Peace Corps Inducts 19 New Volunteers
Peace Corps Inducts 19 New Volunteers
On Friday, August 10, 2012 the Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy, Robert Yamate, swore-in 19 new Peace Corps volunteers who will be working in the Community Economic Development Program. Professor Amsatou Sow Sidibé, the Minister Consular of the Senegalese President’s Office, Mr. Papa Birama Thiam, the Director of Technical Assistance, and Mr. Mabousso Thiam, the Director of the l'Agence de Développement et d'Encadrement des Petites et Moyennes Entreprises (ADEPME) (the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency) represented the Senegalese government. Professor Sidibé spoke glowingly of what the Peace Corps and its volunteers have done for the Senegalese people, and how the organization has served as a model for volunteerism throughout the world. She also noted how she herself benefited from English training from a Peace Corps Volunteer during the 1970s.
Three volunteers addressed the audience in French, Pulaar, and Wolof, languages they’ve learned since arriving in Senegal in May. All volunteers undergo nine weeks of comprehensive cross-cultural, language and technical training, getting them prepared for work at their permanent sites in local communities, where they will live and work for the remaining two years of their service. Since the program was established in January 1963, more than 3,300 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Senegal. Currently 254 volunteers call Senegal home, working in the areas of agriculture, food security, environment, health and small enterprise development.
The new group of volunteers were particularly lucky to have been initially sworn-in by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday, August 1. The ceremony took place on the first day of the Secretary’s six-country, ten-day visit to Africa. U.S. Ambassador to Senegal Lewis Lukens, Assistant Secretary of African Affairs Johnnie Carson, Peace Corps Country Director Michael Simsik, and other Peace Corps staff attended the ceremony. Secretary Clinton congratulated the new volunteers for completing their pre-service training and thanked them for the work they will be doing in service to the Senegalese people. After the ceremony, the volunteers presented Secretary Clinton with a bag of handicrafts made by Senegalese artisans who have been trained by Peace Corps small business volunteers over the years.
And finally, we have a new Peace Corps country director, Mike Simsik. Here’s a message from the new director:
On July 9, 2012 I arrived in Dakar to assume the Country Director position for Peace Corps-Senegal. This is my third post with the Peace Corps, having previously served in Mali and Madagascar. I have worked for more than two decades in international development and conservation, as well as in research and academic settings, almost entirely focused on sub-Saharan Africa. I am a forester by trade, and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin (1986-1989) where I worked on a FAO reforestation project. I then worked for Peace Corps in various other capacities including Associate Peace Corps Director for Peace Corps-Madagascar as the head of the Environment Program (2005-2006), Deputy Director for Peace Corps-Mali (2006-2008), and then Peace Corps Country Director in Mali from 2008 until 2012. I have also worked for Peace Corps as a Recruiter (1997-2000) and as a Technical Trainer on 10 different occasions between 1990 and 2000. In fact, it was here in Senegal where I began my first paid employment in development, as a technical trainer for the forestry sector at the Peace Corps Training Center in Thiès during the summers of 1990 and 1991. Another Senegal connection is that it was here at the Peace Corps office in Ngor where I interviewed for the Country Director position in Mali with then Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter, in April of 2008.
My non-Peace Corps work includes managing the Urban Agriculture Program for Cornell University Cooperative Extension (CUCE) in New York City (2004-2005), and before that, working as an Urban Forester in the Urban Environment Program, also for CUCE-NYC (2002-2004). Before my affiliation with Cornell, I worked as the Director of Rural Development for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF, International) on a rain forest conservation project in southeastern Madagascar (1995-1996). Other international experience that I have includes serving on 3 occasions as an elections monitor with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Armenia, Kosovo, and Russia. I hold bachelor and master degrees in forestry from UC-Berkeley (1985) and the University of Michigan (1992), as well as a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (2003). My doctoral research focused on non-formal adult education within a developing world context and my dissertation was a political ecological analysis of biodiversity conservation in the highlands of Madagascar. I have also authored or co-authored several articles and book chapters based on my research and this year just published my dissertation in book format. I have also done some post-graduate coursework in business administration at Pace University in New York City, where I focused on green entrepreneurship and micro-credit lending in developing countries. I am a native Californian; born in Burbank, raised in Hollywood, and now call Agoura Hills my home. I am delighted to be here in Senegal and look forward to working with our colleagues from the American Mission, as well as doing what I can to enable the noble efforts of our Peace Corps volunteers and staff to address the development needs of the Senegalese people and their communities.