Abam Eba – 2019
In 2020, Encore de la Paix volunteers traveled to Gabon to take on three different health and education related projects in the village of Abam Eba. This village, about ten miles from the border with Equatorial Guinea, had hosted Peace Corps volunteers in 1964 who were building a school there. We completed the project in two phases, one in March to start work and the other in August to finalize it.
School renovations – The primary school that was built in 1964 was still standing and had been painted just before our arrival. The villagers had constructed a make-shift preschool next to the original three-classroom building. Our first order of business was to tear down the tin structure and build a new preschool from cement block. The group made a number of enhancements to the original building as well that will secure the building well into the future. A railing was added on to the front and back verandahs as well as steps to improve safety at the entrances. The team built an anti-erosion apron on the front of the school to help safeguard the structure from the tropical downpours. Painting, fixing the flagpole and hanging stenciled alphabets added to the overall appeal of the work.
World map mural – In addition, on one of the classroom walls, the team painted a world map mural to support geography learning. With the help of students on vacation, the map proved to be a popular and significant component of the overall project.
Mosquito Nets – Working closely with the National Anti-Malaria Prevention Program (PNLP) at the Ministry of Health and the provincial health authorities, we distributed almost 600 anti-malaria mosquito nets in Abam Eba and nine surrounding villages. We conducted house-to-house surveys in 10 villages in the area surrounding Abam Eba; conducted training for 363 people in these villages on malaria and how to use mosquito nets. With trained nurses and public health officials, we tested 42 people for malaria and found that 19 actually had malaria and we gave those 19 treatment. We distributed to each person printed pamphlets that we produced with the PNLP experts and carried over from the US. We identified a target population of elderly, pregnant women and children under the age of five and handed out nets to 393 people.
In August, we followed up with additional training. The village set up a tent just up the hill from the school where a local nurse provided training for over 100 people attended the training that extended into the early hours of the night. The nurse tested 20 people for malaria, 3 of whom tested positive, and we gave them a three-day treatment.
Call it cross-cultural understanding or promoting mutual understanding, but it really comes down to making friends. We probably had our best reception from this village that we’ve had since we started our project. This was mostly because of the relationships that Bob Weisflog and his wife Juliette had in the village for many years. Our hosts, their neighbors, the workers, the school kids, the surrounding villages were all bending over backward to make us feel at home and part of the family.
One of the highlights of the project was the participation of Jack Anderson, a Peace Corps volunteer who was a member of the team that originally built the school in 1964. His visit was a huge hit in the village, as he reunited with several friends from 55 years ago, bonded with others who knew him by name as a village legend, and entertained all with photos and a video of movie clips of the village from the 60’s that he brought from home.
In sum, we did our best to pack a two-year Peace Corps experience into the two different months we stayed in the village.
Sam – 2018
In March 2018, six volunteers returned to Gabon and teamed up with one volunteer already in Gabon, representatives of the Ministry of Health, local construction hires and village residents to complete three different projects. In the village of Sam where we had renovated a school in 2016, we built two latrines and completed a world map mural on one of the classroom walls. In addition, we embarked on a mosquito net distribution project in conjunction with the National Malaria Prevention Program and were able to complete a survey and distribute over 500 nets to families in Sam and surrounding areas.
- Complete construction of two latrines in the village of Sam, Gabon.
In order to provide sanitary facilities for the two elementary schools in the village, we built a three-stall latrine behind each school. Villagers had almost completed digging the pits by the time we arrived, allowing us to focus on the structures themselves. With the help of two construction hires, Nico and Pacome, we laid a platform of concrete mounted on columns over each pit, and then built the wooden structure on top of the platform. We buried over the remnants of the old latrine built by volunteers in 1965 and left behind sanitary facilities, including hand-wash stations that both teachers and students can comfortably, securely and privately use.
What we found and what we left.
- Distribution of mosquito nets for families located from Sam to Doumandzou in the Woleu-Ntem region of Gabon.
With the cooperation of the National Malaria Prevention Program of the Ministry of Health, we were able to conduct a house-to-house survey to identify the people most at risk and target the distribution. We tested residents and when we found individuals with active malaria cases, we provided medicine. We also conducted training sessions on malaria prevention in each of 8 villages for hundreds of residents. Over 500 nets were distributed, providing protection to over 240 families. The full report from the Malaria Prevention Program can be accessed here, in French: RAPPORT SAM PNLP.
- A world map mural for the school in Sam that we renovated in 2016.
The most enthusiastic participation came in the painting of a world map mural in one of the classrooms at the school in Sam. The director, the teachers, visitors and, most importantly students, helped paint and in the process learn both geography and drawing techniques (using a grid.) Each day, students and teachers would enter the classroom to see progress, try their hand at grid drawing, and then fill in the colors for the 160 countries and 7 seas depicted.
Finally, as we have discovered in each of the previous two years, we made new friends and reconnected with old ones. We shared meals every day, we shared tools, we shared stories and libations. We went to church, ate at the local restaurant, took hikes and trips into town.
Sam and Doumandzou – 2016
In 2016, a group of 13 volunteers traveled to Gabon to work side by side with residents from the villages of Sam and Doumandzou, in Woleu-Ntem, Gabon. We completed three different projects over a six-week period.
In Sam, we tackled serious upgrades to a primary school that Peace Corps Volunteers had built in 1965. Most importantly, we replaced a leaky, deteriorating roof, including the rotten wood supports. We put in new windows and doors and shored up the foundation to ward against erosion in the tropical climate. Three teachers’ houses were in unliveable condition, so we also fixed these, with new roofs, windows and doors. Finally, a color choice for the newly painted school lent a fresh, enjoyable atmosphere for the students.
In addition, in order to maintain contact with the people of Doumandzou, where we renovated our first school, we added two latrines for the students and teachers. With the help of Water Charity, and in line with the Let Girls Learn project that Michelle Obama announced in collaboration with the Peace Corps, the provision of sanitary latrines can increase the likelihood that girls stay in school, continue their education and contribute to the development of their community.
Also in Doumandzou, we finished a world map mural on one of the classrooms. This proved to be a very popular project, enlisting the participation of children and parents from all over the village. The end result was a bright, colorful map that will help in geography lessons.
Domandzou Primary School – 2015
Our first project back in Gabon, our Peace Corps country of service, took place in a six week period in early 2015. We set out to renovate a school that Peace Corps built in 1965 and has since fallen into disrepair. This three classroom school is located in the village of Doumandzou, Woleu-Ntem, population of 300, about 250 kilometers from the capital city, Libreville. It continues to serve as an elementary school with one teacher and 26 students. The school had fallen into such disrepair that parents from the village began to send their children to neighboring villages for school. It was hard to keep teaching staff because the houses had not been used for about 15 years. One year, neither of the two teachers assigned showed up, and the school was shut down.
A group of five volunteers from Encore de la Paix went to Gabon in January 2015 to complete repairs to the roof, to windows, to the teachers houses.
The cost for repairing the Doumandzou school and the two teachers’ houses was $20,000. We raised that amount from over 65 individuals and two organizations, Citibank Gabon and a community fund from Woerden, Netherlands. The donated fund paid for the materials and transport of those materials to the site. All costs associated with travel by members of the group was borne individually.
The people of Doumandzou contributed as well, in providing material and labor and in housing those of us traveling to work. In their letter requesting our support, they wrote:
“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.” For full text of letter, click here.
Check out our Doumandzou photo gallery at the right to see more photos of the school and the village.
In 2011-12, we launched Encore with a small project to provide sports equipment to orphanages in Mali. With the help of a former Peace Corps volunteer who was working with the Millennium Challenge Account, we were able to provide soccer balls, basketballs, volleyballs, soccer nets, hoops and frisbees to three different orphanages.