Returned Peace Corps volunteer and Senegal native’s friendship flourishes 40 years later

Returned Peace Corps volunteer, Tony Ends and Hamidou Sakhanokho (above) met when Ends was a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal in 1975. Today, the two are still close as they reflect on their forty year friendship.
Returned Peace Corps volunteer, Tony Ends and Hamidou Sakhanokho (above) met when Ends was a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal in 1975. Today, the two are still close as they reflect on their forty year friendship.

When Hamidou Sakhanokho stares at the degrees that hang on the walls of his office at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he thinks about his quest to the United States, his home village of Tourimé, Senegal, and the obstacles he has overcome. But one name always comes to mind as he reflects on his journey to success: returned Peace Corps volunteer Tony Ends.

“Besides my parents and siblings, my English teacher, Tony, is the person who influenced me the most,” said Sakhanokho, 55, a research plant molecular geneticist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Poplarville, Miss. “By American standards, Tony was by no means a rich person, and yet he was willing to send a plane ticket to a former student in Senegal and help educate him in the U.S. Thanks to his help, I was able to get an excellent education and subsequently a good job.” Continue reading “Returned Peace Corps volunteer and Senegal native’s friendship flourishes 40 years later”

Senegalese family opens home to Peace Corps volunteers during training

Moutarou and his family hosted Peace Corps volunteers for over 12 years in Senegal. The experience helped Moutarou get a job teaching French in the U.S., and helped his family understand Americans and American culture more.
Moutarou and his family hosted Peace Corps volunteers for over 12 years in Senegal. The experience helped Moutarou get a job teaching French in the U.S., and helped his family understand Americans and American culture.

For 12 years Moutarou Diallo and his family hosted Peace Corps volunteers in their home in Senegal. Although each volunteer only stayed for their training period of three months, to Diallo’s family, every volunteer was a treasured, valued addition to their community.

“People around my neighborhood were a little jealous that my family and I always had a volunteer,” said Diallo. “A lot of them wanted to have a volunteer also. One day a community member told me that she wanted to live in my house because we have volunteers.” Continue reading “Senegalese family opens home to Peace Corps volunteers during training”

From Ecuador to U.S.: Returned volunteer welcomes Peace Corps counterpart to America

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As a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador, Clay Martin became close with his Ecuadorian counterpart, Alejandro. The Cincinnati native left Ecuador in 2010 and served in Peace Corps Panama, from 2011-13, but always remained close with Alejandro. Earlier this year, Alejandro visited Martin, who currently works as a human resource consultant for dairy farms and acts as a translator and liaison with Hispanic workers in Ithaca, New York. Below, Martin describes reuniting with Alejandro and sharing his home and culture with his Ecuadorian friend. 

 

Alejandro was raised in an isolated village, living his atavistic and vibrant culture in the lowland jungles of Ecuador. Growing up, he had limited access outside of his village and little exposure to people other than his own tribe. Alejandro eventually became a husband, father, shaman, farmer, cultural promoter and community leader. When Alejandro was 45 and I was 23, I had the privilege to go live and work with his village as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Three months after living with Alejandro’s family I wrote the following in my journal: “I honestly don’t think things could be any better. Right now I’m smiling and nodding my head as I listen to their traditional drums and think about the many paths that are being made for the future. I can already sense that my experience here is the beginning of something huge.” At that moment, I could not even fathom how “huge” that “something” was and where our friendship would take us seven years later. Continue reading “From Ecuador to U.S.: Returned volunteer welcomes Peace Corps counterpart to America”

Across oceans, cultures, and time, friendship formed during Peace Corps service endures

Like most Peace Corps volunteers, Kera Halvorson knew little about the local culture and couldn’t speak the language when she began her service as a maternal and family health volunteer in Turkmenistan in 2010. Soon, though, she was immersed in a new culture and formed close bonds with people in her community. Gujemal Mammentmyradova was a friend to Kera who eventually became like family. During Kera’s two years in Turkmenistan, the two watched movies and ate sunflower seeds. Kera helped Gujemal translate English songs, and Gujemal invited Kera to weddings and updated her wardrobe to include local attire.

After Kera completed her service and returned home, the two kept in touch, and Gujemal told Kera about her lifelong dream of studying in the U.S. With Kera’s guidance, Gujemal earned a scholarship and in the fall of 2015 began studying elementary education at South Dakota State University.

Before starting school she stopped in Chicago to see Kera, her first trip ever to the U.S. In April, Kera visited Gujemal on the campus of SDSU. She was able to meet Gujemal’s host family and see where she lives. Gujemal will soon begin her sophomore year at SDSU and hopes to stay in the U.S. to receive a master’s degree and potentially a doctorate before returning to Turkmenistan to work in education. Throughout their friendship, Kera and Gujemal have had to navigate cultural differences and help each other in very dedicated ways. However, it’s only brought them closer. In the video above, the two talk about how they met, their reunion, and why their friendship is so important to each of them. Continue reading “Across oceans, cultures, and time, friendship formed during Peace Corps service endures”

Twenty years later, returned Peace Corps volunteer and Ghanaian renew friendship in Michigan

Peace Corps volunteers don’t just make friends for the two years they are in service; they make friends that expand continents and lifetimes. Continue reading “Twenty years later, returned Peace Corps volunteer and Ghanaian renew friendship in Michigan”

Taught by volunteers, Ethiopian believes Peace Corps is U.S.’s greatest investment

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March 1-7, 2015 is Peace Corps Week, and returned volunteers are celebrating all across the country. This year’s theme is Host Country Heroes, and volunteers are sharing the inspiring stories of the people they met during service. Dr. Tilahun Adera, provost of Evangel University in Springfield, Mo., is just one of thousands of people throughout the world whose life changed for the better because of his interaction with Peace Corps volunteers.  

Dr. Tilahun Adera calls himself a grand recipient of Peace Corps.

While attending middle and high school in the 1960s in Ethiopia, Peace Corps volunteers taught Adera math, English, geography, science and history. These teachers were unlike the other teachers at his school; they made learning enjoyable. They helped him form a strong foundation that would eventually lead to a life-long career in academia.

“In the classroom, the American Peace Corps volunteers were distinguished by their candor and honesty,” said Adera, the Provost of Academic Affairs at Evangel University in Springfield, Mo. “The difference was that the American Peace Corps were friendly; the gap between the teacher and the student was not as wide as it had been in our traditional schools.” Continue reading “Taught by volunteers, Ethiopian believes Peace Corps is U.S.’s greatest investment”

Love and Peace Corps: Ryan & Bagryana

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The Peace Corps experience changes volunteers’ lives. It launches their career or redirects it. It jam packs monumental lessons into two years and opens volunteers’ perspective to the world. And, for some, it leads them to love. To celebrate Valentine’s Day, we bring you a series of stories from returned volunteers who found love through the Peace Corps. 

Couple: Ryan Cairns and Bagryana Georgieva Cairns
Service: Ryan served as a business development volunteer in Bulgaria, from 2009-11.
Hometowns: Ryan is from Ankeny, Iowa, and Bagryana is from Belene, Bulgaria. They currently live in Des Moines, Iowa.
Their story, from Bagryana’s perspective: There is something very magical in the earth of Belene.  It might be the living energy of Fort Dimum, a historical castle now long gone, buried in sacred grounds or the puzzling vigor of the running river that cycles within yesterday and tomorrow. I didn’t think much of it then but when I was a child, I found a ring in that river. Continue reading “Love and Peace Corps: Ryan & Bagryana”