Carter relates experiences as Peace Corps volunteer
Editor's Note: Sterling Carter, a graduate of Carroll High School and Wabash College, has been in Africa with the Peace Corps for a year now, and has another year to go. He is an agriculture volunteer in Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world. He lives in a village with no electricity and no running water. One of Carter's Internet blogs is printed below. It is not his latest posting, but was chosen because of its descriptive nature. Carter describes a primitive doctor's office and a crude police station away from the village. To read more about his experiences in Africa, go to: http://sterlinginafrica.blogspot. com/. Carter is the son of Byron "B.C." and Wyndham Traxler Carter of Flora.
A Note from My Journal 22 September 2008 7:11 p.m.
I went out exploring my market town (pop. 6000) and discovering the things I should have discovered six months ago. I went to the mayor's office, saw the big mosque, and visited the doctor's office.
The lokotoro kwaara (lit. "doctor's house"), which I just assumed was a school when I first saw it, was a sad sight. The walls were cracked and dirty, it didn't have electricity, and it had only a few taps for running water. Posters from former awareness campaigns hung in the hot, fly-infested waiting area. About twenty people were waiting to see the infirmary workers, two of them and one trainee, but no certified doctor. At least I can say that these workers didn't look overwhelmed.
The hardest part about being there was seeing the children. I suppose children are the main clients due to Niger's sheer number of them and the expense of drugs/treatment. Most adults probably wait it out, for better or worse. But even the children are forced to wait until their condition is severe. One child there looked so emaciated and pathetic that it's a wonder he made it to the doctor.
When I think about the contrast between the poorest of the poor developing countries and what I know of Western services, I can't overcome the gulf of difference. I lost my phone a few weeks ago. When I went to the police station in Niamey, I felt like I'd been transported back to Mexico in the 1930s. It was like a movie. Concrete walls with chipped, faded paint, no doors, no electricity, red-ink rubber-stamped paper affadavits, goats in the courtyard, a flag bleached by the sun after who knows how many years. I mean I'm surprised there is even enough money for a flag. And it's not like the workers can do much about it (I guess they could get rid of the goats). They just have to keep going and do the best they can with what they have. No wonder there's so much corruption. Why shouldn't a civil worker skim a little extra when they're powerless to effect change? I don't condone it, but you have to expect it.
The doctor's office is the real issue though, from today's journey. I'd like to start working there a few days a week, if I can stand it. Maybe I can get some information on community health projects. A former neighbor once said one of his most satisfying days in country was when he helped with child polio inoculations. Even if it's just a lot of little things, at least it'd help a little bit.