Experiences on Peace Corps in the Congo


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Presentation on Peace Corps experiences in the Congo, the Peace Corps today, and reflections 30 years later.

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  • Provide training, education, and support to countries in which they serve. The Peace Corps is not a materials resource organization, although they will engage in special projects such as Books for Cameroon. Peace Corps Volunteers make a 2-year commitment overseas, which is very different from volunteering for one year. They are expected to live simply much like the people in their local communities without compromising their health and well being (may be without running water or electricity and usually without the modern comforts).Volunteers often serve in rural areas where many other organizations can or will not commit to. It takes an entire year to learn the culture, become fluent with the native language(s), and to gain trust of people in the community. You rapidly improve the second year and have an opportunity to engage in special projects. Volunteers returning to United States provide a unique perspective on other cultures based on their commitment and immersion into societies of other countries.
  • Education is still a large part of the program sector pie – teaching of English as a Second Language for example but other programs such as Public Health, Business and Information Communications Technology, and Environment have played an increasing important role.
  • Volunteers still serve most in Africa where I served, although its geographic distribution has changed somewhat. Program sectors vary depending on the country served.
  • Where do volunteers go? http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=learn.wherepc. In this world map you will note the change in countries where volunteers have served. Volunteers no longer serve in the dark tan countries because of in-country violence (DR Congo in 1990 ’s) or their services are no longer welcomed or needed. Program sectors depends ont the country’s geography, economic well-being, and need.
  • On March 1, 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed the executive order to create the U.S. Peace Corps. http://www.peacecorps.gov/about/fiftieth/timeline.html and TV PSA “The Graduate” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfEOzylnQmU . This web site provides an interactive historical timeline during the Peace Corps 50 years of service.
  • Names: The Democratic Republic of the Congo was formerly, in chronological order, the Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, Congo-Léopoldville, Congo-Kinshasa, and Zaire. It should not be confused with the Republic of the Congo or Congo - Brazzaville, which is a smaller country across the river.
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Leopold's_Soliloquy , http://diglib1.amnh.org/articles/kls/index.html, http://www.historywiz.org/soliloquy.ht, quote above "Mark Twain -- Interview Boston Herald (Nov. 6, 1905): http://www.twainquotes.com/interviews/Interview6Nov1905b.html, Twain was an anti-imperalist.
  • http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2823.htm and http://hdr.undp.org/en/statistics/ United States GNI per capita is $45,000 http://hdr.undp.org/en/statistics/
  • Gapminder.org examines global trends on the wealth and health of nations. Comparing the income, life expectancy, and population over time of DR Congo, Egypt, Libya, and United States.
  • This photograph taken on October 27, 1971 was the date that Congo ’s name was changed to Zaire. We were first the first large group of PCV to arrive in the Congo. Sheldon Vance was the US Ambassador to the Congo at the time. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheldon_B._Vance
  • I trained in Anieres, Switzerland during the Summer of 1971 and then was housed in Bolenge – a small village near Mbandaka - for about three weeks in November waiting for my assignment to Kiri. This is a photograph of fishermen on the other side of a tributary of the Congo River.
  • About 15 miles from the Equator is Boende where I lived during the last and most significant part of my Peace Corpos service. . I have been asked about what an equatorial climate is like and as you might guess it was hot and humid. The temperature and relative humidity both averaged year round at 85 each.
  • I will never forget my first day teaching 7th grade mathematics to a group of 45 anxious students who have never been taught by anyone other than a native Congolese professor. The school above had 3 classrooms, each approximately 12 ‘ x 20’ so yes, it was a bit tight inside. The students sat on makeshift benches w a cahier and bic in hand. I wrote with “chalk” on a fashioned piece of old plywood nailed to two branches. I taught in French and learned quickly that I had much to learn.
  • Children happily posing on a dirt road in Boende, which is the Equatorial Region of the Congo. Note that the road is surrounded by palm trees. Taken in 1973.
  • Photograph of girls outside a primary Catholic school, which was run by Belgian nuns. Notice that the girls are barefooted, wearing a plain blue uniform, and carrying lunch, which are casseroles of rice and beans.
  • There five primary languages in the Congo: French (official), Lingala (a lingua franca trade language); Swahili, Kikongo, Tshiluba and over 200 dialects. This is part of the fable The Elephant and the Antelope in Lingala. The succint translation: The elephant (nzoku) and the antelope (mboloko) went for a walk (bakendaki kotambola) in the forest (zamba). The elephant said to the antelope that I am the king (mokonzi) of the jungle.
  • Mpondu is the fantastic Congolese meal made with ground cassava leaves (feuilles de manioc), palm oil, and dried fish, which is unique to Central Africa. Elsewhere in the world, the cassava (or manioc, yuca, or yucca) plant is cultivated only for its tubers. Plantains or batons de manioc (kwanga) are often served with mpondu. Mbinzu or dried catepillars are a crunchy source of protein that are typically cooked with palm oil and kale.
  • A Congolese feast during a trip to Montreal in 2009. There is a lot of meat, starch, cassava leaves, and oil. It is incredibly good but you have to watch your diet.
  • In 1953, the Congolese music scene began to differentiate itself with the formation of African Jazz (led by Joseph "Grand Kalle" Kabasele), the first full-time orchestra to record and perform, and the debut of fifteen-year-old guitarist Francois Luambo Makiadi (aka Franco). Both would go on to be some of the earliest Congolese music stars. In Congo, students at Gombe High School became entranced with American rock and funk, especially after James Brown visited the country in 1969. This period in the late 60s is the soukous era, though the term soukous now has a much broader meaning, and refers to all of the subsequent developments in Congolese music as well. By the beginning of the 1990s, the Congolese popular music scene had declined terribly. Many of the most popular musicians of the classic era had lost their edge or died, and President Mobutu's regime continued to repress indigenous music, reinforcing Paris' status as a center for Congolese music. In 1993, many of the biggest individuals and bands in Congo's history were brought together for an event that helped to revitalize Congolese music, and also jump started the careers of popular bands like Swede Swede. Another notable feature in Congo culture is its sui generis music. The DRC has blended its ethnic musical sources with Cuban rumba and meringue to give birth to Soukous. Africa produces music genres that are direct derivatives of Congolese Soukous. Some of the African bands sing in Lingala, the main language in the DRC. The same Congolese Soukous, under the guidance of "le sapeur" Papa Wemba, has set the tone for a generation of young guys who dress in expensive designer clothing. Some things just go beyond categories. What does "folk music" mean anyway? Folks without electricity? Well, forget about synths and samples and check out the raw energy of Classic Swede Swede, their raggedy vocals and distorted harmonica, Luba xylophone and bass guitar atop lokole, congas, drums and a bit of simple programmation. These cats are hipper than thou, and come at thee with a gut-wrenching intensity. The best groups in Africa always spring from modernized folk traditions. Classic Swede Swede come from the Mongo people but draw inspiration from the diverse tribal rhythms of Central Africa. They revived a scandalous dance called the "Sundama" (which means "bend over"). It was quickly banned from television. It suggests Zaiko Langa Langa unplugged, if you can imagine such a thing.
  • Oneof my favorite photographs of a crocodile on the bank of the Nile River, taken with a Kodak Instamatic camera in summer of 1972 when I took a vacation to Uganda and Kenya. How did you do that is the oft asked question?
  • 77 Elmira College students have served in the Peace Corps since the organization was founded in 1961, which is a remarkably high number when compared to colleges much larger. According to data provided by the Peace Corps through 2008, Elmira College students have served in 48 different countries including Senegal, Turkey, Thailand, Guatemala, Peru, and Kenya.
  • One of the most inspiring and moving stories of success and pride in the Congo. The DVD will be available by summer of 2011. From the web site: “Kinshasa is the home of Central Africa ’s one and only symphony orchestra. Kinshasa Symphony is a study of people in one of the world’s most chaotic cities doing their best to maintain one of the most complex systems of joint human endeavor: a symphony orchestra. The film is about the Congo, the people in Kinshasa and the power of music.”
  • Experiences on Peace Corps in the Congo

    1. 1. Experiences as PCV in the Congo <ul><li>Introduction </li></ul><ul><li>Overview of the Peace Corps </li></ul><ul><li>Brief history and Overview of the Congo </li></ul><ul><li>Peace Corps Experience in the 1970 ’s </li></ul><ul><li>Elmira College and the Peace Corps </li></ul><ul><li>Reflections 30 years later </li></ul>Presented by Joe Fahs, Elmira College March 8, 2011
    2. 2. Peace Corps Mission <ul><li>Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women. </li></ul><ul><li>Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served. </li></ul><ul><li>Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans. </li></ul><ul><li>Reference: http:// www.peacecorps.gov / index.cfm?shell = about.mission </li></ul>
    3. 3. Peace Corps Quick Facts Today <ul><li>Volunteers – 9,000 </li></ul><ul><li>Host Countries – 77 </li></ul><ul><li>Gender – 60% female, 40% male </li></ul><ul><li>Average age – 28 years </li></ul><ul><li>Volunteers over 50 – 7% </li></ul><ul><li>Education – 90% UG degree or higher </li></ul><ul><li>Length of service – 27 months </li></ul><ul><li>Americans who have served – 200,000+ </li></ul>Reference: http:// www.peacecorps.gov / index.cfm?shell = about.fastfacts
    4. 4. Peace Corps Program Sector Reference: http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=about.fastfacts
    5. 5. Where Volunteers Serve Reference: http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=about.fastfacts
    6. 6. World Map - where Volunteers Serve Reference: http:// www.peacecorps.gov / index.cfm?shell = learn.wherepc
    7. 7. Peace Corps 50 th (1961 – 2011) Reference: http:// www.peacecorps.gov /about/fiftieth/ timeline.html
    8. 8. Map of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Reference: https:// www.cia.gov /library/publications/the-world- factbook /geos/ cg.html
    9. 9. <ul><li>In the 1880s, Belgian King Leopold II took personal control of the Congo territory, exploiting its vast natural resources </li></ul><ul><li>10 million people died as a result of violence, forced labor, and starvation </li></ul><ul><li>Leopold transferred control of the “Congo Free State” to the Belgian government in 1908 </li></ul>Colonization Reference: http:// www.enoughproject.org
    10. 10. King Leopold ’s Soliloquy http://diglib1.amnh.org/articles/kls/index.html “ The condition of things in the Congo is atrocious, as shown by the photographs of children whose hands have been cut off. Leopold thinks this can go on because the Congo is a distant out-of-the-way country. But once we can get England and America to investigate, and take this matter up, something will be done. We Americans are especially interested, because it was our recognition of the flag there that led to recognition by other powers.”
    11. 11. <ul><li>The Congo was granted independence from Belgium in 1960, with the widely popular Patrice Lumumba as Prime Minister and Joseph Kasavabu as President </li></ul><ul><li>Supported by Belgium and the U.S., Kasavabu dismissed Lumumba, who was later arrested and finally assassinated in 1961 </li></ul>Decolonization Reference: http:// www.enoughproject.org
    12. 12. Mobutu Sese Seko ’s Reign <ul><li>Supported by the U.S. and Belgium, Colonel Joseph Desire Mobutu began his 32-year rule of Congo in 1965 when he took power in a coup </li></ul><ul><li>Through “kleptocracy,” Mobutu systematically used Congo’s mineral wealth to enrich himself and his allies </li></ul>Reference: http:// www.enoughproject.org
    13. 13. DR Congo Facts <ul><li>Full name: Democratic Republic of the Congo </li></ul><ul><li>Population: 67 million (UN, 2010) </li></ul><ul><li>Capital: Kinshasa </li></ul><ul><li>Area: 2.34 million sq km (905,354 sq miles) </li></ul><ul><li>Major languages: French, Lingala, Swahili, Kikongo, and Tshiluba </li></ul><ul><li>Major religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Kimbanguist, Muslim, traditional </li></ul><ul><li>Life expectancy: 47 years (men), 50 years (women) (UN) </li></ul><ul><li>GNI per capita: US $160 (World Bank, 2009) </li></ul><ul><li>HDI 0.239 – 168/169 world wide </li></ul>References http:// www.state.gov /r/pa/ ei / bgn /2823.htm and http:// hdr.undp.org /en/statistics /
    14. 14. Reference: http:// www.gapminder.org /world
    15. 15. Peace Corps Experience – 1970 ’s
    16. 16. Congolese Fishermen
    17. 17. Google Maps – DR Congo Boende – 15 miles from the Equator
    18. 18. First Teaching Experience
    19. 19. Children in Boende - 1973
    20. 20. Catholic Primary School
    21. 21. The Elephant & the Antelope <ul><li>Nzoku na Mboloko bakendaki kotambola na zamba. Ekomi bango na zamba, Nzoku alobeli Mboloko, Awa tozali kotambola, oyeba malamu 'te ngai moko nazali mokonzi na nyama yonso ya zamba. </li></ul>
    22. 22. Mpondu and Mbinzu
    23. 23. Congelese Feast
    24. 24. Music <ul><li>Swede Swede </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Initially a &quot;groupe folklorique&quot; based in Kinshasa (Congo / ex-Zaïre), largely inspired by Mongo music and its famed vocal polyphonies, their style quickly evolved into a distinctively urban, modern sound. Swede Swede's big break came when they launched the dance Sundama , an instant hit in Kinshasa.” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_of_the_Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.afropop.org/explore/book_review/ID/1 </li></ul>Listen to sample music on Amazon
    25. 25. Crocodile on the Bank of the Nile
    26. 26. Elmira College and Peace Corps <ul><li>http://www.elmira.edu/about/news </li></ul>
    27. 27. The Peace Corps Today Reference: http:// www.peacecorps.gov / index.cfm?shell = about.pctoday
    28. 28. Kinshasa Symphony <ul><li>Web site: http://www.kinshasa-symphony.com/ </li></ul><ul><li>YouTube Trailer : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vTk0XsgZV4 </li></ul>
    29. 29. End of Presentation