Author Archives: eerpcv

In Memorium

The Herald was recently made aware of the fact that Dr. Ed Cross (Medical Director PC/Ethiopia 62–64) died in August of 2012 at the age of 91. Dr. Cross made having tropical diseases less ominous with his cheerful demeanor and old-fashioned jokes. e.g. “When you find out what that [ailment] is let me know — my wife has it, too.” A terrific person.
Click to read Dr. Cross’s obituary.

Harris Mirkin (Dessie, Addis Ababa 62–64) passed away May 30, 2013. After his time in the Peace Corps he earned a Ph.D. in Political Science and a then became an associate profession for 45 years at the University of Missouri/Kansas City.
Click to read Harris’s obituary.

Nancy Guillet Winter (Addis Ababa 62–64) died August 30, 2013 after having been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (A..L.S. – Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 2011.
Click to read Nancy’s obituary.

Projects

Help students succeed through running

by Marian Haley Beil (Deber Berhan 62–64)

Tony and Erin Portillo began serving in Debre Berhan in 2011 as health Volunteers. During my visit to DB in September I had the opportunity to meet and have a delightful visit with them, and I mentioned that should they need help on a project they should contact me. And they have!

The Portillos live in the small agricultural community of Zanjera on the outskirt of DB, and they are working with several community leaders to build a running track  — a simple, 400-meter oval — for youth of the area on grounds donated by the kebele leader, Ato Lema, for this purpose, and he has provided a signed letter of promise that he will maintain the upkeep of the track and set aside future kebele funds for that purpose. Zanjera provides little hope for the future of the young people who live there, and it has been shown that organized sports increase self-esteem and development in youth, and improve decision-making in girls (a special target group for this project). In Ethiopia, if students show promise as a runner, it can also increase their likelihood of sustained school enrollment.

The Protillo’s project is seeking funding assistance for construction costs for materials, and renting of digging and pressing equipment for the track. The goal is to raise an additional $4,700.

Recently the project was approved by the Peace Corps to be a Peace Corps Partnership Project that provides  a link for fundraising. Click on Local Track Project to read the Partnership post, and to make an online donation if you would like to help out these PCVs — and the students of Zanjera.

I also recommend that you read a terrific article that Erin wrote for the El Paso Times entitled Outrunning the Odds: Las Crucens Work in Ethiopia for change about the project, the community and Ethiopia.

E&E RPCVs Group News

Help build collaborative relationships between universities where you have worked or studied and universities in Ethiopia

by Marian Haley Beil (Debre Berhan 62–64)

Following the “Return to Ethiopia,” Steve Cristofar (Addis 62–64) — one of the organizers of the trip — sent a “thank you” note to Ambassador Girma Birru, Ethiopian Ambassador to the United States, on behalf of all those who had participated. On October 12th Ambassador Girma responded with a letter that included the following statement:

As I have indicated during my speech at the send-off gathering at our Embassy, The Peace Corps volunteers can help the Ethiopian people in areas of education by establishing collaborations between US and Ethiopian universities . . .

The letter also included the name of a gentleman on the Embassy staff, who should be contacted by E&E RPCVs to explore a possible program of educational collaborations at the university level facilitated by RPCVs.

I asked that Steve follow-up on this suggested effort, and the following is a portion of his report:

There are currently 33 universities in Ethiopia, including many new ones; total enrollment over 100,000. Big shortage of materials, teachers, etc. Several of these [universities] have already signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with US universities.

What Ambassador Girma is asking is for RPCVs with university connections to contact their schools & try to elicit interest in cooperative arrangements with Ethiopian counterparts, in the areas of exchanges of professors; of students; joint research efforts; etc. Also, for RPCVs to suggest US university partnerships with Ethiopian universities in towns where the RPCVs taught or otherwise served. Another possibility mentioned is library-to-library relationships. Improvements in the quality of education are a major goal of the program.

[Our contact] has sent me some information on the Ethiopian university system: specifics as to where the universities are, how big they are, any specialities they may have or desire to have, and any existing collaborative relationships between Ethiopian & American universities. He stressed that they are NOT looking for financial support for such efforts, as programs already are in place for same, ie, from USAID & Dept of State. They are familiar with the logistics of setting up university-to-university collaborations.

. . .

E&ERPCV efforts could be directed toward encouraging individual RPCVs with university connections, either directly or possibly through their alumni associations, to get their institutions (or, possibly, individual professors or experts) interested in collaborating with Ethiopian institutions of higher learning. An additional area might be research papers or studies conducted by American universities that either pertain directly to Ethiopia, or that could possibly contribute to research efforts in Ethiopia.

RPCVs — if you are interested in exploring how you might be able to facilitate US university to Ethiopian university linkages, please contact Steve at
u2u@ethiopiaeritrearpcvs.org

This is an exciting opportunity for us to continue our service to the people of Ethiopia.

E&E RPCVs Group News

You really should join our Facebook page

Go to http://www.facebook.com/groups/120114451456889/ and ask to join. Only those who have served or are currently serving with the Peace Corps in Ethiopia and Eritrea as Volunteers or staff may join. The official name of the page is “Ethiopia and Eritrea Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.”

Now that the trip to Ethiopia has passed (and the accompanying questions about where to stay and what to wear), you will find on-going discussions of Ethiopian paintings, job opportunities, the candidates to replace Secy. Hillary Clinton at the State Department, invitations to reunions — “and much, much more.”

We now have a great place to publish timely announcements between issues of The Herald.

RPCV Legacy Program

Eritrea Remembered elicits fond memories of PCVs

project a great success

by Marian Haley Beil (Debre Berhan 62–64)

You may recall that this past winter E&E RPCVs published the book Eritrea Remembered as an RPCV Legacy Program Project as the result of a suggestion by Scott Rasmussen at the American Embassy in Asmara. (You can read an earlier article about the project HERE.)

The American Embassy subsequently purchased copies of the book to share with Eritreans who have voiced their fond memories of their Peace Corps Volunteers to embassy staff. I have since received three notes from Scott about the book:

3/19
Hi Marian,
I just wanted to drop you a line to let you know the books came – they are beautiful! My staff has each taken a copy to review and they are so impressed with how well the RPCVs speak of Eritrea. We are planning an event with them in early May – we are trying to track down as many former Peace Corps students as we can for the event. I will keep you in the loop on this.

Again, thank you!
Best,
Scott

4/2
Hi Marian,
I hope you are doing well. I wanted to let you know that we received the books – they are beautiful! The Embassy had a booth at the Eritrean Book Fair that just wrapped up yesterday and we displayed copies of the book at the booth. We signed up nearly 50 people [for the event] who stopped to look at the book and ask about it. My staff told me “Once people start talking about their Peace Corps memories they just can’t stop!” We are planning our event for the first week of May.

Best,
Scott

5/9
Hi Marian,
The event was a HUGE success! We held it last Thursday, May 3. We billed it as the 50th Anniversary of the Arrival of Peace Corps Volunteers in Eritrea. I offered a few remarks about the Peace Corps, the Peace Corps in Eritrea, and shared some stories from the book. We then distributed copies of the book to the 140 guests who came and then opened the mic for anyone who wanted to stand and share their memories of the Peace Corps. We had 15 people stand up and fill the next hour with their memories about the Peace Corps. One gentleman became emotional saying “They inspired me to be a teacher. I love teaching because of them.” Another gentleman ran to the microphone to get ahead of others coming up and said “I can’t keep quiet!” The participants credited the Peace Corps Volunteers with teaching them English, to be service oriented, and to speak passionately for oneself.

We are receiving more requests for the book — from individuals and libraries. Thank you for all your work on publishing the book. I will try to contact each of the contributors individually — we had several people come up afterward and point to names in the book saying “That was my teacher!” Some of them gave me their contact information and are anxious to reconnect with their teachers.

Thanks again! I first thought of this idea in early Spring 2010 – it was so fulfilling to see it materialize – and all because of you!

Thanks,
Scott

E&E RPCVs Group News

by Marian Haley Beil (Debre Berhan 62–64)

“Return to Ethiopia”

Planning continues for the trip to Ethiopia this fall that starts off with a reception at the Ethiopia Embassy the evening of September 22. The embassy generously invites any RPCVs living in the DC area to the reception. You must RSVP to Russ Misheloff ( rmisheloff@comcast.net ) if you would like to attend. More details to come later.

If you are hoping to travel with the group that departs on the EAL flight on September 23, you MUST contact Russ Misheloff ( rmisheloff@comcast.net ) by May 30.

All about the trip

We have a page of many details about the trip that you can access by clicking on “Return to Ethiopia” that is in the black bar above the photo header of each Herald page.

Who is going?

You can also see the list of those who have informed the planning committee that they are interested in making the trip. Let your cursor hover over “Return to Ethiopia” in the black bar above and “Travellers” will appear as a pull-down option. Click on it.

Facebook page

As part of the planning for the trip, E&E RPCVs has finally signed up for a Facebook page. At this time it is primarily being used by travellers to exchange comments, questions and suggestions.

The group will continue use the Facebook page to make timely announcements of interest throughout the year that can’t wait to be published in The Herald. Because this page is only for Peace Corps/Ethiopia and Eritrea Volunteers and staff, in order to be able to make post or make comments for our group on the page you must request to become a “friend,” and will subsequently be approved.

Finally a thank you to the Trip Planning Committee for all the work they are doing: Leo Cecchini who is heading up the operation, plus Sue Hoyt Aiken, Steve Cristofar, Nancy Horn and Russ Misheloff.

A follow-up on the Reunion Auction

Thanks to Nancy Horn (Addis 66-68) and some item donors and helpers who organized and those who purchased, the Silent Auction held during our 50th Anniversary Reunion was a wonderful success. In total E&E RPCVs receive $4498.98 for its RPCV Legacy Program projects. The projects and the amounts they received from the auction are: Borana Student Advancement $289.00; Ethiopia Reads/Awassa $2151.58; HIV and Other Healthcare Books for Rural Communities $1632.47; ITC for Metu School $290.00; and Publish Eritrea Remembered $135.84. (Item donors were able to indicate which projects they wished to support, thus the differences.)

RPCV Legacy Program

New RPCV Legacy Program projects

In recent months the Board of Ethiopia & Eritrea RPCVs approved the applications for two more RPCV Legacy Program projects.

by Marian Haley Beil (Debre Berhan 62–64)

ITC for Mettu School

Patti Garamendi (Mettu 66–68) and her daughter Faith Garamendi are championing “Supporting the ICT (Information and Communications Technology) Lab for Mettu.” This RPCV Legacy Program project will join in the efforts of the Ethiopia-approved NGO Alumni Association of St. Gabriel School along with parents and community members to bring computer literacy and enhanced learning to the students of this primary-middle school through a project entitled “Enhancing the Quality of Education Through ICTs at St. Gabriel Primary School.” The long-term goal of the team is to:

  • Set up, in existing space, a computer lab that will be furnished with 20 computers, appropriate furnishings, and necessary wiring.
  • Provide computer literacy training to the school’s 25–30 faculty members.
  • Assure that the faculty members are capable of designing curriculum and teaching students and community members using computers and the Internet in their own areas of study.
  • Provide enhanced educational opportunities for the students and citizens of Mettu.

Patti and Faith’s RPCV Legacy Program project has established an initial goal to raise $10,000 for the purchase of 20 computers, and 20 desks and chairs for the workstations in the ITC Lab.

You can help this project by making a tax-deductible donation. Go to About the RPCV Legacy Program to learn how to either send a check or donate through PayPal.

Publishing “Eritrea Remembered”

Readers may recall an article in a previous issue of the Herald entitled “Memories of Eritrea” in which Scott Rasmussen, the Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Asmara suggested a project to video record the recollections of PCVs who served in Eritrea. I volunteered to help in any way I could. After some discussion and thought, we decided that logistically it would be easier to produce a book. A notice was sent out to all Eritrea RPCVs for whom E&E RPCVs had an email address to invite them to submit pieces focusing on relationships between them and the people of Eritrea.

It was decided that the book would be published under the imprint of Peace Corps Writers – the publishing arm of Peace Corps Worldwide. I would edit, design and lay-out the book, and it would be printed by CreateSpace, a print-on-demand subsidiary of Amazon. The only cost for the production of the book would be approximately $400 to pay for the initial printing set-up, and distribution management services from CreateSpace. To cover that cost I proposed an RPCV Legacy Program project to the board to raise the funds for this project that would contribute to one of the stated purposes of our group – “promoting world peace and understanding, especially among peoples in the United States, Ethiopia and Eritrea.” The project was approved. With donations from some of the authors who had submitted pieces for the book, the necessary funds were raised.

The book, Eritrea Remembered: Recollections and Photos by Peace Corps Volunteers, was publish this past December 15th. Those with pieces in the book are Marianne Arieux (Asmara 65–67), Mike Bannister (Asmara 73–74), Leo Cecchini (Asmara 62-64), Tom Cutler (Agordat 63–64), Harold Freeman (Mendefera 65–67), Walt Galloway (Adi Teclesan 70), Tom Gallagher (Agordat 62–64), Cathie Hulder (Decamere 64–66), Paul Huntsberger (Saganeiti 65–67), Wayne Kessler (Adi Teclesan 64–66), Cynthia Tse Kimberlin (Mendefera, Asmara 62–64), Neil Kottler (Asmara 64–66), Curt Peterson (66–70), Joann Feldman Richards (Keren 66–68), Mary Gratiot Schultz (Mendefera 65–67), Lois Shoemaker (Asmara 62–64), Judy Smith (Asmara 63–65) and Kate Yocum (Kudo-Abuor 97–98).

Read a review of Eritrea Remembered by Bryan Cramer (Adi Gudem 09–11).

Eritrea Remembered is available in paperback and Kindle ebook (without photos) versions.

All royalties from the sale of Eritrea Remembered support the RPCV Legacy Program project “Healthcare Books for Rural Communities.”

E&E RPCVs Group News

Volunteer needed

Because of the death of wonderful Shlomo Bachrach (Eth Staff 66-68), who provided the sources for our articles in the News of Eritrea and News of Ethiopia sections of The Herald, we are in need of a volunteer to cull the news from and about our two countries on the Internet, and then send short summaries of which articles he/she deems of interest to fellow RPCVs along with the link to the original articles. Please contact Herald editor Janet Lee at janet.lee35@gmail.com if you would like to do this highly appreciated task that contributes to the highly appreciated Herald.

End of Issue 10 — 2/3/2012

In Memorium

Remembering Ed Corboy

by John Coyne (Addis 62–64)

Ed Corboy, the first Peace Corps Staff Administrative Officer for Ethiopia, died on July 14, 2011 in Silver Springs, Maryland after a long illness. Joan, his wife of 58 years, and their daughter Katie, who was born in Ethiopia, were by his side.

Ed telling Harris how a LandRover works.

After graduating from Georgetown, Ed went to work at a law firm in Washington, D.C., and it was there that he met and worked with Harris Wofford, the first Peace Corps Country Director to Ethiopia. It was at the law firm where he also met, Joan, a young receptionist. Shortly after they were married Joan became a polio victim. That did not, however, slow her down or keep her from working on her many causes or going to Ethiopia.

In 1962, the Corboys along with their five children moved, with the 275 PCVs of Ethiopia I, to Ethiopia. Ed claimed that dealing with us in Ethiopia caused his gray hair, however, I clearly remember seeing him at one of our first dinners at Georgetown University during training and he was gray then. I remember thinking: well, if this old guy can go to Ethiopia, then I can too!

The couple continued to have children, one in Ethiopia and two more after their return to the States for a grand total of eight

After the Peace Corps, Ed worked for several years in PC/Washington, and later with the Civil Aviation Board. Joan and Ed stayed close to many RPCVs from those early years, and they and Peggy Drury (Jimma, Dira Dawa, Asmara 62–64) hosted one of the first DC fund raiser for Paul Tsongas (Ghion 62–64) when he ran for the presidency in 1992.

In writing about his father, John relates:

Dad was the first person I knew who jogged. Granted, he always lit up a cigarette the minute he stopped — but was out there doing it in 1970!! He had the track suit and everything. He even wore a headband!”

Ed stopped smoking in 1978.

John fondly remembers his father as “a nice man, with a great sense of humor; and he did a good job raising his kids in so much as none of us wound up on drugs, or in jail or as teenage parents.”

Those of us who knew Ed and Joan in Ethiopia and in Washington, D.C. for all theses years remember them both as terrific people, with great senses of humor — and they did a good job of raising us too during our two years in the Empire. None of us wound up on drugs, or in jail, thanks in part to Ed Corboy’s good parenting.  Thanks, Ed. You’ll be missed.

Ed telling Harris how to get to Dembidolo

Ed is survived by Joan, their eight children — Regina, Bill, Mary,  Eileen, Nora, Katie, John and Martin and 11 grandchildren.

A memorial service is being planned for the 50th Anniversary in Washington, D.C. this coming September.

You can contact Joan at:

3158 Gracefield Road
Silver Spring, Md. 20904
Phone:  (301) 890-7993

News of Ethiopia

The Coming Elections

Five years ago elections left Ethiopia in turmoil. Voters are now heading for the polls once again. What are the prospects?

by Barry Hillenbrand (Debre Markos 63–65)

The parliamentary elections in Ethiopia are less than two months away, and already they are besieged by controversy. Lots of controversies. Perhaps the only thing that is not shrouded in controversy is the date of the election: May 23. The entire National Parliament will be elected and a new Prime Minister will be chosen on the basis of the results. Or, of course, the present Prime Minister,

ON THE PARTY LINE: Prime Minister Meles

Meles Zenawi, may be chosen for his third term. The smart money is betting on Meles.

Indeed Meles himself generated the first election controversy by claiming in a speech filled with humility that he would retire and not run for a third term. But his government party set up howls insisting that the nation could not continue without him. He relented. He will be a candidate.

Next came the controversy over the rules of the election. Negotiations for a new election code were long and complicated. The opposition is made up of more than 60 parties. While alliances and coalitions are being formed – the Medrek (the Forum), a grouping of eight important parties, being one of the major ones – the opposition remains fractured. In January after a three day negotiating session, an election code was finally formulated to give opposition access to radio and television time. Rules were made for voter registration and balloting. Still many people are skeptical that the election will be conducted fairly.

Already violence has erupted. An opposition candidate was stabbed to death in March in what opposition leaders said was part of a widening campaign of repression ahead of the elections. The candidate, Aregawi Gebre-Yohannes, was killed at a restaurant he owned near the town of Shire in the Tigray region by a group of six men who had shadowed his movements for the previous two days, said Gebru Asrat, a leader of the Arena party, a member of the Medrek opposition alliance. “They cut him, they stabbed him in the stomach, and he died,” Aregawi said. “It’s becoming very difficult to run” a political campaign, he added. A suspect confessed to the crime and was sentence to 15 years in prison, but the killing was seen as a warning to the opposition.

Another opposition candidate was beaten in Tigray by members of the Ethiopian Army, claims Negasso Gidada, a former president of Ethiopia who has now joined the opposition. Like the candidate who was killed, the beating victim had previously been arrested for attending opposition meetings. “It is very bad news,” Negasso said. “My fear is such incidents may be intensifying.”

But perhaps the most controversial form of intimation is the continuing imprisonment on a life sentence of Birtukan Mideksa, one of the country’s main opposition leaders. After Prime Minister Meles himself, Birtukan is arguably the most famous and popular politician in Ethiopia. She along with many other leaders of the opposition alliance in the 2005 election was arrested and convicted of treason. The opposition group was pardoned and released, but Birtukan unlike many of the election leaders did not go into exile abroad. In a speech she repudiated her admission of guilt to the treason charge and was re-arrested and sentence to life in prison for treason. She has been held in solitary confinement for much of her time in prison. The U.S. State Department’s human rights report for 2009 said in March that “there were credible reports that Birtukan’s mental health deteriorated significantly during the year.” The report, later criticized by the Meles government, called her a political prisoner, echoing what many rights groups have claimed. Meles has said Birtukan was in “perfect” health, but that diplomats and journalists would not be allowed to visit her.

Another controversy revolves around foreign observers for the election. The Carter Center in Atlanta said that it would not send a team to monitor the election as they had for past Ethiopian elections. The Carter Center said that it had not been allowed to inspect the voter and candidate registration process and thus could not make an informed judgment on the entire election.

The European Union, after some wavering, announced that it would once again send a team of European and African parliamentarians to watch the elections. But the EU is worried about the terms of the election. Ana Maria Gomes, a Portuguese member of the European Parliament who led the EU’s monitoring mission to Ethiopia during elections in 2005, said that there was risk involved with the mission because at the moment “there are no conditions for genuine democratic elections.”

Still the election, genuine or not, will take place as scheduled on May 23. The results will take nearly month to tally. The winners will be announced on June 21, a date, opposition forces note, set so that global attention is focused on the World Cup Football competition in South Africa rather than any election controversy in Ethiopia. —BH

Static on VOA

Unhappy with election coverage and a U.S. Human Rights Report, Ethiopia jams Voice of America broadcasts

Reflecting the tensions over the election, the United States and Ethiopia are caught in a row over Amharic language short wave broadcasts of the Voice of America. In March the regular VOA broadcasts were suddenly jammed, making them unintelligible in Ethiopia. At first Ethiopia denied anything to do with the jamming, but later, in an interview, Prime Minister Meles said, rather vaguely, that yes, Ethiopia had tested some jamming methods and that may have been the cause. Meles added that VOA was guilty of broadcasting “destabilizing propaganda.” Meles compared VOA to Radio Mille Collines, whose broadcasts are blamed by many for sparking the 1994 Rwanda genocide. In a later interview with Reuters, Meles said “We have given up on the objectivity of the VOA service and we have been trying to beef up our capacity to deal with it, including through jamming,” In early April the jamming activities intensified, in part as a reaction to the U.S. State Department report on human rights abuses in Ethiopia and in part because of VOA coverage of the upcoming election.

The U.S. human rights report “is a smear campaign intended to portray the forthcoming elections as unfair and the conditions surrounding the election as undemocratic,” said Government spokesman Shimelis Kemal. “One can discern that the prime focus of this reporting is to create a kind of weak government in Ethiopia that would easily bend to pressures from foreign elements, foreign forces.” He continued: “VOA in the past has repeatedly broadcast programs and statements that tend to incite, foment hatred between different ethnic groups. Recently, it has transmitted a program alleging the government of Ethiopia had staged state sponsored genocide in Gambela.”

VOA broadcasts to Ethiopia were blocked around the 2005 election, and again before the 2008 local elections. Jamming of Amharic Service programs began again February 22 and in April was extended to other Ethiopian language broadcasts, in Tigrinya and Afan Oromo. In response, VOA set up satellite radio broadcasts in hopes of bypassing the jamming. The State Department in Washington condemned the attempts at jamming VOA. Gordon Duguid, a spokesperson for the State Department said that “a decision to jam VOA broadcasts contradicts the Government of Ethiopia’s frequent public commitments to freedom of the press.” —BH

Turbulence for Ethiopian Airlines

A tragic crash causes unaccustomed trouble for EAL and a heated dispute between Ethiopia and Lebanon

PUZZLING CRASH: an EAL jet

Usually stories in the HERALD about Ethiopian Airlines mark the continuing progress of what is Africa’s largest and most reliable airline. For example, there was news of Ethiopian increasing the number of flights from Washington to Addis from four a week to daily beginning in June. And Ethiopian Airlines is constantly buying new planes from Boeing and turning a profit.

But in January, the airline suffered a disastrous crash when a Boeing 737-800 crashed minutes after taking off from Beirut International Airport in stormy weather. All 90 people aboard were killed. Ultimately the aircraft’s voice and data recorders were recovered and sent to France for analysis, but the cause of the crash has yet to be officially determined. In a number of statements to the press, Lebanese officials implied that pilot error may have brought the plane down. They also ruled out terrorism.

Annoyed at what they consider premature judgments, Ethiopian Airline officials called media reports of pilot error “speculative.” In a statement Ethiopian Airlines said that it does “not rule out all possible causes including the possibility of sabotage until the final outcome of the investigation is known.” The investigation of the accident is being conducted by an international team including representatives from Boeing, the American NTSA, and Ethiopian Airlines staff , but led by the Lebanese. Still the Ethiopians remain deeply unhappy. The airline is now doing its own leaking to the Ethiopian press. Stories have appeared claiming that evidence from the flight recorders has been tampered with and voices of the pilots erased. Relations between Ethiopia and Lebanon have soured. —BH