Hello everyone. Most of you know that I am Director of Academic Technology Services at Elmira College, but perhaps less of you know that I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Congo from 1971 to 1976 and 1977 to 1978 as a secondary mathematics teacher in two small villages on the equator. In between the two periods of service I returned to the states for one year to obtain my master ’s degree at Elmira College in 1977.
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. A 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.
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. The Peace Corps works in countries from Asia to Central America, and from Europe to Africa. In each of these countries, Volunteers work with governments, schools, and entrepreneurs to address changing and complex needs in education, health and HIV/AIDS, business, information technology, agriculture, and the environment.
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.
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://www.un.org/depts/Cartographic/map/profile/drcongo.pdf. Congo-Brazzaville was colonized by the French, was under a one-party Marist-Lenin state from 1970 to 1991. Primary languages French, Kongo, and Lingala. The population is less than 4 million. \\
King Leopold ’s exploitation of the Congo’s natural resources (mostly rubber) for his own private wealth gave way to the larger pillaging of Congolese resources still occurring today. Reports from the Congo during Leopold ’s reign alleged widespread human rights abuses and outright genocide of the native population. Historians estimate that 8-10 million persons perished from the violence, forced labor, and starvation caused by Leopold's lust for power and profits. An international human rights movement raised awareness of Leopold ’s reign of terror and pressured him to hand Congo over to the Belgian government in 1908.
Within two weeks of independence, Congo ’s government faced a nationwide army mutiny, as well as secessionist threats in the Katanga and Kasai provinces Cold War tensions led to a hostile face-off between the charismatic Lumumba and Kasavabu
Mobutu ’s dictatorial presidency sowed the seeds of tension for the explosive conflict that erupted after he eventually left power in the late 1990s. “ Kleptocracy” or ‘rule by thieves’ is a term used to describe governments where corruption and theft of public resources for private gain is pervasive. Mobutu is conservatively estimated to have stolen at least $5 billion from his country
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/ (HDI = Human Development Index)
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 carry lunch, which is a casserole 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.
Smallpox (humans) and rinderpest (animals)
As recently as 1967, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 15 million people contracted smallpox and that two million died in that year. The disease, for which no effective treatment was ever developed, killed as many as 30% of those infected. Between 65–80% of survivors were marked with deep pitted scars (pockmarks), most prominent on the face. Through the success of the global eradication campaign, smallpox was finally pushed back to the horn of Africa and then to a single last natural case, which occurred in Somalia in 1977. A fatal laboratory-acquired case occurred in the United Kingdom in 1978.
http://events.peacecorps50.org/event/0b65deb96064c098a7124e3e000daec1 Once in Afghanistan tells the story of a remarkable group of Peace Corps volunteers who traveled to outlying areas with Afghan vaccination teams from 1969-70 to help eradicate smallpox.
http://www.rotary.org/en/serviceandfellowship/polio/pages/ridefault.aspx and Vimeo video: http://vimeo.com/31028535 Is Polio Eradication worth it: http://www.fsg.org/KnowledgeExchange/Blogs/GlobalHealth/PostID/61.aspx
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is a public-private partnership led by national governments and spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Its goal is to eradicate polio worldwide. USAID Polio Program run by Ellen Ogden former RPCV New Guinea : http://www.voanews.com/english/news/usa/people/Leading-the-US-Fight-to-End-Polio--118357584.html
“ Lopez Vidal, 10, who is afflicted by polio and is also deaf, walks on all fours inside the International Polio Victim Response Committee (IPVRC) compound in Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa, November 23, 2006. Handicapped, impoverished, often rejected or abandoned, and living in Africa's deadliest war zone, they should have little to celebrate. Instead, the lively &quot;polio kids&quot; offer an oasis of hope, unity and optimism in a vast country marked by despair. Picture taken November 23, 2006. “REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly
“ Children afflicted by polio play soccer with a makeshift ball inside the International Polio Victim Response Committee (IPVRC) compound in Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa August 1, 2006. Despite their polio-damaged legs, wrapped in casts or makeshift braces fashioned from scrap metal, the children dance enthusiastically to loud Congolese music or challenge visitors to madcap games of soccer.” Picture taken August 1, 2006. To match WITNESS-POLIO/ REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly (DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO)
Lora and her daughter, surrounded by other inhabitants of the village, wait until it is the little girl’s turn to take the vaccination.
Play song Poliomyelite “Parents, please go to the vaccination center/Get your babies vaccinated against polio/Please save them from that curse”. beyond appearances’ ( au-delà des apparences. Bilili = shadows, Benda = pull, over so beyond the shadows or beyond appearances. View Nalingi Yo in Kinshasa: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtVZhaZp6Ng and the band at Eurockeennnes de Belfort http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ik2t6_Pieg
http://vimeo.com/31035898 Rotary International and National Geographic present &quot;Polio&quot; - a music video by world music sensation and Congolese polio survivors Staff Benda Bilili. http://www.rotary.org/en/MediaAndNews/PressCenter/PressReleases/Pages/100408_pr_kickpoliooutofafrica.aspx
Why is polio more of a challenge to eradicate than smallpox (1977?), even though we as a world are decades more technologically advanced? Smallpox symptoms more overt, travel makes the world closer and increases chance of transmission, and conflict areas such as Congo, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
Peace Corps, Congo, and Polio
Peace Corps, Congo, and Polio● Introduction● Overview of the Peace Corps● Elmira College and the Peace Corps● Brief history and Overview of the Congo● Peace Corps Experience in the 1970’s● Polio Global Eradication Initiative● Polio in the Congo● Link to Rotary International Presented by Joe Fahs, Elmira College March 13, 2012
Peace Corps Mission● Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.● Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.● Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.Reference: http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=about.mission
Peace Corps Quick Facts Today● Volunteers – 9,100● Host Countries – 75● Gender – 61% female, 39% male● Average age – 28 years● Volunteers over 50 – 7%● Education – 90% UG degree or higher● Length of service – 27 months● Americans who have served – 200,000+Reference: http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=about.fastfacts
World Map - where Volunteers Serve Reference: http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=learn.wherepc
Elmira College and Peace Corps● http://www.elmira.edu/about/news
Map of DR Congo To display latest map in full resolution go to http://www.un.org/depts/Cartographic/map/profile/
Colonization ● In the 1880s, Belgian King Leopold II took personal control of the Congo territory, exploiting its vast natural resources ● 10 million people died as a result of violence, forced labor, and starvation ● Leopold transferred control of the “Congo Free State” to the Belgian government in 1908Reference: http://www.enoughproject.org
Decolonization● The Congo was granted independence from Belgium in 1960, with the widely popular Patrice Lumumba as Prime Minister and Joseph Kasavabu as President● Supported by Belgium and the U.S., Kasavabu dismissed Lumumba, who was later arrested and finally assassinated in 1961 Reference: http://www.enoughproject.org
Mobutu Sese Seko’s Reign● 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● Through “kleptocracy,” Mobutu systematically used Congo’s mineral wealth to enrich himself and his allies Reference: http://www.enoughproject.org
DR Congo Facts● Full name: Democratic Republic of the Congo● Population: 72 million (July 2011 estimate)● Capital: Kinshasa● Area: 2.34 million sq km (905,354 sq miles)● Major languages: French, Lingala, Swahili, Kikongo, and Tshiluba● Major religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Kimbanguist, Muslim, traditional● Life expectancy: 48.4 years (UNDP)● GDP per capita: US $290 (UNDP)● Under-five mortality rate (per 1,000 births): 199● HDI 0.286 – 187/187 world wide Reference: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ cg.html
Compilation of References● Peace Corps Web site● United Nations Cartographic Web site● King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild● GapMinder World● The Enough Project● Google Maps● WHO Media Center Fact Sheets● CIA World Fact Book● Human Development Reports● Once in Afghanistan● BBC DR Congo Profile● Polio Global Eradication Initiative● Rotary International - Polio Home Page● Reuter’s Finbarr OReilly Slideshow on Kinshasa Polio Kids● Mia Farrow launches polio vaccination campaign● Staff Benda Bilili home page● Benda Bilili & Rotary International video campaign