Peace Corps Volunteers are at the forefront of global health, and often share with us the stories of how they have used our resources to support their communities. Janelle Downing was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco from 2007 to 2009 and she shared this story with us.
“I lived in southeastern Morocco in a village in Ouarzazate province. I worked with a women’s weaving cooperative and we increased the number of carpets sold in cities and internationally. I learned to speak Tashlheet, one of Morocco’s native languages, and came to love the culture of the Souss-Massa Draa people.
When I first arrived at my host family’s home, I learned that most of my village had never seen a foreigner, so they gathered around me and stared. I wore jeans, my head was uncovered, and I carried a large backpack. It was the first day of Ramadan and the sun was so hot that we waited until sundown to leave the house and walk 4 miles to the store. We shared no common language. I sat in the shade reading while the women wove and napped. Often the women would turn to me and tell me not to work so hard, unaware that I was actually enjoying reading.
I opened my copy of Where There Is No Doctor one afternoon and spent hours enthralled by the cleverness of simplicity. I learned how to deliver a baby and treat a snakebite. I felt accomplished.
The children sat in the shade next to me on an empty grain sack stuffed with scraps of wool. They chattered to each other, pointing to familiar drawings and grasping for the book. Finally the eldest child took charge. She pointed at each drawing and said the word in Tashlheet. I began to scribble down words in my notebook based on what the children were pointing at in the book. An argument broke out when it came to the section on medicinal plants. The children grabbed my hands and dragged me into the field to show me the plants themselves. Where There is No Doctor helped me connect with my community and helped me think about how to communicate complex ideas in a straightforward manner.
Last spring, I did research for my master’s thesis in Malawi on mobile health clinics. My colleague was also a returned Peace Corps volunteer who had served in Guatemala. The health of many of the villagers in Malawi was poor and we wished we had a copy of Where There is No Doctor to better understand their conditions.”
For over thirty years, Peace Corps Volunteers have used Hesperian resources to empower communities worldwide to take action for their health. Looking toward the challenges of the 21st century, you can continue helping Peace Corps volunteers reach out, heal, and teach in countries worldwide. Make a gift to Hesperian today to support the work of future Peace Corps Volunteers.