November 8, 2004: Headlines: COS - Niger: Davis Enterprise: Jules Keane in Niger

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Niger: Peace Corps Niger : The Peace Corps in Niger: November 8, 2004: Headlines: COS - Niger: Davis Enterprise: Jules Keane in Niger

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Monday, November 29, 2004 - 3:59 am: Edit Post

Jules Keane in Niger

Jules Keane in Niger

Jules Keane in Niger

Road to understanding
By Sarah Slakey/Enterprise correspondent

Davis is full of world-class people, including four UC Davis graduate students - Sean Smukler, Brandon Kitagawa, David Rosenberg and Jules Keane - who volunteered their time in the Peace Corps.

"I joined the Peace Corps because I was pretty sold on their mission," said Smukler, a Peace Corps volunteer between 1997 and 1999. "I wanted to help a community with new ideas and energy, and to experience another culture by living in a community and speaking their language. There's no other volunteer organization that's quite like it."

Since the Peace Corps began under the Kennedy administration in 1961, some 1,170 UCD graduates have served the two-year commitment in a foreign country.

In 2000, UCD Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef formalized an agreement with the Peace Corps to create four new master's degrees in international programs. In the new programs, Peace Corps volunteers may choose to study horticulture and agronomy, soil science, plant biology or preventive veterinary medicine, get two years of field experience in the Peace Corps, then return to finish their degree for a final quarter.

Last year alone, more than 55 UCD graduates became Peace Corps volunteers, making it the 20th most volunteer-producing university in the nation. This year there are 46 former Aggies serving abroad.


A woman in Niger

Keane describes her time in the Peace Corps in Niger as a "learning experience." From 1995 to 1999, Keane lived in a grass hut in the small village of Deyginde, with the nearest water a quarter-mile away and a heat that she described as being, "twice as hot as Davis summers, with no air." Living in a village of some 500 people, Keane said she often was showered with hospitality and attention.

"They would feel like they weren't good hosts if they left me alone at all," Keane said. "I always had at least 20 kids who followed me everywhere I went. It was nice to feel welcome, but it put a lot of constraints on my privacy and didn't allow me to have a lot of alone time."

Another challenge Keane faced in her job as an agricultural consultant for the village was gender discrimination.

"Often times people were not very receptive to me giving them advice on farming methods," she said. "It was frustrating because I would know something that could help them, but because I am a woman and they are a Muslim society, it was hard to have any authority."

In addition, Keane had to confront rampant poverty in her village and the surrounding communities. People in the village often only had one or two sets of clothes, which often were no more than rags; and in the larger towns, the streets were filled with beggars and people with leprosy and physical disabilities, she said. Nevertheless, Keane said the village was not fazed by the poverty because they'd never known anything else.

"They have such a good attitude about everything," she said. "They are in dire straights, not knowing where their next meal is going to come from, and they don't worry. In the U.S., we complain about everything. They just have a good outlook on life."

When this story was posted in November 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Davis Enterprise

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



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