Peace Corps Reunites Returned Volunteer and Nigerian Student After 37 Years

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 11, 2003 – Today, Peace Corps reunited returned volunteer Ron Raphael with his former Nigerian high school student, Etim Etim, who is now an American citizen. Raphael served in Uyo Province, Nigeria, from 1964 to 1966, where he taught African history, English, and served as vice-principal. Raphael was the first non-Nigerian to live in this remote area.

Etim, now 55 and an urban and environmental planning consultant, finally had the chance to thank the teacher he credits with helping change his life. After high school, Etim became licensed to teach English literature and geography. He moved with his family to America in 1982 and later earned a Master’s degree in Urban/Environmental Planning. Three years ago, Etim’s daughter returned to Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer in Conakry, Guinea.
photo of Etim Etim and Ron Raphael looking at pictures
Etim Etim and Ron Raphael catch up at their reunion.

According to Etim, “The Peace Corps has given me so much. How do I say thank you for changing my life and giving me inspiration? It is all a bit overwhelming. At first, I was quite nervous when my daughter, Blessing, told me of her interest of serving in the Peace Corps. I suppose that’s only natural for a father. However, I reflected on the importance of work that the Peace Corps does and the tremendous impact volunteers, like Mr. Raphael, can have on the people they touch. I am so proud that Blessing became a Peace Corps volunteer. In fact, I hope to become one, too.”

When Etim arrived in America 21 years ago, he began his search for his former Peace Corps mentor. Only recently, after attending a Peace Corps focus group and telling his story about the Peace Corps volunteer who changed his life, Peace Corps staff were able to locate Raphael – living just miles away from Etim.

Nigeria was one of the first countries to receive Peace Corps volunteers in 1961. When the program closed in 1995, a total of 2,523 Peace Corps volunteers had served the African nation. Volunteers worked in the areas of health, education, rural community development, and practical agriculture. Particular projects included assisting Nigeria in developing a national athletic program and working in guinea worm eradication.

Since 1961, more than 168,000 Volunteers have served in the Peace Corps, working in such diverse fields as education, health and HIV/AIDS education, information technology, business development, the environment, and agriculture. Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a two-year commitment.

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