April 30, 2005: Headlines: COS - Togo: Safety and Security of Volunteers: Modesto Bee: Marielle De Bree is a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, a country torn by riots after Sunday's disputed presidential elections. Most of the trouble has been confined to the capital, Lome, more than 30 miles south of the small village where De Bree is stationed

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Togo: Peace Corps Togo : The Peace Corps in Togo: April 30, 2005: Headlines: COS - Togo: Safety and Security of Volunteers: Modesto Bee: Marielle De Bree is a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, a country torn by riots after Sunday's disputed presidential elections. Most of the trouble has been confined to the capital, Lome, more than 30 miles south of the small village where De Bree is stationed

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Marielle De Bree is a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, a country torn by riots after Sunday's disputed presidential elections. Most of the trouble has been confined to the capital, Lome, more than 30 miles south of the small village where De Bree is stationed

Marielle De Bree is a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, a country torn by riots after Sunday's disputed presidential elections. Most of the trouble has been confined to the capital, Lome, more than 30 miles south of the small village where De Bree is stationed

Marielle De Bree is a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, a country torn by riots after Sunday's disputed presidential elections. Most of the trouble has been confined to the capital, Lome, more than 30 miles south of the small village where De Bree is stationed

Troubled times for volunteer
Turlock woman in middle of African country's strife

Marielle De Bree has been accepted by villagers, her dad said.

By MIKE CONWAY
BEE STAFF WRITER
Last Updated: April 30, 2005, 09:01:04 AM PDT

TURLOCK Marielle De Bree's parents aren't sure how she is spending her 25th birthday today.

Their daughter is a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, a country torn by riots after Sunday's disputed presidential elections. Most of the trouble has been confined to the capital, Lome, more than 30 miles south of the small village where De Bree is stationed.

"We hope that the phone lines will open and we will have the opportunity to talk to her," said Marielle's mother, Deborah De Bree.

Greg De Bree said he talked to his daughter briefly Wednesday and she assured him that everything was OK.

That helped allay some fears, but, he admitted, "on a gut level, I'm a dad and I worry about my kid."

He believes the villagers outside the city of Tsévié would protect the Turlock High School graduate if trouble spreads.

"She said she's comfortable around the people. I think if there was any uprising they would stand by her," he said. Several months after she arrived, the village held an acceptance ceremony to welcome her into the tribe.

Greg De Bree has been following news from Togo; Friday he was heartened to read the borders had been reopened and people were being allowed to cross over to neighboring countries.

"We're thinking she might have made a dash for the border," he said. That would explain why he hadn't been able to reach her by phone Friday.

Togo is a poor central African country in which cotton is the largest cash crop, followed by cocoa and coffee. The country is a thin strip of land, about 75miles wide by 330 miles long, smaller than West Virginia.

Colonized by the Germans, the French took over the country after World War I. In 1960, it became independent, and in 1967, Gen. Gnassingbe Eyadema took control. When he died in February, the military installed his son, Faure Gnassingbe, as president. After protests rocked the country, Gnassingbe agreed to hold elections.

Dispute over counting of votes

According to the government count, Gnassingbe won more than 60 percent of the vote, but his opponents dispute that.

Tuesday, the U.S. State Department began evacuating nonessential embassy employees and their families. Other Americans were urged to exercise caution, especially in Lome.

Photos of mobs running through the streets of the capital armed with machetes haven't comforted Greg De Bree, who said it reminded him of the movie "Hotel Rwanda," which depicted the civil war in another African nation.

Marielle De Bree has been in Togo since August 2003. A history major with a degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz, De Bree spent years studying French, the official language of Togo.

She also is conversant in Ewe, a local language.

The only Peace Corps volunteer in her village, she's done a bit of everything, from teaching French to coaching a girl's soccer team. She also has been working on preserving the country's natural resources, and developing ebony and mushrooms into cash crops. Her project on trying to move the country away from slash-and-burn agriculture was featured last month on the BBC World Service.

Village conditions are primitive, with no running water or electricity, but Greg De Bree said years of roughing it in the outdoors prepared his daughter. She spent two summers working in the High Sierra camps in Yosemite National Park.

Still, life in Togo is different from mountain living, he said.

"Every now and then they kill a rat and eat it," he said. "Their meat consumption is very low."

Marielle's parents are proud of her, and they're not surprised she ended up in a place like Togo.

"Her volunteer work has always been a big part of her life," Greg De Bree said. "When she graduated, she wanted to give back to society."

Marielle De Bree plans to leave the Peace Corps when her contract is up in August. Her father said she's interested in working for the National Park Service at Yosemite.

For now, he's catching snippets of Togo news online and keeping in touch with Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C.

During a recent trip to Monterey, Greg De Bree ran into a former Peace Corps worker who reassured him about the volunteers' safety.

"He said that if anything happens, the Marines will come in and whisk them away."

Bee staff writer Mike Conway can be reached at 381-0208 or mconway@modbee.com.





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Story Source: Modesto Bee

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Togo; Safety and Security of Volunteers

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