Interview with Geoffrey Leech, July 28, 2023

Project: Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project

Interview Summary

Geoffrey Leech served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali, West Africa from 2010 to 2012 working in environmental projects such as natural resource conservation and water sanitation. He grew up in Southern California and attended Cal State University, Long Beach, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in environmental science and policy. During his sophomore year, he felt like he might take some time abroad and went to a “meet and greet” session with a Peace Corps recruiter and RPCV’s on campus. He learned that he could be assigned to one of three regions for service. Geoffrey applied early in his junior year and, after a background check by officials, he was offered a position in Southeast Asia, his first choice, but only if he could wait until September of his senior year to go. He wanted a more immediate placement and so selected a position in Africa which would start five weeks after his graduation. He agreed to volunteer in Mali and spent three days in Philadelphia for an initial orientation along with 80 other volunteers. He then departed for Mali, via London, England and landed in Bamako, Mali’s capital, for more training. His group then went to the training center of Tubaniso, located outside of Bamako, where he was trained further in the local language of Bambara. In that area Geoffrey stayed with other volunteers in bunkhouses (four to a house) and studied in one main training building in town. Throughout the two months of training, he spent two-week intervals in Tubaniso and in an adjacent village, Niamina, where he lived with a host family in order to be accustomed to Malian life and to practice his language and adapt to cultural norms. He learned of the local way of farming and was involved in a fast-paced and intensive process of language learning and cultural awareness. Geoffrey had hoped for a rural setting and luckily was then sent to the village of Kamona in the Segeu region, about one hour from the larger town of Bla. There were two other volunteers located within 20 miles of Geoff who were placed in their own villages with specific volunteer requirements based on their qualifications. He lived in a commune setting, and his unit had two rooms (a bedroom and a living room), a yard, and a kitchen area. He had no running water or electricity, but Geoffrey rigged up a solar heating and power device from a car battery that he procured. He also owned a bike so he could visit outlying areas in the locale. At first, he did a site assessment to see what the greatest need was for the local families and met many nice people who were amenable to his suggestions regarding conservation. He then set in motion many projects such as aqua purification and focused on a pond owned by his host family. Although things were going smoothly and many people were seeing how the project was beneficial, the pond was sabotaged by an unknown and jealous agitator. He woke up each day at sunrise and went through a daily process of “greeting” which was a custom to start off each day. Then he supervised other projects dealing with resource management and worked on converting corn cobs into charcoal for fuel, thus saving trees which were being depleted in the area. Geoffrey had many local volunteers to assist him in his projects and commented on how friendly and cooperative the people were. Geoffrey learned much about the Muslim religion of the area, and his language acquisition was slow, but he was able to converse enough to assist the women in areas of their preparation of shea butter for marketing and distribution in bulk. He even suggested ways to assist their revenue funding. Unfortunately, Geoffrey learned of a coup d’etat by the state military, and he, along with others, was told to immediately shelter in place which they did for a week and then eventually to evacuate the area. The group moved to Segeu and prepared to leave the country only a few months prior to the conclusion of his duties. Geoffrey returned to the United States and worked in the public sector while also working in the coffee-roasting business. He became a Head Coffee Roaster, and he is working at that today. Geoffrey felt that his Peace Corps experience was beneficial to both him and the Malians, and he still maintains contact with a brother of his host family.

Interview Accession

2023oh0548_pcrv0820

Interviewee Name

Geoffrey Leech

Interviewer Name

Donald C. Yates

Interview Date

2023-07-28

Interview Rights

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.

Interview Usage

Interviews may only be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Restriction

No Restrictions

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.

Add this interview to your cart in order to begin the process of requesting access to a copy of and/or permission to reproduce interview(s). 


Leech, Geoffrey Interview by Donald C. Yates. 28 Jul. 2023. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Leech, G. (2023, July 28). 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.

Leech, Geoffrey, interview by Donald C. Yates. July 28, 2023, Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.





You may come across language in UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center collections and online resources that you find harmful or offensive. SCRC collects materials from different cultures and time periods to preserve and make available the historical record. These materials document the time period when they were created and the view of their creator. As a result, some may demonstrate racist and offensive views that do not reflect the values of UK Libraries.

If you find description with problematic language that you think SCRC should review, please contact us at SCRC@uky.edu.

Persistent Link for this Record: https://kentuckyoralhistory.org/ark:/16417/xt7q687h5f5qn