July 7, 2003 - Enid News: Casie Brook Valtr is heading to Niger in Peace Corps

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Niger: Peace Corps Niger : The Peace Corps in Niger: July 7, 2003 - Enid News: Casie Brook Valtr is heading to Niger in Peace Corps

By Admin1 (admin) on Friday, July 11, 2003 - 11:20 am: Edit Post

Casie Brook Valtr is heading to Niger in Peace Corps

Casie Brook Valtr is heading to Niger in Peace Corps

Off to Africa
Pioneer, OSU graduate, Peace Corps volunteer headed to Niger on 2-year stint
By Kevin Hassler
Associate Editor

An Enid woman is about to embark on a journey that will take her halfway around the world for two years.

Casie Brook Valtr, who graduated from Pioneer High School in 1996, is leaving today for Philadelphia. On Wednesday, she leaves the United States for the west African country of Niger for a two-year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer.

"I am passionate about helping solve the world's population problems, such as poverty and malnutrition," she said, "and the Peace Corps facilitates this contribution."

For Valtr, 25, who received her bachelor's and master's at Oklahoma State University, the Peace Corps assignment also is a step toward reaching her career goals.

"I love to travel," she said. "I love people of all cultures. I just think it's a great first step into getting into a career in this."

She eventually wants to work for an international non-governmental organization, such as the World Health Organization or UNICEF.

As a community service volunteer for the Peace Corps, Valtr will educate the residents of the Niger village she will be living in on better sanitation, nutrition, health practices, as well as HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.

It won't be the first time she has traveled around the world in pursuit of her dreams.

In the summer of 2001, Valtr, who received her master's in international studies last year, spent time in the Central Asian country of Uzebekistan as part of her work on her degree.

Niger, though, will be quite a different experience. The country, which is about twice the size of Texas, is one of the poorest in the world, ranking 173rd out of 174 in per capita income, Valtr said. The literacy rate is just 15 percent, and the only natural resource is uranium.

Two-thirds of the Niger is covered by the Sahara Desert, she said. High temperatures can reach up to 120 in the summer, and rarely go below 90 the rest of the year.

While there, she will be without electricity and running water and will have to use an outdoor latrine, she said. She will live in one of the mud huts locals use. The Peace Corps, though, will provide some luxuries, including screens and netting to keep mosquitoes out and putting in concrete floors in the hut and the bathing area.

Niger is one of the hardest Peace Corps' assignments, she said, because of the lack of modern conveniences.

Once in Niger, Valtr will undergo three months of training with other Peace Corps volunteers to learn local dialects and cultures before being sent to the village that will be her home for the next two years. Most likely, she will be the only volunteer in that village, although she said other volunteers will be in villages close by, about a half to 4 miles away. Peace Corps provides its volunteers with bicycles, so they can pedal to the next village to visit.

The official language of Niger is French, which should be no problem, since Valtr took four years of high school French and has almost 20 hours of college French.

Although they have some of the typical parental apprehensions, her parents, Dennis and Gail Valtr, of Enid, support her decision to join the Peace Corps.

"They realize this is what I want to do," she said. "They're very supportive."

Keeping up with her, could prove to be challenging sometimes, though.

It could take as much as a month or two for letters to reach her, because the postal system in Niger is not very good, Valtr said.

Peace Corps officials have told her parents not to get too concerned if they don't hear from her quickly, she said.

Valtr is not worried about the violence that has plagued other African nations, such as Liberia, where rebels are attempting to overthrow the government. There have not been any conflicts in Niger recently, she said, but if something does come up "Peace Corps will come and get you," she said. One of the first things Peace Corps officials do is establish an escape route with volunteers so they know where to go in the event of an emergency.

The people in the villages also provide protection, because they treat the Peace Corps volunteers as one of their own, Valtr said.

Peace Corps was created in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy. Since then, more than 168,000 Americans have served in more than 136 countries. There currently are 6,678 volunteers in 70 countries.

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Story Source: Enid News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Niger; Recruitment



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