Peace Corps

Chapter Two: Peace Corps

After Tom graduated from college, he joined the Peace Corps. He was assigned to a small village in West Africa, Nyasaso, Cameroon where he taught math and biology to over 3,000 children over a five-year period. Tom took a group of devoted students, from his small village, to the highest national performance on their O level examinations.

8 Responses to Peace Corps

  1. Holy Akwar says:

    Hello Tom,

    Happy Golden Anniversary, and I wish you many more joyous years ahead. I will never forget you and the excellent quality time I (and presumably my classmates) had with you as my biology teacher in Nyassoso. You were not only excellent in class but participated in social activities, including playing soccer with us as a defender on the team, counting votes during students election ( I will never forget the accent with which you pronounced names ‘Nkwelle Cletus’ versus ‘Ekeah James’ while counting the votes) etc. I am glad that you moved on to tackle other exciting things in your life to generate and transfer knowledge and innovations.

    I ended up being the first Cameroonian commonwealth scholar to Canada and specialised in public health (epidemiology). As the world increasingly becomes a global village, I hope to meet you again some day in person. I frequently travel to US for meetings and/or work and hope to meet you some day in future.

    Best wishes!!

  2. Divine Koge says:

    Dear Tom,
    You taught me Biology and Human Biology in GSS Nyasoso from 1983-1985. Although I was an arts student, I loved Biology so much because of the manner you taught the subject and set your questions during tests or examinations.To pass your test or examination required thinking and reflection rather than the regurgitatation of notes copied in class. The foundation you gave me (us) in Biology in GSS Nyasoso during those years has been treasured by me (us) always because it made me a very good student in Biogeography in High School (CCAST Bambili,1985-1987).
    Another aspect about your teaching that I admired so much was the manner in which you always attended to the academic needs of your students including motivational techniques employed by you to reward top grade students. I can still remember vividly how you would invite those of us with high grades in Biology to your house for a party (soft drinks and porp corn) were also provided and we would dance to the tune of Thriller by Micheal Jackson. On many occasions, you bought excercise books for those students who complained that they did not have them to take down your notes.
    I have not forgotten your generosity/kindness towards some of my classmates (Kerenge Elias Besong Mbi and Tayo Judith) whom you took under your wings for a number of years.
    In the social and sports arenas, we always met and had a great time. During “socials” in the school chapel, you will be there with us or in one of the many football pitches in the compound, we shall be throwing frisbee together.
    The night before we wrote Biology paper II in 1985, you made rounds to the dormitory to inquire how we were preparing for the paper in the morning, you answered some last minute questions we had and asked us to have enough sleep prior to the examination in the morning. I was indeed touched by this gesture of yours. No wonder many Biology students scored grade A at the GCE Ordinary Level in 1985.
    Let me use this opportunity to thank you for being a great teacher and friend.
    Divine Koge
    LL.M Human Rights Law (University of Utrecht, Holland)
    UNHCR Djibouti.

  3. D Deane says:

    I first met Tom when we were getting ready to ship out to Cameroon by way of a hotel in Philadelphia. I think I had spoken with him for about a thirty seconds and I could tell he was a writer. But I had only guessed a small part of it.

    I asked to be sent into the bush–no city post for me!–and out of the entire crop of new volunteers only Tom got sent even deeper into the bush. Later, in that remote site, a canoe ride, jeep, and bush-taxi away from even the most basic medical care, he broke his wrist. We were amazed when he came out of the bush six months later with a poorly set wrist that needed to be rebroken. But those of us who came to know him ceased to be surprised by such intense focus–he was in the middle of teaching kids and that was who Tom was.

    I recall very few specific discussions, concepts, or ideas from most of the people I meet in my life. With Tom, though, the list goes on and on. I remember the seed discussion, the running joke about books I hadn’t read, and so much more. Over time, his love of birds rubbed off on me. I doubt that I’ll ever appreciate birds the way he does, or know so much about them, but I guess I too have been educated by Tom.

  4. Felix Epie says:

    I went to GSS Nyasoso between 1980-1985. I am also a native of Nyasoso so I saw Tom’s effect even for those who were not his students. Tom taught me biology from form 3 onwards. As Eric mentioned, part of what captivated us was the way he brought the subject to life. In forms 1&2 we were taught biology by a teacher who had been trained in history/geography. All learning was based on textbook / notes. It was Tom who realized that the point of teaching kids about flowering plants was to actually pick up a hibiscus flower and show us all the parts (instead of looking at textbook pictures). Let me take you a little back at the first time I saw Tom outside the classroom.

    He had recently arrived in Nyasoso and went to the presbyterian church. There is a tradition in the presbyterian church during offering where they place a little basket at the front of the church and the congregation forms a procession as each person drops his/her offering (usually coins) in the basket. It is a joyful affair, with music and druming as the procession claps and sways to the music as they walk by the basket. It was apparent that Tom was not quite aware of what was actually going on, but he could not let a joyful occasion go to waste, so he got up and joined the procession, clapping and swaying to the music. As he got near the offering basket he realized everyone was dropping coins in the little basket. He stopped short, dipped one hand in his pocket but it came out empty. The other hand also came out empty from its own pocket. I watched him shrug it off, and continued his little dance with the procession back to his seat. The Nyasoso people took an immediate liking to him.

    Since Tom left Nyasoso there have been many other peace corps volunteers who have gone there. They have all heard about Tom de Boor. They have all fallen victim to being compared (unfair to them I might say) with Tom de Boor. Even today people in Nyasoso still talk about Tom de Boor. I think it is more than just his skills as a teacher (which is what we his students saw). I think it is more than his dancing skills (“that boy can dance” [meaning that young man is a very good dancer] as my mother put it after she saw him in Taval bar). I think it was because he connected with us on human level. He was our teacher, our friend, and our neighbor.

    A few days ago I watched the speech president Kennedy gave to the first group of PCVs. As I watched and listened to the president it seemed to me like he was using Tom’s experience as a template of what he expected from the young volunteers. We’re glad you came to Nyasoso when you came Tom. We’re all better for it. To you, sir, I say happy birthday.

  5. Nkwelle Eric Ewang says:

    We can’t help being emotional when talking about Tom de Boor, the best teacher in GSS Nyasoso between 1982 and 1986. Tom was my teacher from 1982 to 1986. He taught me mathematics in form two, and when he was replaced the next year, I lost interest in the subject. He later taught me Biology.
    In form five, I wanted to register for just four subjects (English, French, Literature and History) at the G.C.E. Ordinary Level. Tom was scandalised and acted promptly. He sent for me, and gave me a real talking to. In his characteristic fatherly manner (his young age notwithstanding), he made me understand why it was necessary to take not only Biology (which he insisted I cannot give up for any reason whatsoever), but also subjects like Economics, Geography, Commerce and Mathematics. He dwelled on the potential he saw in me and stated emphatically that I had everything it took to make it. He just made me see the folly of my decision. That year, I ended up as the best arts student of my batch.
    I moved to CCAST Bambili thereafter and bumped into him one day. He asked me how I felt and, without mincing, still talked about the potential in me. This was when he told me he was returning to the US. Well, after two years in CCAST Bambili, I graduated as best arts student at the G.C.E Advanced Level.
    Today, I am a translator, and it would be an understatement to say that my knowledge of diverse fields is helpful. In fact, Tom taught us to think and not just cram. This, more than anything, facilitates my job and helps me relate much easily with people.
    Thank you Tom, for molding my mind! No student of the 8th batch (1981 to 1986) of the then GSS Nyasoso can ever forget you!
    May the Good Lord grant you many more years, which I trust you will still dedicate to and place at the service of education.
    Nkwelle Eric Ewang

  6. Happy 50th anniversary Mr. De Boor. How quickly time flies-by. I came to Nyasoso in 1984 and had the good fortune of meeting a devoted teacher who was quite concerned about the welfare of his students. In that same year, I had Mr. De Boor as my biology teacher and Mr. Atu Charles as my Math teacher. Mr. De Boor always came by during the math course period, that is after his lectures because, he knew that Mr. Atu Charles will not be coming to teacher the students as was often the case. So, he did that during the cause of the year as many times as Mr. Atu disappeared. I dropped the course regrettably even though I had received enough materials from him to pass the General Certificate of Education final examination and our graduating class scored 100% in biology, thanks to him. I regretted indeed.
    Another fascinating story was when Mr. De Boor met us in our dormitory on the eve of the biology examinations and quickly spotted Ejolle Prisco who had drawn the diagram of the ear on the floor and assigned a wrong name on one of the parts. He started crying because he thought Prisco was going to betray him at the final exam. He spent three hours lecturing Prisco and others until Prisco in particular, was able to name the parts of an ear with his eyes closed before he left the dormitory in satisfaction.
    And finally, when the students finished writing the end-of-year biology examination in 1985, Mr. De Boor was standing outside his staff quarter house nervously waiting to know if the students had performed well. Suddenly, after the exams were over, all the students started running towards his house. He was afraid that they were coming to beat him up so, he ran inside and closed the door. He only opened the door when he heard them chanting how well they’d performed. He was vindicated as the best teacher to have ever taught biology in that school.
    We thank you for your devotedness and even though I skipped your class, the time I spent in your lecture room demonstrated to me that whatever you do, be the best at it.
    Thank you again and happy 50th anniversary and madam, thank you for doing this for him.

  7. Carl de Boor says:

    I had the good fortune of visiting Thomas in Cameroon near the end of his second Peace Corps stay there and, from the start, experienced the tremendous good will his work there had built up (a very kind soul guided me through the airport steeple chase), but saw it again and again in the various contacts I had with his teachers, friends, and their families. By that time, Thomas was wraithlike from the strain of living there, yet so happy and content.

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