To some, the land of the free and the home of the brave still is the best

To some, the land of the free and the home of the brave still is the best

With the apparent inability of our political leaders to work together, the ongoing economic slump and the general gnashing of American teeth, some fear our nation is on the rocks.

But Bachir Boureima is here to remind naysayers that our country and its people still rock.

"I like the United States very much — it is a great country," he says while relaxing in the Grants Pass home of Amy Wilson and her husband, Steve Fedorko.

The Niger resident, who turned 14 in April, knows of what he speaks — in French as well as Djerma and Hausa, the two principal languages spoken in his homeland. He also speaks passable English.

Yet it is his body language that spoke loudest in the form of a vigorously waving right arm and a grin as wide as the Rogue River.

"It's good!" he declares.

His story, which was featured in the Mail Tribune in April 2002, began when he badly broke his arm at age 5 while playing on a school swing in Niger. His father, Morou Boureima, was told by doctors in Niger that it would never mend properly.

The youngster would simply have to live with the fact he would never again be able to fully extend it, they said.

Morou refused to accept the prognosis. He and his wife, Aichatou, live in Niamey, Niger's capital. They have four other children, an older son and three younger daughters.

The father fired off an email to Amy, a 1975 graduate of Eagle Point High School. The two had become friends when Wilson served with the Peace Corps in Niger as associate director for agriculture in Niger from 1990 to 1993. She also served as a volunteer in Niger from 1982 through 1984.

Morou, now the technical director for Niger radio and television, wanted to have surgeons in the States look at Bachir's arm to see whether reconstructive surgery was possible. However, he was only able to raise enough funds to purchase round-trip tickets from Niger to New York City.

A member of the Grants Pass Rotary Club, Amy notified fellow Rotarians and former Peace Corps volunteers in Jackson and Josephine counties that frequent-flier miles were needed to cover the rest of the trip.

They stepped forward as one to provide the extra mileage for father and son.

Moreover, the late Timothy Cronin, an orthopedic surgeon, and retired pediatric surgeon Dave Trump made it possible for reconstructive surgery for Bachir at the Shriners Children's Hospital in Portland. Cronin was a Grants Pass Rotarian; Trump remains active in the club.

As Bachir demonstrated with his wave, the surgery was a huge success. The only evidence of the surgery is a scar on his arm.

He arrived in Grants Pass early last month for his third visit to the valley. He was here three years ago with his brother, and Amy and Steve took them to Disneyland.

But this trip has been about getting to know Oregon and its environs better, Amy says.

During his seven-week stay, he has gone rafting, canoed on Klamath Lake, flown in a small plane and a helicopter and camped out.

They camped along the Winchuck River on Oregon's south coast.

"We gave him the choice of sleeping in the tent or the car," Amy says. "He was a little dubious about the possibility of bears. He slept in the car."

There are no bears in Niger, although there are lions.

He shrugs off the 90-degree-plus temperatures in the Rogue Valley. Back in Niger, the mercury frequently climbs into the triple digits, he will tell you.

Like his American teenage counterparts, he enjoys playing video games and chowing down. He especially likes venison, Amy says, happily noting their guest gained 10 pounds during his stay.

He also Skypes with friends from Niger currently visiting California, Georgia and Indiana. And he keeps in contact with his family back home via the Internet.

"I tell my friends I like the United States because you can visit places," he says of the freedom. "I tell them about the ocean and the very big trees."

Bachir, who has three years left to complete high school, wants to become an engineer.

"I am looking at the United States or Paris," he says of college plans.

After that, he intends to work in Niger to help build a better future for his country.

"But I will come here again," he says. "I like it here."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at

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