The Lasting Legacy of a Peace Corps Friendship
“When you join the Peace Corps, you think you’re going to another country to give of yourself—but you end up receiving much more than you give,” says Anne-Claire Benoit (MPA ’12), who is doing her best to balance the scales.
During her three years in the Peace Corps in Niger, Anne-Claire formed a very deep connection with a young woman named Ramatou. “I met her on my first day in the village, and as soon as I saw her I knew we would be connected,” she declares, describing her friend as having a bubbly, happy personality and being extremely smart. Ramatou was most likely around seventeen or eighteen years old when they met.
“The more we got to know each other, she started to express interest in becoming a midwife,” says Anne-Claire. She adds that Ramatou told her that since she did not have a real father it was not a priority to feed her, which meant in turn that she had a hard time focusing in school. The two friends started studying together for an independent candidate exam, which Ramatou passed with flying colors. Fast-forward five years and Ramatou was an employed, licensed midwife, married and with a baby on the way.
When tragedy struck and her husband died before their child was born, Ramatou says it was her education that saved her. “She did not have to become a second or third wife, but instead can provide for herself and the baby, and she is doing incredibly well,” says Anne-Claire with great pride and emotion. “She is truly, truly amazing!”
This year, Anne-Claire invited Ramatou for the adventure of a lifetime, to come and visit her in Monterey. “She was my best friend and shared everything with me. She was patient when I learned the language and taught me how to do everything in a new cultural context,” says Anne-Claire. “Now, I want to share my life with her.”
Their visit in California was full of many firsts, including the “air-boat”—Ramatou had never seen, let alone ridden on, an airplane—and seeing the ocean and snow for the first time. To make the journey a little less stressful, Anne-Claire enlisted the help of another MIIS student, Heather Bessette (MAIEP ’12 / MBA ’13), who was on her way back to the U.S. from Mali, to meet Ramatou in Casablanca and accompany her the rest of the way. This is a story of two truly amazing women in which it would be hard to say that either is giving more than they are receiving.