July 29, 2003 - Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil: RPCV Raymond Studer says Liberians want American aid

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2003: July 2003 Peace Corps Headlines: July 29, 2003 - Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil: RPCV Raymond Studer says Liberians want American aid

By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 10:11 am: Edit Post

RPCV Raymond Studer says Liberians want American aid

Read and comment on this story from the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil about RPCV Raymond Studer who says Liberians want American aid. "Unlike other countries, if we stepped in, the fighting would stop. When the Nigerian peacekeepers get there, the fighting will stop, and we can start to rebuild." Read the story at:

Studer: Liberians want American aid*

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

Studer: Liberians want American aid

GREG JERRETT , Staff Writer 07/29/2003

Staff photo/Greg Jerrett -

Council Bluffs, Iowa - Raymond Studer has spent nearly two decades in West Africa bringing relief to the people of war-torn countries.

A former Council Bluffs resident who has spent 15 years in Liberia is back home this week while fighting in that war-torn country rages on.

"I thought it was a very good time to take a vacation," Raymond Studer said. "It isn't safe for anyone, western or Liberian, to be in Liberia right now."

Studer is the Catholic Relief Services Country representative for Liberia. His job is "a little bit of everything." At least, it is supposed to be.

With the civil war going on in Liberia, he spends most of his time trying to get food and supplies to people who need them.

"I'm a jack of all trades and a master of none," Studer said. "But my background is as a teacher of agriculture. If the war ended today, I would be planning to help buy $25 million worth of seed rice before the rainy season begins. As it is, we try to help people get food and essentials."

Nearly 20 years ago, Studer worked for Iowa State Extension as an area youth and 4-H specialist teaching American children the ins and outs of agriculture.

A stint in the Peace Corps took him to West Africa, and now he works hard to make a difference in a country he believes is worth saving, but more importantly is capable of being saved.

"The difference between Liberia and Iraq or even Somalia is that they want our help. They are a more Christian nation; the small number of Muslims in Liberia aren't as radical.

"They speak English in Liberia so we can communicate with them. They are very western - their country and ours are connected back to the beginning. Even their first president might have been related to one of our early presidents," Studer said, making the oft-noted connection between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings.

"Unlike other countries, if we stepped in, the fighting would stop. When the Nigerian peacekeepers get there, the fighting will stop, and we can start to rebuild."

Liberia's President Charles Taylor was a popular man in 1997 when he managed to create his own country within a country.

Most Liberians were too afraid not to vote for him, said Studer, but he looked as though he might be a good choice to lead the country. Today, he has been indicted for war crimes by Sierra Leone, and he is suspected of profiting from the blood diamond trade.

He has a place of amnesty waiting for him in Nigeria but still says he will be back in Liberia to take part in the political process if he can.

He just might as well.

According to Studer, Taylor is a charismatic leader with the motivational speaking abilities of a gospel preacher.

Liberia's story is an old one of power struggles between warlords and dictators, rebels and freedom fighters tempting the youth with their tales of heroism only to turn ugly as child heroes with guns learn to become murderers, rapists, looters and warlords in their own right.

"The rebels can be very seductive," Studer said. "Eventually, a kid with a gun looks at someone with a TV and says, 'Why do I just have a gun?' The country is upside down right now; and until the fighting stops, nothing can be fixed."

Studer is hopeful that U.S. assistance will aid in turning Liberia right-side-up again, but for now, Nigeria, the unparalleled power in Western Africa, will be the best hope of a people long torn apart by war.

It is unfortunate, according to Studer, that the average American does not know where Liberia is and its connection to America, but Studer said he can't blame Americans for that lack of geological knowledge.

"When the Peace Corps asked me if I wanted to go there, I didn't know where Liberia was either," he said.

©Daily Nonpareil 2003

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