Interview with Damian Gagnon, January 18, 2022
Project: Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project
Interview SummaryIn 1973, Damian Gagnon graduated from college with a degree in foreign affairs and a smattering of French, applied to the Peace Corps, and was accepted into the Wells Program in Upper Volta (later Burkina Faso). He says the 3 months training in the stifling dry season of Bobo-Dioulasso in immersive French, Voltaique culture, and the technology of wide diameter, hand-dug, concrete lined wells was excellent. He describes his purchases of personal supplies, transport to and arrival in the village of Gom Boussougou, his home for the next two years where he became the first white person whom many had seen, his first house in an abandoned mud brick chapel, and the compound he later built. Because of the challenging cultural and climatic conditions, he at first committed himself to 1 year of well-construction, but the generosity and friendliness of the people and the value of life-changing wells to the communities, especially the women, made him actually re-up for a third year. He describes the well-building, village life, rest and relaxation in the capital city Ouagadougou, and travel in neighboring countries. His experience, cultural knowledge, and ability “to operate in Africa” enabled his future career in United Nations and private sector work in other parts of West Africa.
Interview KeywordPeace Corps (United States) Upper Volta/Burkina Faso (Country of service) 1973-1976 (Dates of service) Wells Program (Peace Corps Volunteer job) Saratoga Cape Elizabeth, Maine Voltaique (nationality) Portland, ME Washington, D.C., Paris Ouagadougou (capital of Upper Volta) Marseilles Hotel Du Marche Bobo-Dioulasso (training site) Gom Boussougou (post) Zabré (Department in province in Upper Volta) Frigo (refrigerator) Peugeot bashe (pickup truck) Kapok (tree) Case rounde (round mud hut) Mopti (town on Niger River in Mali) Akosombo (town in Ghana) Bangui Dix Cove (guest house) Mabutu Sese Seko (President of Zaire) Busia (beach) Mopti (town in Mali) Driscoll (pump) Diviner (person who locates water with a rod) Sierra Leone (country) Ted Sorensen (Kennedy speech writer) Accra (Capital of Ghana) John Rawlings (Military officer and leader in Ghana) Kingston, Jamaica Benin Kabala (Town in northern Sierra Leone) ECOMOG (Economic Community of West African Stages Monitoring Group) RUF (Revolutionary group/Terrorist group in Sierra Leone) Zoom Koom (Chief’s house) Pagne (untailored cotton textile) Bulga Naaba (Chief’s table/water well) Mobilettes (French moped) Bissa (language of Bissa people) Mande (ethnic group) Moore (predominant language) UNIMOG (Mercedes Benz truck)
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Interview UsageInterviews may only be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Interviews may only be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.
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Gagnon, Damian Interview by John Croes. 18 Jan. 2022. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Gagnon, D. (2022, January 18). Interview by J. Croes. Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.
Gagnon, Damian, interview by John Croes. January 18, 2022, Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
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