San Diego Peace Corps Association Newsletter

July-August 2001 Volume 14, Number 4

The Lost Boys of the Sudan

Horrific Record of Bush UN Appointee

From the President

Board Minutes

PC News Bites

Welcome, New Members!

Host Country Updates

Mark J Tonner I. S. Fund 2001 Awards



Newsletter Credits


Introduction to The Lost Boys of the Sudan:
Sharon Kennedy, former SDPCA board member and staff member at International Rescue Committee (which handles refugee resettlement in the San Diego area) introduces us to the Kakuma [Refugee Camp] youth, the Lost Boys of the Sudan:

"Orphans since a very young age, they have raised themselves mostly in a refugee camp in Kenya, where they spent the past ten years. They speak great English yet are unexposed to the ways of the modern world. Telephones and TVs are new to them. Naive yet wise from their experience, the boys remain hopeful that the United States will offer them a better life. I have never met a more positive or friendly group of young men. They are a joy to know and it is my sincere hope that they make the US their home in a safe and productive manner.

"As you will read, their needs are great. The ones coming here are actually young men over the age of 18 - they are tall and thin - they need adult clothing that will fit them. Shoe sizes 9 through 11. Also, in San Diego, we are not getting any boys under the age of 18 so none of ours are going to live with families - they all live in groups of 3 or 4 in local apartments. Thus, they are responsible for cooking and cleaning, etc. and that is where the household goods come in handy. They have asked specifically for things like irons, alarm clocks, radios, tvs, answering machines, etc. If you are interested in helping out as a volunteer (mentor, tutor, etc.) or donor (household goods, tall and thin men's clothing, furniture, or cash), please feel free to contact me at (619) 641-7519 or Enjoy the article." -Sharon Kennedy

Many thanks to Sara Corbett, the author who lives in Portland, Maine, and to Amanda Morgan, Marjory Clyne, Sharon Kennedy and Rudy Sovinee who supported in the processing of this article. Photographs collected by Amanda Morgan.

April 1, 2001
The Lost Boys of the Sudan:

The Long, Long, Long Road From Sudan to America

By Sara Corbett, NY Times Sunday Magazine.

One evening late in January, a 21-year-old named Peter Dut led his two teenage brothers through the brightly lighted corridors of the Minneapolis airport, trying to mask his confusion. Two days before, they had encountered their first light switch and tried their first set of stairs. An aid worker in Nairobi had demonstrated the flush toilet to them--also the seat belt, the shoelace, the fork. And now they found themselves alone in Minneapolis, three bone-thin African boys confronted by a swirling river of white faces and rolling suitcases, blinking television screens and telephones that rang, inexplicably, from the inside of people's pockets. Here they were, uncertain of even the rug beneath their feet, looking for this place called Gate C31. Finally, a traveling businessman recognized their uncertainty. "Where are you flying to?" he asked kindly, and they told him. The eldest brother, his eyes deeply bloodshot, explained the situation in halting, bookish English. A few days ago, they had left a small mud hut in a blistering hot Kenyan refugee camp, where after walking for hundreds of miles across Sudan they had lived as orphans for the past nine years. They were now headed, with what Peter called "great wishes," to a new home in the U.S.A.

"Where?" the man asked when Peter Dut said the city's name. "Fargo? North Dakota? You gotta be kidding me. It's too cold there. You'll never survive it!" And then he laughed. Peter Dut had no idea why. In the meantime, the temperature in Fargo had dropped to 15 below, with an unwelcoming wind shearing off another 20 degrees. For the three Sudanese boys about to touch down on North Dakota's snowy plains, cold was still a concept without weight. All they knew of it was what they had felt, grasping a bottle of frozen water an aid worker handed them one day during a "cultural orientation" session at the Kakuma Refugee Camp, a place where the temperature hovers around 100 degrees. Cold was little more than a word, the same way "flight" had been just a word until the moment their cargo plane lifted out of the red dust on Jan. 29, causing their stomachs to lurch as the earth below them--the sprawl of huts and the dried riverbeds and over a thousand hungry well-wishers lining the airstrip--tilted and fell away.

Peter Dut and his two brothers belong to an unusual group of refugees referred to by aid organizations as the Lost Boys of Sudan, a group of roughly 10,000 boys who arrived in Kenya in 1992 seeking refuge from their country's fractious civil war, which pits a northern, Khartoum-based Islamic government against Christian and animist rebels in the south. What is remarkable about the Lost Boys, who were named after Peter Pan's posse of orphans, is that they arrived in throngs, having been homeless and parentless for the better part of five years. As a group, they covered in the neighborhood of 1,000 miles, from Sudan to Ethiopia, Ethiopia back to Sudan and finally to Kenya a slow-moving column of mostly children that stretched for miles across the equatorial wilderness. The majority of the boys belonged to the Dinka or Nuer tribes, and most were then between the ages of 8 and 18. (Most of the boys don't know for sure how old they are; aid workers assigned them approximate ages after they arrived in 1992.) As Red Cross and United Nations relief workers scrambled to find shelter for them, the boys--which is how they all, regardless of age, refer to one another--described an almost unfathomable journey.

They endured attacks from the northern army and marauding bandits, as well as lions who preyed on the slowest and weakest among them. The oldest boys carried the youngest in their arms. Many died from starvation or thirst. Others drowned or were eaten by crocodiles as soldiers forced them to cross a swollen Ethiopian river. According to U.S. State Department estimates, during an upsurge in fighting that began in 1987, some 17,000 boys [some reports list 20,000 or 30,000] were separated from their families and fled southern Sudan in an exodus of biblical proportions. Yet by the time the Lost Boys reached the Kakuma Refugee Camp, their numbers had been cut nearly in half.

Shortly after the Lost Boys settled into Kakuma, which is set on an arid plain 60 miles from the Sudan border in northwest Kenya, various psychologists documented the group's extreme exposure to violence and death: as many as 74 percent of the boys survived shelling or air bombardment, 85 percent saw someone die from starvation, 92 percent said they were shot at and 97 percent witnessed a killing. Scott Peterson, a journalist and the author of "Me Against My Brother: At War in Somalia, Sudan and Rwanda," described the Lost Boys, whom he met several times during their itinerant years, as "among the most badly war-traumatized children ever examined."

Now, after nine years of subsisting on rationed corn mush and lentils and living largely ungoverned by adults, the Lost Boys of Sudan were coming to America. In 1999, having determined that repatriation was not an option, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, working together with the State Department, recommended roughly 3,600 of them for resettlement in the United States. About 500 of the Lost Boys still under the age of 18 will immigrate to the U.S. by the end of this year, becoming the largest resettled group of unaccompanied refugee children in history. With federal funds and the help of social service agencies--primarily Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services and the United States Catholic Conference--they will be placed in foster homes and apartments in cities across the country. Most are expected to start school within a month of their arrival--at a grade level commensurate with their ages, thanks to the rigorous English schooling that most boys received at Kakuma. The remaining 3,100 or so Lost Boys will be resettled as adults by the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, initially living on federal cash assistance. After five years, each boy will be eligible for citizenship, provided he has turned 21.

On the night that I stood waiting for Peter Dut and his brothers to land in Fargo, about 400 of the Lost Boys were already in the country, and I had met a small number of them. In Boston, I watched one new arrival scream and run in fear at the sight of an escalator. Riding along a wooded road en route to his new suburban home, another peered anxiously out the window of his foster family's gleaming minivan before finally gathering the courage to ask, "Are there lions in this bush?" Given the magnitude of these kids' adjustment, it was hard not to wonder how it would all work out.

I am quite certain that Peter was thinking something similar when he ducked out of the USAir flight that carried his all-male family to Fargo, a city that is 97 percent white. The brothers spent 36 hours in transit, passing through Nairobi, Brussels, New York and Minneapolis, jumping nine time zones. They had traveled without money or coats or luggage beyond the small backpacks that contained only some photographs of friends, several prayer books and an African shirt and cap Peter brought as a means of remembering their homeland.

It was now nearly 11 p.m., and the airport stood eerily hushed. The wind was hurtling off the prairie, rattling the broad windows, while tendrils of snow snaked across the tarmac. The usual gaggle of briefcase-toters and college kids filed from the gate and then, a head above the rest, came the three brothers--Peter, Maduk and Riak--each one long-limbed and lanky, with flashing eyes and dark African skin and wearing a quiet and unreadable expression. (At the request of resettlement agencies, the refugees' last names are not used here.) They came, as most of the Lost Boys had, with hopes of furthering their education and with worries, too, having heard rumors that America was a land covered in ice and darkness and that black boys could not walk with white girls without getting shot. Cultural orientation class had taught them a few things&endash;that houses would have many rooms, that women held the same jobs as men--but like the cold, this was all still inconceivable. The words describing America had piled up without real meaning: freedom, democracy, a safe place, a land with food enough for everyone.

Each brother wore a thin gray sweatsuit issued by the State Department, along with a pair of flimsy white canvas sneakers. Each carried his precious immigration documents in a plastic bag. Maduk, 17, and Riak, 15, appeared petrified and uncertain of what was to happen next, but Peter Dut, who is small-framed with a high forehead and a thoughtful demeanor that bespeaks the fact that he has been in charge of his family since turning 12, stepped forward. He pumped the hand of Michelle Irmen, a 25-year-old caseworker from Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, who stood smiling nervously. As she started to usher the three boys toward a pile of winter coats and hats she had bought for them earlier that day, she realized that Peter was not following. He was instead studying the black night and spiraling snow through the airport window, puzzled, remembering possibly what that businessman in Minneapolis said about surviving Fargo. "Excuse me," he said, worriedly eyeing the dark ice-covered plains of his new American home. "Can you tell me, please, is it now night or day?"

This is a stove burner. This is a can opener. This is a brush for your teeth. The new things came in a tumble. The brothers' home was a sparsely furnished two-bedroom apartment in the basement of a sterile-looking complex on Fargo's south side, for which they would pay $445 a month. It had been stocked by a resettlement agency employee, primarily with donations from area churches and businesses, and the randomness reflected as much: there were two bundt pans, six tubes of toothpaste and no towels or cutting knives. Nonetheless, it was a good start. A loaf of white bread sat on the counter alongside a bunch of ripe bananas. There were cans of beans, a jumbo box of Corn Flakes, tea bags, a modest collection of mismatched dishes and a gallon of whole milk in the refrigerator.

Another caseworker, an energetic and somewhat impatient Somalian man named Yusuf Ibrahim, worked the kitchen faucet for Maduk and Riak's benefit, speaking in loud, deliberate English. "Hot. Cold. On. Off. Do you see?" Maduk, whose wide-set eyes and broad cheekbones give him a sweetly soulful appearance, nodded carefully, as Riak, whose face still carries a childlike roundness, giggled behind him. Each boy then took a turn at the sink, awkwardly shoving the faucet handle to and fro.

Back in the living room, the quick-moving Ibrahim emptied a garbage bag full of donated clothing on the couch: a couple of weathered three-piece suits and some polyester pants and short-sleeved pastel shirts. Most of it looked to have come straight from the closet of an elderly man, one who wintered in Miami, no less. Watching young Maduk check the size of a rumpled shirt against his spidery shoulders, I was struck by an uncomfortable feeling, one I would have more than once during my time in Fargo. I fully understood that these boys were lucky, that there were thousands of Sudanese left behind in Kakuma--and millions of refugees stuck in camps across the globe--but still I could imagine, painfully, the small indignities and cultural stumbling blocks that lay ahead. As petty as this seems, the feel-good power of American charity was lost on me the second I imagined Maduk showing up for his first day of high school dressed in government-issue white canvas boat shoes and a shirt better suited for a retiree on a cruise ship.

Working at refugee camp

Someone more versed in refugee politics might point out that these kids have spent most of their lives as the beneficiaries of first-world donations, and they are obviously fortunate for it. According to State Department estimates, the combination of war, famine and disease in southern Sudan has killed more than two million people and displaced another four million. The Kakuma Refugee Camp has no less than eight international aid organizations operating within its fences, with the United Nations providing subsistence-level food rations for the 65,000 refugees from seven African nations currently living there. What little clothing they have came mostly from American church drives, and as a result, the boys in Fargo had a surprisingly refined sense of what could pass for cool. The following day, when another bag of clothes arrived at the apartment, Riak immediately pounced on a sleeveless Denver Nuggets jersey, while Maduk contented himself with a pair of ill-fitting jeans.

That the boys are accustomed to receiving aid concerns some of those who have helped provide it. "They're going from an environment where you've basically been given everything at the camp to an environment where you have to work, you have to produce," says Steve Redding, who directs the Kenya and southern Sudan programs of International Rescue Committee. "It's a huge leap." And if my first impulse was to want to shelter Peter, Maduk and Riak from the shock of this transition, Ibrahim, who arrived as a refugee from Somalia in 1996, took an unsparing, sink-or-swim approach. Clearly, he had had to wrestle with everything from can openers to food stamps himself at one point, and he had muddled through. In addition to working as a Lutheran Social Services case manager, Ibrahim runs a small African import business in Fargo, and like any good American entrepreneur, he conducts much of his business on a cell phone while driving his S.U.V.

Before taking leave of Fargo's newest arrivals late that night, Ibrahim sternly inspected the three young men, who now sat on their donated couch, fingering their donated clothes and sagging with fatigue as the wind howled outside. As if reading their thoughts, he issued a booming, fatherly admonishment. "Open your eyes," he told them. "Don't think of Africa. Start your new life strong."

The next day, when I returned to the apartment at noon, Maduk greeted me wearing a pair of ski gloves, though they had pushed the thermostat to above 75. Riak, looking bleary, said he had slept poorly, plagued by dreams of men fighting with spears. Peter, however, was bright-eyed and eager, dressed in a green wool hat and a navy blue three-piece suit. They had been up since 5, he said. They were terribly hungry.

"What about your food?" I asked, gesturing to the bread and bananas and the box of cereal sitting on the counter.

Peter grinned sheepishly. "We are uncertain for whom it is designated." They were not only hesitant to eat without permission but also seemed challenged by the food itself, circling the box of Corn Flakes as if it were a museum piece or something that, improperly touched, might explode. Though I had explained to them that I was in Fargo for professional reasons, to write an article about their journey, they were now looking to me for help. The four of us stood quietly before the food in a shared moment of confusion, until finally I seized the box of Corn Flakes and handed it to Maduk. "Open this," I said. He looked at me blankly, and it dawned on me that in a lifetime of cooking maize and beans over a fire pit, he had never before opened a box.

And so began an opening spree. We opened a bag of potato chips. We opened a can of beans and untwisted the tie on the bagged loaf of bread. We unwrapped some I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and dropped a pat to sizzle in a hot pan on the stove. We cracked eggs, each boy taking his turn, erupting into paroxysms of laughter as the shell shattered in his grasp. After the eggs were scrambled and the food laid out, Peter, Maduk and Riak sat down and ate, chewing loudly, not saying a word until most of it was gone.

Despite their numbers, the lost boys tell stories that are remarkably similar and uniformly disturbing. One afternoon this winter, I visited with a group of five 18-year-olds who were renting a two-story bungalow next to a busy 7-Eleven in Grand Rapids, Mich. They had arrived a month earlier, just before Christmas, and though they lived independently, a retired dental technician named Dave Bowman, volunteering through a Christian resettlement agency, checked on them almost daily. When we gathered in their living room to talk, Bowman, whom the boys call Dad, presided proudly.

They were as raucous and spirited as teenagers often are, jostling for position on the couch and hamming and throwing rapper poses when I pulled out a camera. They spoke excitedly about all the changes the last month had wrought. They were learning to play basketball. ("We practice a lot, but we are not expert in it," reported a boy named James.) They were mastering housekeeping. ("We have learned the cleaning machine," announced another, Phillip, gesturing toward the spotless beige pile carpet.) They were perplexed by American teenagers: the fact that girls wore trousers, that 16-year-old boys could be so big and healthy, that students often disrespected their teachers.

When I asked to hear about the journey that took them from Sudan to Kakuma, they stopped fidgeting and instantly grew more thoughtful. This was common among the Lost Boys I spoke with. While they can be strikingly unemotional describing the horrors of their pasts, they nonetheless seem eager for Americans to appreciate the plight of their country. Predictably, those who had been in the United States a month or more were the most comfortable reflecting on what they had been through, while newer arrivals often seemed overwhelmed. In this particular group, a rangy, slightly walleyed boy named William Deng dominated the conversation. He was dressed in a high-school wrestling sweatshirt and neatly pressed khakis. He carefully removed his baseball cap before beginning to speak in precise, practiced English.

Classes in refugee camp

It was November 1987. As was the custom for boys in the Dinka tribe, William spent much of his time tending to his family's cattle in the bush several miles from his village in the Upper Nile region and camping out at night with his two brothers and a couple of cousins. One afternoon, they heard the sound of gunfire near the village, but dismissed it, figuring that bandits had come to raid for food. "The next morning, we were about to go home when we saw the smoke," William continued. "I climbed a tree and saw that my whole village was burned." When the boys went to investigate, their fears were confirmed.

"Nobody was left standing. Some were wounded; some were killed. My father was dead in the compound. So we just ran away. I was 5 years old at the time." William suspects that his village was wiped out by the northern government's Islamic army, which has engaged in a brutal 17-year campaign to break the south and bring it under Khartoum's sway. As much as it is a religious war in which light-skinned Arabs oppose dark-skinned Africans, it is also a battle for control over southern Sudan's undeveloped resources--its oil fields and arable soil. And caught in between are the Dinka and Nuer tribes, who have seen their villages burned, their livestock stolen, their families decimated. Civilians are deliberately targeted, and access to food aid is manipulated as a matter of military strategy, resulting in widespread famine. The systematic violence and destruction in southern Sudan must be counted as one of the last century's most brutal wars.

Sitting in his Grand Rapids living room, William Deng easily conjured the 13-year-old memories, recalling in vivid detail what had been only the beginning of a tortuous journey. After two days of hiding in the bush with a handful of other boys from his village, he was discovered by soldiers of the Sudan People's Liberation Army, a ragtag rebel group that defends southern Sudan from the northern army. According to William, the first thing their protectors did was to "select some soldiers." (The liberation army has been criticized by a number of human rights groups for recruiting children to fight in the civil war.) They then instructed the younger boys to head east toward Ethiopia, where they might find a school. "They told us we should resettle," he said, his fingers kneading the baseball cap in his lap. "Your people are not alive,' they told us. 'You better go get an education."'

Mural about Life in a Camp

The rebel soldiers neglected to mention that Ethiopia was hundreds of miles away. When I brought this up, William responded a touch bitterly. "Yes, when you want to trick a child, you say you are just going a few miles, to safety," he said. "But it took us many weeks to walk there. Some of us were eaten by animals; some were shot. Many of us died."

As government troops cut a swath through southern Sudan, reportedly killing the adults and taking girls as slaves, scattered groups of surviving boys, suddenly orphaned, were discovered by the rebel army and pointed toward Ethiopia. Almost impossibly, their numbers swelled into the thousands, as more and more boys made their way toward safety in a kind of surreal diaspora, often following in the footsteps of their elders, who were now not much older than 12. Some intact families joined the march (Peter, Maduk and Riak made the trek with their parents and three of their sisters, all of whom were shot by government soldiers three years later), but unaccompanied boys still composed the majority.

By most accounts, the journey to Ethiopia took between 6 and 10 weeks. The boys foraged for what food they could find, surviving on leaves and berries and the occasional boon of a wart hog carcass. Some boys staved off dehydration by drinking their own urine. All the while, they tried to avoid other humans, since nearly anyone they encountered--government troops, rebel recruitment squads, slave traders and rival tribes --would very likely be hostile. The itinerant children traveled mostly under cover of darkness, hiding by day in forests and swamps.

Over time, many grew weak from hunger and exhaustion and fell behind, becoming easy prey for lions. Some of the boys were reportedly trampled by buffalo. When the marshlands of the west gave way to desertlike terrain, they found themselves with neither food nor water, and thousands, it has been estimated, died as a result. "How did I keep walking?" said one boy, describing the desert crossing to a writer visiting Kakuma. "When I saw a small boy walking, I would say: 'See this small boy? He is walking.' And I would carry on."

Near the Ethiopian border is a quick-flowing river called the Gilo, and many more of the Lost Boys died while attempting to cross it. Phillip, one of the boys in Grand Rapids, said that he had had good luck at the Gilo: he and seven friends were able to climb into two boats. Midway across the river, however, the second boat flipped. "Three drowned and one was eaten by a crocodile," he said. Then he gestured toward James, a quick-to-smile, gap-toothed boy sitting across the room. "He was with me then," Phillip said. "He is like my brother now."

At the refugee camps

In Ethiopia, the Lost Boys passed three years living in several U.N.-supported camps, watched over by armed soldiers from the Sudan People's Liberation Army, some no older than the boys themselves. There has been speculation that the army conducted military training inside these camps; at the very least, the rebel army had a stake in keeping the Lost Boys alive. "Those boys were their recruitment pool," says one journalist who visited the Ethiopian camps in 1990 and observed the army's strict control over them. "Those were their future soldiers. They didn't want the manhood of the nation, so to speak, to be wiped out."

Yet in the constantly shifting mosaic of African geopolitics, whatever stability they had was relatively short lived. In 1991, when the Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam was overthrown and replaced by a leader no longer sympathetic to the liberation army, the boys were forced back into Sudan. With Ethiopian and Sudanese militias at their heels, they again tried to cross the Gilo River and again, they say, huge numbers of them perished. Over the next 14 months, the boys made their way back through Sudan as a group, living for a time in a place called Pochala, where it has been reported that every boy, fearing attack, dug a foxhole outside his door.

Refugee camp living quarters

Somehow, more than 10,000 of the boys miraculously trailed into Kenya and into the arms of the United Nations during the summer of 1992--even as Khartoum government forces bombed the rear of their procession as a final farewell. "Some are still dying, even in the refugee camp," William Deng said that day in Grand Rapids. Then he put the cap back on his head and stood up. They were leaving soon for a weekend bus trip to northern Michigan with a local youth group, and it was time to pack. Within minutes, the five boys had bounded upstairs, where to the beat of Michael Jackson's "Bad" they filled their backpacks with sweaters, snow boots, a biography of Michael Jordan, a stick of Old Spice--all the curious riches of their new life.

We feel very happy," Peter Dut told me on his third day in America. "The only problem here is the coolness." Along with Riak and Maduk, he had just run through fresh snow in a comic, storklike sprint from the front door of his apartment complex to the dubious shelter of my car. He was again in his three-piece-suit ensemble but today had added a pair of vinyl cowboy boots found in one of the donation bags, so small for his feet he couldn't zip them. As the two younger boys sat in the back seat, their breath pooling in frozen clouds before their faces, Peter forced a brave smile. It was 9 below.

The night before, Maduk had been gripped by stomach cramps and diarrhea, his 6-foot-1, 141-pound body reacting violently to the sudden influx of proteins and complex carbohydrates. They were now eating with more caution, sticking mainly to white bread, their supply of which was nearly gone. I realized, of course, that they didn't have a dime with which to buy food. According to their caseworker, Ibrahim, the boys would receive food stamps once their Social Security paperwork was processed, and it was anyone's best guess when this would happen. Having watched Maduk suffer, deeply embarrassed, the evening before, I made up my mind to try to find them some familiar food.

At the Kakuma Refugee Camp, food rations had been distributed once every 15 days, with each resident receiving a carefully calibrated allotment of six kilograms (roughly 13 pounds) of corn or wheat flour and a half-cup of lentils, the equivalent of 1,900 kilocalories a day--hardly a feast, but enough to keep a body alive. Most of the boys I talked to reported eating one small bowl of porridge a day, adding that they often were forced to trade some of their rations on Kakuma's raging black market for other necessities, like firewood and clothing. Usually by the 13th day, Peter told me, they would run out of food. It was also not uncommon for the U.N. food trucks to roll into camp a few days late--held up by bad weather and donations not coming through--causing everyone to go hungry. "We called those black days at Kakuma," Peter said. "Our stomachs felt burned after too many days and no food."

Hornbacher's, a standard-issue Midwestern grocery store, proved to be full of wonders. The electric doors. The grocery carts. The riotous rows of brightly packaged food and the ample-bodied white people who filled their carts with whatever they wished to buy. With the eyes of nearly every shopper in the store on them, the boys wandered tentatively through the produce section, looking but not touching, until Riak discovered a bin of green mangoes, which triggered a round of excited Dinka chatter. As we made our way through the store, they recognized nothing else except a bag of rice, but each new aisle seemed to embolden them, and soon they were moving as a meticulous three-man inspection team, studying labels, squeezing boxes and quietly pronouncing the names of everything from Special K to Velveeta.

"What is this?" Maduk asked, holding up a bar of Dove soap.

"That's soap," I said.

"What is this one?" he said, hefting a fat block of Zest.

"That's soap, too." I waved my hand in a wide circle, top shelf to bottom, back and forth, encompassing the antibacterial soaps, the deodorant soaps, the soaps for men, soaps for women, soaps for babies. "All of this is soap," I said.

"O.K.," Maduk said, appearing doubtful.

The next aisle over, Peter touched my shoulder. He was holding a can of Purina dog food. "Excuse me, Sara, but can you tell me what this is?" Behind him, the pet food was stacked practically floor to ceiling. "Um, that's food for our dogs," I answered, cringing at what that must sound like to a man who had spent the last eight years eating porridge. "Ah, I see," Peter said, replacing the can on the shelf and appearing satisfied. He pushed his grocery cart a few more steps and then turned again to face me, looking quizzical. "Tell me," he said, "what is the work of dogs in this country?"

The most difficult questions to answer, though, were logistical rather than cultural. In their first week in America, the three boys saw little of their case manager, who was focused on the mountain of paperwork involved in processing them as refugees. Disheartened by the weather and intimidated by just about everything, right down to the struggle to lock and unlock their door, Peter and his brothers passed long hours sitting inside the apartment, wondering when their new life truly would begin. Above all, they were eager to start school. At Kakuma, they had attended school daily, sitting on benches along with 100 or more students in a class with little in the way of books and paper, studying English, math and science under the tutelage of U.N.-financed African teachers. And if their language skills were any indication, under the circumstances they had managed to learn quite effectively. Nearly every Lost Boy I met spoke a fluid, British-tinged English.

"Their thirst for knowledge is so great," says Terry Walsh, vice president for a refugee program run by Catholic Social Services in Lansing, Mich. "For most refugees, education is important. But I've never met a group more dedicated to it. Education has always been the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow."

In Fargo, I had been told that Riak and Maduk would be immunized and then go through placement testing at the local public schools. Peter, on the other hand, would attend adult-education classes and be expected, in short order, to find a job. I was unsure whether he knew this. From what I could gather, they had embarked on the journey understanding very little about where and how they would land. I also knew, through Lutheran Social Service officials, that Peter was to be licensed as a foster parent to Maduk and Riak, so that the three could legally remain independent. Yet this was a surprise to Peter. "We are wondering why we stay alone," he said one morning. "You see, it was explained to us that we would have a dad."

Finding foster homes for the Lost Boys has been a unique challenge, since resettlement agencies are intent on keeping the boys in the "family groups" they formed in Kakuma, where five or more boys often shared a hut. Two weeks before Christmas, Jeanne Woodward, who manages the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program for Lutheran Social Services of New England, was scrambling to find Boston-area homes for a handful of Lost Boys, just days ahead of their arrival.

"I've been calling foster parents and saying: 'Can you take two children? You can? How about three?"' she said. Across the country--from Phoenix to Seattle to Jackson, Miss.-- families have signed on to become parents for the Lost Boys. (Foster parents are subject to rigorous screening and receive a monthly stipend of about $500 for each child, depending on their state.) The first time I phoned the Rev. Ross Goodman, a 41-year-old pastor in Arlington, Mass., he was out at a local junkyard, searching for an extra bench seat to fit more bodies into his family's van. Today, he and his wife, Janice, have eight children--four of their own and four adopted Lost Boys--under their roof. "It's made our family life a lot richer," Goodman says. The enrichment extends to dinner-table conversation, where one of the boys recently described an incident in which someone from his village was literally bitten in half by a hippopotamus. "My kids were raised on 'The Lion King' and visits to the zoo," Goodman notes. "This really adds something to their perspective."

Working with the Lost Boys in the states

Yet as much as Peter Dut was hoping to have an American family in Fargo to guide him, there are other Lost Boys who would say that the three brothers were lucky to live on their own. William Deng, the talkative 18-year-old in Grand Rapids, actually asked to be transferred out of foster care, leaving his two younger brothers and joining a group home. "My whole life I've been in charge of myself," he explained simply. "I did not enjoy the family life." A month later, however, William moved again and now lives as a guest in the home of his high-school principal.

Struggles with authority are, of course, the stuff of just about any teenager's life, but the Lost Boys, having governed themselves since childhood, may be particularly resistant to limits on their freedom. A boy in the Boston area recently called his resettlement caseworker, accusing his foster parents of mistreatment after they restricted how much television he could watch. Another parent has mediated several shouting matches between his biological children and his refugee children. As time goes by, some of these rifts are likely to deepen. According to psychologists who work with war victims, refugee children who have finally reached a safe and stable environment are often confronted with long-suppressed feelings of fear, guilt and grief over what they have been through. Even in the context of a loving foster family, this can heighten a young refugee's sense of isolation.

In Fargo, I met a Nuer boy named Peter Riek, who was 17 when he arrived from Kakuma in November and was placed, alone, in a foster home in a neatly manicured subdivision on the north side of the city. After three months, he was still grappling with the weather ("My skin is turning to ash and my brain to ice," he said), his new school ("Everybody is white but for me") and the dynamics of living with an American family. Upon arrival, he was startled to learn that he was to live without his friends from Kakuma and even more horrified when his foster parents proudly pushed open the door to his new room. "I do not want to sleep alone," Peter told me one afternoon at the Center for New Americans in Fargo. "I lived almost 11 years in refugee camps, but I never lived alone."

That evening, I visited his foster parents, a smiling, earnest couple named Wayne and Carol Reitz, and two of their children. They confessed that they, too, were still learning to adjust to Peter's presence. "We care about Peter very much," Carol said cautiously as Peter sat on the couch nearby, quietly studying the floor. "But we're sometimes not sure how he's feeling about things." They were aware of his loneliness, but felt helpless to it. At night, she said, they occasionally heard mournful singing coming from his bedroom, but bound by politeness and maybe a hint of fear, they left him undisturbed.

Peter Riek, it seemed, was learning his first lesson about American individualism. "At night, everybody disappears into their rooms," he had told me earlier. "It's very strange to me." For a moment he looked deeply sad. "Being alone," he said finally, "makes me think about what's going on in Sudan."

Last summer, when the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees sent four American consultants to Kakuma to interview Lost Boys and consider them for the newly announced resettlement plan, there were several stipulations. In order to qualify, the refugees had to have arrived in Kakuma before 1995 as unaccompanied minors, and perhaps most important, they had to convince the interviewers that their parents were either dead or untraceable. Because the U.N. tries to resettle refugees in a third country only as a last resort, when there is little or no hope of a safe return--or, in the case of children, family reunification--the consultants specifically asked each boy whether he had tried to trace surviving relatives. "I interviewed 405 boys and young men," says Terry Walsh of Catholic Social Service. "And I never met one who got a favorable response." (Curiously, interviewing a fraction of the boys Walsh did, I spoke to several, now safely resettled, who said they had successfully traced parents through a rudimentary letter-passing system set up in the camp.)

Arguably, whether their parents are living or not, most of the Lost Boys have no choice but to move on. A return to southern Sudan would be dangerous, if not fatal. "There is nothing left for the Lost Boys to go home to--it's a war zone," says Mary Anne Fitzgerald, a Nairobi-based relief consultant who spent three years reporting on the Lost Boys' plight for Refugees International. "People are being bombed and strafed. There's heavy fighting, and the boys would be prime targets. In a war, men are vital. They'd either be killed by the enemy or inducted into the rebel army."

At the same time, life in Kakuma is not entirely secure, either. As is frequently the case with refugee camps, those who live inside the camp are better off than the indigenous people living beyond its borders. In this case, members of Kenya's Turkana tribe, recognizing Kakuma's relative wealth, frequently conduct armed nighttime raids. A week before Peter, Maduk and Riak flew to Fargo in January, one of their peers, a 17-year-old boy named Deng, was shot and killed by marauding Turkana. He, too, had been scheduled for resettlement. "We were often afraid," Maduk told me, recalling the incident. "We would go to bed at night and not know who would survive until morning."

Despite the dangers and hardships in camp, not everyone at Kakuma applauds the wholesale export of Lost Boys to the United States. Several Sudanese elders in the camp have suggested that the State Department's money would be better spent encouraging peace in Sudan, echoing the philosophy of several human rights organizations that have argued that carefully orchestrated, preemptive intervention could stem the tide of displacement worldwide. The elders in Kakuma also worry that once absorbed into American culture, the boys will lose their African identity and with it any commitment to return. Accordingly, a number of the young men arrived in America armed with cassettes of taped lectures from their elders, warning of the myriad dangers they perceived in the boys' future. One afternoon in Boston, an 18-year-old named Jacob played part of his tape for me--a mellifluous, urgent-sounding stream of Dinka. Jacob then translated. "He is saying: 'Don't drink. Don't smoke. Don't kill. Go to school every day, and remember, America is not your home."'

At 7 a.m.. one March day, 15-year-old Riak stood waiting for the public bus that would carry him to his second week of classes at Discovery Junior High School. He wore blue jeans (the only pair of pants he owned), a green T-shirt and a thin winter jacket. If spring was ever to come, he wouldn't have known it then, shivering in the brittle air as he stood with a backpack slung over one shoulder, waiting on a four-foot snowdrift for the No. 118 bus to appear. Five weeks after his arrival, he was finding life in America to be hard--harder than anyone had told him it would be. At school, he listened quietly through a lesson on Elizabethan history, all but ignored by the white students around him. At lunchtime, he found an open table in the cafeteria, and amid the boisterous chatter of his peers, sat alone before a mound of whipped potatoes and gravy.

In San Diego: Jacob Mayiim

Nearby at Fargo South High School, Maduk was frequently alone as well, carefully copying passages out of his geography textbook, trying not to look at the short skirts worn by so many of the girls. He was learning to use a computer, which excited him, and there were a few other Sudanese boys who sometimes stopped him in the hall to talk. Still, after school he felt tired and overwhelmed, sharing a dinner of rice and okra with his brothers before retiring to the living room to pass the evening hours studying.

It was Peter Dut, though, who worried the most. He was attending adult ed classes in the mornings, but found them unchallenging, adding that he was intimidated by the Bosnians, who constitute the bulk of Fargo's refugee population and who, Peter said, shot him dirty looks. Though he harbored hopes for going to college, he also wanted, badly, to find a job. Money was a continuous concern. The three brothers said they received just $107 in food stamps each month, and most of their $510 in monthly cash assistance went toward paying rent and utilities.

Without an American host family or church organization to help buffer the expenses, the three brothers seemed to grow more despondent with each passing week. Resettlement workers were encouraging Peter to stick with adult education so that he could pass his G.E.D. before finding a job, but the bills were piling up. On a particularly low night in mid-March, Peter Dut told me he was lonely and wished he were back in Kakuma. "We are not eating enough here," he said, his voice weighted with sadness. "My brothers are suffering."

I was uncertain how to take this. Amid waves of self-congratulatory media covering the resettlement effort, it seemed the ultimate paradox to have three boys claiming they were eating less in America than they had in their refugee camp. Had we actually failed the Lost Boys? When I contacted the brothers' case managers in Fargo and the national office of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, officials stressed that there was a "misunderstanding," that Peter, Maduk and Riak were receiving donated food to supplement their food-stamp allowance and were not going hungry. When I spoke to him again, Peter clarified: "They bring us tinned American food"&endash;canned food&endash;and it makes our stomachs sick."

In San Diego (from left to right): Jacob Mayiim, Dominique Dang, James Ngth and Dominique Garang

I had seen smoother adjustments in other cities, but I also recognized that practically all newly arrived refugees struggle to gain their footing. Was this just part of the transition? Scott Burtsfield, who coordinates the resettlement of children in Fargo through Lutheran Social Services, told me: "The first three months are always the toughest. It really does get better." And according to Dr. Paul Geltman, co-director of the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights, it is common for a refugee's mood to fluctuate. "When someone first comes to this country as a refugee," he says, "there's a euphoria of starting anew. But when that starts to wear off, a lot of problems can surface." He names depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as two possible manifestations, adding that "the need for support is great."

But where would that support come from? Fargo's Lutheran case managers appeared overworked. A local church whose congregation was primarily Sudanese had sent some volunteers to check in on the boys, but being refugees themselves, they were short on both time and resources to help. Peter and his brothers, for better or worse, were left to grasp at the smallest glimmers of hope.

One of those came on a quiet Friday night this winter. The boys had set about making a dinner of rice and lentils, filling the low-ceilinged apartment with the smell of frying onions. As the food cooked, Maduk and Riak taught me an African card game, cackling gleefully each time they won a hand.

Meanwhile, Peter disappeared into his bedroom and emerged a few minutes later, resplendent in the African outfit he had brought from Kakuma, having traded precious food rations in order to obtain it. It was a finely woven, intricately patterned green tunic, trimmed in an elaborate lattice of gold thread, with a skullcap to match. In it, Peter looked regal and exotic--a foreign king touched down in Fargo, if only for a night.

Just then, the doorbell rang unexpectedly. And out of the cold tumbled four Sudanese boys--all of whom had resettled as refugees over the last several years--their tall youthful bodies spilling into the apartment's small front vestibule. They hugged the new arrivals as if they were brothers. Which, of course, in a sense they were. I watched one, an 18-year-old named Sunday, wrap his arms encouragingly around Peter Dut.

In San Diego: Marco Dut.

The two stood momentarily cheek to cheek in the entryway's stark light, with Sunday in a scuffed baseball cap and Peter in his African garb. "It's a hard life here," Sunday whispered to the older boy, "but it's a free life too."

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Horrific Record of Bush UN Appointee

By Sister Laetitia Bordes, SH

John D. Negroponte, President Bush's nominee as the next ambassador to the United Nations? My ears perked up. I turned up the volume on the radio. I began listening more attentively. Yes, I had heard correctly. Bush was nominating Negroponte, the man who gave the CIA-backed Honduran death squads open field when he was ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985.

My mind went back to May 1982 and I saw myself facing Negroponte in his office at the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa. I had gone to Honduras on a fact-finding delegation. We were looking for answers. Thirty-two women had fled the death squads of El Salvador after the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980 to take refuge in Honduras. One of them had been Romero's secretary. Some months after their arrival, these women were forcibly taken from their living quarters in Tegucigalpa, pushed into a van and disappeared. Our delegation was in Honduras to find out what had happened to these women.

Negroponte listened to us as we exposed the facts. There had been eyewitnesses to the capture and we were well-read on the documentation that previous delegations had gathered. Negroponte denied any knowledge of the whereabouts of these women. He insisted that the U.S. Embassy did not interfere in the affairs of the Honduran government and thus we should discuss the matter with the latter.

Facts, however, reveal quite the contrary. During Negroponte's tenure, U.S. military aid to Honduras grew from $4 million to $77.4 million; the U.S. launched a covert war against Nicaragua and mined its harbors; and the U.S. trained the Honduran military to support the Contras.

Negroponte worked closely with Gen. Alvarez, Chief of the Armed Forces in Honduras, to enable the training of Honduran soldiers in psychological warfare, sabotage, and many types of human rights violations,including torture and kidnapping. Honduran and Salvadoran military were sent to the School of the Americas to receive training in counter-insurgency directed against people of their own country. The CIA created the infamous Honduran Intelligence Battalion 3-16 that was responsible for the murder of many Sandinistas. Gen. Luis Alonso Discua Elvir, a graduate of the School of the Americas, was a founder and commander of Battalion 3-16. In 1982, the U.S.negotiated access to airfields in Honduras and established a regional military training center for Central American forces, principally directed at improving fighting forces of the Salvadorian military.

In 1994, the Honduran Rights Commission outlined the torture and disappearance of at least 184 political opponents. It also specifically accused Negroponte of a number of human rights violations. Yet, back in his office that day in 1982, Negroponte assured us that he had no idea what had happened to the women we were looking for....

Now in 2001, I'm seeing new ripples in this story. Since President Bush made it known that he intended to nominate Negroponte, other people have suddenly been "disappearing," so to speak. In an article published in the Los Angeles Times on March 25, Maggie Farley and Norman Kempster reported on the sudden deportation of several former Honduran death squad members from the United States. These men could have provided shattering testimony against Negroponte in the forthcoming Senate hearings. One of these recent deportees just happens to be Gen. Luis Alonso Discua, founder of Battalion 3-16. In February, Washington revoked the visa of Discua, who was Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations.Since then, Discua has gone public with details of U.S. support of Battalion 3-16.

Given the history of Negroponte in Central America, it is indeed horrifying to think that he should be chosen to represent our country at the United Nations, an organization founded to ensure that the human rights of all people receive the highest respect. How many of our senators, I wonder, let alone the U.S. public, know who John Negroponte really is?

--Sojourner Magazine listserve,
submitted by Patti Eger, former SDPCA President

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Our enemy is our ultimate teacher.
--The 14th Dalai Lama

From the President


I will be serving as the Board President for the next year and look forward to meeting more of you during that time. I was a volunteer in Costa Rica during the mid-80's and have been connected to that country ever since, most probably because my wife is "Tica" and our 6-year old daughter speaks better Spanish than English. In every sense of the word, it was a life-changing experience for me. I now work at Home Start, Inc., a 501(c)3 organization working to improve the lives of families in San Diego County. Julie Schwab and Michele Lagoy, both RPVCs and previous Board members, also work and/or volunteer their time at Home Start.

As you have heard already, the Association is in need of person-power. If you feel that you cannot commit to the Board, which meets once a month, then perhaps you could help with committee work--fundraising, social, newsletter, website, outreach, plus others. In order to continue the good work of the previous Boards and volunteers, we need help from you, the Association members and friends. Hope to see you at the July gathering which is highlighted in this issue (see Calendar of Events).

--Greg Pancoast, President

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Board Minutes:

5/6/01: Minutes of the Annual General Meeting

Nominations & Vote: The floor was opened to nominations for the new board of directors. Six names were placed in nomination, and elected to serve for the 2001/2002 term of office by acclamation. These six were: Donna Urdiales-Carter, Brenda Hahn, Amber Palawski, Gregg Pancoast, Rudy Sovinee, and Frank Yates. Three positions remain vacant: Community Outreach, Fundraising, and ISF Chairs.


6/4/01: Minutes of the Board Meeting

In Attendance: Gregg Pancoast, Frank Yates, Rudy Sovinee, Donna Urdiales-Carter, & Brenda Hahn, plus former board member Jean Meadowcroft.

The meeting began at 7 p.m.. The new board met and determined which directors would be officers, etc. (Amber Palawski notified the board by e-mail of her need to care for ill family in Texas, requiring her to resign effective immediately.) The new board of the SDPCA for the 2000/2001 year, their roles, e-mail addresses and phones are listed on this page in the Board List. MMSP to rescind last year's decision requiring outgoing board members to attend the next meeting.

Financial Report: Frank reported balances in our accounts and provided a detailed statement of income and expenses.

Membership: Frank reported that the SDPCA membership is at 151 current, 43 past due, totaling 194. NPCA membership is at 101 current, 21 past due, totaling 122.

Community Outreach: Once again, the SDPCA lacks someone for this standing committee, potentially missing implementation of the domestic grant programs defined last year.

Fundraising: While we must fill this position, most activity occurs between August and February.

Mark J. Tonner International Support Fund: Rudy will coordinate this, and begin by reviewing 2001 awards.

Newsletter: Deadline is 6/10. MMSP to allow Brenda up to 9 pages additional so as to introduce membership to the Lost Boys of the Sudan, and how some are being settled here. Rudy's trip to Ireland will continue in Sept-Oct issue.

Web Site: Joseph White has offered his resignation and Don Beck has accepted the role of maintaining the SDPCA website. Thanks again to Joseph for designing and setting it up.

Social: Donna expressed her delight with the creativity of the annual meeting, and her desire to enroll others through successful events. The first will be a potluck picnic supporting the Lost Boys to combine social and community outreach. She announced her inability to be social chair long-term due to evening classes.

Speaker's Bureau: Jean Meadowcroft declined serving on the board but will coordinate the requests and speakers.

Adjourned: The meeting ended at 9:02 p.m.

Next Meeting: 6:30 p.m. 7/2/01 at the home of Donna Urdiales-Carter

--Rudy Sovinee, Secretary


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PC News Bites

Other RPCV Groups Support Refugees/New Americans

West Michigan RPCVs invited a group of the Lost Boys of Sudan to their international potluck Feb. 3. The event was "quite successful, with more" Boys than RPCVs. Host families also attended to experience a big American meal with the Boys. Clothing and household items were donated to boys living independently.

Columbia River PCA is currently sponsoring a family of five from Ethiopia who arrived March 27 and are staying with a RPCV until housing is arranged. CRPCA collected enough donations of clothing and household items to furnish their new apartment prior to their arrival.

Heart of Texas PCA hosted a refugee picnic September two years ago which has become a yearly event. They work with several local refugee agencies to invite refugees and provide transportation. The potluck picnic lunch is held in an Austin park and games for kids (young and not-so-young) are held. Among languages heard are Serbian, Arabic, French, Fula, Swahili, Spanish and others.

Cincinnati Area RV group hosts 30 plus newly arrived immigrants every December for a holiday tour and lunch. The event has been co-sponsored by the International Family Resource Center for seven years and is one of their most popular events.

RPCVs of South Florida has created a sub-committee, The Columbia Project, which connects Colombian refugees and expat Colombians to channel aid directly to internal refugees in Colombia. The goal is to establish partnership with grassroots Colombian agencies to identify and mentor worthy projects. For progress check their website at

--Group Leaders Digest, NPCA


40th Anniversary Reunion

The National Peace Corps Association wants as many returned volunteers as possible to register for the 40th Anniversary of the Peace Corps, Sept. 20-23, 2001. Early Registration Rates have been extended until July 1. If you want to see who has registered, check out "The List," go to , click "Celebrate" and choose "Find Your Friends." Then if you are feeling left out, click for registration and do it now. If you are not online--call 1.866.324.7103 and register by phone.

Rregistration gives you access to programs that showcase RPCV impact in: education, business, environment, public service and closing the digital divide; lets you into the Congressional reception, RPCV Career Fair, keynote address, film festival and workshops on writing, life planning and volunteering again. Be part of posterity in the photo of RPCVs with their Country of Service flags along the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool. Checkout for ongoing program updates. Be there in September for a weekend to remember.


Can You... Will You... Make Time Again to Help?

We still meet on first Mondays. The SDPA board is only five strong plus the newsletter team. There are still board vacancies with no one to chair community action, fund raising or domestic grant committees... We need your help!!

At the first meeting of the new board for the SDPCA, one project, to involve us as RPCVs, was supporting the Lost Boys of the Sudan, some of whom are being resettled here locally. Sharon Kennedy of the International Rescue Committee is much involved. This issue of Pacific Waves has additional pages to fully introduce the issue of the Lost Boys to the SDPCA membership--and hopefully enroll many into support.... in a way that rejuvenates and continues the spirit of SDPCA, too.

--Rudy Sovinee, SDPCA Secretary

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Welcome, New Members!

We of SDPCA extend a warm welcome to our newest members. (If we received your membership late because you joined us through NPCA, this is beyond our control but we apologize anyway.) We've seen some of you at our events already and we want all of you to get involved in our activities. Let us hear from you!! You can reach us by the information listed in Contact SDPCA.

  • Nathalie Isler.
  • Catherine Knorr, Sri Lanka (1993-95)
  • Jason McLure, Niger (1999-01)
  • Gail Souare, Mali (1991-93)
  • Dan Taylor, Belize (1986-88)

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Host Country Updates


(from the Kathmandu Post, with local English usage intact)

His Majesty King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev has said that the wishes of his august brother His Late Majesty King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev of guiding the Nepali people towards a prosperous future through Constitutional Monarchy and multiparty democratic exercises will always remain a source of inspiration for all of us...

"By shouldering the responsibility that has fallen on us as His Majesty the King of Nepal, I declare, by this proclamation, my consort Komal Rajya Laxmi Devi Shah as Her Majesty the Queen," His Majesty said in the proclamation. Following the proclamation made in the name of our countrymen this morning to make public the facts surrounding the tragic incident that took place at the Royal Palace, a high level committee has been constituted under the chairmanship of Chief Justice Keshav Prasad Updhyaya, His Majesty said...

His Majesty said we are very grieved to inform our countrymen that His Majesty King Dipendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev who was seriously injured in the unanticipated incident that took place during a family gathering at the Royal Palace on the night of June 1, 2001 departed from us forever at 3:45 a.m. on June 4, 2001 despite of all possible efforts made by the physicians at Birendra Military Hospital.

--Kathmandu Post, June 5, 2001/Jestha 23, 2058


Papua New Guinea (PNG)

The Peace Corps' decision to suspend indefinitely its program in Papua New Guinea (PNG) was announced on May 31, 2001. Over the next several days the Peace Corps' 24 currently serving PCVs in PNG, its field office staff in Port Moresby, and the Government of PNG were formally advised of this decision. All volunteers will leave Papua New Guinea by mid-July. They have transfer options to other PC posts.

Because of the difficult security climate in PNG, extensive attention has been given to safety and security issues and strengthening Peace Corps/PNG's capacity to evaluate, to prevent and to respond to security issues.

--Peace Corps Press Release



Alejandro Toledo, who was elected President of Peru on June 2, has Peace Corps links. Of indigenous Peruvian heritage, he was born in the highlands of Peru to a large, poor family, but he worked nights and weekends in order to become the first in his family to attend high school in Chimbote. There he also introduced two Peace Corps volunteers (Joel Meister and Nancy Deeds) to his community. After he won a scholarship to study in the U.S., he attended San Francisco State University. From knowing hardly any English on his arrival, he went on to get his B.A., followed by master's and doctoral degrees from Stanford University. He also taught Peace Corps volunteers in training. After a long career in international economics with the World Bank and other organizations, he returned to Peru to fulfill his dream of becoming president. ¡Que le vaya muy bien! May everything go well for him!

--Jean Meadowcroft, from Stanford Alumni News, March/April 2001


Ukraine: ISF Report

"To Julie and Everyone Else at SDPCA:

"I received your pleasant letter and check, and I wanted to thank you all. My counterparts couldn't be happier, and they've already started taking pictures, even though the project hasn't even started yet. Needless to say, excitement level is high. Repairs on the room will commence June 12th, and we are anticipating a project duration of one month (which, as you know from your OWN personal experiences abroad, means 2 months). Besides receipts, a budget log, and occasional email, and pictures, is there anything else specifically you would like to hear about when I report the project's progress? I hope the San Diego sun isn't too hot down there (sniff, sniff). Say 'hi' to La Jolla Cove for me if you see her... Take care."

--Melanie Taton, PCV Ukraine


Morocco: Subsequent ISF Report

[ In June 2000 the SDPCA Awarded Frederick (Fritz) Boyle, Morocco, $400 for "agricultural technology improvements" to educate a group of women tree growers so they would be more profitable in extracting and marketing the oil from the Argon trees, improve their agricultural technology and help themselves in production of various products.

Fritz was planning to be extended for one year and had written this into his RSP grant. Unfortunately, his tour was not extended, and often this means death to a project and grant, but we are delighted to receive this touching report by the volunteer who served with him and continues the work, Anjali Mahoney. ]

"It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life....Remember that Argan cooperative I talked about almost two years ago? Well, they say things take a long time in the third world, and they are right: it was finally officially formed on Wednesday.

"Fifty-five rural, illiterate women signed their names and pledged 100 DH (about $10 US) to support a cooperative which will generate income for a village suffering from severe poverty. Their signatures were little swirls, circles and single lines, they don't know how to hold a pen, but they were proud to be a part of something. Working with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, a German NGO and the local village association, we visited 100 homes over the past two years to encourage the women of my region to form a cooperative.

"Traditionally the women spend three days laboring to make a liter of Argan oil which they sell for 50 DH ($5), all the money the family may pull in for that week because they have no way to market their goods outside of the village. They are slaves of the whims of the elements: no rain means no Argan and no money. Their husbands do not work&emdash;how can they in a country with 70% unemployment where doctors and lawyers fresh out of school can't find jobs. Now they will make 100 DH ($10) for each liter and their product will be exported to Germany and also sold in supermarkets all over Morocco.

"They are part of a National Union of Women's Cooperatives, which gives them sterilized bottles, helps them develop a label and joins them with like-minded women who will introduce them to literacy classes and accounting, and show them how to work together to better their situation.

"The meeting was held in the newly completed hospital (which also took two years to finish) and the first thing the women asked for was literacy and a road! The facilitator from the Ministry of Forestry explained to them that they can work together to build their own road if they save a little bit from each bottle, which all the women seemed very excited about.

"The women elected a board which included a President, Vice President, Secretary (who has a 14 year old daughter that can read and write and who will take minutes for her and read them off to the other members of the cooperative), treasurer (who is learning how to count large sums of money and what it means to have a bank account-she has never left the village before (5500 DH was donated by all the women to start the bank account for the cooperative), and alternates, nine women in total.

"They are the older widows of the village, free because their children are grown and their husbands are dead, wise and strong, strong enough to admit that they don't know how to read, or count, but are willing to learn. We all had tears in our eyes as these women stood proudly together for a photo. They are the leaders of my village. They are Muslim women defying tradition and custom, showing that you are never to old to learn, to change, to grow.

"At the end of the meeting we said a prayer, lead by the eldest woman in the village (Haja) thanking GOD for this opportunity, for giving them hope and a promise of a future, for the "strange foreigner who wouldn't give up" (her words not mine), for strength and the will to persevere through hardship. Mine were not the only wet eyes in the group. They have fought hard for this opportunity, and gained support from the men. Twenty-one-year-old women sat side by side with 70 year olds, ready to help each other to cooperate to save a village that is dying from poverty. I am happy.

"I am also working with the Humanitarian Assistance Program of the Department of Defense to build a women's center for them where they will be able to hold literacy classes and handicraft classes to provide another source of income generation. It will also house the offices of the cooperative. ...hope it gives you some idea of how meaningful this is!!"

--Anjali Mahoney, US Peace Corps Health Volunteer,
Tabatkokte, Morocco,

[Yes, indeed. There are wet eyes over here, too. You go, girl!]

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SDPCA Mark J Tonner
More International Support Fund Awards 2001

The 2001 ISF Committee is pleased to announce three additional awardees for the 2000-2001 award year for a total of 8 :

  • Textbooks for library in new school
    PCV Michael Thomas Marshall - Tanzania ($500)
    Assist new girls' secondary school in purchasing textbooks for the new library, classroom and teacher use.
  • Startup clothing cooperative
    PCV Katherine Meyers - Zambia ($315)
    Assist the Lufubu Women's Group in starting a cooperative that will purchase materials to make clothing and blankets to be sold and/or bartered in the community.
  • Materials to refurbish a meeting room
    PCV Melanie Taton - Ukraine ($350) [see her reply, host country updates]
    Purchase material to refurbish a donated room that is used for HIV support groups and counseling.

Announced in last issue:

  • Lithuanian/English language dictionaries
    PCV Cy Kuckenbaker - Lithuania ($300)
    Purchase Lituanian/English dictionaries to support school classrooms and the school library so that both students and teachers may advance their studies of English, locally considered the most important foreign language to learn.
  • Blood Pressure testing equipment
    PCV Sally Laviolette - Latvia ($330)
    Purchase blood pressure testing equipment to increase prevention and early detection of cardiac disease.
  • Text Books
    Joana DiPaola - Nicaragua ($500)
    Purchase specific text books for the local cultural center so that students may do homework and continue their studies after school outside of the classroom.
  • Latrine Project
    Timothy & Alexandra Fox White, Ivory Coast ($352)
    Project to build latrines for a local school which currently only has two latrines for 230 students.
  • Provide Scholarships
    Teri Woods, Nicaragua ($500)
    Provide business/vocational school scholarships for students from an isolated island community.

Please join us in congratulating all of our grant recipients! We look forward to publishing their stories about their projects in a future issue.
- Julie Schwab (Zaire 1987-89), ISF Chair

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From one SDPCA member to another: professional, skilled and free support
  • Resume review and Career Counseling
    --Mona Melanson, Thailand '69-'71 (h) 619.692.4138
  • Local Education Career Info
    --Brenda Terry-Hahn, Nepal '64-'66 (h) 619.479.6620
  • Professional Sailing Lessons
    --Hank Davenport-Barberis, Peru '62-'64 (h) 858.565.1060
  • East County Boondock Outpost, Info &/or Guide
    --Dan Taylor, Belize '86-'88 (h) 619.445.9766 (tel/fax)
Do you have a special skill? Want to help out other members?
Please note these are FREE services members are offering.
To be listed here, e-mail to or call 619.491.1801

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Preservation of one's own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures. --Cesar Chavez

To Ponder

If we could shrink the earth's population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following:

57 Asians

21 Europeans

14 North and South Americans

8 Africans


52 would be female

48 would be male


30 would be of Anglo-European

70 would be of other ancestry


70 would be non-Christian

30 would be Christian


89 would be heterosexual

11 would be homosexual


6 people would possess 59% of the entire world's wealth; all 6 would be from the United States.

80 would live in substandard housing

70 would be unable to read

50 would suffer from malnutrition

1 would be near death;

1 would be near birth

1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education

1 would own a computer

If you...

  • consider our world from such a compressed perspective, the need for acceptance, understanding and education becomes glaringly apparent
  • woke up this morning... with more health than are more blessed than the one million on the planet who will not survive this week.
  • have never experienced... the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of are ahead of 500 million people in the world
  • can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or are more blessed than three billion people in the world.
  • have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to are richer than 75% of this world.
  • have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace ... you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy.
  • have parents still alive and still married ... you are very rare, even in the United States and Canada.
  • can read this message, you just received a double blessing in that someone was thinking of you, and furthermore, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read at all.


A Survey of Sustainable Development:
Social and Economic Dimensions

The Global Development And Environment Institute ( at Tufts University announces the release of "A Survey of Sustainable Development: Social and Economic Dimensions." This publication is the sixth and final volume in the series, Frontier Issues in Economic Thought, which has been described as "a wonderful series that is having a major impact."

Valuable to scholars in a variety of fields, it is also suitable for use in courses dealing with economic development, the environment, and related social issues. In a single volume you can find the most important works on sustainable human and economic development summarized in a range of relevant topics. A 20% discount flyer is available. Examination copies for instructors are available for 90-day review. Please visit our website.

--Neva Goodwin and Jonathan Harris,
617.627.3530 fax: 617.627.2409
web: email:


Have Unused Medications?

Any medications (i.e., left over from an illness, left from a deceased person) which are no longer needed by the patient may be donated safely through a local contact who is a co-worker of Mother Teresa's order. Normally this is not possible in the USA due to liability concerns, but Dr. Anita Figuerado (858.454.7274) will accept medications or medical supplies, review and certify them for use in Tijuana shelters run by the Missionaries of Charity, if donors can deliver them to her home. She assumes responsibility for the medications and supplies and also says donors can get a tax deductions for one-third of what the drugs would cost new.


Computer Haiku, Continuing on...

Imagine if, instead of cryptic, geeky text strings, your computer produced error messages in haiku. They would read like these:

A crash reduces
your expensive computer
to a simple stone.
Yesterday it worked
Today it is not working
Windows is like that
Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.


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Newsletter Credits

Pacific Waves is published six times a year by the San Diego Peace Corps Association which is fully responsible for its content. Except for copyrighted material, articles may be reprinted without permission with credit to the SDPCA.

Contributions are encouraged:

  1. e-mailed
  2. text file on disk- Mac preferred, or
  3. typed copy.

Please send to Editor, SDPCA, P.O. Box 26565, San Diego, CA 92196 or e-mail:

Brenda Terry-Hahn

Layout / Production
Don Beck, Jeff Cleveland

Contributors this issue are
Marjory Clyne, Sara Corbett , Patri Eger, Sharon Kennedy, Jean Meadowcroft, Anjali Mahoney, Amanda Morgan, Gregg Pancoast, Rudy Sovinee, Donna Urdiales-Carter, Frank Yates, NPCA Listserv authors, PC Calendar Contributors

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