April 4, 2004 - Santa Fe New Mexican: Kenya RPCV Robin Reider readjusts to life in Santa Fe

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Kenya: Peace Corps Kenya : The Peace Corps in Kenya: April 4, 2004 - Santa Fe New Mexican: Kenya RPCV Robin Reider readjusts to life in Santa Fe

By Admin1 (admin) ( on Sunday, April 04, 2004 - 10:13 pm: Edit Post

Kenya RPCV Robin Reider readjusts to life in Santa Fe

Kenya RPCV Robin Reider readjusts to life in Santa Fe

Kenya RPCV Robin Reider readjusts to life in Santa Fe

Peace Corps volunteers readjust to life in Santa Fe

By YASMIN KHAN | The New Mexican

Robin Reider of Chimayó spent two years in Kenya as a Peace Corps volunteer from 2001 to 2003. Reider, a weaver, taught locals business skills and HIV/AIDS awareness. Raul Vasquez |The New Mexican
Robin Reider couldn't stand watching her friends and their babies suffer from diseases that were preventable and curable.

But according to the 58-year-old Peace Corps volunteer, the Luo Tribe people who live near Lake Victoria, Kenya don't have a choice.

"A lot of people had no say whether they live or die," Reider said. "Tuberculosis treatment is free, but the diagnosis test is $10, so many people still die. They don't even have money for transportation to get medicine."

Reider, a tapestry weaver in Chimayó, is one of several Peace Corps volunteers from the Santa Fe area who say that it is difficult to re-enter the consumer-driven culture of the United States after living in a third-world country.

"The biggest issue when coming back is seeing what the babies there had -- one or two cloth diapers, one shirt and maybe a blanket -- and comparing it to all the baby things my granddaughter has," said Reider as she cuddled and fed her 3-month-old granddaughter Amelia. "Here, we don't realize how much we have and don't need to buy."

From September 2001 until September 2003, Reider lived with the Luo Tribe and the Kamba Tribe deep in the bush near Mombasa, Kenya, more than an hour's bike ride from the nearest bus stop.

She worked as a small-enterprise development adviser for the corps. She taught basic business classes, helped organize a women's silk-weaving group, wrote grants to help support local businesses and taught

HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness.

On her own time, she read to children in a nursery school, taught people how to grow vegetables they had never seen before -- beans, squash and basil -- and visited orphans.

"When a friend from the states sent money, all the orphans got shoes, a school uniform, a writing tablet, blankets -- and a soda," Reider said while holding up a photo of a dozen ebony-skinned children flashing huge grins and blowing bubbles.

"They got to eat popcorn and have a little meat for dinner," she recalled. "It was orphan day."

Reider first applied to the Peace Corps in the late 1960s, but rather than going to Africa then, she "had three babies instead."

She said she was now one of the older volunteers, and her "mama status" helped her gain respect with the African tribes peoples. In fact, four babies and a cow were named after her.

The Peace Corps was born in 1960 when then-senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve the United States by working and living in developing countries.

The volunteer program was officially established in 1961 and since its inception, more than 170,000 people have served in 137 countries, according to the Peace Corps fact sheet for 2003. Volunteers work primarily in education, health and HIV/AIDS awareness, environmental preservation, information technology and business development.

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Story Source: Santa Fe New Mexican

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



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