Going back

In Career Development, Growing Up, International Development, Niger, Peace Corps on September 15, 2010 at 8:35 pm

It’s as official as it’s going to be, I’m going back to Niger, where my wife and I served as Peace Corps Volunteers from 1997-2001.  I leave on Saturday, arrive on Sunday, and will be there for the next 2 weeks.

This trip represents a lot of different things for me.  Primarily, it’s a career development opportunity – I haven’t had many opportunities to get the long-term field experience that a lot of my peers have, so I need to take advantage of these chances to work “in the field.”  For me at this stage of my career, I couldn’t be more pleased with the situation – I am the only Program Officer at my NGO backstopping Niger and Chad.  I get to work on my Peace Corps Country, which is a nice full-circle opportunity for me in my international development career.

However, I’m hoping that this can be more of a beginning rather than a full-circle ending – kind of like the next phase of my life.  Peace Corps Niger is a large part of my identity.  I spent nearly 10 years as either a Peace Corps Volunteer, Recruiter, or former recruiter (while in grad school); working at my NGO represents the main 2nd phase of my career, especially since I started in the programming sector on the Iraq team last year.

But – it will be hard not to live in the past as I get back to a country I’ve grown to lionize.  As a recruiter, my Peace Corps Volunteer experience grew into this epic, heroic experience where I found myself and my career calling, overcoming the soul-crushing factors lined up against me.  Even now, I’m sure people are still sick of me saying, “When I was in Peace Corps… in Niger…in  Niger… blah blah” as I stand up and gesticulate and tell my guinea-worm project story for the Nth time.

The reality was probably more prosaic.  I was a decent PCV, I thought I learned Fulfulde pretty well (until I visited other villages with people who didn’t know the “Tubako” Fulfulde), I worked on a wide range of projects and even extended for a third year.  But I can’t say I lit the PC world aflame or did anything truly remarkable.  No volunteer of the year awards for me.  I got sick a couple of times, but nothing really awful.

I basically had the classic PC experience – I learned and gained WAY more than I taught, and it had a lasting effect on my career goals and life outlook.

So now, I’m preparing to get back and do something I never really did before – regular development work.  Niger is experiencing a crushing famine and has had devastating flash floods recently.  Niger is still the very poorest country in the world according to the UN Human Development Index, and the statistics that lead to that terrible ranking represent a non-famine year.  Niger’s reality is one of barely subsisting, on the knife’s edge of crisis, even in a good year.  I’m happy to be working for an NGO where I can help alleviate the suffering of Nigeriens, who are among the most vulnerable people on Earth.

With that in mind – I’ll have a lot on my plate these next two weeks.  I’m hoping to write about this as much as possible, and even cross-post my blog posts on IRD’s Voices blog and upload some photos to Flickr when I can.

Stay tuned.

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Molly Mattessich, Scott Webb. Scott Webb said: I'm going to #Niger, here's my first blog post about it: http://bit.ly/d51T8v #PeaceCorps […]


  2. Hi Scott: Nice blog entry, and can’t wait to see your pictures. Peace Corps was formative for me as well, and each time I go back to my country, I find myself wistfully comparing how it is now, 20 years later, with how it was then…or more accurately, perhaps, how I remember it.


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