AIDS in Cameroon,” Ousmanou said of the Washington event.

EFA International’s efforts focus on creating associations for individuals infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS in Cameroon and supporting a center for orphans and vulnerable children in Rwanda. The organization began when Ousmanou and Andrew Koleros, then a Peace Corps Volunteer in Maroua, Cameroon, identified dozens of HIV-positive youth in the city who lacked the psychosocial, educational and financial support to live positively with the virus.

Along with Koleros, returned Peace Corps Volunteers Rachel Hoy, Michael Nilon, Erin Nilon and Nicole Sheldon-Desjardins officially incorporated the organization in 2006 to continue this work. Koleros, who currently sits on EFA International’s Board of Directors, said Ousmanou’s visit deepened members’ commitment to the organization, which advocates the Peace Corps’ Third Goal.

“It’s really motivated the board and volunteers,” Koleros said of Ousmanou’s presence at EFA International events in the U.S. “It reminded us of why we all got involved in this organization in the first place.”

For EFA International’s benefactors, Ousmanou’s presence at the fundraiser made the organization’s mission more resonant, clarifying what their involvement means for the youth the nonprofit enables to live positively.

“It was nice to hear somebody from the area where it’s being helped speak,” said Michael Causey, a Washington-based lawyer who attended the fundraiser. “It’s easy for Americans to say, ‘Look at the great work I’m doing.’”

(AJEPS photo taken by Caitlyn Bradburn (PCV Cameroon ’08-present)

EFA International currently supports eight independent groups in the Extreme North province of Cameroon. Income-generating activities to advance members in their communities and peer education programs to raise awareness about HIV transmission and prevention have empowered more than 120 young men and women.

Doumtigai Guibai, member of an EFA International-sponsored association in Mokolo, Cameroon, said her participation in peer education training motivated her to speak openly about HIV.

“People come up to me to congratulate me for my courage to speak about HIV in the community,” Guibai said in EFA International’s 2009 Annual Report. “At school, students call me the ‘mama’ for teaching them about HIV.”

During his visit, Ousmanou also attended fundraising events in Massachusetts and spoke at a Harvard Divinity School panel discussion on development and HIV in Africa. He said he was extremely affected by returned volunteers’ commitment to both EFA International and Cameroon.

“I saw so many people during my time in the U.S.,” Ousmanou said. “Seeing former Cameroon Peace Corps Volunteers was the most significant to me.”

To find out more about EFA’s work, go to

Cameroon RPCV educator wins Michigan’s ‘Science Teacher of the Year’ award

December 14th, 2009 by admin


by Tom Perkins
Freshmen biology students at Ypsilanti High School recently started a new lesson, and when they stepped through the door of room 114, they didn’t know what was in store. But one thing was certain – it was “Sowder time.”

For the hour of the day that’s known as such, students receive an education delivered by Hans Sowderевтини мебели, the 2010 recipient of the Michigan Science Teachers Association “Science Teacher of the Year” award.

“I was surprised that I won, but it really charged me for that two-day week,” said Sowder, who learned about the honor via e-mail on Nov. 23.

Among other reasons, the 10-year Ypsilanti High veteran was chosen for the award for exhibiting a passion for teaching, developing innovative teaching strategies and being an excellent role model for students.

When three of his ninth-grade biology students were asked what they liked best about Sowder’s class, all three replied in unison, “Labs!”

“We’re not in here just sitting around, we’re actually getting up and doing something,” Zachary Meyer said.

On a recent day, Sowder had his students learning about the respiratory system and carbon dioxide production in the body. Using a straw, they exhaled into a pink solution of sodium hydroxide and phenolphthalein. When the kids blew into the liquid, the carbon dioxide coming out of their bodies, which is a base, turned the acidic solution clear more quickly, depending on how much of the gas was exhaled.

By taking one another’s pulses and breaking out stethoscopes to track heart rates, his students could measure how much of the gas their bodies produced while in a normal state.
But that’s just one day. The next day, the students would run several laps around the indoor track in the gymnasium and take the same measurements. On the third day, Sowder dimmed the lights, sparked some incense, turned on relaxing music and had students take the same measurements.

By the end, the students had a data table exhibiting how much carbon dioxide their bodies produced under various conditions, demonstrating a connection between its production and heart rate and pulse. “When they’re able to see those connections, it’s powerful,” Sowder said. “They start to understand what’s going on inside their body.”

Influential to Sowder’s educational approach are his experiences in classrooms across the globe – from three years teaching in Cameroon with the Peace Corps to a year at an Alaskan school in a remote “fly-in” village with his wife, to Kettering High School in Detroit.

Sowder said his years at Kettering were particularly educational because he learned to wear many hats – that of a teacher, father figure and friend. “I loved developing much richer relationships there,” he said. “That was something that was exciting at the time.”
Sowder further credits his colleagues, especially at YHS, for inspiring him and setting an example on how to excel in education.

“I have learned so much from my other colleagues, and I wouldn’t be the teacher I am had I worked in a vacuum,” he said. “There have been a lot of teachers in my life trying new things and not being afraid to do so, and I’ve taken pieces from what I’ve seen of them.”
Sowder said it’s his obligation to provide the students with an education. “I’m going to expect excellence from them every single minute of the hour, but I’m going to give it to them as well,” he said.

Sowder said he considers himself “on stage’ while teaching, and his passion for science is no small part of what keeps students engaged. “Science is so excellent,” he said. “It’s the study of all that’s been created around us, and it’s a wonderful to understand intricacies and complexities of its laws.”

Sowder was nominated for the award by Richard Weigel, the district’s assistant superintendent for educational quality. He will receive an award at a ceremony in March in Lansing.

“Mr. Sowder represents the caliber of highly qualified educators that we have in our district,” Superintendent Dedrick Martin said. “We are very proud of his accomplishments and anticipate that more great things are on the horizon for him.”
Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.

Newest Cameroon RPCVs

June 25th, 2009 by admin

Five Education PCVs just finished their service in Cameroon.

Left to Right:
Ann-Marie Mark
RPCV Bertoua (East Region)
Education 2007-2009

Tara Smith
RPCV Baré (Littoral Region)
TEFL Education 2007-2009
(Tara received FOC funding for a latrine project in her village.)

Anne Raymond
RPCV Ewoh (Northwest Region)
Math Science Education 2007-2009

Barry Shapira
RPCV Dimarko (East Region)
IT Education 2007-2009

Reid Benson
RPCV Bdiang (East Region)
TEFL Education 2007-2009

A few more newly inducted Cameroon RPCV

(From Left to Right)
Joe and Debbie Schuld
RPCV Tiko (SW)
IT and TEFL Education 2007-2009

Alyssa Poucher
RPCV Gashiga (North Region)
TEFL Education 2007-2009

Dr. Matthew McGrath
RPCV Dschang (West Region)
Math Science Education 2007-2009

Rachel Witter
RPCV Ebolowa (South Region)
TEFL Education 2007-2009

Bradford Melius
RPCV Fontem (SW Region)
Math Science Education 2007-2009

Latest Peace Corps trainees arrive in Cameroon

June 22nd, 2009 by admin

New Education and Small Enterprise Development trainees arrived in Cameroon on June 5 and have already begun training in country. They will officially swear in on August 19th upon completion of training.