Richard, Oliver, and Phillip’s Journey
As a Cuso International volunteer my path started at the end of my final year at St. Patrick’s College. Not sure what to do after graduation, I had a chance meeting with a social worker, Betty Bergin, who invited me to a town hall meeting with Cuso International International. I was recruited as a TOEFL (Teacher of English as a Foreign Language) volunteer for a two-year placement in Algeria where I was posted to Batna in the Fall of 1974 and then in Tiaret Algeria in the fall of 1973. Following a summer vacation in Ottawa during the Summer of 1974, I continued my volunteering with Cuso International and was posted to Saint Brendan’s Secondary School near a small village, Iyamayong located in Cross River State, Nigeria.
Within a few months of my arrival at Saint Brendan’s, I was introduced, by the principal to Oliver Oji, a 12-year-old boy from Old Ekuri who lived with his uncle in Ohana; in January 1975, I was asked to take in Philip Oyama, an 11-year-old boy from Iyamatet. Oliver had to trek 3 kms from Ohona to the school then back every day, after having done morning chores for his uncle. Phillip had to trek 7.5 kms from his home in Iaymatet and back daily. I took both young students as boarders and paid their tuition fees, as was the local custom for teachers to help those students who could not afford to use the boarding school.
Over the next two years, through many shared adventures, Oliver, Philip, and I began what would be a long road through friendship to brotherhood. I am happy to say that I have continued to connect with Oliver and Philip over the years.
Oliver, as well as his wife Rebecca, have PhDs. Oliver, in International Development (Biodiversity Conservation & Livelihoods) and Rebecca, in Human Resource Management, and are currently tenured lecturers at the University of Calabar. They are involved in numerous ecological foundations dealing with climate change, reforestation and gender equality. Philip is the Deputy Director, Agricultural Extension in Cross River State Nigeria