Archive for the 'News' Category

Boko Haram kills scores of civilians in Cameroon attack

February 5th, 2015 by admin

Boko Haram fighters have shot or burned to death about 90 civilians and wounded 500 in ongoing fighting in a Cameroonian border town near Nigeria, officials in Cameroon said Thursday.

Read more…

US Pilot Missing in Cameroon

July 11th, 2014 by admin

Bill Fitzpatrick, a US citizen and the resident pilot at Odzala-Kokoua National Park in Republic of Congo, went missing on 22 June after taking off from Kano, Nigeria, in the park’s Cessna 172 at 18h13. He was scheduled to arrive in Doula, Cameroon, later that evening, but failed to do so. Read more

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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Missions accomplished: Oregon lands high Peace Corps rating

December 12th, 2013 by bobebill

A Peace Corps Volunteer helps Cameroonian children paint a mural about water sanitation on a well constructed by another volunteer at a school in Madouma, East Province, Cameroon
A Peace Corps Volunteer helps Cameroonian children paint a mural about water sanitation on a well constructed by another volunteer at a school in Madouma, East Province, Cameroon.

While Oregon residents are joining the Peace Corps with great fervor, they’re doing so at a slower clip than they did last year.

So says the Peace Corps itself, which, in a report that ranked which states contribute the most volunteers, placed Oregon in the fourth spot nationally.

Oregon sends 5.2 volunteers per 100,000 residents into the Peace Corps. The figure is down from the 6.1 volunteers per capita rate that Oregon logged in 2012. The state ranked third in the Peace Corps analysis last year.

Oregon ranks only behind Vermont, the District of Columbia and New Hampshire in terms of per capita volunteers.

“Oregon has a wealth of globally oriented universities and sustainably minded communities from which we find volunteers willing to make a difference in communities overseas,” said Janet Allen, manager of the Peace Corps West Coast Region, in a release.

California, New York and Texas send the most volunteers overall into the Peace Corps.

In 2013, 203 Oregonians joined the Peace Corps. That figure ranks 14th overall, tying Oregon with Massachusetts.

Andy Giegerich is editor for Sustainable Business Oregon.

FOC Friend Wins Best Male Artist Award for 2012

April 15th, 2013 by admin

The Palais de Congres was the place to be on March 30th, 2013, to witness the 9th edition of Cameroon’s Annual Music Awards, honoring the best of Cameroon’s vibrant music industry. The audience included prominent figures in Cameroon, ranging from leading stars of the entertainment industry to government ministers, Ambassadors, politicians, and stars of the music industry, past, present and future.

“C’est Notre Hollywood!” Sparkling dresses, flashing cameras, the red carpet, and anticipation in the air. There were thirteen categories of awards announced throughout the night, with many Cameroonian talents were nominated for the prestigious awards. The exciting night featured both memorable award presentations and vibrant performances by the artists. The evening drew to a heart-stopping climax when Cameroon’s Minister of Culture stepped forward to announce the final and most prestigious award, honoring the “Best Male Artist of the Year 2012.”

With suspense tugging on each word, the Minister announced the winner: Prince Ndedi Eyango, a Cameroonian musician, who launched his singing career 30 years ago. After releasing a series of best-selling albums, he toured extensively in Europe and Africa and then moved to the U.S. to expand his opportunities through performances, to study music and enhance his artistic knowledge, and produce a number of upcoming stars.

During 17 years of a music career in the U.S., Prince Eyango performed at major festivals and events in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Asia, quickly becoming the truly international star that his fans knew him to be already. He was the headline performer for the Friends of Cameroon gala celebrating Peace Corps’ 45th anniversary, and a longtime supporter of FOC. Prince Eyango returned to Cameroon as an American citizen, with one goal–to bring his U.S. music knowledge to expand his career as a musician and producer, and to promote the vibrant culture and musical talent his country of birth, Cameroon. Recognized when he received Cameroon’s Artist of the Year Award in 1987 with his major hit, “You Must Calculer,” he has hit after hit in the years since, and released his latest hit album, “Appelle Moi” in October 2012. With this latest honor, musical historians are certain to note Prince Eyango for his lifelong achievements, just as his fans have done for years!

Woman Candidate Runs for Cameroon’s Presidency

September 26th, 2011 by admin

In a video taken in February this year, Kah Walla, wearing jeans and a red t-shirt, stood facing the water cannon, her body leaning forward, both fists raised high in the air. High-powered blasts of chemical-tinged water wash over her and cloud the screen. Soon after, the police beat her and her companions with clubs. Read more…

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

NATIONALLY

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.

dnaylor@providencejournal.com