September 17, 2003 - Pascagoula Mississippi Press: Piper Nelson Perreault is Volunteer in Haiti

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Haiti: Peace Corps Haiti : The Peace Corps in Haiti: September 17, 2003 - Pascagoula Mississippi Press: Piper Nelson Perreault is Volunteer in Haiti

By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, September 17, 2003 - 12:40 pm: Edit Post

Piper Nelson Perreault is Volunteer in Haiti

Piper Nelson Perreault is Volunteer in Haiti

Granddaughter of active citizen works on world scale


GAUTIER -- Alice Cox has long been active in Gautier City affairs. Her husband, Glynn O. Cox, was heavily involved in chartering Gautier but died before he could take office on the City Council.

Since 1986, she has overseen the operations of Gautier pride, decorating medians and beautifying the city. She also attends all of the City Council meetings and speaks up.

"Whether I'm right or wrong I like to put my two bits in," Cox said.

Apparently Cox's civic mindedness was not lost on other in her family. Her granddaughter, Piper Nelson Perreault, is assisting on a world scale. As a Peace Corps volunteer, Perreault is teaching villagers and building new wells for the small town of Romeo, Haiti.

Perreault recently visited California for her 10-year high school reunion. She returned to Haiti in August to find that a small project assistance grant -- to repair wells -- had gone through. Now she can build a new well with a hand pump and repair three broken ones.

"This is the best thing that has happened so far for me," Perreault wrote in an e-mail to Cox. "And the Health Committee in my town who's running the project with me is really excited about it too."

The lack of water, especially potable water, is one of the biggest problems in the town. Another problem is educating women about birth control and protection against disease.

Perreault has started a "girls group" to help with this task. She is also working closely with primary school teachers to help them educate students on environmental matters.

Cox revels in her granddaughter's success, but she would not know about it if not for her granddaughter's efforts a year ago.

Perreault's father, Michael Turner, died when Perreault was only 2 years old. Her mother moved her to California and lost contact with Cox.

After earning a degree in education in California, Perreault's mother treated her to a trip to New York. On her way home, the 21-year-old stopped in Laurel, Miss., to look up library records on her father. When she discovered she had a grandmother in Gautier, she called Cox.

"When I first got the call," Cox recalled. "I saw unavailable on the caller ID and said I don't accept unavailable calls.' I slammed the phone down. She told me she was almost scared to call back."

But Perreault did call back. The two were reunited in 2002, shortly before Perreault joined the Peace Corps on Aug. 17. Despite a 10-mile walk to the nearest computer, she keeps her family informed with regular e-mails.

In the lush tropical forests of Haiti, Perreault has carved out a home with a host family. They share the house with eight dogs -- to keep the zombies away. Perreault says that zombie and voodoo lore are a part of the country's customs.

The Haitians live a laid-back lifestyle. In a world where one must endure a three-hour walk, a two-hour bus ride, or a slow journey by ferry, Haitians are very often hours -- even days late.

She has learned to speak the local Creole, French language with a different attitude. She went to the movies to see the musical "Chicago" with Richard Gere. The movie was dubbed in traditional French, which is structured differently. Half the audience departed mid-way through the film.

"Most Haitians really like action films anyway," Perreault said. "So Richard Gere tap-dancing around probably just didn't cut it."

Cox is proud of her granddaughter but fears for her safety, citing past political turmoil. Perreault has expressed doubt that she will finish her two years of service, citing a lot of violence in the country. A recent uprising has begun over hunger.

Despite the upheaval, Perreault said most of the Haitians she's met seem nice.

"People are generally more friendly and helpful," Perreault said.

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Story Source: Pascagoula Mississippi Press

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



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