May 6, 2003 - WMTW TV: SARS outbreak forces PCV Kathryn Blouin to leave China

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2003: May 2003 Peace Corps Headlines: May 6, 2003 - WMTW TV: SARS outbreak forces PCV Kathryn Blouin to leave China : May 6, 2003 - WMTW TV: SARS outbreak forces PCV Kathryn Blouin to leave China

By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, May 07, 2003 - 9:03 am: Edit Post

SARS outbreak forces PCV Kathryn Blouin to leave China





Read and comment on this story from WMTW TV on PCV Kathryn Blouin left China last month. Now, Blouin says, she's worried about her former students. They've e-mailed her about how the disease is spreading closer to the school where she taught. Read the story at:

SARS outbreak forces Maine teacher to leave China*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.



SARS outbreak forces Maine teacher to leave China

Tuesday,May6,2003,8:16 AM

CAPE ELIZABETH (AP) -- The SARS outbreak in China has forced a Peace Corps volunteer from Cape Elizabeth to return home.

Kathryn Blouin, who was teaching English to Chinese college students in Szechwan province, 700 miles southwest of Beijing, said she didn't want to leave. But she had no choice.

The Peace Corps abruptly terminated her assignment a month ago and ordered her to leave China. Now, Blouin says, she's worried about her former students. They've e-mailed her about how the disease is spreading closer to the school where she taught.
Another Story about a PCV who left China





Read and comment on this story from the PoconoRecord on Melissa Fulton who was happily ensconced as a Peace Corps volunteer in central China when she received a telephone call April 5 telling her she had one day to get to Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan province. When she arrived, she and dozens of other volunteers were whisked to a waiting airplane and flown back to the United States. After repeated reassurances that the deadly pneumonia was not going to force an evacuation from China, Fulton barely had time to say good-bye to all the people who had come to define her new life. "It was really shocking the way they did it," she said

The Peace Corps volunteers were not evacuated because of fear that they would contract SARS, she was told. It was that the companies the Peace Corps uses to evacuate seriously ill volunteers from host countries were refusing to fly to China because of the disease. So if volunteers became ill from anything, the Peace Corps would not be able to get them out. Seriously ill volunteers are always returned to the United States because the quality of care provided by host country hospitals is often inferior.

Still, the disease was so distant to the people of the region where Fulton was living that none of her students had heard of it, and the adults couldn't believe that was the real reason she was being evacuated. "They all believed it was political. They thought America was going to bomb China," Fulton said. The sudden pullout angered administrators at some of the other schools hosting volunteers, although not at her school, Fulton said. The Peace Corps has been in China for only 10 years and Fulton fears their sudden departure may have burned some bridges. "They see American arrogance. This is American arrogance right in their face," she said.

Read the story at:


SARS disrupts volunteer's mission*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.



SARS disrupts volunteer's mission

By ERIN DOOLITTLE

Pocono Record Writer

edoolittle@poconorecord.com

Like a thief in the night, SARS yanked Melissa Fulton from an adventurous life in China and landed her back home in Snydersville.

Fulton, 23, was happily ensconced as a Peace Corps volunteer in central China when she received a telephone call April 5 telling her she had one day to get to Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan province. When she arrived, she and dozens of other volunteers were whisked to a waiting airplane and flown back to the United States.

After repeated reassurances that the deadly pneumonia was not going to force an evacuation from China, Fulton barely had time to say good-bye to all the people who had come to define her new life.

"It was really shocking the way they did it," she said.

In photographs of her on the last day, with students and teachers at the school where she taught environmental studies, her eyes are red and puffy from tears.

Now, she waits at her parents' home wearing a skirt printed with Chinese characters on a Sunday evening for news of when she can return.

The Peace Corps volunteers were not evacuated because of fear that they would contract SARS, she was told. It was that the companies the Peace Corps uses to evacuate seriously ill volunteers from host countries were refusing to fly to China because of the disease.

So if volunteers became ill from anything, the Peace Corps would not be able to get them out. Seriously ill volunteers are always returned to the United States because the quality of care provided by host country hospitals is often inferior.

And volunteers are always evacuated on short notice to protect them, as a large group of Americans in one place, from terrorist attack, Fulton was told.

Still, the disease was so distant to the people of the region where Fulton was living that none of her students had heard of it, and the adults couldn't believe that was the real reason she was being evacuated.

"They all believed it was political. They thought America was going to bomb China," Fulton said.

The sudden pullout angered administrators at some of the other schools hosting volunteers, although not at her school, Fulton said.

The Peace Corps has been in China for only 10 years and Fulton fears their sudden departure may have burned some bridges. "They see American arrogance. This is American arrogance right in their face," she said.

Until she left for China, Fulton had always lived at home. She is a 2002 graduate of East Stroudsburg University.

"I felt such a sense of loss. It was my whole life. It was the first time I was on my own," she said.

Fulton was given the option of ending her tenure as a volunteer, signing up to return to China as soon as possible, or going somewhere else. She chose to return to her former post.

Fulton said she thinks she is as much at risk of catching SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, in the United States as in China.

In the province where she lived, there are now nine reported cases. In Miayang, a city of 600,000 where she was living, there are none.

Globally, SARS has stricken more than 6,300 people, killing 449, according to the World Health Organization, which has been tracking the disease.

China's initial secrecy about the disease, which originated there last November, was not because it was trying to fool the world, in Fulton's opinion.

"Your 'face' is really important (in China). It's cultural. They didn't want to look bad to the world," she said.

Fulton spent the first two months of her two-year commitment training in central China, living with a Chinese family, learning the language and taking classes in how to teach environmental education, before her placement as a teacher.

By the time she was evacuated she had been teaching 14 classes of 55 to 75 teenagers each for seven months. She also led a class on American culture, put on a schoolwide Halloween party, participated in a ethnic dance troupe, and was hard at work on a textbook so teachers there can continue her curriculum after she leaves.

Fulton's students were about to begin presentations on endangered species when she was forced to leave.

"I was so disappointed I didn't get to see the results of all that work," she said.

Fulton seems genuinely mournful that she didn't get to say good-bye to all who touched her life in China.

"Some of the people I miss most are the people I ran into every day. The people at the market, the woman I bought fruit from. Her prices were fair and she knew my language limitations. The woman I got my tofu from. I didn't really know much about them. I just disappeared out of their lives. I miss all the small people," she said.

Fulton keeps busy, largely in continuing her ties with the school in China. She's trying to get books for the library, and establish pen pals for the kids, something they said they wanted.

She plans to talk about her experiences to local schoolchildren, but she doesn't want to take a job that demands too much.

"I don't want to get settled; I want to go back to China," she said.

Copyright © May 05, 2003, Pocono Record
Return to www.poconorecord.com
A Story about another Peace Corps Volunteer evacuated from China who returned on her own to China





Read and comment on this story from the San Francisco Chronicle on Peace Corps Volunteer Julie Chan who was teaching epidemiology in Chendu, which is in Sichuan province, far from the SARS outbreaks. Two weeks ago, she was pulled out of China with about 100 other Peace Corps volunteers. "There was a knock on her door on a Friday, and they told her to close her bank accounts, and on Sunday she was on a plane back to Washington," Chan's mother said. "It was the parents of the volunteers who put on the pressure."

Chan, who has a master's degree in epidemiology and public health, got on a plane a week ago and flew to China on her own, paying her own way, because she had only two months to go in her two-year stint teaching Chinese medical students. She didn't want to quit. Read the story at:


Battle-weary Chinatown faces epidemic of fear*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.



Battle-weary Chinatown faces epidemic of fear

ROB MORSE

Monday, April 28, 2003

When you ask Tane Chan how to spell her name, she says, "That's Tane, as in 'high octane.' "

That describes the personality of Chan, who owns the Wok Shop, a cozy kitchen supply store on Grant Avenue in San Francisco's Chinatown. On Sunday morning, she was wasting a little low octane, as she sat double-parked in her old Volvo and waited a half-hour for a guy to leave a parking space. He was waiting for his wife to return from shopping.

"This is the way it is every day in Chinatown," she said. "But I always get a space."

When I described Chinatown as a mall without parking, she said it was a pretty good description. She turned off the Volvo's engine, and we talked as a few driblets of tourists walked by, perusing the kites, clothing and kitchenware on Grant Avenue.

We talked about the latest ugly disease with an ugly acronym -- SARS -- and how it's affected Chinatown's tourist trade.

"We've been hit big-time. First it was the economy, then it was the war, then it was protesters, and now this," Chan said. "What happened to Toronto was unfair, and when I saw that, I thought it could happen to us."

So far, there has been only one probable case of the infectious disease in San Francisco, reported last week in a traveler returning from a city affected by severe acute respiratory syndrome.

"It is blown completely out of proportion," Chan said.

And why might she think that?

Well, her daughter Julie Chan, who has a master's degree in epidemiology and public health, got on a plane a week ago and flew to China.

"That's how confident she is," said Chan, who admitted her own doubts. "I'm opposed because I'm a parent, but what can I do? She's 26 years old."

Only two weeks ago, Julie Chan had been pulled out of China with about 100 other Peace Corps volunteers -- even though she was teaching epidemiology in Chendu, which is in Sichuan province, far from the SARS outbreaks.

"There was a knock on her door on a Friday, and they told her to close her bank accounts, and on Sunday she was on a plane back to Washington," Chan said.

"It was the parents of the volunteers who put on the pressure."

Chan said her daughter went back on her own, paying her own way, because she had only two months to go in her two-year stint teaching Chinese medical students. She didn't want to quit.

"China never had a plan," Chan said. "They're doing this for the media -- closing the theaters, closing the schools. They're doing it just to show they're sorry for their mistakes when this started. It won't do any good."

It is hard to know what would stop the spread of respiratory diseases -- and it may be particularly hard in China.

"There are different cultural practices in China," Chan said. "The first thing my daughter does in her class is write 'No spitting' and 'Cover your mouth when you cough' on the board. But her students keep on spitting -- and these are medical students."
Finally, the man started to pull out of the parking space, and Chan said, "I hope my car starts."

She drove her three children to school and lessons in that 18-year-old Volvo. She paid thousands of dollars to put them through good Eastern colleges and graduate schools, but it has paid off. They've done her proud.

More than that, her son Mark Chan used his computer skills three years ago to put her store on the Web at www.wokshop.com.

"It's keeping us going," Chan said of her trade on the Internet, where viruses aren't as frightening as SARS. "We sent our first wok to Africa yesterday, and we were so excited. I wrote the man, saying, 'Mr. Edwards, your wok costs $14.95 and shipping is $30. Are you sure need a wok?'

"He wrote back, 'When you need a wok, you need a wok.' "

Chan has been shipping woks and making e-mail friends in places as diverse as Portugal, Oklahoma and London.

"Don't ask me why London," Chan said. "Maybe they think it's more authentic if a wok comes from San Francisco than London. Maybe they think Chinatown in San Francisco is the next best thing to China."

Many people around the world do. Let's hope they keep coming here despite the SARS virus.

"What is it, the fear of the unknown?" Chan asked.

Yes, and it's one more unknown to fear.

Rob Morse's column appears Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. His e-mail address is rmorse@sfchronicle.com.

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