Category Archives: Features


Mark Wentling, Former Niger PC Staffer Releases Second Book In Trilogy

Former PC Niger staffer (and Togo RPCV) Mark Wentling has just released the second book in his African Trilogy.

Published by Peace Corps Writers, Africa’s Release is available at It will be made available as a Kindle e-book in the coming weeks. 

From Amazon:

Journey to another time and place in Mark Wentling’s magical new novel, Africa’s Release.

The residents of Gemini, Kansas, have grown used to the odd man who goes by the name of JB and roams their neighborhood in a befuddled state. But when he abruptly disappears one night, the townspeople find themselves facing uncomfortable questions, as JB’s life and the dark discoveries in his ramshackle home are made public.

Little do they know that JB’s ramblings have all been for a purpose: to transport him back to the African village he left many years before. Now he has returned to the old baobab tree that had years ago swallowed him up—an event that elevated him to the level of demigod in the eyes of the remaining villagers.

This sequel to the popular Africa’s Embrace, and the second book in Wentling’s trilogy, is sure to enchant readers once more.

Skeletons of the Sahara: National Geographic

PBS is currently airing an intriguing new documentary about one of the largest prehistoric human burial grounds found in the Sahara. As with many of these discoveries, this one is located in the remote deserts of Niger.

From the show:

Over 10 years and five expeditions, Sereno has found more than 200 burial plots, each more intriguing than the last: a man buried with his head in a pot; another buried sitting in a turtle shell; a girl with a bracelet carved from hippo bone; and most striking of all, a woman embracing two children, hands entwined in a triple burial.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that the bones are from two separate civilizations, Kiffian and Tenerian, thousands of years apart, yet the dead are buried side by side. Scattered throughout the site, artifacts offer clues to the lives they led – arrowheads, intricate jewelry and, perhaps most surprising of all, harpoons carved from bone.

Who were the Kiffians and Tenerians? How did they live? How did they die?

Watch the full National Geographic special here on PBS (in high definition no less).

Full URL:


New e-book: The Buduma Culture of Lake Chad

Niger RPCV Guy Immega has released a new e-book, Ancient Egypt’s Lost Legacy? The Buduma Culture of Lake Chad, featuring much detailed information about the culture of the very remote, eastern parts of Niger. Guy has generously shared his book with us as a PDF file, that you can download and read here (PDF, 7.2 MB).

Full URL:

You can also get a special version of the e-book on the Apple iBooks store. The e-book edition, designed for the Apple iPad, provides high resolution images, Buduma music files, and hyperlinks for $1.99. It may be the last (and only) record of the Buduma people who lived on Lake Chad.

Look for Guy’s other Peace Corps e-book, Smallpox, Slavery and Toubou Warriors, in the Apple iBook store.

Selling Your Last Camel

This Associated Press story provides a chilling look into the reality facing many nomads in the face of famine and drought.
From the article:

In markets all over Niger, hungry people are selling hungry animals for half their normal value, giving up on the milk and money of tomorrow so that their children can eat today. Their plight is a sign of how far the economy of the desert has broken down, leaving its people unable to feed themselves in drought after drought.

This is a community so tied to its animals that children play with miniature camels or cows cut from rock. It’s in livestock that a man settles disputes, pays the dowry for his future bride and leaves an inheritance to his sons.

So to see a nomad sell his last camel is like watching someone sell their house and car, liquidate their 401(k) and empty their bank account all at once, just to buy groceries.

Read more…

Full URL:

The NH Seacoast Community Celebrates With Bombino In An Evening Of Music And Hope For Niger

Music with a message of peace.

On April 5th, 300 people, along with the Ambassadors of Niger and Gabon, danced, clapped and cheered for Tuareg sensation Bombino at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH to support RAIN’s programs in Niger.

Bombino at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH

At the reception before the performance, Portsmouth Mayor Eric Spears was on hand to deliver to Bombino and the Ambassadors a special welcome and to proclaim April 5, 2012 as West Africa Day in Portsmouth, expressing pride in the city’s role in bringing new life to RAIN’s partner nomadic communities.

Representing Friends of Niger were John Hutchison and Larry Koff. RAIN and FON have worked together to petition for Peace Corps reinstatement in Niger as well as support for NGOs in the region in Washington D.C.

During the concert, Bombino sang songs about unity and reconciliation, of the beauty of the desert and of nomadic life. He spoke to the audience about the importance of education in his homeland, sharing his plans for an upcoming Peace Tour to promote Niger as a model of peace for the West African region.

Bombino and Group with Ambassadors

The Ambassador of Niger, the Hon. Maman Sidikou, spoke of the resiliency and hope of his country. He expressed that despite recent unrest, Niger is a country of diverse people, unified in their identity as Nigeriens and in their shared goal of engagement with each other and their neighbors. He also expressed how inspired and moved he was by the huge show of support for his country demonstrated that evening by their New England friends.

New Friends, New Partners

The air of excitement and enthusiasm was palpable as the Portsmouth audience gave Bombino and his group multiple standing ovations. As for RAIN, we couldn’t have asked for a warmer reception and are excited to share their vision of a Niger where people with access to education, food and water have the freedom to choose to live in their tradition in safety and good health with a wider circle of supporters.

For more information about RAIN, visit the Rain for the Sahel and Sahara web site.

Full URL:

Bombino On The Web…

Watch Bombino give a stellar performance at the Grande Mosquée in Agadez, in January of 2010:

DVDs of Brother From Niger Now Available Free of Charge

During this year of the 50th Anniversary of Peace Corps the Board of Friends of Niger would like to encourage Friends of Niger members to distribute copies of the DVD of Brother from Niger, which follows former Friends of Nigerpresident Jim Schneider in 2002 as he returns to Niger, a country he once called home, a country that is still as poor as when he left it in 1966. In a ‘Brother from Niger’, award-winning journalist Andrew Younger brings a story of courage, hope, and struggle from one of the world’s poorest countries.

This DVD would be very helpful for teachers of an African Studies Unit in elementary school or Global Studies teachers in high school, for Multicultural Studies Programs, or for Returned Peace Corps Speakers Bureau Programs. Friends of Niger will ship the desired number of copies free of charge to encourage members to bring the third goal of the Peace Corps: bringing knowledge of our country of service back to the people of the United States. Copies are also available in VHS format.

To request copies, send an email to current president John Soloninka at For questions or more details, please contact FON Vice President Gabriella Maertens at

Niger ’66 A Peace Corps Diary

Five Returned Peace Corps Volunteers began filming their experiences during a return trip to Niger in 2008. Now they are hoping to turn these experiences into a full-length documentary.

Jic Clubb, Filingue 1967

From the documentary web site:

In the summer of 1966 a group of 65 idealistic Peace Corps volunteers headed for Africa and landed in the dusty, heat-scorched desert of Niger.

We stayed for two years working in agriculture, digging wells and starting health clinics for women and their babies.

In 2008 five of us returned to Niger to revisit the country, see our old friends and witness how our work has improved the lives of the people there.

The documentary also explores the culture shock of re-entry into the U.S. in the turmoil of 1968 and how our experience in Africa influenced our future work.

This is our collective story.

Come check out the Niger ’66 web site to see the trailer and read about the progress of the film.

Full URL:

After Nearly Four Decades Apart A Friendship Blossoms

In case you missed it, come check out our April 2009 Camel Express (PDF, 1.3 MB), posted directly below, for the heartwarming story about how a Peace Corps volunteer from the early 1970’s reunited with his old Nigerien friend over thirty years later, and they continued to enrich each other’s lives.

John and Idy reunite after 31 years

John Baird first met Idy Gondah while living in his village as a volunteer in the early 70’s. John never thought that decades later he would help Idy’s son Mourtalla make the dream of coming to America to further his education become real, but against long odds Idy is already one year through his education.

In addition to the Camel Express, you can find more information about John, Idy, and Mourtallah on two MySpace pages set up with information about their story and how you can help Mourtallah and others with their educations:

John’s page dedicated to helping African students:

Mourtallah’s Story: