Peace Corps Service Abbreviated

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Unkonda Rasheda Sawyer is a current Peace Corps Volunteer serving in Burkina Faso 2010-2012. She is assigned to the Province of the Boucle de Mouhoun. This province is in the west of Burkina Faso. Her village is called Tchériba approximately 184 km from the capital of Burkina Faso: Ouagadougou. Unkonda Rasheda Sawyer serves as a non formal Education volunteer. This sector was formly known as Girls Education and Empowerment. UR Sawyer is a well intergrated volunteer. During her service thus far in Burkina Faso she has met the First Lady Chantel Comporé, and the Prime Minister Luc-Adolphe Tiao. UR Sawyer is a very motivated and ambitious volunteer. She has built school latrines, started a Learn English scholarship, a school pharmacy, and is in the process of securing funds to build a new classroom for one of the primary schools in Tchériba. She as done all this in addition to her daily after school activities with students in Tchériba. UR Sawyer provides life skills, family planning, sex education, and career/ education planning for all students. Along with her homologue Omar Sere, she is in the process of establishing the first cultural center in the Boucle de Mouhoun. Further, with 2011 marking the 50 years of Peace Corps existence; Unkonda Rasheda Sawyer was an active member of the Fair Committee. Her main role was to organize the publicity campaign for the 50th anniversary 3 day Fair in Burkina Faso. She undertook this task and established Peace Corps to the population through two widely watched television shows in Burkina Faso – “Le Bon Dimache” with host “Big Ben” and “Cocktail” with host “Mascott.” In addition, she secured a radio show interview with Jean Kisitu; two one on one interviews with Country Director Shannon Meehan. Further she hand selected the video and photos which were used in the television commercials to promote the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps in Burkina Faso.

Since the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps Ms. Sawyer has continued in her same stride of meaningful activities in and around her village of Tchériba. In October 2011, UR Sawyer participated in a week long AIDS/HIV and Malaria training facilitated by the Ministry of Education. The training was to introduce Peace Corps volunteers in the education sector and their community counterparts on the new strategies the Ministry of Education is using to teach high school students about these very serious topics. An expectation of the training was that the volunteer and the community counterparts would give a similar training to other members of his or her community, further increasing the number of people informed.

Ms. Sawyer went beyond the call of duty once again and in mid- November through late December 2011, Ms. Sawyer along with 4 counterparts (2 males from University of Ouagadougou and 2 females from Koudougou University), planned a marathon campaign awareness with an estimated 230 high school students in Tchériba. The topics ranged from the female menstrual cycle and calculating the menstrual cycle, to minimizing the stigma of persons living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, to the month long campaign awareness, Ms.Sawyer was awarded a World AIDs Day grant. This grant is to dedicate a public wall in the community painted with the AIDS Ribbon. On December 1, 2012 World AIDS DAY, Ms. Sawyer, the teaching staff, the counterparts, and the high school student body, participated in a day- long of activities. The day started with a 2 hour session lead by the teaching staff on the history, transmission, and prevention of HIV/AIDS, activities, and Q&A. Later students performed theater skits, and answered trivia questions regarding the topic of HIV/AIDS. At the end of the day the students painted a mural that displayed the AIDS Ribbon and their handprints. They later made the universal AIDS Day oath to protect against the transmission of HIV/AIDS. The overall program was a success based on the participants’ responses and feedback. By January 2012, Ms. Sawyer began organizing a tofu training (requested by several members of her community) with her community counterpart. The training was scheduled for January 27-30 2012 in the village. The tofu training included making soy milk, soy yoghurt, and tofu kabobs. The participants were mostly women of the community that wanted to diversify their earning power with different products.

Many participants were extremely satisfied and surprised how easy it was to make some products such as soy milk. One participant stated, “C’est bon pour la santé, et ce n’est pas difficle de faire.” (Translation: it is good for the health and not difficult to make). In addition to the tofu training, another Peace Corps Volunteer (Halley Brus) had previously requested if Ms. Sawyer could organize media coverage of a health camp which she organized in her village of Kyon. Again UR Sawyer was able to deliver on this request by asking a few members of the print media and a few radio hosts and a photographer to cover the event on January 28, 2012. They gladly accepted and without hesitation. The outcome was a radio interview of Halley Brus and Dr. Claude Millogo (APCD of the PC Burkina Health Sector), and a page print out (with photo) in one of the national newspapers Le Pays. Between January and April 2012, Ms. Sawyer continued her English club in her village of Tcheriba. During January and April two students were sent to the American Language Center in Ouagadougou as participants of the Learn English Scholarship which Ms. Sawyer set up with her Parent Teacher Association. In summer 2012 she hopes to send two more students to participate in the scholarship in Ouagadougou.

As the two year Peace Corps service comes to an end, Ms. Sawyer attended her Close of Service Conference on March 26-28 2012. Ms. Sawyer was asked during the conference by a colleague if she felt she accomplished what she came to do as a PCV. Ms. Sawyer replied “yes, but it [service] is just really starting.”


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