Where do you work?
When did you serve in the Peace Corps?
1970 - 73
Where did you serve (which country/countries)?
What were your main responsibilities as a volunteer?
Secondary School Teacher, English and School Librarian
Is there a specific person (or persons) who made a strong impression on you during that time?
Grace Abinah Denkyi was a woman who took care of the Peace Corps teachers at the rural school where we worked. We lived with her and her nieces for 2 years. Auntie Grace taught us so much about Ghanaian culture: language, cooking, customs, politics. She was very special to us.
What was one of the most memorable moments you had as a volunteer?
Sitting on the roof of the government resthouse in Timbuktu on Christmas night watching Tuareg men ride into the desert on camels.
In what ways did your Peace Corps experience affect your life and/or career decisions?
The Peace Corps had an impact on my core values. I think I appreciate how truly fortunate I to have been born into a life that is so easy compared with the daily lives of so many people in the Africa. And, to have the amazing opportunities in education, work, travel is something I feel so grateful for. Daily life in Ghana was wonderful in many ways, but very difficult. Experiencing the impact on your life without safe running water is powerful. The time it takes to carry and boil water, the worry about illness from that, the effects on others in the community--all of this is quite sobering and affects one's political views and priorities. In my work as a speech pathologist in pubic school, I had many opportunities to help kids learn about Ghana. I was able to share my photos and many interesting cultural objects and stories.
In what ways did your U-M education, both inside and outside the classroom, prepare you for your Peace Corps experience?
As a naive girl from a suburban high school, U of M was a completely different world. At U of M in the 60's there were weekly demonstrations, speeches, protests of the war in Viet Nam and civil rights. I found myself on the Diag on Fridays listening to speeches about a war I knew very little about and a participating in marches for civil rights, something I did know something about having grown up in the Detroit area. U of M was the beginning of my education about the real world. Members of my sorority were involved in political groups like SDS and one was joining the Peace Corps. There were plenty of role models--and there was the recent memory of JFK on the steps of the Michigan Union announcing the Peace Corps.
What advice would you give to others who are contemplating going into the Peace Corps?
The Peace Corps is the kind of person- to-person help the world needs. Join the Peace Corps if you want to learn about another culture and help people achieve their goals. And, choose Ghana--a wonderful country.
What is the value gained from the Peace Corps experience?
I think you gain a better perspective on the world and yourself as an American, both positive and negative. I think you start to understand how resources, climate, culture, and politics affect development. And, I think there is a positive personal impact in spending time away from the "getting and spending" of American life.
What lessons did you learn in the Peace Corps that you carry with you today?
I learned what it meaning of American culture by being away from it for 3 years. Early in my service in Ghana, a student asked, "Please misses, what are your customs." I replied, "I'm an American; we don't have customs." Three years later, I would have answered differently. By being part of Ghanaian culture, I gained a much better understanding of my own.