Returned Volunteers Return to their Countries of Service for Retirement


Who would have thought that fifty years after the founding of the Peace Corps, returned volunteers would be returning to their countries of service as they settle in for retirement.  Could this be the start of a new trend?  Read about how one returned volunteer is going “home” to Ghana.

Herman Davis, a teacher and assistant football coach at his alma mater at Long Beach State for 27 years, just left with his wife and youngest of three children to settle into a new life in Ghana where he served as a Peace Corps volunteer 40 years ago.

When he got off the plane in 1972 after a 17-hour flight, Davis walked into the terminal and immediately heard a James Brown song over the intercom. He immediately huddled with some of the new friends he had just met on the flight. “I remember saying ‘How do we know we’re in Africa?”‘ Davis said. “Maybe we’re in the South and they just told the people to talk funny.

“But it was amazing. Everyone around me was black. The people were all friendly. It wasn’t anything like I had heard about life in Africa. There were no huts and no animals walking the streets. “It was a wonderful experience. There were no ugly Americans there, and the people there were so likeable. If anything, they were more curious about me. They wanted to know what life was like in America.”

It wasn’t long before Davis started telling people he would someday make Ghana his home. He met his future wife, Lisette, while in Ghana, and they came to Long Beach in 1975 after his three-year tour with every intention to move back within the next five years. “Actually, we’re leaving about 30 years late,” Davis said with a big laugh last week before relocating.

Ghana was never far from his mind. In 1991, he and Lisette bought a piece of property along the coast south of the capital, Accra. “My wife would go back more often than me to visit her family,” Davis said. “We’d put a $100 here, $200 there, to the building of a house every few months, and just slowly kept building it.”

The finished product is now a five-bedroom home with its own garden that he estimates probably cost him $40,000 total over 20 years. “We really have no expenses except what we need in utilities and to eat, and we already have a vegetable garden,” Davis says.

Davis says the lifestyle there will keep him more than busy. “Ghana celebrates everything,” he said. Many of the different old kingdoms have their own annual celebrations. “There are all kinds of reasons to get out of the house. We have a lot of friends who have gone and opened businesses there, and my wife has a lot of ideas. She’s very glad to be getting out of the rat race and closer to her family.

“I always knew that if I didn’t go after retiring, I’d be sitting here with nothing to do and I’d regret it. I know people who wind up in senior centers and I couldn’t see myself doing that. I don’t golf. “I don’t fish. A friend a few years ago retired, sold his house, bought an RV and said he was going to travel. He came back two years later and went back to work. “This is a chance to rebuild and redefine myself. It’s a rebirth.” He paused for a second and grinned. “And now that I’m going, all my friends say they want to come visit.”


Contra Costa Times “Long Beach Poly icon retiring to Ghana” by Bob Keisser July 2, 2011

Photo:  Ghana Volunteer House by Jeff Maurone  Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)