Sunday, July 19, 2009

Peace Corps

Eli's been talking a lot lately about the great way Peace Corps has been treating us so I thought I'd reiterate some of that online. Things that they have been extremely cool about:
-We were originally going to Mauritania, and we had to change that to Senegal in about 2 days. Peace Corps Mauritania handed us off to PC Senegal and we just kind of rocked up one day and they were pretty cool with it. Shout-out to Ginger Tissier (the grant would not have been won without you), Wil Ryan, Chris Williams, Chris Hedrick (the Country Director) and Oliver (the PC regional house manager).
-PC Senegal let us stay at their regional house in Dakar for free, which is at a great location in the city, has great beds and mosquito nets, and a bunch of really fun people always hanging around.
-PC Senegal got our laptops through customs ON TIME (This is crazy) and without us having to pay a DIME (This is also pretty insane). This is critical because it was so easy for us to do, and has been very hard for other teams to do. We didn't talk to a single customs official ourselves.
-PC Senegal drove us to direct to Mboro with half the laptops in a sweet Toyota Landcruiser the first Monday after we arrived. The day after, they delivered the other half of the laptops in the morning - no charge either time.
-We have ordered 10 laptops extra to completely saturate the 5 oldest grades. PC Senegal offered to allow us use of their diplomatic pouch so we would have absolutely no troubles clearing customs. A diplomatic pouch cannot be taxed or inspected - only condition is that whatever's in there needs to be less than 40 pounds. In addition, since the diplomatic pouch forwarding address is in the states (the way it works is that you send stuff to an address in Virginia and it gets automatically forwarded to the country director in whatever country you are shipping to), we saved $330 on shipping.
-Devon Connolly is incredibly experienced, professional, and cool. He's a fully integrated 3rd year volunteer who is also fluent in Wolof. He knows everyone in town and is respected by all. He makes sure we don't get "toubab-ed" (i.e. discriminated against in shops because we're white) and knows the best spots to hang out in town, be it at the beach or at the bar. He also runs Gentoo Linux on his personal laptop - meaning that he knows command line like the back of his hand and is extremely competent with computers.
-PC Senegal is almost certainly committed to deploying another volunteer in Mboro since we have such a large project here - we have verbal confirmation of this from the country director personally.
-Speaking of the country director, Christopher Hedrick is accessible, friendly and professional. We met with him personally a day or two after we arrived and he was really behind the idea and gave us full support from Day 1.
-Every other Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) that we have met (mostly in Dakar at the Regional House) has been extremely welcoming to us and receptive of our idea.

The conclusion:
Work with Peace Corps if you want your project to work. We know that if we go back to Africa to do this project again, it will be Peace Corps all the way in whatever country we choose. We think that it would be even better if in the future, OLPCorps was formally partnered with Peace Corps because of everything we've said. They have the resources and manpower to make projects happen.

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