June 7, 2005: Headlines: COS - Benin: Oneonta Daily Star: Susan Lettis has joined the Peace Corps and will travel to the West African nation of Benin

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Benin: Peace Corps Benin : The Peace Corps in Benin: June 7, 2005: Headlines: COS - Benin: Oneonta Daily Star: Susan Lettis has joined the Peace Corps and will travel to the West African nation of Benin

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Susan Lettis has joined the Peace Corps and will travel to the West African nation of Benin

Susan Lettis has joined the Peace Corps and will travel to the West African nation of Benin

Susan Lettis has joined the Peace Corps and will travel to the West African nation of Benin

Cooperstown graduate in Peace Corps heading to Benin

By Tom Grace

Cooperstown News Bureau

Susan Lettis, a 2000 graduate of Cooperstown Central School, has joined the Peace Corps and will travel to the West African nation of Benin next month.

Lettis, who recently graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in international relations, is slated to teach English as a foreign language to high school students.

"I taught English as a foreign language before, both in Washington when I was there for a term, and in Syracuse," she said.

French is the official language of Benin, a nation sandwiched between Togo and Nigeria in what formerly was called French West Af

rica. Lettis, 23, said Thursday she is "brushing up on my French," as she prepares to travel there.

A few years ago, she spent 11 months in Hungary as a Rotary exchange student, an experience that she said only whetted her appetite for more travel and learning.

"I’m excited about going," she said Thursday. "I really value traveling and learning about other cultures."

Just out of college, she is not certain what she wants to do for a career but is gravitating toward public service, perhaps eventually with a non-governmental agency.

"I like volunteer work," she said. "I’ve said before that if I could be a professional volunteer, I’d do it."

She did not set out to go to Benin, or even to Africa, but let the Peace Corps decide where to send her.

"When I filled out the application, I said I’d go pretty much anywhere," she said.

Her Peace Corps hitch, which will pay her $150 a month, is for 27 months — two years, plus three months training.

For three days, starting July 5, she will attend a Peace Corps orientation in the United States.

Then on July 8, she will fly to Lokossa, Benin.

As a volunteer, she will live in conditions that are similar to those of Benin’s citizens, probably in a small house with a metal roof.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, on its website, www.cia.gov/cia/publications, gives the following synopsis of Benin’s history:

"Present-day Benin was the site of Dahomey, a prominent West African kingdom that rose in the 15th century. The territory became a French colony in 1872 and achieved independence in August of 1960, as the Republic of Benin. A succession of military governments ended in 1972 with the rise to power of Mathieu Kerekou and the establishment of a government based on Marxist-Leninist principles. A move to representative government began in 1989. Two years later, free elections ushered in former Prime Minister Nicephore Soglo as president, marking the first successful transfer of power in Africa from a dictatorship to a democracy. Kerekou was returned to power by elections held in 1996 and 2001, though some irregularities were alleged."

Hot and at times, quite dry, Benin, like much of Africa, has suffered from the spread of AIDS, the agency reports.

An Internet posting from Lonely Planet on its website, www.lonelyplanet.com, gives a more upbeat assessment of the beauty and potential of this nation.

"While it shares many of the problems of its neighbors, such as bad roads and infrastructure, poor water and health conditions and institutionalized corruption, it is comparatively violence-free, is richer and economically stronger than most of its neighbors and has the best beaches and landscapes," the site reports.

Lettis said she has never lived in the kind of conditions she will encounter in Benin.

"I worry about the living conditions a little bit, but there will be other volunteers there," she said. "Lots of other people live like that, so there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to."

That Lettis would venture to such a place comes as no surprise to Gary Kuch, Cooperstown’s high school principal.

"I remember Susan primarily as one of our favorite baby sitters, and she has always seemed like someone who would want to help others," Kuch said. "I think she’ll have a very interesting and exciting time."


If you have good news you’d like to share, call Managing Editor Cary Brunswick at 432-1000 or (800) 721-1000, ext. 217; fax him at 432-5707; e-mail him at cary@thedailystar.com; or write to him at P.O. Box 250, Oneonta, NY 13820.

When this story was posted in June 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Oneonta Daily Star

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