Interview with Allan Bradford, December 10, 2021
Project: Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project
Interview SummaryAllen Bradford served as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1982-1984 in Sierra Leone working as an agricultural extension agent, within the Sierra Leone Ministry of Agriculture and with the assistance of an assigned “Agricultural Technician.” As a student both in high school and at the University of Georgia he had an interest in the Peace Corps, wanted to travel after college, and thought of the U.S. Air Force as well because he wanted to “be of service.” His mother had mixed feeling about his choice as she already had a son overseas but was generally supportive as were most other family members and friends. After about a year allowing for data processing, he attended a one-week orientation and beginning training session at a Philadelphia “CREST” (“Comprehensive Reassessment and Training) where prospective volunteers had the opportunity to self-deselect (none did). He trained with 21 other agriculture volunteers and six fisheries volunteers and then flew from New York City, to Paris, and then to Freetown in Sierra Leone where he stayed in a hotel with other volunteers for cultural training and language indoctrination. After about four or five days, the agriculture volunteers were taken to an upland locale, Matotoka, for nine weeks of technical (mostly agricultural) and cultural training and “Krio” language development. The volunteers’ mission was to persuade communities and individual farmers to improve rice-growing practices by growing the rice in inland valley swamps rather than traditional upland farms, in order to better the production of rice with nursing techniques, the development of rice paddies and the use of more productive rice varieties. He learned to create improved draining and bordering of the swampland, to introduce new ideas about crop transplantation, and to incorporate more varieties into the rice crop. He began to verbalize the Krio language which he said was like a “pidgin English” with some elements of other languages (such as Portuguese) interspersed and elements of African grammar. Peace Corps trainers and administrators completed the preparations, and Allan was assigned to the small village of Niahun where he stayed in a home next to the Chief’s house while a house was being built for him. His house, when built, had one small central “parlor” with two rooms on each side, and had a latrine and a bucket bath arrangement in back. The village also assigned an eleven-year-old “helper” for chores and duties. The house had no electricity or running water. He used a kerosene lamp on a daily basis. Allen felt that the town Chief was a wonderful person and that Niahun was a great town to live and work in. Allen could basically set up his own schedule. At various times, he was assisted by local agricultural extension agents, who helped with teaching rice seeding, crop nursing, and crop harvesting. He had to sell the program’s ideas to communities and local farmers in outlying villages. Oftentimes, they verbally agreed with his ideas but did not follow through with the suggestions or failed to show up for meetings. As Allen said, at least he got the concepts into their thinking. Ultimately, he was able to work successfully with several community swamp development projects and a number of individual farmers and their families. He realized that the people he dealt with were mostly Animists in their religion, although most were at least nominally Christian and Muslim. He learned to respect the choices they made in their own crop selection. He felt that the food was delicious, and a bit spicy which he loved. In the periods of time that he could relax, Allen did much reading, letter-writing, and exploring in Niahun and the surrounding countryside. Occasionally, he would go to provincial capital town of Bo to visit with other volunteers, and they often discussed their programs, and how life abroad was affecting them. After over a year in the field, Allen met another Peace Corps Volunteer (Rene’ Shackelford); over time, he and she saw much of each other, and they ended up as a married couple back in America. On longer periods of free time, Allen traveled to Senegal (twice to Dakar). Preparing to finish his tour of duty, he went through a Cessation of Service process and learned to expect a reverse culture shock upon his arrival home. He went back to Freetown for a final physical examination. He also had had a few minor health issues while serving, and working in the swamps gave him internal issues (worms). As he looked back on his experience, he felt that much of what he did was beneficial and worthwhile, but he now wishes that he could have been more thoughtful and sensitive towards people he met and worked with. After he returned to America, Allen went back to Athens, Georgia, worked in the restaurant business, and started law school. He launched a legal career in Chattanooga, Tennessee and married Rene’. They have two children and now live in Simsbury, Connecticut. His practice represents medium-sized and small health care and tech businesses. Allen helped set up the Northeast Georgia Returned Peace Corps Volunteer organization and is a member of the Friends of Sierra Leone returned volunteers group.
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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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Bradford, Allan Interview by Donald C. Yates. 10 Dec. 2021. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Bradford, A. (2021, December 10). Interview by D. C. Yates. Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.
Bradford, Allan, interview by Donald C. Yates. December 10, 2021, 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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