November 7, 2002 - Maryland Gazette: Peace Corps Volunteer Maeve Townsend builds library in Mozambique

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By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, November 12, 2002 - 7:04 am: Edit Post

Peace Corps Volunteer Maeve Townsend builds library in Mozambique

Read and comment on this story from the Maryland Gazette on Mozambique Peace Corps Volunteer Maeve Townsend, shown above second from left with her mother Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Lt. Governor and recent candidate for Governor of Maryland. Maeve hopes to build a library in Quissico, Mozambique. Read the story at:

Townsend daughter runs campaign -- in Africa*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Townsend daughter runs campaign -- in Africa

by Julia Oliver
Staff Writer
Nov. 7, 2002

Maeve takes a break from Peace Corps stint to help her mother in governor's race

For a year Maeve Townsend has lived in a 10-foot-by-10-foot cement room in Mozambique. She smoothes wrinkles from her clothes with an iron heated by hot coals, and is learning Portuguese and Chopi, an indigenous language. She teaches English to classes of 50 eighth- and 10th-graders, educates her students about the risks of HIV/AIDS and hopes to build a library in her town of 2,000.

Meanwhile, her mother, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, made a bid--which was ultimately unsuccessful--for governor of Maryland.

Back on vacation midway through her two-year Peace Corps service to join her mother on the campaign trail, Maeve, 23, took in stride the transition from a village that just got telephones to a multi-million-dollar, high-stakes gubernatorial race.

"There are two ways you can get into a swimming pool: You can dip your feet in and you can dive," she said. "I plunged right into the deep end."

As the Townsend campaign bus toured Baltimore the day before the election, Maeve cavorted with her sister, Kate, tossed a football with her family and greeted voters.

"I'm the Africa daughter," she said, by way of introduction as roll call was taken on the bus.

Casually dressed in a fleece vest and jeans and smiling under a short blonde haircut, Maeve would periodically jump up from her bus seat to sing with Kate--who said she preferred "Kat."

"The one person who could probably embarrass me is Maeve," Kat said, describing Maeve as spunky, open and good at diffusing arguments. "She's the one that gets us inspired about things ... It's really good to have her home because she makes everything fun."

But beneath her carefree veneer, Maeve also brought a global perspective to the stump speeches and platforms that pervaded a frenetic gubernatorial race.

"I make $120 a month and I'm one of the wealthiest people in my village," Maeve said, explaining that she has a pit latrine, a shower area and cooks over a kerosene stove.

Listening to her mother's ideas, certain things struck Maeve as absurd. She agreed that students shouldn't have to learn in trailers and that schools should be air-conditioned, she said. But when she imagined explaining those concerns to friends in her village, "in my mind I was like, 'oh my gosh'... They would think, 'you're so lucky,'" she said. In the United States, "we're fighting not for the things to survive, but for the things to make our lives better."

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who is thrilled to have Maeve back, has also been impressed by her daughter's perspective.

"She's really appreciated the abundance of this country," she said. "She says, 'My kids don't have desks. We don't have a floor, even.'"

In the midst of a cutthroat campaign run by stressed-out handlers and deadline-conscious press officers 24 hours before the election, Maeve was still on more relaxed "Africa time," she said. "Tuesday will come. People will vote."

Nonetheless, she played her role as daughter with good nature, seeking out hands to shake and listening patiently to potential voters.

At home in a village and on the campaign trail, Maeve is following in family footsteps. Although she was first introduced to the Peace Corps because her great uncle, John F. Kennedy, launched it, she joined to see the world. And she recognizes her privilege. "I'm lucky enough I can take two years and make nothing," she said.

While among her fellow Americans abroad "there's a little 'oh, there's a Kennedy volunteer,'" she said, her Kennedy roots are almost invisible in Africa. "I'm not different when I'm in my village."

When she returns to Mozambique, Maeve hopes to build a library. The project was initially funded when she arrived, she said, but the intentions to build the library have since dissolved.

"This kind of happens in Africa. Sometimes the money, it just disappears," she said.

So Maeve has decided to take the matter into her own hands.

"I figure my mother raised $8 million," she said, "I'm going to raise $6,000."

Those interested in contributing to a library in Quissico, Mozambique, should send donations to Maeve's sister, Kat Townsend, at 7903 Crossmoor Lane, Baltimore, MD 21204-3645.

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