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|Mike Sheppard started in The_Gambia 2003|
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|Chris Bradley, Christopher Bradley, Karen Jackson, Mike Sheppard, Mano Sonko|
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|Chris Bradley, Christopher Bradley, Jacob Dyer, Claudius Isfan, Karen Jackson, Maureen Magee, Mike Sheppard, Mano Sonko, Kirsten Unfried, Suzanne Zanelli, Jeff Ziarnik|
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Michael Sheppard began Peace Corps training on July 9th, 2003, in Washington D.C. and completed the 10-week training program in The Gambia, West Africa. The training program included 52 hours of technical training, 64 hours of directed activities, 8 hours of language clinic during seminar, 142 hours of language class in the village, 20 hours of culture, 34 hours of personal health, 8 hours of safety, and 6 hours of administration. During his training, Mr. Sheppard successfully completed a two-month intensive language program in the language of Wollof. At the completion of training, Mr. Sheppard was chosen to begin a 22-month tenure. He was sworn-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer on September 12, 2003.
Mr. Sheppard was assigned to Kanifing in the Kombo Region. Kanifing is located about 18 km south of the capital city of Banjul, in the Kombo Municipal Division. Kanifing is home to 27 Primary Schools, 13 Junior Secondary Schools, and six Senior Secondary Schools along with The University of The Gambia and Gambia College. The district has approximately 325,000 people. The predominant language in Kanifing is the official national language of English, but there are also many Wollof and Mandinka speakers throughout the region. The monthly per capita income of The Gambia is 775 Dalasis [D] with the current exchange rate being D30.00 to $1.00.
During Mr. Sheppard’s service in The Gambia he served as an education volunteer. He was posted to the University of The Gambia in which his primary responsibilities included teaching mathematics and science. In addition to these responsibilities, Mr. Sheppard worked at the Central Statistics Department in the capital Banjul as a guest statistician. During his two-year tenure at the University Mr. Sheppard worked hard to promote a healthy attitude toward education by acting as a role model for teachers and students. He consistently encouraged preparation, punctuality, positive reinforcement, and alternative discipline. Throughout his two years of service Mr. Sheppard was an active member in Peace Corps Administration. Mr. Sheppard showed essential signs of cross-cultural adaptation and demonstrated a grasp of the skills needed to successfully transfer this knowledge to other applications of life: personally and professionally.
During Mr. Sheppard’s two-year service in the Kombo district, his primary responsibility was a Lecturer at the University of The Gambia. Additionally, his specialties in mathematics and statistics help procure a placement at the Central Statistics Department as a guest Statistician.
Lecturer, University of The Gambia
- Taught one semester of Basic Mathematics: concentrating on Number systems, functions and relations, exponents and logarithms, elementary theory of equations, inequalities, and systems of equations.
- Taught one semester of Ordinary Differential Equations: concentrating on separable and exact equations, linear equations and variation of parameters, higher order linear equations, Laplace transforms, systems of first-order linear equations, introduction to partial differential equations and Fourier series.
- Taught two sections of Basic Statistics, concentrating on data analysis, probability models, random variables, estimation, tests of hypotheses, confidence intervals, and simple linear regression.
- Taught one semester of freshmen level physics, concentrating on the following areas of electronics: resistive circuits, loop and nodal analysis, and network theorems.
- Along with another volunteer, co-taught an accelerated math program for conditional acceptance into The University of The Gambia. Classes met twice a week for three hours and taught four years of senior secondary mathematics in nine months. It was catered to girls' education, but male students were accepted.
Guest Statistician, Central Statistics Department
While Mr. Sheppard worked at the University he also worked part-time for six months at the Central Statistics Department (CSD). The CSD is involved in the collection, compilation, analysis, abstraction, and publication of statistical information and related matters about The Gambia and its residents.
In addition to the efforts Mr. Sheppard was making towards his primary projects, he continued to use his free time to work on auxiliary goals that would benefit the communities in which he lived.
- Participated in a five-day expedition throughout The Gambia with a Fulbright Scholar assisting in his research on Internet and Computer usage throughout The Gambia. Including conducting interviews with Gambian students, testing their computer and internet skills, and interpreting the results.
- Served as scientific consultant for an educational CD developed by the Center for Educational Technology. The disc and program will be distributed nationwide to enhance the science education of Gambian students using local materials.
- Facilitated a five-day workshop for the “Science Teachers Association of The Gambia” labeled “Information, Communication, and Technology in Science Education,” on how to use computers more effectively in the classroom to teach science. Within this workshop Mr. Sheppard taught a one-day workshop on “Introduction to Microsoft Excel” to the teachers.
- Attended a workshop sponsored by the Department of State for Education on possible launching and annual conduct of “Science and Technology Week.” The week has been developed to promote the achievement of both Science and Technology in The Gambia and promote interest in science and technology as well.
- Collaborated directly with the American Embassy in Senegal with the international effort to house forty volunteers for three days for the annual West African Invitational Softball Tournament.
- Supervised the selling of hand-made notebooks to volunteers. The “Recycled Paper Project” made the notebooks and all profits went towards buying education supplies to Gambian schoolchildren.
- Mr. Sheppard did a one-year letter writing campaign indirectly promoting Peace Corps / The Gambia to United States Congressman, State Governors, and Supreme Court Justices. A total of over 800 letters were sent, with a good many responding.
- Consulted in the statistical analysis to detect behavioral differences, both individual and collective, between orphan and wildlife monkeys in Abuko Nature Reserve.
- Tutored students in subjects of Mathematics, Physics, and Statistics.
Taking full advantage of experiences as a volunteer, Mr. Sheppard extended his responsibilities to working within the Peace Corps Administration to assist current volunteers throughout the country.
- Served a complete term as Kombo’s representative for the Volunteer Advisory Committee [VAC]. The elected members of VAC meet quarterly with the Country Director to discuss volunteers’ issues and concerns. VAC members, along with the Peace Corps Volunteer Leader [PCVL], make up a volunteer congress.
- Assisted in the revamping and rewriting of the rules between PCVL and VAC. The newly defined roles were approved by Peace Corps Administration and VAC, and were distributed to all the volunteers. This helped Peace Corps Administration further define and strengthen the role of PCVL within Peace Corps.
- Nominated for the position of Peace Corps Volunteer Leader.
Mail Collection and Delivery
Even before being sworn in as a volunteer Mr. Sheppard took over sole responsibility for the collection and delivery of all incoming mail to the staff, 100 volunteers, and trainees. Mr. Sheppard was able to serve his entire Peace Corps service as the main volunteer for mail collection and delivery. This entailed upwards of three-times-a-week runs to Banjul to collect mail and parcels. The Peace Corps organization receives 15% of all parcels coming into The Gambia.
- Every month assisted two volunteers in the organization of Peace Corps's monthly mail-run, which entailed visiting over 80 sites throughout the country in five days to deliver mail and collecting outgoing letters and parcels.
- Restructured the package cataloging system for Peace Corps volunteers. The new system entailed every parcel being fully accounted for and numbered, with monthly bills going out to volunteers for reimbursement for the collection fees from the Post Office.
- Kept an on-going roster of volunteers’ names, villages, Gambian names, and contact information to assist in the monthly mail run and to streamline communications between volunteers.
- In March 2005, by permission of the Director of Posts for The Gambia [equivalent to the United States Postmaster General], Mr. Sheppard was able to work in The Gambia’s main Post Office in the capital Banjul for two full days, totaling 13 hours. This enabled Mr. Sheppard to witness first hand The Gambia’s mail delivery and collection, along with the distribution of parcels for upcountry sites and The U.S. Peace Corps.
- Assisted in the collection of over 4,000 pounds of donated schoolbooks for distribution to Primary, Senior Secondary and University students throughout the country.
Until all responsibilities were shifted to PC Administration, Mr. Sheppard served as Chairman of the Hostel Committee for nine months. Responsibilities included payment of three staff members every month, fee collection of volunteers, bill distribution for lack of payments, monthly purchase of communal supplies.
Gambia Student Scholarship Committee
The Gambia’s Student Scholarship Committee is an assembly of volunteers that focuses specifically on locating, raising, and distributing funds to selected students in The Gambia. As someone passionate about the pursuit of education, Mr. Sheppard took full advantage of the opportunity to collaborate with the Gambia Student Scholarship Committee to assist needy students in finding funds to afford basic education.
- Served a full term as co-chairman of The Gambian Student Scholarship Fund. The co-chairman is responsible for handling any scholarship business; writing / distributing checks, making follow ups with schools, contacting recipients / schools, depositing checks, and withdrawing money. Cochairman is also responsible for recording all data into the scholarship database for complete and up-to-date spreadsheets.
- Delivered checks to schools and conducted follow-ups to monitor processing and distribution.
- Assisted in the selection process of more than 250 applicants.
- Facilitated in the complete restructuring of The Gambian Student Scholarship Fund’s procedures.
- Distributed thousands of dollars in scholarships to students spread across the country.
Newsletters and Bulletins
- Six months into his service Mr. Sheppard was selected to become the new co-editor of the Education Newsletter. Mr. Sheppard successfully served one year term as editor and supervised the distribution of the newsletter every month to 34 Education volunteers. Information included guides to teaching in The Gambia, habits of effective teachings, alternative discipline, and upcoming events.
- With another volunteer completely remade and updated a booklet for volunteers newly sworn in to the country. Information contained in the booklet consisted of maps of regional cities, restaurant guides, and volunteer support contact information.
- Re-designed the official bulletin board for Peace Corps / The Gambia showing guests and visitors where volunteers are located, their responsibilities, and what functions Peace Corps does in The Gambia cross-sectorally.
- Assisted in the training of new volunteers by bringing four trainees on an all-day excursion to Banjul using only public transportation.
- Assisted in the interviews for the new Education trainees for site placement.
- Selected to be on the committee for hiring a new General Services Officer [GSO] for Peace Corps / The Gambia. The committee chose a candidate after meeting with each candidate individually.
- Attended a two-hour workshop at the American Embassy in The Gambia with Peace Corps employees on how to prevent Bio-Terrorism and procedures to follow if an event occurs.
Besides working with his primary and secondary projects, and volunteering in his free time with Peace Corps Administration, Mr. Sheppard has benefited personally from his two-year service.
- Participated in a two-week hike through three countries.
- Wrote over 300 pages concerning his experience which was distributed to an audience of over 100 people, indirectly promoting Peace Corps generally and Peace Corps / The Gambia specifically.
- Explored the country of The Gambia by frequently going upcountry, even taking vacation days to do so. Explored the terrain by participating in multiple twelve hour walking treks throughout the country to volunteers’ sites.
- Participated in the World Wise School program, writing to thirty fifth grade students in the U.S about the experiences in The Gambia.
- Attained novice level in the language of Wollof.
Pursuant to Section 5(f) of the Peace Corps Act, 22 USC 2504(f), as amended, any former Volunteer employed by the United States Government following his / her Peace Corps Volunteer Service is entitled to have any period of satisfactory Peace Corps service credited for purposes of retirement, seniority, reduction in force, leave, and other privileges based on length of Government service. That service shall not be credited toward completion of the probationary or trial period of any service requirement for career appointment.
This is to certify in accordance with Executive Order 11103 of April 10, 1963, that Michael R. Sheppard served successfully as a Peace Corps Volunteer. His service ended on July 13, 2005. He is therefore eligible to be appointed as a career-conditional employee in the competitive civil service on a non-competitive basis. This benefit under the Executive Order extends for a period of one year after termination of Volunteer service, except that the employing agency may extend the period for up to three years for a former Volunteer who enters military service, pursues studies at a recognized institution of higher learning, or engages in other activities that, in the view of the appointing agency, warrant extension of the period.