Sierra Leone Postscript
By Jonathan Pearson on Saturday, June 5th, 2010
After a sixteen year absence, a new group of Sierra Leone Peace Corps invitees are now in-country, beginning three months of training before they begin their assignments as education volunteers.
While their individual impact is yet to be determined, Wednesday’s send-off celebration at Peace Corps Headquarters provided a glimpse of what is possible.
One of the speakers at the celebration was the Deputy Chief of Mission for the Embassy of Sierra Leone. When he accepted the invitation to address the gathering, Ibrahim Conteh had a request. Could Peace Corps locate Roberta Rabinoff – the volunteer who was his english teacher – and invite her to attend?
Working with the Friends of Sierra Leone, Peace Corps was able to locate Roberta Rabinoff-Kaplan, a member of the very first group of Sierra Leone volunteers and a current Washington DC resident
The reunion marked the first time they had seen each other since Roberta’s close of service 47 years ago.
“I bow to you. I am very grateful. God bless you,” said Conteh as he introduced his former teacher to the audience.
As the formal ceremonies gave way to informal conversation, Conteh and Rabinoff-Kaplan returned to their days together at the Magburaka Government Secondary School for Boys in the Tonkolili District of Sierra Leone. Roberta received updates on the lives of many school officials and students. They reflected on some of the coursework. Conteh recalled when his teacher read out loud one of his particularly good essays and how “the class went wild!”
Before the Peace Corps, Conteh said his only exposure to the United States came from missionaries. “The Peace Corps brought forth young, vibrant and motivated people, who gave us a different perspective about Americans.”
Rabinoff-Kaplan said “it was a most amazing coincidence that he would remember my name and that I would be in DC.”
A coincidence that she would be in DC? Perhaps.
Amazing that he would remember her name? Perhaps not.
And that is what the new Sierra Leone volunteers will soon experience.