2007.02.16: February 16, 2007: Headlines: COS - Mali: COS - Chad: Water: Baltimore Jewish Times: Joetta Miller joined the Peace Corps in 1981 to teach village women in the west African nation of Mali how to utilize water to prevent and cure illnesses

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Mali: Peace Corps Mali : Peace Corps Mali: Newest Stories: 2007.02.16: February 16, 2007: Headlines: COS - Mali: COS - Chad: Water: Baltimore Jewish Times: Joetta Miller joined the Peace Corps in 1981 to teach village women in the west African nation of Mali how to utilize water to prevent and cure illnesses

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Joetta Miller joined the Peace Corps in 1981 to teach village women in the west African nation of Mali how to utilize water to prevent and cure illnesses

Joetta Miller joined the Peace Corps in 1981 to teach village women in the west African nation of Mali how to utilize water to prevent and cure illnesses

"I just felt very comfortable helping people that needed help," she said. "In the teaching arena, you spend more time disciplining than teaching. I would rather teach people that want to be taught. In the village, people are thirsting for education and opportunities to improve their lives." When her two-year contract with the Peace Corps ended, she enlisted for another year, during a time of drought. "It was horrible," Ms. Miller said. "People were dying of hunger. Men were leaving their families to go search for food. Women could not breastfeed their children, they were begging me to take them. It was very hard, very heartbreaking."

Still, she stayed and signed on with CARE, an international humanitarian organization, and distributed food through its emergency food aid program. While on her way to deliver food to a village near the Malian city of Tombouctou, Ms. Miller was in a truck that flipped over. She went through the windshield, and the truck landed on her leg, crushing it in half. The nearest village was four miles away. "I was lying out in the desert, waiting for [the truck's driver] to go and get help. It was during the drought, and I remember vultures flying around overhead. It was like in 'The Wizard Of Oz,' when the flying monkeys are searching for Toto," Ms. Miller said with a laugh. Fortunately, a local village official passed by on his motorbike. He rounded up the tribe, and within a few minutes, the whole village was there, turning the truck back over on its side, she said. It took three days to get back to the capital, and Ms. Miller was evacuated and came home to the United States. She was in traction for three months.


Joetta Miller joined the Peace Corps in 1981 to teach village women in the west African nation of Mali how to utilize water to prevent and cure illnesses

Joetta Miller's African Tales

Maayan Jaffe
Staff Reporter

FEBRUARY 16, 2007

Joetta Miller opened the door of her multi-story home in east Baltimore County's Bowleys Quarters area. She raised her hand to kiss a mezuzah while passing by.

She pointed at a wild boar's tail and a straw hat hanging in the foyer, relics of her 12-year stint volunteering in the Third World, living in the bush, and surviving on millet and fruit (only mangoes during Passover).

"My bubbie always put money in the tzedakah box. She didn't have much, but she always remembered to give," recalled Ms. Miller, 51. "That's probably how I got started."

An educator by training, Ms. Miller joined the Peace Corps in 1981 to teach village women in the west African nation of Mali how to utilize water to prevent and cure illnesses. In an area where 50 percent of children die before age 2, usually from dehydration brought on by diarrhea, Ms. Miller said she felt needed and fulfilled.

"I just felt very comfortable helping people that needed help," she said. "In the teaching arena, you spend more time disciplining than teaching. I would rather teach people that want to be taught. In the village, people are thirsting for education and opportunities to improve their lives."

When her two-year contract with the Peace Corps ended, she enlisted for another year, during a time of drought.

"It was horrible," Ms. Miller said. "People were dying of hunger. Men were leaving their families to go search for food. Women could not breastfeed their children, they were begging me to take them. It was very hard, very heartbreaking."

Still, she stayed and signed on with CARE, an international humanitarian organization, and distributed food through its emergency food aid program. While on her way to deliver food to a village near the Malian city of Tombouctou, Ms. Miller was in a truck that flipped over. She went through the windshield, and the truck landed on her leg, crushing it in half. The nearest village was four miles away.

"I was lying out in the desert, waiting for [the truck's driver] to go and get help. It was during the drought, and I remember vultures flying around overhead. It was like in 'The Wizard Of Oz,' when the flying monkeys are searching for Toto," Ms. Miller said with a laugh.

Fortunately, a local village official passed by on his motorbike. He rounded up the tribe, and within a few minutes, the whole village was there, turning the truck back over on its side, she said. It took three days to get back to the capital, and Ms. Miller was evacuated and came home to the United States. She was in traction for three months.

But not long after her recovery, Ms. Miller picked up and went to the central African nation of Chad for five years, to serve food, dig wells and install hand-pumps. "If you fall off your horse, you are supposed to get right back up and get on," she said. "I like to help people.

"Everyone has a reason for being on this planet. I'm not married, I don't have children, so I guess I was put here to help people. I guess that's HaShem's plan."

After moving back to Baltimore in 1993, Ms. Miller decided to start working at the Giant supermarket in Pikesville while "looking for a real job." Thirteen years later, she supervises the store's front end.

But Ms. Miller remains committed to volunteerism. She has volunteered for the American Red Cross and Action for the Homeless, organizes volunteers for the Chocolate Affair at M&T Bank Stadium, and coaches basketball for the Bais Yaakov School for Girls.

When Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005, Ms. Miller participated in rebuilding efforts in Mississippi. And when Israel's war with Hezbollah raged last summer, she went to the Middle East to stuff care packages for Israeli soldiers, clean rubble scattered by bombs, and serve at soup kitchens.

Caryn Sagal, who has volunteered with Ms. Miller for nine years, describes her as "enthusiastic [in] the way she rounds up volunteers every year for the Chocolate Affair. She motivates them, and she just wants to do a good job, she wants to help. Her spirit gets translated to everyone else, and then they want to do right, too."

Over the years, Ms. Miller's father, Dr. David I. Miller, admitted it was sometimes hard to watch his "tenacious" daughter just pick up and leave to travel to trouble spots around the world. But he said he knew he couldn't stop her.

"What can I say," Dr. Miller said, "I've got a Jewish missionary."




Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: February, 2007; Peace Corps Mali; Directory of Mali RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Mali RPCVs; Peace Corps Chad; Directory of Chad RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Chad RPCVs; Water





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Story Source: Baltimore Jewish Times

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Mali; COS - Chad; Water

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