The first of our group has arrived in Libreville, well taken care of by Bob Weisflog and Jean Pierre Lindeme.
We’ve been working logistics since arrival, especially linking up to cell service.
It’s real, and it’s just around the corner.
Thanks to the generous contributions of over 50 of you, Encore de la Paix is moving close to our goal of completing our first project, the renovation of a primary school built by Peace Corps in 1965 in the village of Doumandzou, Gabon. It’s been a long journey, but in less than two weeks, on January 9th, the first group of us will arrive in the village to work side-by-side with volunteers from Doumandzou in making repairs to the school and to the school’s teachers’ houses.
The first contingent from outside Gabon numbers five, and includes Drew Howard and Claire Thiebault from San Francisco, Henk Brouwer from Woerden, Netherlands and Mary and John Dickson from Pittsfield, Massachusetts. With the efforts of Bob Weisflog in Libreville, many of the materials purchased with your donations have already arrived in Doumandzou. In making all the preparations, Bob has worked closely with Gaston Biyogo, an advisor in the Ministry of Health who grew up in the village. Several villagers have agreed to house us once we arrive, and they have identified a local contractor to serve as our construction foreman. Expect photos of all these people once we are on the ground.
We are excited, and especially so with the support of those Peace Corps volunteers who built the school 50 years ago.
I close with these photos from Jerry Anderson, who took these while the school was under construction.
Here is a copy of the letter we received from the village requesting our support for the school renovation: Doumandzou letter; below is a copy of the English translation.
ASSOCIATION OF PEOPLE OF THE VILLAGE DOUMANDZOU
Encore de la Paix
5 Hancock Rd
Pittsfield, Massachusetts 01201
Subject: Request for support for the rehabilitation of the Doumandzou School
Ladies and Gentlemen and former Peace Corps Volunteers,
Your country, the United States of America, through the Peace Corps had established links of exemplary cooperation with Gabon through the construction of numerous schools in durable materials during the 1960’s.
Our village, Doumandzou, Department of the Okano, Mitzic in the Province of Woleu-Ntem benefited from this cooperation. An elementary school was built.
For more than a year, young Americans, like you, stayed in our village, sharing our life, soaking up our culture, in sum living as we did. Friendly ties, sometimes close, were woven and these remain today visible and enduring.
In 1966, when this school opened, the Gabonese Ministry of Education made it an examination center for all the region: the Certificate of Primary Education (CEP) and the entrance exams for Lycées and Collèges were held here. Several generations of Gabonese entrepreneurs have gone to this school, thanks to your great country. Now is the time and the moment, 50 years later, for us to thank and praise the know-how of the Americans Peace Corps Volunteers.
Unfortunately with the decline of our school system over these last twenty years, particularly in rural areas, and the exodus to the cities, city schools have been favored over rural schools. It should be noted that since its construction in 1965, our 3 classroom school, currently with 2 teachers and 60 students, has had no repairs but is still standing; however with severe deterioration, the teacher houses are not in use.
It is because we believe that only the American know-how can guarantee the life of these buildings for the next 50 years that we now solicit your support. If you, the former Peace Corps volunteers in Gabon, as part of the American NGO “Encore de la Paix”, are ready to return to Gabon for a period of a few weeks bringing your know-how, energy and ambition, modest financial contribution not forgetting in kind donations (plane tickets, petty expenses, health insurance costs, working tools, etc. ) to help us with our project “Rehabilitation of the School of Doumandzou”, we, on our part, are ready to welcome you with open arms and spirit of hope.
Unfortunately, to this day we are still searching for financing for the project (estimated budget attached). Therefore we kindly request your help with the benevolent American sponsors, in order to restore this school, fruit of the effort of the American taxpayer, to its luster of yesteryear.
In this 21st century, our commitment to a “win win” form of cooperation is unequivocal. That is why, if this request met with a positive response from you:
1) the village community will mobilize to make modest contributions including but not limited to – food and lodging; sand, gravel, wood, tools, and other local materials; labor; access to the generator; a building for a temporary school, etc.
2) entrepreneurs of the village working in other parts of Gabon as abroad will lend their support.
In addition to sharing with you our desire to work alongside of you to rehabilitate our American school, we also asked the Gabonese authorities for a multifaceted support, as well as for information on any official steps that need to be followed. The Ministry of National Education has already informed us that there are no particular requirements in this case. However they must be informed of the beginning and the completion of work.
Hoping for a favorable response to our request,