History of the Peace Corps in Guinea
|History of the Peace Corps|
|Since 1960, when then Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries, more than 182,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in 138 countries all over the globe.
Peace Corps signed a cooperation agreement with the government of Guinea in 1962, which forms the basis for our current country program. The first Volunteers arrived in Guinea in 1963. However, in 1966, relations between the United States government and the government of Guinea soured, and the Guinean government asked Volunteers to leave. Peace Corps was invited back in 1969, but again relations between the two governments deteriorated, and Volunteers left in 1971. Soon after President Sekou Touré’s death in 1984, Peace Corps was asked to return once again to Guinea.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Guinea
The mission of the Peace Corps in Guinea is to help the people of Guinea meet their development and human resource needs. Existing projects address the top development priorities of the government, which are: education, health, natural resource management and small enterprise development. Most Volunteers are based in rural areas so that they may reach those communities most in need of assistance.
Since 1963, more than 1,100 Volunteers have served in Guinea. Currently, approximately 115 Volunteers serve in-country. No matter what sector they are in, Volunteers are much in demand by schools, health centers, cooperatives, and rural communities; requests for Volunteers historically exceed our capacity to provide them.
The development philosophy of Peace Corps/Guinea is to build capacity from the ground up—to empower people so they can improve the quality of their own lives. This philosophy has an impact not only on the education, health, and economics of the people in communities where Volunteers work, but also on their view of the role of private citizens in a democracy such as ours, and this fosters an appreciation for honest, transparent and democratic institutions and governance.
The future for Peace Corps/Guinea looks good, and we envision changes that will make it even better. Because the government of Guinea is unable to recruit sufficient numbers of teachers to meet the needs of rural schools, Peace Corps/ Guinea continues to supply high school classroom teachers. We hope to move to the next level of capacity building and train teachers themselves. There also appear to be opportunities to work in new regions of Guinea, and Peace Corps staff members are currently evaluating re-entry to the Forest region.
Return in 1986
Peace Corps evidently fast-tracked its return in response to the request by the new Guinean government. PC/Senegal was put in charge of the operation, under the direction of its country director Carroll Bouchard. At some point in 1985, it was decided to recruit extending volunteers in agriculture and forestry to work with two USAID funded projects, one in Faranah and the other in Pita. Four extending PCVs joined the program, three from PC/Senegal and one from PC/Mali. They participated in a one-week orientation held in the first week of October 1985 at the PC/Senegal training center in Thiès, at the end of which the two agriculture volunteers decided not to go to Guinea.
The two forestry volunteers went to Guinea to do a 5-week orientation in October and November with the Projet de Reboisement Communautaire in Pita. They each then took home leave before returning in January.
The project, which was at the end of its USAID funding, was run by a Burkina Faso RPCV, David Laframboise. The idea was for PCVs to assist the project in its ongoing work during a period before a hoped-for follow on project (which ultimately did not happen). Two senior USAID staff in country, Mark Wentling and Robert Hellyer, played roles in facilitating this connection, along with the head of the Guinean forestry service in Conakry, Kalidou Diallo.
Peace Corps officially restarted in Guinea with signature of appropriate documents by the government of Guinea in January 1986. The new country director for PC/Guinea, Jerry Pasela, had arrived the month before, and began setting up an office and recruiting staff. One of the volunteers left for personal reasons, so PC/Guinea had one US staff and one PCV from January until arrival of a group of new forestry volunteers in September 1986.
The group of 5 new volunteers for Guinea had actually been recruited for the forestry program in Burkina Faso, but the cancellation of the PC program in that country while they were in Stateside training led to their joining PC/Guinea. Their "in country" training was held in Thies. This group in turn provided continuity of the program with new training groups in other areas that followed.