Well before and during my 2019 stay at the Star Lodge (formerly Ya Fatou’s Guesthouse) in Farafenni, The Gambia my friend Ebrima Cham would repeatedly tell me stories about Peace Corp volunteer Paul Sevier impacting his life. Finally, I meet the now happily retired Sevier over the phone and he recalled after more than 40 years since leaving Farafenni, “Ebrima used to hang out by my house.”.
Sevier volunteered in the Peace Corp between 1976 and 1979. While his official focus was business consulting, encouraging schooling was another passion. “Education teaches one to think. It can be a key to being more successful,” admonished the graduate of the International Management at American Graduate School of International Management program.
After repeated attempts to connect him, it was when he used the phrase you have “Ten thousand devils in your head,” did the American respond. Sevier tells me he never understood what Cham meant when using that phrase.
“If they give you money, that can take it from you. However, education will stay with you for the rest of your life,” a now adult Cham remembers. “Without Paul, I would have not finished high school,” added Cham.
During my 2019 Tobaski visit with the Cham family to their home village, Kani Kunda, which is not far from Farafenni, I witnessed the result of Sevier’s influence. His first child, Kotou, completed her post-secondary education at the Management Development Institution, while her younger sister Ndey is working on her plans to study medicine in Canada.
While Cham strongly supports his children’s education, when asked about the younger boys, he said, “Hold on Young, let me ask the mother.” Ken, now 9 and Lamin, 4, are still in private school, which is common for The Gambia.