November 21, 2002 - Cresco Times: Beth Cauwels is back from Ivory Coast for Thanksgiving

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 11 November 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: November 21, 2002 - Cresco Times: Beth Cauwels is back from Ivory Coast for Thanksgiving

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Beth Cauwels is back from Ivory Coast for Thanksgiving

Beth Cauwels is back from Ivory Coast for Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving is one of thanks for Cauwels family

Daughter Beth returned safely from Ivory Coast rebellion

By KEN BECKER, News Editor

Many of us have lots to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, but few can relate to the experience of Dennis and Coleen Cauwels.

They spent several anxious weeks earlier this fall wondering and worrying about their daughter, Beth.

It was a difficult time for them because they were far removed from Beth's location. They were here in Cresco - Dennis is the public works director for the city of Cresco and Coleen is employed at Johnson Accounting in Cresco.

Beth not only wasn't in the area, she wasn't in the country. She was trapped in the African country of the Ivory Coast.

"She called us on Sept. 21," recalled Coleen. "The uprising in the Ivory Coast had broken out two days earlier. When the attacks broke out on the 19th, we had no idea where Beth was or how close to the fighting she was. It was scary."

Beth had gone to the Ivory Coast for an intended six week trip to visit a former college roommate, Bri Fischer. She was accompanied on the trip by another former roommate, Emily Emond.

"Bri is in the Peace Corps and Beth and Emily went to visit," added Dennis. "They had been planning this trip for a long time."

The women were living in a small village in the northern part of the Ivory Coast when the fighting broke out. The three of them, along with other Peace Corps volunteers in the region, were evacuated to a hospital near Korhogo, also located in the north. Some of the fighting, which eventually claimed 270 lives or more, was in Korhogo.

"The fighting was mostly in the larger cities, primarily Bouake," continued Coleen. "I don't think Beth ever really felt threatened."

Even so, they were confined to the hospital for their own safety for eight days. Then, on Sept. 29, a joint operation of mostly French troops and some American forces evacuated the foreigners from Korhogo to Yamoussoukro, capitol of the Ivory Coast. They were eventually evacuated to Ghana with connecting flights to The Netherlands and the United States.

"Beth said she didn't realize the seriousness of the situation until they were evacuated from Korhogo," said her mother. "The French force flew in by helicopter with their weapons ready. When she saw that, she became nervous."

Beth, a 1996 graduate of Crestwood, and her parents kept in contact via e-mail and telephone calls, especially between Cresco and the hospital outside Korhogo. In addition, the U.S. embassy, located in Abidjan, which is considered the nation's commercial capital and its main city, kept Dennis and Coleen informed and provided phone numbers.

There was also a glimpse of Beth on a CNN report and a website with information on the Ivory Coast conflict had several pictures of unidentified American's hauling their luggage as they fled Korhogo. Two of the pictures were of Beth.

"We knew she was okay, but it was great to see her picture," said Coleen.

Beth flew into Minneapolis for a quick stop on her way to her home in Portland, OR. This enabled Coleen and Dennis to spend a few minutes with her at the airport.

The whole experience is not over with yet. "Before she was flown out of the country, Beth signed a letter of commitment to pay for her evacuation from the Ivory Coast," said her father, shaking his head. "It never occurred to me that you had to pay to be evacuated. At least she is home safe and sound...and you can't put a value on that."

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Story Source: Cresco Times

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Ivory Coast; Safety and Security of Volunteers; Thanksgiving



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