Hesperian Books Relied Upon Long After Peace Corps Service
By Guest Contributor on Tuesday, July 31st, 2012
For many Peace Corps Volunteers, their twenty-seven month stint overseas is just the first step in a lifetime of work for the benefit of the international global community. Lessons learned and tools used are drawn upon later, when the call of duty takes Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to some of the more dangerous—and important—places worldwide.
A resource that has been invaluable to thousands of Peace Corps Volunteers is the book Where There Is No Doctor, published by the U.S.-based nonprofit Hesperian Health Guides. Michael Simsik, currently the director of the Peace Corps program in Mali, remembers Where There is No Doctor (WTND) and other Hesperian titles fondly:
“What I found most useful about this book (as well as “Helping Health Workers Learn” – HHWL), is the preface or chapters that relate to non-formal adult education. While serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin from 1986 to 1989, I referred often to WTND when attempting to find out how to treat whatever little thing was ailing me (or to do triage on a bigger thing until I could get to the Peace Corps office for more treatment). Despite not being a health worker, (my background is in natural resource management), I have referred to my tattered copies of both of these books (WTND & HHWL) for over 25 years now.”
For Michael, the most valuable aspect of these books is not just the simple, heavily illustrated presentation of basic medical information, but also the way in which they lend themselves to community education:
“These are, to date, still the best books that Peace Corps ever provided me with. I find them especially useful whenever I am working on a presentation that relates to non-formal education and non-literate communities. The chapters on these subjects are invaluable and while the reader may not realize it, they are not only learning effective techniques for communicating educational messages to others, but they are also receiving an education in the purest form and best presentation of Freirian educational methodology that I have ever seen.”
In March of 2012, Tuareg rebels in the north of Mali announced the creation of a new country, the nation of Azawad. While rumors of their connection to possible Al Qaeda operatives leaked out of the sparsely populated northern reaches of Mali, the Malian military ousted the civilian government in order to install one that would take a more hardline stance on the Northern rebels.
As Mali reels from the dramatic events of the last few months, resources that enable Peace Corps volunteers to teach effectively will continue to be of crucial importance.
Michael remained optimistic about the prospects for Peace Corps Volunteers’ work, in spite of the chaos: “Our staff here is safe. Unfortunately, the Peace Corps Volunteers had to be evacuated, but we’re hoping to get a new group here soon!”
Thanks to Lizzie LaCroix of Hesperian for this story.