Evacuated Days After Swearing-in: Camilla Cluett, Burkina Faso 2017

Hours after swearing-in and becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer, Camilla Cluett and her fellow volunteers were consolidated for security concerns. Days later, she was leaving Burkina Faso for good. While her service was short, she gives insights into training and tells us what is to come of her Peace Corps story.

Photos from Camilla’s Story

Camilla Cluett’s Peace Corps Story

Where and when did you serve? What did you do?

I was a Community Economic Development Volunteer (CED) in Burkina Faso in 2017. Sadly, we were evacuated a week after swearing in, so I did not make it to my site any further than my three-day site visit. In training, we made liquid and hard soap as well as tofu, which are income generating activities I would have taught the women in my community based on a needs assessment.

What is one of your favorite Peace Corps memories?

There is a word in Burkina, nasara, which means either “foreigner” or “white person” depending on who you ask, and strangers will often call you nasara instead of asking for your name, which I did not like very much. While I was at my site visit, and my counterpart was introducing me to our first women’s Microfinance group (out of seven) he said “This is Camilla Sawadogo, she is not a nasara, she is a Birkinabè and I do not want to hear you call her a nasara”.

What is one of your least favorite Peace Corps memories?

Without a doubt it is the evacuation. We were consolidated in a hotel that we weren’t allowed to leave for a week leading up to evacuation, unaware of what our futures held. Then we received an email saying we were being evacuated, outlining the plan for evacuation, and emphasizing that we could not tell anyone, Burkinabè or American, what was going on for safety reasons.

What do you miss about the Peace Corps?

The people and their generosity, especially y host family. The sense of community is so strong in Burkina, when we first started training it was the poorest part of the year (right before crops are ready to sell), and for the first two weeks I couldn’t figure out how many host siblings I had because when a neighbor couldn’t afford to feed one of their children, they would send that child to our house because my family would have enough food to feed a couple extra kids. My host mother was extremely accommodating and would go out of her way to get food she knew I would eat, and always showed me more patience than I deserve.

What is something you learned in the Peace Corps?

I am extremely punctual, to the point that I would have rather not gone to something than shown up late. Burkina runs on West African International Time, or WAIT, where things happen when they happen and people show up when they can because maybe they ran into a neighbor on their way or had to help someone with a flat tire make it home.

Do you have a favorite quote or local saying?

As with any Peace Corps volunteer, if it’s possible for something to go wrong, it most often will. Our training staff would always tell us “ça va aller” or “it is going to be alright”, and it sort of became our rally cry of evacuation, because as much as it sucked, ça va aller.

 

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