December 16, 2004: Headlines: COS - Niger: Columbus This Week Newspapers: John Cannon seeks funds for well project in Niger

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Niger: Peace Corps Niger : The Peace Corps in Niger: December 16, 2004: Headlines: COS - Niger: Columbus This Week Newspapers: John Cannon seeks funds for well project in Niger

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John Cannon seeks funds for well project in Niger

 John Cannon seeks funds for well project in Niger

John Cannon seeks funds for well project in Niger

Area grad seeks funds for well project in Africa

Thursday, December 16, 2004

ThisWeek Staff Writer

Peace Corps volunteer and 1998 Dublin Coffman High School graduate John Cannon plays a game with a girl from the village of Niamey in Niger.

John Cannon grew up in Dublin.

For the past year, the 1998 Dublin Coffman High School graduate has been living in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer in conditions completely opposite to what he had been accustomed to.

He'll be home on Dec. 21 for three weeks. While here, he hopes to raise more than $17,000 to make life better for the 1,200 residents of a tiny village in Niger, called Serkin Bougaje.

His project -- to build a second well for the village -- recently was approved by the Peace Corps Partnership Program committee in Washington, D.C.

After graduating from Coffman, Cannon attended The Ohio State University, graduating with a B.S. in biology, with a minor in philosophy, in 2002. He spent the following months preparing for acceptance into the Peace Corps and left for his assignment in Africa on Jan. 6 as an agriforest aide.

Serkin Bougaje is between the larger towns of Mayahi and Maradi, which is home to the local Peace Corps hostel/office. He travels three hours on foot and by "bush taxi" to get from his village to Maradi, making the trip about every three weeks to read e-mail and make calls to his parents and friends.

Cannon said his reasons for joining the Peace Corps stem from a desire to help other people.

"A big motivation was my interest in trying to capitalize on the idealism I felt after I graduated college," he said. "I knew I wanted to help, and I liked the grassroots principles espoused by Peace Corps. That, along with the chance to build community with people who live in a situation that's just about as different as you can get from my own experiences, really sounded appealing."

He is the third Peace Corps volunteer to live in the village.

As the village has grown over the past few years, the existing water well has at times been insufficient to provide for the needs of the community, Cannon said.

"The previous volunteer began dialogue (for a second well) with the villagers of Serkin Bougaje before he left, and I wanted to follow through with this work," he said. "The government of Niger states that there should be one well to serve every 250 people, so obviously a village of 1,200 people should have more than just the one existing well.

"The existing well is dug to a depth of 40 meters. During the hot season, when it hasn't rained for more than six months, the well will sometimes run dry in the afternoons," he said. "In addition to this, the well is old and not adequately protected from livestock that may contaminate the water supply. It is often crowded during the day by people, mostly women, pulling water for their families, so this task can take several hours out of the busy life of the villagers, whose other responsibilities include farming, caring for children and preparing meals."

The new well will be dug to 44 meters, in an area where the water supply is more stable, he said.

Cannon's project has been through the Peace Corps Niger approval process. It has been evaluated by the country director, along with a committee of Peace Corps staff and volunteers.

"They agree that it is feasible within the constraints I have outlined," Cannon said.

This project is being funded through the Peace Corps Partnership Program, which relies on donations to fund volunteer projects. The village community is contributing 25 percent of the total cost, $5,664, in the form of skilled and unskilled labor, food, land and local materials. The remaining $17,370 must be raised by Cannon through private donations.

Contributions can be made via the Peace Corps Web site,, by following the Peace Corps Partnership Program link and finding Project No. 683-096.

Cannon already has formed partnerships locally and will speak about his project while he's home.

Coffman graduate Amanda Shoemaker is a friend of the family and is president of the Phi Mu sorority at Miami University, which has adopted Cannon's project as its community-service project. The sorority members have set out canisters around campus and throughout the community.

"I think it's amazing what John and others in the Peace Corps are doing for other people," she said.

Skip Murray, owner of Murray Associates in Dublin, is corporate sponsor for the project and is holding a reception at his business on Jan. 5 for family, friends and potential donors.

He and his wife have known the Cannon family for several years.

This isn't the first time Murray has stepped forward to help people from other nations, having contributed to a project in Nicaragua that helped a village put in a plant that uses water power to produce electricity.

"Sometime along the line, we have to give back to people less fortunate than us," he said. "John (Cannon) is an awesome young man, a very committed individual. He has a side to him that I wish everyone had a little bit of."

Cannon also will speak to the Dublin A.M. Rotary, at the invitation of his former Scoutmaster William Andrews, while he's home.

His parents, Bob and Linda Cannon, are understandably proud of their son.

"I am truly in awe of what he and his fellow Peace Corps volunteers are doing, wherever they are posted," Bob Cannon said. "I am proud that John has chosen the Peace Corps as a way to serve his country. He is learning firsthand how persons from two very different cultures can learn to communicate, to share ideas and values and can work together to achieve mutually agreed upon goals. ... He's helping me learn about subsistence living, which contrasts so sharply with our way of life here in Dublin."

John and his fellow volunteers "give 27 months of their lives, not to earn money, but to help others," said his mother, Linda. "They are building bridges of love, peace and understanding while sharing their knowledge to enhance the quality of life for others they have never met. ... I admire and am in awe of these volunteers; their strength and courage are incredible. Their experiences will serve them and the world well, I believe."

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

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Story Source: Columbus This Week Newspapers

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