March 17, 2004 - Weymouth News: Peace Corps volunteer Bill Kendall returns to Ghana after 30 years

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ghana: Peace Corps Ghana : The Peace Corps in Ghana: March 17, 2004 - Weymouth News: Peace Corps volunteer Bill Kendall returns to Ghana after 30 years

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Peace Corps volunteer Bill Kendall returns to Ghana after 30 years

Peace Corps volunteer Bill Kendall returns to Ghana after 30 years

Peace Corps worker returns to Ghana after 30 years

By Bill Kendall / Special To The News
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

It had been over 30 years since Bill Kendall had last been to Half Assini, Ghana.

In the early 70's, he could only get there by a bone jarring four hour truck ride over a narrow, dusty dirt road. This Christmas he traveled in air conditioned comfort in a friend's SUV over a double lane paved highway. Bill says, "I was nervous and excited. What would my house look like? Would anyone actually remember me?"

Bill had taught math in Half Assini when he was in the Peace Corps from 1971 to 1973. Now the Weymouth resident and Braintree school administrator was returning with his wife, Judy; his daughter, Amanda; and his son, Jon. The family was visiting Jon, who is in the Peace Corps, teaching in a nearby country, Benin.

The trip to Half Assini was one of the emotional highlights of the two week trip. Bill says, "Thirty years ago, the boarding school with its 20 buildings was outside of the town, surrounded by coconut trees. The village had grown enormously and now surrounds the school. But the school's campus is amazingly well kept up and unchanged."

The headmaster made Bill and his family feel very welcome and sent them to see the one teacher at the school who was there 30 years ago, Dan Vida. Bill says, "I remember Dan very well. He was a neighbor. We were two of the younger teachers. We had many beers together as we discussed how to solve all of the world's problems."

The family went to Dan's house. Bill and Dan recognized each other immediately. Dan ran in his house and got a photo Bill had given Dan 30 years ago. Bill says, "It was very emotional. We were hugging and crying. It had been a very long time." Amazingly, Dan's family now has Massachusetts roots. His son leaves in Pittsfield. Dan is visiting Massachusetts son this summer and will probably come to Weymouth and Braintree.

The other big highlight of the trip was sharing Peace Corps experiences with the family's newest volunteer, Jon. The whole family went to his school in Ouedeme, Benin. This was a three day journey from Half Assini over paved roads and dirt roads in rented taxis.

In Ouedeme, the Kendall family delivered the first shipment of soccer equipment collected for the children by Weymouth Youth Soccer. They also bought school books with money collected by the staff of Braintree High School.

The soccer equipment and the books were very well received. Students from the school staged a soccer game in their honor and the headmaster was overjoyed with the textbooks.

Bill feels Jon has it much harder now in his village than Bill did 30 years ago. Bill had running water and electricity in the evenings. Jon has no running water and no electricity. Bill says, "Without running water, you have to constantly get your water from a well. Without electricity, it gets dark every evening at 7 and life depends upon hot kerosene lanterns."

Another big Peace Corps change is the way volunteers are now assigned. When Bill was in the Peace Corps volunteers were usually placed in groups. Bill says, "I was with three other volunteers. This meant we ate together and were constantly with each other." Now Peace Corps usually stations volunteers alone. Jon is the only non-African in his village of 6,000 people. Bill says this can be lonely but can also be very positive, "You have to develop a wide array of African friends and get much more into African culture. When I was in Peace Corps I ate in Africans' homes three times in two years. In Jon's village I ate in three homes in one day."

One key matter has remained the same. "The Africans in Ghana and Benin are still amazing friendly, helpful and supportive," Bill says, "Crime is just about no problem. Americans are very well received and both countries are very safe. People go out their way to be helpful and friendly. The warmth is genuine. The books and soccer equipment we brought were accepted with incredible enthusiasm."

Judy Kendall was amazed at how the whole village of Ouedeme greets her son, "When he walks down the street little kids come running out of nowhere yelling his name." Amanda Kendall found the Africans so warm and friendly that she hopes to return this summer. "Three or four of Jon's friends in Ouedeme write to me asking me to visit them again," she says, "I hope I can go back. I loved it."

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Story Source: Weymouth News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Ghana; Return to our Country of Service - Ghana



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