January 22, 2004 - The Arizona Republic: Liberia RPCV Robin Dunn Marcos is the regional director of the International Rescue Committee, working to help refugees resettling in Arizona

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Liberia: Peace Corps Liberia : The Peace Corps in Liberia: January 22, 2004 - The Arizona Republic: Liberia RPCV Robin Dunn Marcos is the regional director of the International Rescue Committee, working to help refugees resettling in Arizona

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-35-236.balt.east.verizon.net - 151.196.35.236) on Thursday, January 22, 2004 - 8:11 am: Edit Post

Liberia RPCV Robin Dunn Marcos is the regional director of the International Rescue Committee, working to help refugees resettling in Arizona



Liberia RPCV Robin Dunn Marcos is the regional director of the International Rescue Committee, working to help refugees resettling in Arizona

Refugee, Valley friend reunite as countrymen
advertisement

Chris Fiscus
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 22, 2004 12:00 AM

Years ago in the middle of nowhere in West Africa, a Peace Corps volunteer befriended a villager by playing basketball on a lumpy dirt court with rims but no nets.

She longed for the day when he could play on a real court in the United States. But once a civil war erupted in his country, she longed just to hear that he was alive.

The friends are reunited now. The villager came to her land, receiving asylum and living and working in Arizona.

Lasana Kamara works as a detention officer at the Estrella Jail. And that former Peace Corps volunteer, Robin Dunn Marcos, is the regional director of the International Rescue Committee, working to help refugees resettling in Arizona.

"It's in my mind, it's in my soul, what she has done for me. She's really a good friend to me," said Kamara, who calls her "his angel."

"I've asked for God's protection for her all the time. She's been a very good person. . . . I'm really, really grateful to her. It's beyond expression."

They sat in a Phoenix restaurant remembering the past, laughing about the present. Yet there were so many times when both thought they would never laugh with each other again.

Kamara lived in the village of Bahn, in Liberia near Guinea and the Ivory Coast. Tensions in the region started to rise in 1985 between the Mandingo and Gio tribes (Kamara is part of the Mandingo tribe). And on Dec. 24, 1989, rebels began their attacks.

Kamara remembers one early-morning ambush.

"At 6 o'clock in the morning the rebels came and they attacked the city and they started killing innocent people all over the city. It was bad," he said.

A full-fledged civil war followed, littering the region, and his tiny village, with destruction and dead bodies.

"That's why I would never forget about the Liberian war because every time you think about it, it's like it happened yesterday," he said.

Kamara's father and uncle were killed. His mother was arrested. His 11-year-old brother fled and was never seen again by the family.

Dunn Marcos wondered if Kamara, too, was dead.

In March 1991, she returned to the area to identify Liberians that could be brought to the U.S. as refugees. She frantically searched for Kamara, asking everyone she met if they knew anyone from Bahn. Tips one day led her to him, casually sitting under a tree in Guinea.

She ran across a busy street, dodging cars along the way.

"I almost got hit by a car, she said."

As he extended his hand, she wrapped her arms around his neck, "which is not really that common in his culture for chubby little white women to jump out of nowhere and grab him."

"He started crying. He said, 'I thought you forgot me,' " she said. "How could I forget? I lived with these people . . . they were my family."

"It was one of the happiest days for me," he said.

She left soon for Kenya, glad for the quick visit but not sure when she would ever see him again.

A phone call in 1993 changed all that. Kamara was in the United States and received asylum. Then in 1997, he boarded a bus from New York to Arizona and began living in the Valley. She helped him get an apartment and job.

"She has given me a lot of courage in life . . . she's been a very helpful person. She gave me the courage to come here, and I came here, I started working," he said. "Now I'm a U.S. citizen. It's because of her.

"I try to redeem myself, I try to be a law-abiding citizen. I have not destroyed anything, I have not damaged anything in this country. I've not done anything that would put me into problems."

As they spoke of life in the village, they ribbed each other the way friends do.

When he talked of a highway, she laughed and said, "It's not a highway. It's a dirt road that when it rains you can't pass."

"It was my I-10," he offered with a broad smile.

When he called Bahn a town, she declared it "a village," reminding him that there was no electricity or running water, and they killed one cow per week to provide the people's beef. The main street was a dirt road.

He chuckled when he recalled how they first met in a village store back in 1988, before the war.

She asked how tall he was.

"I said I don't know."

She took a tape measure and declared him 6 feet 5 inches tall.

"OK, now I know."

With that they began the friendship of sharing coffee in that store and plenty of basketball games on that dirt court.

"I was the Michael Jordan," he said. She was simply known as "missy."

In a letter back home in 1991, Dunn Marcos talked about Kamara, writing, "Nothing would make me happier than to watch him play basketball on a U.S. court."

And one day, she got her wish. He came to her house and played basketball with her kids.

Reach the reporter at chris.fiscus@arizonarepublic.com, or at (602) 444-7942.





Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: The Arizona Republic

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

PCOL9786
20

.

By Craig Cooper (adsl-75-18-213-32.dsl.pltn13.sbcglobal.net - 75.18.213.32) on Saturday, April 28, 2007 - 3:41 am: Edit Post

Robin - I am sure you do not remember me but I thought I would say hello. This is Craig Cooper. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bahn, Liberia for two years, 1984-86. We met briefly as you were arriving in Bahn just as I was departing. If you get this message, please call me at 510-213-1067. It would be fun to talk. I moved to Tucson for a while back in the late 90's but now live in Oakland, CA. Hope all is well with you. Sincerely, Craig Cooper

By Isabelle Spohn (207-118-127-161.dyn.centurytel.net - 207.118.127.161) on Thursday, July 12, 2007 - 12:33 am: Edit Post

Robin - I taught briefly at Bahn Mission school over the summer when I was a student in college, back in 1968. At the time, there were 2 Peace Corps volunteers in town. I was going through my slides tonight, wondering how I could get info about Liberia, and thought of trying Google. I was astounded to read this account of the new diamond industry and the war between Mandingos and Gios. Although I knew there had been a war, most news I heard had centered around Monrovia. If you get this, please e-mail me at coldmtn@centurytel.net and I can call you. I'd be most interested in talking to anyone who might know of some of the people I knew and what conditions are. I live in the state of Washington and am a 6th grade teacher.
Isabelle Spohn


Add a Message


This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.
Username:  
Password:
E-mail: