Fellows’ Flyer

November 2008

News and views for and by Princeton in Africa Fellows

We’re Still Recruiting !


Know someone who’d be a great PiAf Fellow? As we recruit candidates for the 2009-2010 fellowship year, we need your help to find fantastic applicants! Please tell your Princeton friends—graduating seniors in the Class of 2009 and young alumni—about PiAf and encourage them to apply.


Prospective candidates should visit our Applicants page for more information. Applications are due December 1.

2008 Annual Benefit


Thanks to all who attended and supported our annual benefit on October 16th!


We were thrilled to gather approximately 150 guests that evening for cocktails and dinner, live and silent auctions, the opportunity to hear from Princeton in Africa alumni, and the presentation of Princeton in Africa awards to Ambassadors Frank G. Wisner ‘61 and Robert B. Oakley ‘52.



Pictured at left: Ambassador and Mrs. Frank and Christine Wisner (top); Ambassador Robert Oakley and Peter Pettibone ‘61 (middle); and PiAf alumnae Emily Holland ‘01 and Catherine Casey ‘02 (bottom).

Alumni Fundraising Campaign


We are pleased to announce the results of our alumni fundraising campaign. Because of all of you who took up our challenge, we raised $4,835.03 from 50% of our alumni!

Thank you to all who donated. Not only will the money raised go towards funding a Fellow next year, but also our strong participation percentage will demonstrate to outside donors how important we feel this program has been in our lives and the lives of those we were able to help in Africa. If you didn’t get a chance to donate and would still like to do so, please Donate Now!


We appreciate your continuing support of Princeton in Africa.


-- Louise Lamphere Beryl (PiAf ‘04-‘05), Erin Ferenchick (PiAf ‘00-‘01), and Emily Harris (PiAf ‘06-’07)

PiAf Alumni Fundraising Committee

In this Issue:

Highlights from 2008-2009 Fellows

Stephanie Keene in Senegal

and Michael Scharff in Uganda

Update from PiAf alumna Kristina Scurry Baehr, who is working to launch a sexual and gender-based violence crimes unit in Liberia

Reflections from summer intern

Jenny Zhang in Madagascar

Happy Birthday

November 21

Carl Owens

November 23

Nana Boakye

November 29

Elizabeth Jemison

by Michael Scharff, ‘08-’09 Fellow at the International Rescue Committee in Uganda

One of the first things you learn when traveling anywhere in Uganda is that, contrary to Western perception, the presence of a dirt road—especially those that are potholed and teeming with pedestrians attending to business in many of the metal-roofed shacks selling the essentials of everyday life, from bread, butter, and eggs to small bags of local gin—does not trigger the automatic reflex to “slow down” or “use caution.” Rather, dirt roads in Uganda are meant to be conquered. Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) vehicles are infamous for traveling at lightening speeds along some of the most challenging terrain. The practice is in place mostly for security reasons: the faster one drives, the less chance the vehicle can be caught in an ambush in the conflict-prone zones in which the NGOs here, International Rescue Committee (IRC) included, operate.


About a mile out from the airport, the Land Rover I’m riding in begins its final approach. We trade one of the few well-paved roads of Kampala for the potholed dirt road, affectionately dubbed “airport lane.” So the four-wheel-drive kicks-in, the accelerator presses closer to the floor, and we’re zipping down “airport lane” as pedestrians, barely visible in the early morning light, dive out of the way.


Before long, I’m sitting on board an 8-passenger Cessna aircraft. Suddenly the pilot, who just a moment ago introduced himself as Simon, turns in his seat to face his passengers and declares he is going to lead us all in prayer. “Heavenly father, we ask that you bless this flight today, and bring us safely to our destination,” he says. This is certainly the first time I’ve been on a plane where the pilot leads the entire plane in prayer, and I get this funny feeling that maybe, just maybe, our praying has less to do with an ordinary formality and more to do with the simple fact that we’re going to need all the help we can get to make it to our destination.


I’ve been in Uganda now for just over four months, and not a day goes by without learning or experiencing something new. I have the unique opportunity as the Communications Intern with the IRC’s Uganda program to travel quite frequently to our three field sites: two in war-torn northern Uganda, the other in the Karamoja sub-region.


The 20-year civil war between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group, and the Government of Uganda left tens of thousands dead and nearly two-million displaced. In the wake of a 2006 ceasefire between the LRA and the Government, people are beginning to leave the squalid camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and making their way home. But tens of thousands still remain in the overcrowded camps, and sites to which people are returning home lack even basic services such as latrines or access to health centers.


IRC is providing a comprehensive package of services, everything from improving sanitation and access to health care, to promoting livelihoods opportunities and paying for the school fees of children engaged in or at risk of engaging in child labor. As I travel, I meet with those who are directly benefiting from our programming, and I write about their stories. It’s amazing to hear their tales, but so much more impressive is their resolve to move forward despite having experienced and continuing to live with the scars of war.


It’s the children and young adults, people my own age, who I’ve found particularly inspirational. All they’ve ever known is war, and yet, young people, like Peter Oyet, a 17-year-old who was abducted by the rebels at age 13, are determined to prove they can make something of their life in the midst of near total devastation.


I met Peter on a recent visit to Pader district in northern Uganda. Peter is currently enrolled in vocational school and learning welding and carpentry. His schools fees are paid by one of IRC’s educational programs. “I spent two years with the rebels,” Peter tells me. “They forced me to kill or else I would have been killed. I remember there was a young boy called Okello. He tried to escape. The rebels hung him upside down from a tree branch, and I, along with a few others, was forced to beat him to death. I felt so guilty.”


The horrors of war will surely continue to haunt countless children and adults who experienced its brutality in unimaginable ways. But for now, Uganda is starting to recover, albeit slowly, and one step at a time.

“When I go home, I’m going to open a workshop,” Peter says proudly. Once a vision, the idea of starting anew is now a reality.

Michael in Paloga IDP camp, northern Uganda, roughly 16 kilometers from Southern Sudan

Michael meets with members of an IRC-sponsored “Peace Committee” in the Karamoja sub-region, northeastern Uganda

Notes from the Field

Kristina served as a PiAf Fellow in 2004-2005 with the CDC in Uganda.


When I left Uganda and my Piaf fellowship, I thought that I had left my experiences in Africa behind. I went to law school ready to start a new chapter, and at Yale I focused almost exclusively on domestic violence in America. Through a variety of circumstances, however, I now find myself back in Africa as a fellow. Again. I now have a fellowship with the Carter Center in Liberia, working with the Ministry of Justice to launch a sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) crimes unit. This is not an easy task.


To describe the justice system in Liberia as “broken” would be a vast understatement. Parts of the system don’t exist. For instance, there are no prosecutors or defense counsel in Maryland County, where I have spent much of my time in Liberia. And those parts of the system that do exist, such as magistrate courts, are mostly corrupt. A magistrate will often “compromise” a case, which means asking a victim of a crime and the perpetrator to settle the matter outside of court. The perpetrator pays the victim to stop the prosecution—with, of course, a little extra money for the magistrate for his “service” as well.


At least the prisons are not as corrupt as the magistrate courts, but prisons simply lack resources and are overflowing way beyond capacity. I recently visited a prison where 93% of the inmates are being held, some for years on end, without trial or even a single appearance before the court. Nine people were in cramped cells that were made for one, and the prisoners hung rice sacks as hammocks so that they could manage to lie down to sleep.


And yet, unlike in many African countries, this dire situation is not for lack of political will. The President and the Ministry of Justice of Liberia are striving to solve the problem. But where does one begin? One cannot fire all the county attorneys, judges, magistrates, and clerks, and start over with qualified people, because there simply aren’t enough college graduates to fill the positions (much less law school graduates). Nor can one simply build more prisons and buy 100 vehicles to transport prisoners overnight. Indeed, some would question the judgment of launching a SGBV crimes unit when prosecutors can’t even manage to prosecute any crime effectively.


And yet, in this broken system, launching a new SGBV crimes unit actually reflects the progressive values of the current administration of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. This new unit, which will begin by prosecuting sex crimes in the capital, will attempt to prosecute at least one type of case in at least one county correctly. In Liberia, we would call this “trying small,” or making one’s best effort. The newly trained, educated prosecutors will work with a specially trained Women’s and Children’s Protection Section of the police force to investigate and prosecute these crimes effectively. The unit will include victim’s advocates to demystify the legal process for the survivor and refer the survivor to medical and psycho-social services. Cases will come before a new SGBV court that will focus exclusively on SGBV and hopefully be free from the corruption of older courts in the region. The goal is to secure convictions, proclaim that Liberia will not tolerate rape, and support the survivor through a difficult process.


So if Liberia is trying to prosecute one crime effectively, why choose sexual violence? Frankly, because in Liberia, women matter. As the new film Pray the Devil Back to Hell portrays, women stood up to violence in Liberia and were instrumental in stopping the war. Together, they declared that they would no longer tolerate violence in their communities. And once the war subsided, they helped elect the first female president in Africa. Of course, like elsewhere, there are high rates of domestic and sexual violence in Liberia. But unlike in most countries, this government has made fighting sexual violence a top priority. And I believe that this is simply because women matter here. And while this small SGBV crimes unit will not put an end to rape here, it is Liberia’s way of “trying small” to combat sexual violence and begin to rebuild the criminal justice system piece by piece.

Kristina finished law school in early 2008.

by Kristina Scurry Baehr ‘04

Alum Update

In my second week in Madagascar, I found myself standing by a riverbed, watching but not quite believing that our organization’s car was really being driven onto a “ferry” by my boss. This was a big SUV, designed to be dented on the muddy and barely passable roads; the “ferry” was constructed of wooden planks loosely attached, pushed across the river by local villagers. Somehow we made it across and were soon on our way to the school inauguration. The new school was a full day’s drive and an hour’s hike through rice paddies away from Fianarantsoa, where my organization’s main office was located in the central highlands. Because there was no school in that village before, schoolchildren had to walk an hour each day and cross several rivers to attend school in the next closest village. During the rainy season when river levels rose to impassable heights, the schoolchildren were stranded in their village and did not attend school. The new school was certainly cause for celebration for the villagers, with the added bonus of the neighboring town’s mayor bringing his generator to this unelectrified village, which paved the way for music, dancing, and one single light bulb that illuminated the festivities.


This trip was the first of many eye-opening experiences during my summer internship (which was supported by IIP, Grand Challenges, and PiAf) with Feedback Madagascar, a NGO whose motto is “Conservation and Development, Hand-in-Hand.” This motto was the common thread in all of their seemingly varied projects, ranging from supporting women’s basketry associations to working with farmers to increase their yield of new, more sustainable crops like yams and beans. The point was emphasized in each and every project with participants: neither conservation nor development should be sacrificed at the expense of the other. During the summer (which was actually winter, as Madagascar is in the southern hemisphere), I had the chance to visit a few sites in the field, assisting and observing at farmers’ training sessions and construction sites for new community health centers, and seeing along the way the everyday details that made Madagascar so beautiful: rice paddies, rainforests, rivers, the Indian Ocean, and bustling, colorful marketplaces.


In the end, it was the task that seemed most prosaic that gave me the most satisfaction—teaching English in the Fianarantsoa office. The class size varied between three and ten members of both the office staff and field agents, and my students were almost all women. We had lessons every afternoon and we spoke of the latest news, topics that related to their projects, our pasts, our families. Through these daily sessions, I learned more about Madagascar’s culture and society than I could have in any other way. When I arrived in Fianarantsoa on the first day, I called the office to arrange for someone to meet me at the local bus station. My somewhat panicked plea was answered by a much more panicked plea of “Please slow down! I cannot understand!” Little did I know that by the end of my stay, the same person would be able to explain in English the nuances of the latest piece of education legislation and that we would be able to joke with ease. My summer in Madagascar was filled with teaching, plenty of learning, unexpectedly close friendships, and a tremendous consumption of rice, and I would not change any of it.

The Feedback Madagascar vehicle

being driven onto the “ferry”

by Jenny Zhang ‘09, Summer Intern at Feedback Madagascar in Madagascar

Summer Sojourn

Jenny (right) in front of a traditional highlands

house where she stayed with a family

Tel: 609.258.7215    Fax: 609.964.1818    piaf@princeton.edu

Mailing address: Post Office Box 226, Princeton, NJ 08542    Street address: 194 Nassau Street, Suite 219, Princeton, NJ 08542     

Nangadeff! I am a 2008-2009 PiAf Fellow in Dakar, Senegal, where I work for the UN World Food Program (WFP).


Over the past two months I have found Dakar to be an enjoyable, dynamic, and at times paradoxical city. Dakar boasts crowded streets overflowing with honking and dilapidated taxis, street vendors, and the colorful elegance of Senegalese boubous (incredibly fashionable dresses worn by Senegalese women), yet the urban clamor suddenly evaporates with a five-minute walk to the tranquil, rocky cliffs of Dakar’s ocean border. Modern, high-rise buildings are thrust against wooden shacks and makeshift markets, creating an environment that is at once urban yet somehow reminiscent of a small town. Dakar is definitely a fusion of the modern and traditional, and it is not uncommon to view men in business suits talking on cell phones while they weave through a pack of goats on their way to work.


In addition to the glory that is easy beach access and the many activities available here, I have come to truly appreciate Senegalese culture. Senegalese people give freely of their money, time, and hospitality, despite having relatively few resources from a Western perspective. While street vendors can at times be persistent to the point of exasperation, the flipside of this behavior is a sense of extended community, social ties, and family that I find enriching and warm. People here are also fond of joking around (with friends but also with complete strangers), so it’s important to have a good sense of humor!


The more I learn about Senegal, the more I become distressed by the poverty existing here and in West Africa as a whole. The Sahelian region of West Africa is the most environmentally challenged region in the world, and has been badly affected by the recent crisis of high food prices. Working with WFP at such a pivotal time has revolutionized the way I think about humanitarian aid and poverty. As a Reports Assistant in the West African Regional Bureau, I edit a lot of project documents and grant proposals, but my work has also led me on two field missions, one to Freetown, Sierra Leone, and the other to the Cassamance region of southern Senegal.


The WFP Regional Bureau is responsible for the management of 19 West African countries, and I am continually shocked by the sheer amount of need found in the region. Millions of people suffering from malnutrition depend on WFP’s assistance every year, and the life-saving importance of WFP operations cannot be emphasized enough. On my field missions, I have personally witnessed WFP’s ability to help communities attain sustainable food security. I have spoken to Diola village women who felt newly empowered by the agricultural skills their community learnt from a WFP initiative, and I have danced with Mendé tribal women as they celebrated the success of their village’s food-for-work program. However, alongside these encouraging experiences, I have also watched villagers sing mourning hymns for the death a child in a food-insecure, remote Senegalese community. Despite humanitarian efforts, countless West Africans continue to suffer from hunger-related, preventable illnesses each year, and this reality motivates me in my work each day. 


I feel incredibly fortunate to be a PiAf Fellow in Senegal. Whether I am soaking up the sun at the beach, bartering with a saleswoman at the market, or learning more about humanitarian aid at the office, I am continually aware of the life-changing nature of my experiences here.



Stephanie’s Five Favorite Things to do in Dakar


1. BEACH! The water is literally a five-minute walk away from my apartment. Lots of swimming, kayaking, surfing, and snorkeling to do!

2. Live music. Dakar has great nightlife, and concerts of all kinds abound. Senegal is also home to West Africa’s most renowned singer, Youssou N’Dour.

3. Eat. Tropical fruit, seafood, and flavorful Senegalese dishes are all delicious.

4. Market-hopping. The energy of Dakar is captured perfectly in its markets, which sell fresh seafood, crafts, and other merchandise (prices always negotiable).

5. Island-hopping. Dakar has three islands off of its coastline that are easily accessible by boat. Each has its own flavor, and they make great daytrips away from the hustle of downtown. 

Stephanie on the top of a hill on the Isle de Gorée

by Stephanie Keene, ‘08-’09 Fellow at UN World Food Program in Senegal

Notes from the Field

Aerial view of one of Dakar’s downtown city streets

One of many school feeding programs sponsored by

WFP in Ziguinchor, Senegal. Those are WFP rice

bags in the background.

Stephanie at the beach at Toubab Diallo,

just outside of Dakar.

Award-winning documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell tells the incredible story of a group of brave and visionary women who demanded peace for Liberia, a nation torn to shreds by a decades-old civil war.


The film premieres Nov. 7th at NYC’s Cinema Village and then opens at cities across the country. Click here to find out more about the film and here to locate a screening near you.