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RPCV Bobbi Bronstein returns to Liberia
RPCV Bobbi Bronstein returns to Liberia
Teacher takes lessons to Liberia
Former volunteer returns to country
The Arizona Republic
May. 8, 2003 12:00 AM
As Bobbi Bronstein watched the sunset from a Fiji beach in 2001, she realized how blessed she was and how much she wanted to give back.
Bronstein, a Phoenix resident and third-grade teacher, had already given plenty: She served in the Peace Corps in Liberia from 1977 to 1979. Still, more than 20 years later, she realized she wanted to do more.
A month after the epiphany on the beach, she got a call from a Peace Corps friend asking her to return to the African country to teach educators in a place devastated by years of civil war. She said no, then remembered the beach in Fiji and said yes. She found herself where few Americans dared travel in July 2001.
"I felt like I had been part of something wonderful. . . . The bottom line is that we have the most important jobs in our countries," Bronstein said. "The success of our countries depend on how well we do our jobs. You can't have a strong country without an educated majority."
A man tried to extort money from them. A 7-foot snake hung from the cafeteria rafters one day and cockroaches were everywhere.
They stayed at Cuttington University College, where they had no running water and no electricity. Still, their hardships were nothing compared with their students' troubles.
One had watched her husband being executed in front of her. Another had buried his young daughter, who had died of malnutrition, before he came. Still, they wanted to become better teachers, and Bronstein wanted to help.
The payoff comes when she looks at the pictures taken last fall, a year after the project, showing the teachers in their group.
"He's teaching the lesson I taught. It's really exciting," she said. "These people are under constant attack. They're not paid for months at a time and they still go every day and do the best they can."
The goal of the project was to help the teachers overcome incredible obstacles to education: teaching without books and chalk, class sizes of 50 to 100, students who had not been able to go to school for several years, and classrooms with no desks or other supplies.
They taught the alphabet in the dirt and showed them how to make books, and Bronstein was a dedicated and hardworking part of the group. She wrote the curriculum and worked 12-hour days.
"I just observed in Bobbi someone who really cared a great deal about her students and wanted to help Liberians who would turn around and help the children of Liberia," said Stephanie Vickers, a Friends of Liberia volunteer and site administrator for the Liberian project.
The country was filled with anti-American posters and the country is still not considered safe for foreign travelers, but Bronstein said her group was accepted gratefully.
"The people were 'Thank you, thank you, thank you for coming. Thank you for caring,' " she said.
When this story was prepared, here was the front page of PCOL magazine:
This Month's Issue: August 2004
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and who can come up with the funniest caption for our Current Events Funny?
Exclusive: Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed published exclusively on the web by Peace Corps Online saying the Dayton Daily News' portrayal of Peace Corps "doesn't jibe with facts."
In other news, the NPCA makes the case for improving governance and explains the challenges facing the organization, RPCV Bob Shaconis says Peace Corps has been a "sacred cow", RPCV Shaun McNally picks up support for his Aug 10 primary and has a plan to win in Connecticut, and the movie "Open Water" based on the negligent deaths of two RPCVs in Australia opens August 6. Op-ed's by RPCVs: Cops of the World is not a good goal and Peace Corps must emphasize community development.
Read the stories and leave your comments.