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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.

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Pingree School features alumnus and EFA Co-founder Rachel Hoy Deussom

July 31st, 2011 by bobebill

Rachel Hoy Deussom (’99) is co-founder of Education Fights AIDS (EFA) International. After graduating from Georgetown University in 2003, she served as a Peace Corps
community health volunteer in northern Cameroon. During her service, a fellow volunteer, Andrew Koleros, introduced Rachel to a concerned group of HIV-positive youth, which became EFA’s original HIV-positive youth support group in February 2005. In 2006 they officially established EFA International as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with the mission to promote the successful future of HIV-infected and –affected African youth through education, enterprise, and empowerment. EFA International urther develops the work that these volunteers started during their Peace Corps service and has grown to include both returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) and other individuals that care deeply about youth and the development of sub-Saharan Africa.

Since the Peace Corps, Rachel received her M.Sc. in Global Health and Population from the Harvard School of Public Health. Rachel and her husband Gabriel are currently based in Washington, DC where she works for the World Bank on health and HIV projects in Africa. Her work has brought her to India, Liberia, Mali, Malawi, Niger and Southern Sudan, but her heart remains in Cameroon.

For more information about EFA and how you can support the work being done, go to or

(from the Pingree School blog)

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

Friends of Cameroon July 2009 Newsletter

August 15th, 2009 by admin

You can download your very own copy here in PDF format.

FOC Newsletter June 2008

July 20th, 2008 by admin

You can find the June 2008 FOC Newsletter here.

FOC January 2008 Newsletter

January 28th, 2008 by admin

Click to view FOC January 2008 Newsletter

Latest FOC Newsletter

September 23rd, 2007 by admin

View the latest FOC Newsletter September 2007