Alice J., former Peace Corps Volunteer to Niger

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One of our goals is to help foster friendships and partnerships between our supporters in the United States and our friends and colleagues in Niger. However, because our supporters are spread out throughout the United States and around the world, this is not an easy task. The distance makes it challenging to create a sense of community. Perhaps, by sharing our stories, we can help “bridge the distance.”

I’ll never forget that one particular morning in Tibiri, Niger where I was serving as a Peace Corps Community and Youth Education volunteer. Having just finished my usual morning of Hausa-laden bureaucratic negotiations at the local education administration, it was time to head home for lunch. I was walking down the singular main, paved road in town when a car that had just passed by suddenly braked. A door swung open and an American-looking face ran towards me. It was Kara and she enthusiastically asked if I was the Peace Corps volunteer in town. Yes, I said, and the conversation began.

What followed has been an incredible journey; keeping my hopes, optimism and energy high for the youth in Niger. During that first meeting, I learned that Kara was working with l’Ecole Mission School in town. I had visited each and every one of the 12 primary schools in Tibiri, observed classes, engaged teachers and identified opportunities, but when I visited the Mission School, I immediately recognized its value and worth in the community. Students (and teachers!) are engaged with learning, literacy and numeracy rates are high, and the atmosphere is nurturing and comfortable. This is not necessarily the case for all primary schools in town. I was excited to become part of what RNC was (and still is) doing to create an unparalleled learning space at the Mission School.

As a Peace Corps volunteer, I was eager to collaborate with Kara during each of her subsequent trips. I really enjoyed meeting the other travelers she brought along, and together we completed some excellent work. From cleaning out a student library space to decorating walls with murals and maps to connecting students to their pen pals in the U.S. through art and letters, each project brought so much added-value to the school and community at large.

After my service in Niger ended, I was honored to return to Niger with Kara and two other volunteers. We traveled to Aguie where new school structures are providing students with a safe and uplifting learning environment. We met with local officials who are working hard to support RNC’s efforts in the country, and enjoyed discussing what steps can be taken next. I felt privileged to be part of those discussions, and inspired by the work that the entire Coalition is achieving.

What makes RNC so unique is its connectedness to the community where work is being done. All who are involved with RNC bring endless energy and compassion for the youth that they are helping. They listen and identify the real needs, and seek out viable solutions to meet those needs. Isti, the Director of the Mission School once described Kara as “indefatigable”, which translates from French exactly to its English equivalent: ceaseless, unfaltering, unflagging. I believe that this word singlehandedly defines the work of Remember Niger. I’m so happy that I happened to be walking home that morning when Kara passed me on the road.