Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Yanick Douyon, September 4, 2020

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

 

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00:00:00 - Douyon's motivation for joining the Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Hello. Today is September 4, 2020. My name is Jay Sztuk. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Fiji from 1974 through 1976.

Segment Synopsis: Douyon says the correct information is that she was in Liberia for 6 months, in Rwanda for 18 months, and in the Eastern Caribbean for 3 months. Douyon is a lifelong teacher. Douyon decided to take early retirement as teaching became less enjoyable because of increasing classroom responsibilities and bureaucratic paperwork. Douyon had been aware of the Peace Corps for a long time. Further interest was sparked in Douyon by Peace Corps Response which does not require a 2 year commitment. Douyon was less interested in earning more money and more motivated by a desire to help less advantaged students and to travel and experience foreign places more deeply than as a tourist. Douyon had additional personal freedom at the time she joined as all her children had graduated from college.

Keywords: Bureaucracy; Career paths; Children; Eastern Caribbean; Interests; Paperwork; Peace Corps Response Volunteers; Schools; Teachers; Teaching; Travel; Traveling

Subjects: Finance; International travel; Liberia; Peace Corps (U.S.)--2010-2020; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Eastern Caribbean; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Liberia; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Rwanda; Retirement; Rwanda

GPS: Liberia
Map Coordinates: 6.5, -9.5
GPS: Rwanda
Map Coordinates: -1.95, 29.866667
GPS: Eastern Caribbean
Map Coordinates: 15.1548739, -66.7091285
00:04:49 - Going to Africa

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Partial Transcript: Now, uh, when you started looking at, uh, Peace Corps Response opportunities, uh, were you looking specifically at Africa or were you just kind of looking anywhere?

Segment Synopsis: When searching Peace Corps Response openings, Douyon's first priority was education positions. Location in Africa was a secondary consideration for Douyon. Douyon had been to Africa as a tourist. In addition, Douyon had spent a sabbatical year teaching in Senegal for a private, nonprofit organization.

Keywords: Education programs; Peace Corps Response; Posts; Teaching; Tourists; Travel; Traveling

Subjects: International travel; Non-governmental organizations; Nonprofit organizations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Senegal

GPS: Senegal
Map Coordinates: 14.4682803, -16.7620746
GPS: Africa
Map Coordinates: 1.7314538, -16.5821315
00:06:50 - Applying to the Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: What was, what was the application process like the first time you, uh, the first time you, you volunteered?

Segment Synopsis: Douyon thought the application process was fairly standard except for the medical part. In order to get medical clearance, the required information was very detailed and the examinations were extremely thorough.

Keywords: Application; Application process; Examinations; Exams; Inoculations; Medical clearance; Vaccinations

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.); Voluntarism; Volunteers

00:08:43 - Reaction of others to Douyon's joining the Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Now what did your, what did your friends and family think of you, of you, taking off to go work in another country?

Segment Synopsis: Douyon's friends and relatives were aware of her adventuresome mindset. So, although they expressed some skepticism, they were not too surprised about her joining the Peace Corps.

Keywords: Family; Friends; Mentality

Subjects: Emotions; Peace Corps (U.S.)

00:09:25 - Orientation and training

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Partial Transcript: Okay. So, when you got accepted to go to Liberia, um, what kind of orientation and, and training did you receive?

Segment Synopsis: Until Douyon arrived in Liberia, most of her contact with the Peace Corps had been by phone. Douyon arrived in Liberia in a group of about 12 Volunteers. They had less than 2 weeks at a training facility in Kakata mostly going over administrative details such as Peace Corps evaluation and security procedures. Cultural training covered topics such as shopping and using taxis. There was no language training as Liberia is considered an English speaking country. About 5 months into her service, Douyon returned to Kakata along with the other Peace Corps Volunteers in Liberia to attend a visit by Michelle Obama.

Keywords: Accents; Bureaucracy; Changes; Cultural training; Ebola; Florida; Kakata (Liberia); Language training; Michelle Obama; Telephone calls; Training centers

Subjects: Emotions; Liberia; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Liberia

GPS: Liberia
Map Coordinates: 6.5, -9.5
GPS: Kakata (Liberia)
Map Coordinates: 6.53, -10.351667
GPS: Florida
Map Coordinates: 28.6305, -82.4497
00:13:49 - Douyon's assignment

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Partial Transcript: So when you completed your training, then you got an as--were you assigned to a school somewhere or what?

Segment Synopsis: Douyon was assigned to a combination elementary/junior high school in Owensgrove. Douyon was supposed to do mainly teacher training with an emphasis on improving literacy education. Every few weeks, Douyon would visit Harbel, the nearest local city, for shopping or to meet others.

Keywords: Harbel (Liberia); Literacy; Middle schools; Owensgrove (Liberia); Schools; Teacher training

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Liberia; Volunteer workers in education

GPS: Owensgrove (Liberia)
Map Coordinates: 6.2, -10.283056
GPS: Harbel (Liberia)
Map Coordinates: 6.283333, -10.35
00:15:45 - Douyon's daily routine

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Partial Transcript: Alright. So tell me about, um, your, let's say, a typical day at, at work there.

Segment Synopsis: Douyon lived by herself and had about a 10-minute walk to school. School always started at least 30 minutes late. Douyon had difficulty gathering the teachers for meetings and workshops. Teachers lacked transportation, support, materials, guidance, regular pay, and curriculum. Accordingly, Douyon suggested to the Peace Corps and school administration that her assignment should emphasize working with students, instead. Douyon devised her own schedule and visited every classroom each week to help students with literacy. Douyon regrets not being able to work more with the teachers as this could have had a greater impact. Peace Corps Volunteers were well-respected in Liberia.

Keywords: Adjustment; Difficult; Flexibility; Impact; Living alone; Regrets; Schedules; Supplies; Teachers; Transportation; Unsupportive

Subjects: Liberia; Lifestyles; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Liberia

GPS: Liberia
Map Coordinates: 6.5, -9.5
00:19:34 - Peace Corps diversity in Liberia

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Partial Transcript: Was, was Peace Corps Liberia pretty diverse?

Segment Synopsis: Most of the Volunteers were not African American. Douyon felt that this was not a problem. Douyon believes that older people are respected in Africa. This helped Douyon win people's respect as did the feeling of connectivity Liberians feel towards the U.S.

Keywords: African Americans; Ageism; Black Americans; Diversity in the Peace Corps

Subjects: Africa; Older people; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Liberia

GPS: Africa
Map Coordinates: 1.7314538, -16.5821315
00:20:45 - Housing

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Partial Transcript: And you say you had your own house there or apartment. So, you didn't, you didn't live with a host family.

Segment Synopsis: Douyon never lived with a host family. Douyon spent a lot of free time sitting on her front porch conversing with others. Douyon had to adjust to having no electricity nor running water. Douyon hired 2 students to carry water to her house.

Keywords: Adjustment; Conversations; Host family; Houses; Living alone; Running water; Students

Subjects: Interpersonal relations and culture; Liberia

GPS: Liberia
Map Coordinates: 6.5, -9.5
00:23:15 - Leisure activities

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Partial Transcript: So, what did you like most about living in Liberia?

Segment Synopsis: Douyon enjoyed conversing and getting to know the people. Douyon also spent time reading and keeping a journal. Douyon feels she experienced a lot of personal development while in Liberia. Douyon did a lot of introspection there.

Keywords: Conversations; Local people; Locals; Personal growth; Social interactions

Subjects: Liberia; Recreation

GPS: Liberia
Map Coordinates: 6.5, -9.5
00:24:05 - Secondary projects

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Partial Transcript: You know, uh, Peace Corps Volunteers often have secondary projects that they get involved in while they're, they're there with their, their communities. Did you do any, any that type of thing?

Segment Synopsis: Douyon started a homework assistance program. Douyon also began a girls' club to address the issue of gender inequity. Douyon helped organize a school library and introduced the students to it.

Keywords: Books; Community involvement; Gender discrimination; Students

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Liberia; Voluntarism; Volunteer workers in community development

00:26:39 - Follow up to Douyon's service / Contact with other Peace Corps Volunteers

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Partial Transcript: Is there, is there any kind of continuity with, with Peace Corps Response? Like when, when you left, could they have somebody to come in and kind of pick up where you left off?

Segment Synopsis: After Douyon left, at least 2 other regular Peace Corps Volunteers came in one after another and lived in the same house and worked at the same school as Douyon had. Members of Douyon's cohort maintained contact by cell phone. Other previous cohorts had been evacuated because of Ebola. So, there were relatively few Volunteers in-country at the time Douyon served there.

Keywords: Cell phones; Cohorts; Ebola; Evacuations; Houses; Peace Corps Response; Schools; Telephone calls

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Liberia; Volunteer workers in education

00:28:28 - Douyon's feelings about Liberia

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Partial Transcript: So, if, uh, if I said, uh, "Hey, I'm thinking about going to Liberia..."

Segment Synopsis: Douyon feels that Liberia has little to offer tourists either in terms of amenities or scenery. One possible advantage is that English is spoken there.

Keywords: Advantages; English (Language); Tourism; Tourists

Subjects: Liberia

GPS: Liberia
Map Coordinates: 6.5, -9.5
00:29:26 - Douyon's posting in Rwanda

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Partial Transcript: Alright. So you left there, uh, after 6 months and then you had a little, little break.

Segment Synopsis: Before joining Peace Corps, Douyon had visited Rwanda and she wanted to go back there. Douyon was assigned to assist 2 Rwandan professors of English. This was difficult as the professors both taught at 3 different locations. Neither lived in the same city as Douyon. They would come in to town to teach and then leave. Douyon would communicate with them by phone and email and sometimes substitute teach for them. The Rwandan professors were open to change but their lives were hectic.

Keywords: Communication; Difficult; Emails; Posts; Teacher training; Teaching English as a foreign language; Telephone calls; Travel; Traveling; University of Rwanda

Subjects: International travel; Rwanda; Universities and colleges; Volunteer workers in education

GPS: Rwanda
Map Coordinates: -1.95, 29.866667
GPS: University of Rwanda
Map Coordinates: -1.557222, 29.544167
00:33:13 - Training for Rwanda

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Partial Transcript: Now in, uh, your training for Rwanda, was it similar to what you had for Liberia?

Segment Synopsis: The Peace Corps training for Rwanda was very similar to what Douyon had received for Liberia. The main difference was language training. Douyon learned some basic conversational phrases in the native language. While a Belgian colony, the language used in Rwandan schools had been French. More recently, the language used in schools was changed to English.

Keywords: English (Language); French (Language); History; Language training; Post-colonial

Subjects: Language and languages; Liberia; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Rwanda; Rwanda

GPS: Liberia
Map Coordinates: 6.5, -9.5
GPS: Rwanda
Map Coordinates: -1.95, 29.866667
00:34:19 - Cultural differences between Rwanda and Liberia

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, so Rwanda's, uh, different geographically than, uh, than Liberia. Probably, culture--culturally a lot different. What, what were some, some of the things, uh, you would contrast Rwanda from Liberia?

Segment Synopsis: Douyon characterizes the people in both nations as being shy but hospitable, and curious about foreigners. Douyon notes differences in their music, dance, and food.

Keywords: Attitudes; Dancing; Differences; Food; Food culture; Foreigners; Local people; Locals

Subjects: Liberia; Rwanda

GPS: Rwanda
Map Coordinates: -1.95, 29.866667
GPS: Liberia
Map Coordinates: 6.5, -9.5
00:36:39 - Douyon's extension in Rwanda / Secondary projects

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Partial Transcript: So you extended your original assignment, right?

Segment Synopsis: Douyon enjoyed Rwanda so much that she extended. For secondary projects, she started English groups at a high school and at a parochial school. Douyon tutored English to university students who hoped to study abroad. In Rwanda, there was a huge interest in learning English.

Keywords: Community involvement; Extensions; High schools; Students; Study abroad; Teaching English as a foreign language; Tutors

Subjects: Language and languages; Volunteer workers in education

GPS: Rwanda
Map Coordinates: -1.95, 29.866667
00:38:41 - Rwandans' view of Americans

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, how was Peace Corps viewed in, in Rwanda?

Segment Synopsis: Compared to Liberia, Peace Corps was less well-known in Rwanda although the Volunteers were always well received. President Clinton had made a statement saying that the biggest regret he had of his term in office was that the U.S. had not interceded in the Rwandan genocide. This statement made Americans slightly more welcome than other foreigners in Rwanda.

Keywords: Apathy; Bill Clinton; Foreigners; History; Perceptions; Regrets; William J. Clinton

Subjects: Emotions; Liberia; Peace Corps (U.S.); Rwanda; World politics

GPS: Rwanda
Map Coordinates: -1.95, 29.866667
GPS: Liberia
Map Coordinates: 6.5, -9.5
00:40:19 - Living conditions at Douyon's first work site

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Partial Transcript: Uh, I lived on a campus. I lived on the university campus. And I, I was so much integrated into the community that I was the only easily accessible person, who was on campus, with keys to certain places.

Segment Synopsis: Douyon lived on the university campus and usually had running water and electricity. Douyon made a lot of friends there. Douyon already had some fluency in French.

Keywords: Community involvement; French (Language); Friends; Running water; Social life

Subjects: College campuses; Culture; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Rwanda; Student activities

00:42:32 - Extending

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Partial Transcript: So, uh, yeah that must have been, must have been hard for you to leave after such a long time.

Segment Synopsis: Douyon had become friends with the Rwandan Peace Corps director and staff. The director said for to Douyon to extend, it would be better if she went to a different site. Douyon agreed and was assigned to a teachers college in Zaza.

Keywords: Extensions; Friendships; High schools; Kigali (Rwanda); Peace Corps directors; Peace Corps staff; Schedules; School systems; Teacher training; Teaching English as a foreign language; Travel; Traveling; Zaza (Rwanda)

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.)--Rwanda

GPS: Kigali (Rwanda)
Map Coordinates: -1.943889, 30.059444
GPS: Zaza (Rwanda)
Map Coordinates: -2.155258, 30.431056
00:43:56 - Pros and cons of Douyon's second work site

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Partial Transcript: So, I went there from June to December.

Segment Synopsis: Douyon was working with students who were slated to become elementary school teachers. Douyon enjoyed the people and school administration at her work site. Douyon's housing was fine. However, Zaza was much more physically isolated than Douyon's first work site. Going shopping and cooking were difficult for Douyon in Zaza.

Keywords: Buses; Difficult; Distance; Housing; Isolation; Rural areas; Students; Transportation; Zaza (Rwanda)

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.)--Rwanda; Volunteer workers in education

GPS: Zaza (Rwanda)
Map Coordinates: -2.155258, 30.431056
00:45:37 - Douyon's experience in St. Lucia

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Partial Transcript: So, you finished up there and, um, after Zaza decided it was time to leave--(laughs)--leave Rwanda.

Segment Synopsis: While surfing the web, Douyon found another Peace Corps Response opening in the Eastern Caribbean. Subsequently, Douyon applied for and accepted an assignment in St. Lucia. It was a summer teacher training program. Although professionally motivated, the native teachers were unpaid during the summer and had other items on their agenda which conflicted with this training. People in St. Lucia were positive towards Peace Corps Volunteers and Americans.

Keywords: Americans; Applications; Applying; Attitudes; Eastern Caribbean; Local people; Locals; Motivation; Peace Corps Response; Plans; Teacher training; Zaza (Rwanda)

Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.)--Eastern Caribbean; Rwanda; St. Lucia; Volunteer workers in education

GPS: Rwanda
Map Coordinates: -1.95, 29.866667
GPS: Zaza (Rwanda)
Map Coordinates: -2.155258, 30.431056
GPS: Eastern Caribbean
Map Coordinates: 15.1548739, -66.7091285
GPS: St. Lucia
Map Coordinates: 13.8817, -60.9682
00:50:50 - Douyon's view on the Peace Corps Response program

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Partial Transcript: So, I think that pretty much covers your 3 assignments but I'd like to kind of just get your views on the, the, uh, Peace Corps Response program in general.

Segment Synopsis: Douyon is very positive about Peace Corps Response. At times during her service, Douyon found the language barrier frustrating. Being able to transform even a handful of the people she met gave Douyon motivation to continue her service. The brevity of the service is also a motivating factor during bad times.

Keywords: Accomplishments; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Influences; Language barriers; Motivation

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Emotions; Peace Corps (U.S.)

00:55:14 - Douyon's reflections on the Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: I want to ask you, uh, do you think that, uh, Peace Corps is, uh, doing enough to, to recruit, um, minority, uh, folks in this program or African Americans or other, other races?

Segment Synopsis: Douyon believes that Peace Corps does a fairly good job of recruiting minorities. Douyon believes that the Peace Corps does immeasurable good in opening up new possibilities for the Volunteers and the people they come in contact with overseas. As a teacher, it's hard to know one's long-term impact on the students.

Keywords: African Americans; Black Americans; Diversity in the Peace Corps; Future plans; Impact; Recruiting; Recruitment; Students; Teachers

Subjects: Emotions; Minorities; Peace Corps (U.S.)