From Publishers Weekly
Erdman, who now works for the Peace Corps in Washington, D.C., spent two years in Nambonkaha, a northern Ivory Coast village, starting in 1998. As a culturally sensitive community development volunteer, she took her time finding her niche. She started working on maternal and child health by introducing the regular weighing of babies, as a means of monitoring malnutrition and as a way of opening the door to a wider range of health-care interventions. Without funds or equipment, this boiled down to rudimentary first aid: cleaning and bandaging wounds, cooling down a fever or recognizing malaria and going to the nurse for pills. By the end of Erdman's stay, with the support of the village, she'd moved on, very successfully, to birth control and AIDS prevention education. Happily, Erdman focuses on the story behind the story: how she learned local ways, how she gained the confidence and friendship of assorted villagers and even how she couldn't do anything about some atrocities, like female genital mutilation. In the end, she understands the village world view so well, she can imagine better ways to deal with certain issues, like promoting condom usage: what if international health organizations had depicted AIDS as a sorcery problem and "introduced condoms, with the help of chiefs and fetisheurs, as the only fetish that can stave off" the disease? This is an engrossing, well-told tale certain to appeal to armchair travelers and to anyone-especially women-considering international volunteer work.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Erdman spent two years as a Peace Corps worker in the small town of Nambonkaha, Ivory Coast, at the end of the last decade. Erdman, who acted as a health-care worker and instructor, is surprised to find herself called upon to help women in labor, surrounded by curious children who want to learn to read, and honored with gifts from the chief. She also faces the challenge of trying to meld medical knowledge with traditional sorcery, as the village denizens believe most illness and misfortune is caused by witchcraft rather than infection. This is particular dangerous in regards to AIDS, which arrives in the village in the form of a young widow and her son. With the help of several of the town's residents, including Sidibe, the only nurse in the town, Erdman begins teaching classes and sets up a baby-weighing station in the market. With graceful, thoughtful prose, Erdman ponders the problems the village faces and describes in vivid detail the many people she met there. Kristine Huntley
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