The Friends of Niger is an organization founded by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to initiate and support activities related to Niger and its people. Friends of Niger is calling for proposals for a new competitive grant making process. We have established two grant review cycles per year. Applications will only be considered for funding during one of these two grant periods.
All applications to be considered for funding in the next cycle must be received by May 31, 2021. A second review period will be announced later this year.
Les Amis du Niger (FON) accordent de petites subventions pour soutenir des projets qui profitent directement au peuple nigérien. Les subventions peuvent varier entre 500 $ et 5,000 $. Le financement des subventions provient des dons des membres et des sympathisants de FON.
Les demandes de financement doivent être reçues avant le 31 mai 2021. Toutes les demandes admissibles vont compéter pour les fonds disponibles en fonction de leur score.
Une deuxième période de demande est prévue pour novembre 2021 (détails à annoncer).
We note the passing of Irma Poots, who was affectionately called “Poots” by her Peace Corps cohort in the Zinder region. She was a public health volunteer serving from 64-66 in the Niger III group. Here is a tribute and enjoyable ode to volunteer service by Linda Schulman:
Excerpts from a letter written to the daughter of Irma Poots, (Niger III 64-66 Public Health) from Linda Schulman (64-66) . . . . .
I’m writing to you with my deepest condolences for the loss of your mother, who was a light spirit who buoyed my own on many occasions.
This is what came to mind as I contemplated what her loss meant to me:
When I think of your mother, an image comes to mind and that is of her standing beneath a towering giraffe, puckering her lips as if to let the animal know that she loved him and the giraffe bent its neck down as if to say he shared her affection. This snapshot, and I am sure a photo exists somewhere, was taken shortly after our arrival in Niamey in the early 1960s. I remember thinking that your mother had special powers relating to animals or maybe that people from Iowa might possess special abilities with animals that city folk like me did not have.
As you know Irma, who we affectionately called by her last name, “Poots” and I went on to become Peace Corps roommates in Zinder, the ancient capital of the newly anointed Independent “Republique du Niger”. We were both clueless as we tried to take on the mantel of Peace Corps Volunteer in what was then a truly exotic world to each of us. We might as well have been on the Moon or Mars. But fearlessly, or I should say, undaunted, we sallied forth and tried to perform our PCV duties to the very best of our abilities.
The first thing we did in order to make ourselves part of the neighborhood, so to speak, is to invite both Nigerien neighbors and PCVs residing locally, to a gathering at our home, which featured African “Piment” stew.
I don’t remember what the other ingredients were, but the hot pepper, “piment” is difficult to get out of one’s mind, even all these decades later. I remember everyone left happy and satiated, but with smoke issuing from their nose and ears. Figurative of course, but I recall that even our African neighbors could barely tolerate the spicy heat of our culinary attempt at making new friends and influencing people. All took it in good graces and with no small amount of amusement because we had naively added whole peppers, when only the very tip of one is necessary for making a good, hearty and very spicy African stew. So we blew our first endeavor as Peace Corps volunteers, but managed to save face somehow. Luckily the people with whom we interacted daily, both in our neighborhood or “quartier”, and in at the “Dispensaire” where we dispensed powdered milk to infants and pregnant mothers, thought highly of us, just by virtue of the fact that we were PCVs. More accurately, I would say that they regarded us with admiration for our idealistic efforts, but with no small degree of amusement.
I have many other memories to share with you, like the time we visited the “Sultan” with his colorful entourage dressed in red and green, which stood out from everyone else, who mainly wore white, I presume to mitigate what could only be described as intense African heat. This did not include women, who generally wore colorful “pagnes”, that truly brought out their grace and beauty. Your mother and I wore these on occasion to the amusement of both Nigerien men and women, who clapped their hands in pure delight.
We, of course, felt very elegant, as we attempted not to trip over our long skirts, causing the whole thing to unravel and cause great embarrassment. This never happened, I am happy to say. I do not recall if we wore African attire on this occasion, but I seem to remember that my knees were showing below my hemline, which to African sensibilities is somewhat “risque”.
There were the everyday decisions to make, like whether to paint a room purple or a more mundane color. Surprisingly, we both agreed on purple, with relatively little argument. I think we both thought it was just great, in fact. I remember that others thought we had odd tastes, but we were oblivious. We felt free to be ourselves in this foreign environment no matter what. There was the day that we were each given motor “bicyclettes” and went tearing through the maze-like passageways of Zinder, without a care in the world. There were a few raised eyebrows needless to say.
We were invited to “soirees” at the homes of expats. The French and the Lebanese were our favorite hosts and hostesses. It was my first taste of Lebanese food, which was a melange of both French and middle-eastern fare, that was definitely a palate-pleaser. We lived a life that was both opulent and exciting within a context of severe hardship that was often hard to reconcile. It was bitter sweet, like life, and it was often a bit quixotic and frustrating. Your mother dealt with the latter with a light shrug of her shoulders and arms flung out in semi-amazement as she uttered the time-worn expression: “C’est L’Afrique!”
Weaving all of these memories together, I see your mother’s lovely face shining through and still teaching me how to be humble, light-spirited and earthy all at the same time. I am grateful to have shared these experiences with her and to have known her under these very special circumstances that I still regard as one of the big highlights of my life.
Friends of Niger acknowledges the passing of our colleague and friend to so many, Sue Rosenfeld, who spent many years in Niger. We are sharing this brief obituary from her brother Josh below and we invite you to share your thoughts using the comment function on this page.
Sue Rosenfeld, 72, a New Jersey native who spent the majority of her life as an educator in Africa, passed away on October 10 in her home town of Niamey, Niger, after a lengthy illness. A native of Elizabeth, New Jersey, and the daughter of two teachers, her international adventures began when she spent a year abroad studying in Perugia, Italy while attending Dickinson College, where she graduated in 1970 and majored in Classical Studies.
She left for Africa in 1977/8 to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in Joal, Senegal, and would live in Africa for the rest of her life. After years in Senegal Sue was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and moved to Bujumbura, Burundi, where she would remain until she moved to Niamey. She taught English at the American Cultural Center and served as the coordinator for Boston University’s foreign study program in Niamey until the program was terminated in 2010. She remained there as a teacher and educator until her death.
her students in Niamey was Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). “Our program director, Sue Rosenfeld, once told us that
students who apply to the Niger program are ‘self-selected’”, Ocasio-Cortez
said in a March, 2010 article in Boston University’s Daily Free Press. “In other words, young students who make the
commitment to spending four months in the Sahel of West Africa tend to have a
thirst for adventure that is not easily quieted by concern.”
In addition to her roles with the Peace Corps and Boston University,
she spent much of her life teaching English as a second language (TESOL).
A serial correspondent, she communicated on a regular basis with
hundreds of friends, colleagues, students and family around rather globe, many
of whom commented on her ability to bring diverse and unlikely groups of people
together. She is best-remembered for her willingness to mentor and aid others,
including assisting several African students to attend college in the United
She is survived by her brother, Josh, who remains in Elizabeth, and her long-time companion Ahmadou Mbaye of Dakar, Senegal. She is the cousin of author Judy Blume and also survived by her dogs, and Bebe, a chimpanzee she cared for in Niamey.
Her body will remain in Niamey, while her soul remains in all who knew her.
The outpouring of memories about Sue and the impact she has had will be recorded below. It is worthy to note that Sue was a member of the Friends of Niger Board beginning in 2006 as the Niger Liaison. In that capacity for many years Sue helped guide the activities and investments which FON made in Niger. One of the traditions that Sue began was to provide the National Hospital Pediatric ward with chewable vitamins that had been hand-carried over to Niger by FON members and other travelers.
Heavy rains, extreme
flooding starting in August, and the collapse of the dam near Niamey have led
to severe property destruction, displacement, malnutrition and now the spread
of malaria in many parts of Niger. As of
September 15th, 71 people have died due to drowning or injury, and
over 350,000 have had to leave their homes.
The most severely impacted regions include Dosso-Tillabery, Niamey, Tahoua,
Maradi, Zinder, and Agadez.
Friends of Niger has reviewed proposals from 6 reliable non-governmental
organization partners to support their relief work. In view of the
urgency of the situation, FON plans to send at least $1,000 to each of these
NGOs. With your extra help we could send more to each group to be used to
address urgent needs such as: impregnated mosquito nets, emergency food, and
medical aid. How many mosquito nets and supplies can we send? Can
Friends of Niger focuses
its energy and resources on sustainable development activities, but also
recognizes the importance of responding to emergencies such as the current
one. Please give generously now to
support this work! The online donations page is at http://www.friendsofniger.org/donate/donate-via-paypal,
or you may mail a check payable to Friends of Niger, PO Box 452, Haverford,
We are fortunate to have some Board Members with strong connections to some of the most flood-affected areas, in Niamey, Maradi, and Agadez. They have agreed to act as Project Monitors with partner NGOs.
Association pour le Développement de l’Éducation et la Sauvegarde de la Santé (ADESS), in Mont Bagzam, a remote rural community in the Agadez Region.
CONUSA (Conseil des Nigériens aux USA), of which Seybou is president, and Yari is a former officer. CONUSA has already independently raised over $14,000 towards their flood relief efforts in Niamey.
Cadres et Étudiants du Niger (CEN), working in Niamey.
Alliance des Jeunes pour un Développement Endogène (AJDE), a medical team in the University district of Niamey working in coordination with a Nurse Volunteers team.
Association HIMMA, which FON has previously supported in ongoing Cholera prevention and microfinance (grants) programs in Tibiri and Gabi in Maradi Region.
Organisation Vie et Développement-Tedhilt, in the Agadez region.
With your help, FON can send more funds to
address urgent needs, without taking away from our support of projects that
build Niger’s capacity in a long-term way. Possibly we can send a second
distribution to our partners in a few weeks. We will also work with them to
support preparedness for the future, as such floods become more common every
Thank you very much for responding to this emergency,
The proposal to establish AREN (Archive de la République du Niger) has evolved out of the long term relationship between the Republic of Niger and the USA beginning after Niger’s independence, and the advent of the Peace Corps there. This was followed much later by the relationship, linkage, and then student exchange between the Université Abdou Moumouni (UAM) and Boston University (BU).
latter relationship began in the 1980s, when BU Professor John Hutchison served
as a Fulbright Lecturer in Linguistics and Kanuri Language Studies at the UAM
during 1984-85. At the end of that year, he and the BU African Studies Center,
with the assistance of Dr. Jennifer Yanco, a Nigerienist linguist and former
Niger Peace Corps Volunteer, applied for and gained a 3-year USIS University
Linkage Grant (1985-88) for the exchange of faculty members between BU and UAM.
This exchange was rooted in the areas of languages, bilingual education,
linguistics, and education. It linked faculties of education/pedagogy and
departments of languages and linguistics.
Karen Boatman was one of the BU School of Education professors who visited
Niger. She had the foresight and vision to recognize the importance of
proposing student exchange and study abroad between BU and UAM. This next stage
in our collaboration resulted in the Niger study abroad program which came to
be directed by Susan Rosenfeld. It made it possible for BU students to spend a
semester or more in Niger working in internships, coursework and the study of
Nigerien languages and cultures in an international development context. The
program endured for a quarter of a century, from 1987 until 2011.
The long-term relationships that grew out of these collaborative activities and programs have had an enormous impact on the lives and careers of the Americans and the Nigeriens who participated in them. Those who served as Peace Corps volunteers over its nearly 50 years in Niger, as well as the many BU students who did their study abroad there, have benefited from the wisdom of their co-workers, professors, colleagues and friends in Niger. The result is a body of human resources capable of facilitating change in a wide range of mutually beneficial ways. So today when we come together to join our two countries, our institutions, and one another, in this project of establishing AREN at Boston University, we are establishing a forum which brings together many stakeholders, and also which has the potential to facilitate collaborative efforts and the sharing of knowledge. From both sides of the Atlantic, AREN will make it possible to connect for example both Nigerien non-profit organizations and American non-profit organizations, and it will be conducive to collaboration in fundraising and project development that can be mutually beneficial.
In February, FON approved a project with the Kirker Foundation of Niger (KF/N) for $4,000 to help them deliver critically needed medicines and medical supplies, strengthen KF/N advocacy for health services in Niger, and increase local government inputs to promote long-term sustainability of KF/N efforts. These funds will help with the internal Niger costs of clearing the first MAP International shipment of medicines of 2019, over $20 million of medications including antibiotics, eyeglasses and accessories, vitamins as well as medicine for cancer and heart disease, and delivering the medicines to approximately 12 hospitals in Niger. It is due to arrive in Niamey in early May. Just to provide some context, two MAP shipments of medicines in 2018 provided one third of all medications used by the hospitals in Niger.
While we are supporting KF/N in this first MAP shipment through the FON grant, a number of former Niger PCV’s have been helping finance other shipments in earlier years. KAMRA, the US organization that arranges for US donors for the shipments, has been very proud of the RPCV response and wanted us to let everyone know that for each $100 donated, $280,000 in medicines will be made available to the people of Niger this year, a very impressive value for our contribution.
There is a lot of good news coming from the impressive work of the Kirker Foundation, but there is unfortunately still bad news. The good news is that KF/N is helping the local hospital and school in Maine organize kitchens that will serve one meal a day to hospital patients and one meal a day to school children using fortified rice-soy meal packets provided by Rise Against Hunger(RAH), another US organization that works in the poorest and most needy countries. The first two kitchens will have enough packets to provide one meal a day to 400 Nigeriens for up to six months. Once these kitchens are fully running, RAH hopes to expand shipments to set up other kitchens in the hospitals and schools in the Diffa Department and later elsewhere in Niger.
But equally impressive is the work KF/N and KAMRA have done to address health needs of Nigerien women by supporting a shipment of medical equipment and supplies from MedShare to equip a new operating room at the Maternity Hospital in Niamey. When the new OR is set up, Conscience International, a US NGO,very impressed by the seriousness of KF/N and the Ministry of Health, will be sending a team of surgeons to Niamey to train Nigerien providers from hospitals throughout Niger in fistula repair. Fistula is a devastating condition frequently experienced by Nigerien women as a result of early and frequent childbearing and a contributor to the high maternal morbidity and mortality rates in Niger.
The FON grant was also aimed at strengthening KF/N advocacy for health services and increasing local government inputs. KF/N has done well on meeting both objectives. In 2018, the Governor of Tillabery contributed funding to transport medicines from a shipment from Niamey to Tillabery. Transport costs were valued at US $1,000. KF/N is seeking similar local cost-sharing for the currently approved shipment, again from the Governor of Tillabery, as well as from other hospitals throughout Niger where shipments will be targeted.
The bad news is that no single week goes by without Boko Haram attacks in Niger, with more than 80 Nigeriens killed in the Diffa region in March alone. Just last week, Boko Haram attacked the village of Tam, only 10 miles from Maine-Soroa, decapitating the village chief and taking several hostages. Doctors Without Border office in Maine was burned to the ground on
April 27, 2019 and we are unsure how many casualties were involved. The situation in the Tillaberi area is also deteriorating.
The resilience of Nigeriens is amazing, and as disheartening as it is for all of us to see the reports of the continuing problems confronting this poor nation, we cannot give up on them. We should all take pride in the leadership that some Nigeriens are showing in the face of overwhelming odds, and to the extent that we can, we need to continue to find ways to support them.