Immediately after graduating from the University of Portland, Charles joined the U.S. Peace Corps and served two years as a Water and Sanitation Technician in the Congo. Charles was posted alone in Ouesso, one of the country’s most remote areas, and helped bring fresh drinking water to over 1,000 villagers. Ouesso is on the edge of the immense, tri-national wildlife park called “Nouabalé-Ndoki”, or “the Park of the Sorcerers.” National Geographic called Ouesso the entry point to the “Last Eden,” one of the last untouched rainforests in the world. Charles built the well at the base camp in Nouabale-Ndoki that provides fresh drinking water to conservationists like Jane Goodall (among many others) as they work to help preserve this last untouched rainforest.
While serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer, Charles invented an entirely new method for building hygienic pour flush latrines with locally sourced materials. Over the course of his service, Charles documented this new process and created a manual for the Peace Corps’ Information Collection and Exchange system, enabling volunteers all around the world to use Charles’ method.
Because of his accomplishments at post, Charles was selected to lead training sessions for both current and incoming volunteers. Charles was also selected to be part of a delegation that welcomed Vice President Al Gore to the Congo during a Vice Presidential visit.
Peace Corps Congo was known as one of the most difficult Peace Corps countries in the world with only 40% of the volunteers completing their entire two years of service. The country was so difficult that the United States Marines who guarded the Embassy in the Congo were given hazardous duty pay. The first group of Peace Corps Volunteers in the Congo was evacuated in 1991 after civil unrest destabilized the country. Charles’ group of volunteers “re-opened” the country for the Peace Corps in 1994, but tensions remained very high during Charles’ entire two and a half years of service. Shortly after Charles completed his service, the Congo fell into civil war and members of the French Foreign Legion were called in to help rescue and evacuate the remaining Peace Corps Volunteers. Because of continued instability, the Peace Corps has said that it will not reopen the Congo for volunteers.