Category Archives: Features



(What follows is an informal article on the recent Peace Corps Niger reunion, written by a former English teacher who likes to indulge himself by writing about interesting things. And this was really interesting! Please pardon me for errors and omissions. Corrections and additions are welcome! –Gary Steele, Niger RPCV ‘66-’69) 

The Peace Crops Niger Reunion of August 2022 was fabulous! It was a long weekend of wonderful reminiscence, catching up, great times and memories of old times. (This was the sixth approximately quinquennial reunion in Santa Rosa since1991.)

Hats off to our incomparable hosts, Gayle and Bob Reid, who took so many extra measures to assure us a wonderful time, and they clearly succeeded. Was it the beautiful grounds and the gardens, or the patio and the terrace, or the oak grove and the architecture? The setting was superb, but the warmth of the hosts the real factor. 

At least three reasons helped make the event Covid safer: Most of the time was spent outdoors, and even indoors there was significant cross ventilation. Secondly, many of us are trained in medicine/public health and well aware of dangers. And even those of us not in health fields are up on current events and know the importance of Covid mitigation. Lastly, the vaccination and boosting rate in our age cohort is extremely high, even higher in a well-educated subset like us. 

Twenty-six RPCVs made it to the event, and many were accompanied by spouses and significant others for a total of thirty-nine. The weather was nearly perfect. Some evenings had just a bit of a chill. Daytime temps rose to the low 80s but not for long, and there was the very low humidity that the Sonoma is famous for. Above all, love was in the air, love for one another, for Niger, for myriad good causes, and for having some fun. 

Greetings in Kanouri, Housa, Djerma, and French were heard here and there. Stories about old Peace Corps experiences were shared. An example is the experience of sitting down to supper after a long day of heat and work, and then suddenly grabbing plates to run inside as a dust storm sprang up. There were endless tales of latrine woes. Many stories about snakes remain quite vivid. We heard some long-forgotten words like Petromax and Braduni. It is remarkable how much great progress Niger has made in areas such as vaccination rates, child survival, food production, literacy levels, and miles of paved roads. And then there are the ways where so much more needs to be done. 

We gave updates on what had happened to us over the years since Niger, of how our Peace Corps time had inspired us or intensified what we wanted to do in life. And it was remarkable how things we had once taken seriously now seem trivial, e.g., some college course no longer mattered as long as the grade was acceptable. 

There was near unanimity on the pitiful state of current events, at the local, state, national, and international level. There weren’t many happy stories to bring up. 

Now the food was so much better than in our Peace Corps days! It was wonderful, though the conversation was so great that at times we barely stopped to eat. We feasted on salads of many types, enjoyed barbecue and pastry, not to mention tres leches cake! The list goes on. And the two West African ladies who catered on Saturday fixed spinach and pumpkin seed stew, jollof rice, and roasted goat. Oh my! 

How about some credit to the good folks who coordinated with Gayle and Bob and did things to make this reunion such a great one?

A big shout out to Norma Hyatt who served as executive administrator and registrar supreme.

She was ably aided by Robert Porter as bouncer for all events, day and evening, to keep the group from becoming too rowdy and exceeding Sonoma County noise limits.  

Guy Immega developed a wonderful repeating photo loop with photos of our colleagues who have passed. 

This was complemented with a memorial table of additional pictures of all types that Cathy Sharp assembled. Cathy and Guy’s skill and sensitivity helped bring those who are no longer with us back in spirit.

Guy also took any number of pics at the event, casual shots of large groups, small groups, individuals, and then the group photo in front of the fragrant lavender planting. He has generously shared all this on the evite site for the event. And lest we forget, there will be those wonderful mini-interviews that were taped and will be forthcoming. 

Penni St. Hilaire assumed fiduciary responsibilities, doing her high-pressure fundraising undercover to keep our hosts from protesting. The total we all chipped in to give to Gayle and Bob was impressive, and they can do with it as they wish. Just a bit of that total was used to have a grand bouquet delivered to their home on Winter Creek Road a few days after the event. 

David and Ginger Ikeda demonstrated their wonderful talent for smuggling many kilos of a certain agricultural commodity from Hawaii to the US mainland, and it was enjoyed by all. To be specific, that agricultural commodity was chocolate-covered macadamia nuts. 

Less formally, Shelly and Jacob Leib were the probable winners for coming the greatest distance to the event — all the way from boiling, muggy South Florida to dry, cool Northern California. 

Buck McAdoo was at least a contender for the prize of most varied conversational topics. His topics spanned from sailing to mushroom foraging intemperate rainforests. 

Not to be left out is Odessa Reid, a four-footed new addition to the Reid family. This little pup, just six months old, already excels in manipulation skills, scouting around under tables for fallen morsels, and in getting her belly rubbed. She was the runaway favorite for the prize of most beautiful ears!

All are invited to submit nominations for other prizes, such as, perhaps, sampling the most California wines, or losing a cell phone most frequently, paying the most for rental car, or fumbling to find the right rental car back along the driveway under the oaks. Self-nomination is encouraged. 

All present served on subcommittees for table busing, bottle uncorking, dishwashing, beverage re-suppling, ice totting, etc. etc. We were a pretty good bunch in terms of pitching in on all sorts of duties. 

If this reunion was different, it may have been in greater sharing of grandchildren pics on cell phones. After all, some of us do have more grandchildren now. And then there were prolonged “organ recitals” among us. This type of “organ recital “was the kind that takes place when geezers get together and start describing their gallbladder operations, pacemaker insertions, etc. These recitals were supplemented by “joint recitals,” which had particular emphases on replacements of various joints. 

Several people where shamelessly exposing themselves, or at least their knees, to show the patterns of patella scars left after knee replacements. Continuing in the medical vein, many of us are no longer sporting glasses after having lens implants related to cataract operations. Oh, and there were numerous dental implants.

And as if to prove that we are not just a bunch of near-octogenarians, we showed ourselves thoroughly up-to-date. We flaunted our Wordl skills! Yep, and David Ikeda won another prize, sort of, by having Wordl-worthy first AND last names. And if there was a special waiver to allow cheating and adding proper nouns, then let’s add Sahel, Housa, Jerma, Dosso, and Niger! Great minds think alike. Often. Maybe. Sorta. Right? (If this paragraph evades you, go googleWordl!) 

The discussions of the films, books, and movies were terrific, and as a group, we have very refined tastes, as in “simply the best!” Thanks to these interests, an idea surfaced to send out a very simple monthly email, something like “Arts for the Astute of Peace Corps Niger.” It would consist of some mini-reviews of good TV shows, films, and books. The reviews would be submitted to the co-editors of the email in advance each month. 

And so the search is on for a couple co-editors who would want to implement this idea and come out with a pilot email maybe in September. Estimated time needed would be maybe three or four hours a month. Warning! This is not search for people with ideas on how this monthly email should be done. Rather it is for people who will just do it. (Co-editor candidates

It was bittersweet as individuals and couples gradually started to drift away on Sunday, walking down the oak-lined driveway and waving goodbye. Many would agree that we had not had a weekend like this since before the pandemic. A fabulous time was had by all!

Annual Report & request for donations

“Alheri gadon barci ne.”   Hausa proverb

A kindness is never wasted.

Dear Friends of Niger Members,

Isn’t it true that during your time in Niger you were the recipient of countless alheri? Certainly, we would stand up and attest that Nigeriens are some of the kindest people we have ever met!

You and I represent a tiny fraction of the population that knows anything at all about Niger. From having lived and worked there, we have a better understanding of what life is like in Niger and what the needs are. We care about the humanitarian toll that poverty takes on individuals, families, and communities – many of whom we know and consider dear friends.

Friends of Niger offers a way for you to continue to support effective life-changing development and humanitarian work even after your time there has ended. Your donations support vocational training for youth, solar electrification of health clinics, and biocontrol of millet-boring pests, to name a few.

The reports and pictures we receive from the Nigeriens who successfully implement these projects, and from the participants and recipients themselves, are a testament to the work that the Friends of Niger is doing to support Nigeriens and Niger.

Our mission is to promote and support sustainable development efforts in Niger, and our new FON Board of Directors is looking forward to continue fulfilling this mission in 2022! Many of our projects target women and children aiming to improve economic opportunities, nutrition, and health. Please take a few minutes to read the informative 2021 Grants Report and contact us if you would like to learn more or get more involved.

This year, one of our generous donors is planning to give $10,000 and challenges you to support this work by donating as much as is comfortable for you – no matter the amount. We are truly grateful for and count on your continuing support of Friends of Niger!

Your gift can help in so many ways.  Please write a check and mail it to PO Box 452, Haverford, PA 19041; or go to our website at and donate via PayPal by clicking on the “DONATE” button. Your gift to the Friends of Niger is tax-deductible and makes a real impact on families in the country we love.

Please do it today.  Please donate and touch someone in Niger. A kindness is never wasted.

Please see our 2021 Annual Grant Report HERE.

Thank you so much for your past and future support.


Amy Wilson, President         John Baird, Past President
Friends of Niger,

Tribute to Irma Poots

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.

Love, Hadija (Linda)

Sue Rosenfeld In Memoriam

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.

One of 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 States.

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. 


Friends of Niger,

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 you help?

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, or you may mail a check payable to Friends of Niger, PO Box 452, Haverford, PA  19041. 

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 year.

Thank you very much for responding to this emergency,

John Baird, President
Friends of Niger

Flood response donations welcomed by Friends of Niger.

Friends of Niger is currently reviewing several requests from organizations for flood assistance and we hope to provide some support through them to those in need soon.

The Nigerien expatriate group CONUSA has already raised over $2,000.

To donate now, you can either go to to use PayPal, or write a check payable to Friends of Niger and mail to: Friends of Niger PO Box 452 Haverford, PA 19041.

Thank you for lending a hand at a critical time. Fonda goy and Merci.

FLOODING update as of Sept. 7, 2020

Three months of pounding rain in Niger have left 65 people dead and affected nearly 330,000, while several areas of the capital Niamey remain underwater.

The ministry of humanitarian action and disaster reported that as of September 7, 51 people had died when their home collapsed in the floods, and 14 had drowned.

The worst-affected regions are Maradi in the central south of the country, Tahoua and Tillaberi in the west, and Dosso in the southwest.

At least 10 of the deaths were in the capital Niamey, where the rain caused the Niger river to breach its banks, municipal authorities said.

Flooding last year claimed 57 lives and affected 226,000 people nationwide.

“Road Trip Niger” Film Premier to Benefit the NOMAD Foundation

Road Trip Niger

Sunday, February 5, 2:00pm, at the Ojai Valley Community Church, 907 El Centro St., Ojai, California.

Born to Play Productions presents a film about the adventures of the filmmakers in a country as far from home as imaginable, to discover the nomadic tribes of Niger, the vast, unforgiving and breathtaking Sahara desert, and the work of the Nomad Foundation.

Film, music, appetizers, no host bar & silent auction to benefit the Nomad Foundation.

Special Tuareg guests from Niger:  
Boucha Mohamed, Nigers minister of livestock & Sidi Mamane, Niger rep of the Nomad Foundation, & mayor of Ingall

And a live sampler of music from the film singer/songwriter, Ned Clark and guitarist, Bob Wright.

Get your tickets here:

Web site:

Fallen Volunteers

Memorial Day is about remembering those who have sacrificed their lives in service of this country. Let’s not forget that there is another kind of service for our country, and take a moment to remember the nearly 300 Peace Corps Volunteers who lost their lives during their time abroad: the Fallen Peace Corps Volunteers.

Fallen Peace Corps Volunteers is a web site dedicated to these volunteers, with the ultimate goal of  honoring their memory with a memorial in Washington, DC. Take a moment to read about these individuals who gave it all:

We honor both these fallen volunteers, as well as the members of the armed services who gave their lives. I like to think they all had a common goal for the world: peace.