March 3, 2003 - Pittsburg Live: PCV Kim Bohince feels safe working in Armenia
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March 3, 2003 - Pittsburg Live: PCV Kim Bohince feels safe working in Armenia
PCV Kim Bohince feels safe working in Armenia
Read and comment on this story from Pittsburg Livea bout PCV Kim Bohince who is working in Armenia about 10 miles from a country the United States may soon use as a staging ground for a war against Iraq. "There is a bit of concern," Bohince said during a recent telephone interview. "I do feel very safe here. There are no terrorist attacks in Armenia, but its proximity to the hot spot could get us into trouble."
If a situation seems as if it could put the volunteers' safety in jeopardy, an evacuation process may begin.This comes in three stages. At first, volunteers are told to stay close to home so they can be contacted easily. If the situation escalates, they are directed to gather near a transportation area, such as a major road or airport. At the third stage, the volunteers leave the host country. Read the story at:
Peace Corps worker feels safe despite war threat*
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Peace Corps worker feels safe despite war threat
By David Hunt
Monday, March 3, 2003
Kim Bohince asked the Peace Corps for an assignment near the Mediterranean Sea and wound up living in an apartment complex about 10 miles from a country the United States may soon use as a staging ground for a war against Iraq.
But the 23-year-old Hempfield Township native said she's not afraid.
"There is a bit of concern," Bohince said during a recent telephone interview. "I do feel very safe here. There are no terrorist attacks in Armenia, but its proximity to the hot spot could get us into trouble."
Bohince is living in the Armenian city of Gyumri, about 10 miles from the country's border with Turkey. She has lived at several locations in Armenia during the past nine months.
Barbara Daly, a Peace Corps press secretary, said the organization began efforts 10 years ago to rebuild Armenia, a fragment left behind when the Soviet Union shattered in 1991. The country is slightly smaller than the state of Maryland and has a population of roughly 3.3 million. Its people are predominantly Christian.
With electronics and robotics composing the largest parts of its industrial sector, Armenia used to be one of the most prosperous of the former Soviet republics, according to Chloe Arnold, a British Broadcasting Corp. journalist who has been covering the country for several years.
Although a 1988 earthquake that killed as many as 50,000 and the fall of the Soviet Union have helped to cripple the Armenian economy, Arnold said a trade blockade imposed in 1994 by neighboring Turkey and Azerbaijan has had the largest impact.
"Factories and businesses stand empty and the average wage, if you have a job, is (the equivalent of) $50 a month," she said.
More than 50 percent of Armenians are unemployed, said Bohince, who is assisting with the country's social development.
She has been working in a newly established domestic violence shelter — Armenia's only one — and she teaches health classes for children.
Mostly, she said, she wants to leave a good impression.
"We (Americans) do not all have endless amounts of money, but because their only exposure to American culture is TV, they have a misconception," Bohince said.
She's made friends and said she feels safe, but realizes these are hostile times.
IN HARM'S WAY?
Bohince signed up for the Peace Corps in April 2001, about five months before the terrorist attacks on the United States.
Her older sister, Paula, teaches college-level English in New York City, and was living there during the 9-11 attacks.
That has helped to shape the way Bohince's mother, Brenda, thinks about her youngest daughter living abroad.
"My contention is, is there a safe place anymore?" she asked, adding that she trusts the Peace Corps' judgment in getting its volunteers out of harm's way.
There's a plan for evacuation, and it's been used many times during the Peace Corps' 42-year history, Daly said. The most recent full-scale evacuation occurred in late September 2002, when U.S. and French forces helped to evacuate 133 Peace Corps volunteers, and also many other missionaries and humanitarian workers, during an uprising in Africa's Ivory Coast.
The Peace Corps' in-country directors are in constant contact with the U.S. embassy regarding the safety of their areas, Daly said. If a situation seems as if it could put the volunteers' safety in jeopardy, the evacuation process may begin, she said.
This comes in three stages, Daly explained. At first, volunteers are told to stay close to home so they can be contacted easily. If the situation escalates, they are directed to gather near a transportation area, such as a major road or airport. At the third stage, the volunteers leave the host country.
"It's never a happy thing when they have to leave," Daly said. "They could be leaving before getting to say goodbye to anybody, and that's a very, very tough thing."
When she arrived in Armenia, Bohince went through a 10-week cultural training course. She learned to speak Armenian, studying six days a week, four hours a day. And for three months she lived with an Armenian family.
The acclimation process also serves as a security measure, Daly said.
"That really wraps them into the community they're living in," she said. "That can ensure a tremendous amount of safety. It's like village law. They protect their own."
Bohince has acquired a taste for foods like cold cabbage soup, milk straight from the cow and potent homemade cheese. If she could get it, though, she said she'd love to have some seafood and a milkshake.
Although friends and family miss Bohince, they support her.
"I just miss that I can't get to her," her mother said. "It's not like she's in Pittsburgh where I can jump in the car and take her out to dinner."
Bohince, a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, was taking classes there while her best friend since kindergarten, Carla Mancuso, was attending Penn State University. Despite the colleges' rivalry, the two remained close.
"It takes a special person to do what she's doing," Mancuso said.
Separated by a nine-hour time difference and the cost of international calls, e-mail has helped the two stay in touch.
In recent years, Bohince has traveled to 20 countries, including her favorites, Cuba and India. Her journeys — especially her most recent one — have helped her to appreciate what she has at home, she said.
During a trip home for Christmas, Bohince said she was stunned by the size of the grocery stores. Where she's living now there are no supermarkets, just all-purpose shops about the size of an American convenience store.
"I think the biggest shock was getting into a car with heat," she said, "or turning on the faucet and having hot water."
The lesson, about what she should never take for granted, is one she said will follow her through life.
"There's such a difference between being a tourist and living within a culture," she said. "Up until now, I've always been a tourist."
David Hunt can be reached at email@example.com or 724-836-6077.
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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Armenia; PCVs in the Field - Armenia; Safety and Security of Volunteers