Archive for the 'Projects' Category

Books for Cameroon

November 11th, 2011 by admin

Hello, I’m a currently serving volunteer in Cameroon working on a literacy project called Books for Cameroon.

Phase I was successfully completed in 2010 and brought 23.000 English books to Cameroon. We are now working hard on Phase II and are currently fundraising to bring a sea container of 25,000 French books to our mostly rural schools and communities.

Can you imagine where you would be today without books? Books are a great equilizer in this world. If anyone feels passionately about reading and the power of books in transforming lives, please help us spread the word about this project and help us fundraise so we can bring this container to Cameroon by 2012!

You can find out more about Books for Cameroon by clicking on any of the links below – Thank you!


Cristina Kowarick

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)

Local Peace Corps stories part of global anniversary

February 2nd, 2011 by admin

Canandaigua resident Jennifer Brownell during the late-1990s, served with the Peace Corps in Cameroon. Here she is seen holding a baby at one of the clinics there where she helped with health care for women and children.

By Julie Sherwood, staff writer
Messenger Post
Posted Feb 01, 2011

After Peace Corps founder R. Sargent Shriver died this month, President Obama called the in-law of President John F. Kennedy “one of the brightest lights of the greatest generation.”

Shriver’s accomplishments spanned several decades, and his work led to the Peace Corps, sending almost a quarter-million volunteers to aid 139 countries around the world over the past 50 years.

Among those who left their comfortable, middle-class lives in Ontario County were three recent college graduates, a director of nonprofits and a retired couple.

Their stories of life in the Peace Corps are varied. They range from an unexpected, swift evacuation from a violent political rebellion in Haiti to a period of agonizing homesickness followed by tears of sadness when it was time to leave a West African village.

A different, better person
“I had lived a relatively sheltered life up to then,” recalled Canandaigua resident Jennifer Brownell, who grew up in Geneva.

After earning a bachelor’s degree, at age 22, she fulfilled an urge to do something significant by joining the Peace Corps.

“I wanted to do good, wanted to do positive work,” said Brownell.

It landed her in the French-speaking Republic of Cameroon, West Africa.

“I didn’t unpack my bags for the first six months,” said Brownell, who ended up serving from 1992 to 1995.

The dropout rate for Peace Corps volunteers is more than 60 percent. Brownell thought she’d become part of the statistics.

“It’s not easy being lonely,” she said.

The nearest fellow volunteer was hours away. The language barrier and cultural differences were more than she thought she could bear.

At that time, women in Cameroon lived in a polygamous society with few choices, she said. They weren’t allowed to own land, have their own business or a bank account. Their choices were mainly to either stay with their father, get married or be a prostitute.

Brownell’s role was to work with health care professionals to raise the quality of life for mothers and children. It involved teaching moms about nutrition, pre-natal care and other ways to be healthy and raise healthy children — not an easy task in a country where meat in a home goes first to the men.

Peace Corps work “is not for everyone,” said Brownell, now executive director of the nonprofit Partnership for Ontario County.

But it was for her.

“I came home a different person, a better person,” she said.

The changes also made her less tolerant of the American way of life. In Cameroon, people take care of each other and behave as a true community, she said. Even strangers are welcomed as guests and given the best food and best bed in the house.

There, “it was like one big family … here, it is every man for himself.”

She cried when it was time to go, said Brownell, but this time, for a different reason: “I didn’t want to leave.”

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

Funds needed to build elementary school in Cameroon

February 2nd, 2010 by admin


Our son is in the PC there and would like to get the word out about a project he needs funding for…

Here is his story:

We have just learned that Brad has a project all scoped out – to build an elementary school in Cameroon. Please feel free to forward this e-mail to anyone you think might be interested in helping. We are very proud of his work there. Here are the details on the Peace Corp project he needs to raise $$ for:

Brad needs financial help to build an elementary school for Ketcheble, a hard working self starting village in need in Cameroon. The current elementary school for 300 students is made up of two woefully inadequate one room buildings each smaller than most American living rooms. The youngest students’ building has a roof of sticks that provide shade but no weather protection. It can’t be used during the 3 to 4 month rainy season. It also lacks floors, doors or windows and furniture except a black board and a plastic chair for the teacher. The older students have a tin roof, a door and sit on rocks or on planks between rocks on the ground. The Cameroon government provides two teachers and the villagers pay for a third. Class attendance is low. The funding Brad is seeking would build a new larger building with floors, walls, doors, windows, two class rooms, roof and furniture. It will be a key element in improving the education of the five village area that attends it.

$5,500 more must be donated by the end of February for the project to happen. This added to the $14,700 Brad has received to date from the local villagers and the US donations that are just coming in, will totally fund the project. The construction must start the first of March to insure it will be completed in the final 7 months of Brad’s 2 year Peace Corps stint.

You can use this link to see the official Peace Corps project description, see amount of additional funding needed currently and to make a credit card donation for this project. Also, if you know of a group/corporation that can make a significant donation, the Peace Corps can provide documentation thanking them for their support and describing the project in more detail.

100% of your donation will go to Brad for his use in paying for materials and labor to build the school. There is no money spent on overhead costs. Brad does all the planning, coordination and administration for this project at no charge. The Peace Corps gets your donation changed to local currency and delivers it to Brad with no reduction. Unlike all official aid to Cameroon the corrupt Cameroon government doesn’t rip off a huge chunk for their self enrichment. As soon as the Peace Corp notifies Brad that the total donations have been received, Brad and Hamidou (a local volunteer who owns/runs one of the few stores in a nearby larger village where Brad lives) will go to Maroua, the state capital, and buy all the materials needed. They have the material lists prepared and agreements in place with the suppliers. The villagers from Ketcheble will provide their community owned “market” truck to transport the material to the building site. The next week, Halidou, the best local mason/building contractor will direct the Ketcheble volunteer workmen to find, prepare and move local sand and gravel to the site. Halidou will provide and supervise the skilled craftsman at customary prices to build the school. The school will be complete by June this year before the rainy season stops all construction till October. Both Hamidou and Halidou have proven experience in the local community and Brad knows them both well.

If you choose to donate and the project is not fully funded, your donation will be reassigned to another Cameroonian project that can be fully funded. The Ketcheble community understands this is a lot of money to raise and though disappointed will understand if can’t happen. They will still be happy as Brad has already received funding from a German charity to add to the villagers $500 for a simple drop a bucket in properly dug and covered well for the village. This will provide their first dependable source of clean water. The well will be dug and completed this April.

I have attached pictures we took at the site during our November visit with Brad and the villagers. Ketcheble along with most Cameroon villages is not on any published map. I have also attached a photo of the hand drawn map Brad has made to help him organize his work in the 20 or so smaller villages that surround Hina where he lives. Hina can occasionally be located by an experience geographer. The Extreme North state capital of Maroua is simpler to find.

Please feel free to E-mail or call Brad’s parents (Diane and Steve Mayberry at ) or Brad ( if you have any questions or suggestions. Brad can be hard to reach for extended periods of time as he (his entire village) has no computer or electricity where he lives and works.

Thanks in advance for considering this and helping us with this fund raising effort,

Diane and Steve Mayberry

Community Granary Project – UPDATE

November 21st, 2009 by admin

Concrete Block Ready for Granary Walls_Oct 2009

As of this week, US fundraising for the Community Granary project in the village of Ngan-Ha, Cameroon is complete. Generous contributors made the difference putting us close enough to our US fundraising goal to apply for a grant from Peace Corps Partnership Program’s Agriculture Fund. A grant from the fund put us over the top.

The granary is a basic technology advance for the village supporting more sustainable, more profitable farming in a community where practically every family is a farm family. In the wake of a community needs assessment showing strong interest in a granary facility, our daughter, Elena, an Agro-Forestry Peace Corps volunteer, acted as project facilitator/coordinator working with village organizations and leaders, architects, and others to create and implement a facility plan/design.

Thank you to everyone who donated, shared project information with others, suggested fundraising ideas, or helped in any way!! We greatly appreciate the Friends of Cameroon organization placing our appeal on this website. Many contributions came from people we don’t even know.

Just an amazing experience!

Local fundraising and building construction in Ngan-Ha is going well. We’ll continue to update the Community Granary Blog with project progress news and pictures:

With Affection,

– Merritt & Jill

Merritt & Jill Bussiere
Kewaunee, Wisconsin
Parents of Elena Bussiere


Road to Capitol rooted in Peace Corps

July 22nd, 2009 by admin

Buea_peace_corps3 Chris_Hill_207
PCV Chris Hill served in Buea from 1974-74, working with credit unions as an advisor. He is now the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.

From Politico
By: Anne Schroeder Mullins
July 22, 2009 04:50 AM EST

Before launching their careers on Capitol Hill, some congressional lawmakers got their first taste of mudslinging in a productive way — as volunteers in the U.S. Peace Corps. The program has served as an unlikely farm system for future members of Congress. Sen. Chris Dodd and Reps. Sam Farr, Tom Petri, Mike Honda and Steve Driehaus have all been among its ranks.

And it’s not just elected officials who have served in the Peace Corps before making their way to Washington. Journalist Chris Matthews was in Swaziland from 1968 to 1970, writer Maureen Orth was in Colombia from 1964 to 1966 — the same time as Farr — and current Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill served in Cameroon from 1974 to 1976. (And he thought Africa was tough.)

The Peace Corps, which is hosting an event at the Capitol Visitor Center for staff and interns on Wednesday, gave us a peek at several politicos in their earthy Peace Corps days.

Ambassador Chris Hill
Volunteered in Cameroon (1974-76)

“In one month, I went from being responsible for very little in college to being responsible for the life savings of 6,000 credit union members in Fako Division, Cameroon. The Peace Corps gave me that chance. In many ways, it was the most important job I have ever had.”

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.)
Volunteered in the Dominican Republic (1966-68)

“Over 40 years ago, when I arrived in the Dominican Republic as an English major who spoke almost no Spanish, I was asked a question I’ve been asked a thousand times since: ‘Why did you join the Peace Corps?’ The answer was simple: because an American president asked me to. My experience in the Peace Corps was perhaps the most formidable and richest of my life, and it is why I have spent my life in public service and continue to urge others to serve our great nation.”

Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.)
Volunteered in Colombia (1964-66)

“For two years, I lived amid severe poverty in Medellin, Colombia, helping the poorest of the poor figure out what they wanted from their government and then working with them to get it. I learned firsthand what contributes to poverty, and I’ve worked four decades to defeat it. As my wife said, I’m still a Peace Corps volunteer at heart; I’ve just changed my barrio.”

Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.)
Volunteered in Somalia (1966-67)

Petri’s spokesman shares this story: “Having finished law school, Petri was assigned to bring some order to Somalia’s legal code. Because of the country’s colonial history, some of the laws were in Arabic, some in Italian and some in English. They were numbered, so if you had a copy of law 100, you knew that there were 99 before it.

“Petri went to the custodian of the laws to request a complete copy. He was told that that would be impossible. He returned over the course of several days, sometimes bringing the custodian tea, and gradually obtained a law or two at a time. Eventually, the custodian took him to a room where the laws were kept, bound in twine and totally ignored.”

Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.)
Volunteered in El Salvador (1965-67)

“My time in El Salvador taught me so much. I went into the Corps as a college student shy of graduation with little direction; I emerged with the confidence that my emotional, psychological and physical limits had been pushed, plied and ultimately surpassed. I went into the Corps driven by the shame of my youthful lack of direction; I emerged determined to do something about the pervasive poverty surrounding me. I went into the Corps speaking one language; I emerged speaking another: Spanish, a gift that introduced me to a new world, gave me a new way of understanding new cultures and helped me connect to constituents in California. The Peace Corps got me back to the basics, and I realized that every day is a gift to be used wisely. That gift is what guides me now in Congress.”

Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio)
Volunteered in Senegal (1988-90)

“I lived with a family in a village of 300 people, and she lived with us. When I look at this photo, I think I was much younger and I weigh less, and I have less gray in my beard. The Peace Corps was a fantastic experience. It was probably, with the exception of my marriage and my children, the most important experience in my life. Those 2½ years were very valuable. I had a prototypical Peace Corps experience — I lived in a rural area, and you have a far deeper appreciation for how so many millions of people live life around the world that is so different than ours.”

Driehaus adds: “I like to tease the others — they were all serving the year I was born.”