October 27, 2003 - Dayton Daily News: Response to Kazakhstan RPCV Kevin Marousek By Miranda Bryant

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Special Reports: October 26, 2003: Dayton Daily News reports on Peace Corps Safety and Security: What RPCVs say about this Series on other Message Boards: October 27, 2003 - Dayton Daily News: Response to Kazakhstan RPCV Kevin Marousek By Miranda Bryant

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-165-54.balt.east.verizon.net - on Monday, October 27, 2003 - 3:08 pm: Edit Post

Response to Kazakhstan RPCV Kevin Marousek By Miranda Bryant

Response to Kazakhstan RPCV Kevin Marousek By Miranda Bryant

Response to Mr. Marousek By Miranda Bryant

Such misguided anger and defensiveness by Kevin Marousek in his bombastic response to the series on Peace Corps safety and security. While Mr. Marousek made numerous cogent, lucid points, I must question several statements.

First, as a journalism student Mr. Marousek should know that it is the job of newspapers to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. It is just as unethical to disguise and conceal injuries and deaths in wars as it is to exaggerate them. To truly honor a volunteer or a soldier is to tell their story – with candor and honesty. If that means reporting incidents when a soldier or volunteer was shot or raped, then that’s the sad truth of it. As residents of the United States we should want to know what truly happens to our ex-patriots living and serving abroad, as opposed to being fed “niceties” by the military, government, or the Peace Corps administration.

Second, where in j-school are budding reporters taught to resort to childish name-calling (i.e. uninformed idiot) and immature accusations (What crawled up Russell Carollo’s butt and died? …The staff of the Dayton Daily News isn’t large enough to fill a chicken coup. The staff isn’t talented enough to write a story longer than a paragraph, etc.)? If you disagree with the series, keep your analysis to the merits – or lack therefore -- of the reporting and writing.

Third, Mr. Marousek stated that the articles “are exploiting these victims to scare people and sell newspapers.” At anywhere from 25 cents to a couple dollars per issue for any given newspaper in the country, stories hardly “sell” newspapers. Newspapers make money through advertising. Articles are the non-profit purpose of the medium itself.

Finally, I am happy to read that Mr. Marousek was not assaulted in Kazakhstan. His experience, however, is but one of 170,000 in the course of Peace Corps’ 40-year history. Matters differ from city to city within Kazakhstan, as well as between Kazakhstan, Ghana and Romania.

Kazakhstan has not been immune to horrific cases of sexual assault and violence – nor, for that matter, investigations by the General Accounting Office. Mr. Marousek knew volunteers who were crime victims as Peace Corps Kazakhstan volunteers, but never talked to anyone who blamed the Peace Corps administration. Consider, however, the cases of volunteers serving in Timertau in central Kazakhstan. After seeing guns in cafes and drug deals happening under the noses of all whose eyes were open, a Kaz 7 male volunteer assigned to the heroin-infested town convinced Peace Corps to relocate him and close the site. He felt his safety was in danger. One year later, however, Peace Corps reversed course and sent two Kaz 9 men to Timertau. One volunteer was consequently mugged on the street only to be held at gunpoint on a public bus – along with his fellow Kaz 9 volunteer -- by a drug-crazed individual. Both volunteers were relocated to Taldykorgan and Ushtobe, respectively, only for one to be beaten on the street for refusing to hand over money for wine to a belligerent man. When this volunteer was then sent to Washington D.C. for medical treatment and evaluation, he decided to pursue a formal complaint against Peace Corps Kazakhstan administration for originally sending him to Timertau. He was advised not to return to country. Washington D.C. Peace Corps officials believed his complaint could have made it difficult for the Peace Corps Kazakhstan staff to respond without bias to his needs as a volunteer.

How do I know? I was a two-year volunteer in Kazakhstan (2000-2002). Incidentally, I am a newspaper journalist with more than a decade of experience.

Miranda Bryant
Minneapolis, MN

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Dayton Daily News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Safety and Security of Volunteers; Investigative Journalism; COS - Kazakhstan



By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-165-54.balt.east.verizon.net - on Monday, October 27, 2003 - 8:55 pm: Edit Post

Kazakhstan RPCV Kevin Marousek disagrees with Dayton Daily News Series

Kazakhstan RPCV Kevin Marousek disagrees with Dayton Daily News Series

I don't know where to begin. For starters, I have to ask the question, who in the heck is Russell Carollo, and what crawled up his butt and died? OK, that's two questions, or at the very least a compound question, but the intent is there.

As a journalism student and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, I need to get a few things straight with anyone foolish enough to buy into this series of articles. We'll start with a brief lesson in journalistic ethics, something which Carollo and the rest of the staff of the Dayton Daily News (how many people could that possibly be... enough to fill a chicken coup would be my guess) genuinely need.

I'm hoping I don't have to clue anyone in on the fact we are a nation at war. It may be a stupid and silly war, but it is a war. During times of war, the legitimate press is advised against dramatizing (or over dramatizing) the harsh conditions of the troops. It has been a good long while since America has had its collective clock cleaned on the battlefield, and graphic depictions of soldiers being killed, assaulted, etc., while accurate, exaggerate how bad things really are. There is a reason for this journalistic ethic, and it has nothing to do with a liberal media or a conservative media or any sort of political agenda. The reason is simple: respect for the families. Somebody's husband, son, mother, daughter, father, wife or best friend does not need to be burdened with stories of loved ones endangered far from home. It is simply a mean, nasty way to sell newspapers. It is also the easy way out for a writer who hasn't the talent to develop a more substantive story.

The point of the above paragraph should be obvious, but since Russell Carollo seems to be "a bear of little brain," I'll connect the dots. Peace Corps Volunteers living overseas do not need to get phone calls or letters from members of their family who have been frightened to death by incendiary stories. Such articles constitute cruel and unusual punishment for those serving abroad and their families.

Now allow me to comment on all this from the perspective of a Peace Corps Volunteer. I served in Kazakhstan from June of 2002 until June of this summer, when I had to be released from service due to illness. I will not lie and say every day was bliss, but it is nothing like the articles in the Dayton Daily News would lead you to believe.

Are there security issues for Peace Corps Volunteers? Of course, and only an uninformed idiot would feel the need to ask the question, much less devote six days and countless column inches to the answer. Volunteers live far from the safety and comfort of the United States. They are assigned to developing nations where they live and work within a community. Typically, volunteers are the only Americans for hundreds of miles, with communication and transportation being anything but reliable. It is not a glamour gig. Risks are everywhere.

Could the Peace Corps be doing a better job of protecting volunteers in the field? Again, yes, just like American troops could be better protected in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are always things that can be done, and as a volunteer I was the first to question several techniques and procedures related to my personal safety. I addressed my concerns to those responsible, where they were given the consideration they deserved.

A large chunk of a volunteer's training is devoted to matters of safety and security. It is made clear to everyone from the start that developing countries, by their nature, are less safe than the US. Examples of what could happen were told to me during training, usually written by victims of crimes, assaults, etc. We met with embassy security officials and the Peace Corps security officer assigned to our part of the world. Lack of security is not a secret to volunteers.

I don't mean to minimize the tragedies depicted in the Dayton Daily News, as I assume they are real and the victims have every right for their stories to be heard. These articles are not about the victims. The articles are exploiting these victims to scare people and sell newspapers. There is no awareness raised by the Dayton Daily News. Fanning the flames of fear and paranoia is a shameful way to make a living. Using the pain of others is even more shameful. My guess is that Russell Carollo would need the word "shame" defined to him, and he'd need visual aids and a puppet show for it to sink in.

I know volunteers who were the victims of crimes during their time in the Peace Corps. I've read accounts of events, and not once in anything I've read (except the Dayton Daily News) or anyone I've talked to was the blame ever placed on the Peace Corps administration. Things happen, and they are more likely to happen when someone is in a foreign land.

At last count, more than 60% of Peace Corps Volunteers were women. It's rare to find such a large percentage of women in such a high risk job. As a consequence, the percentage of rapes and physical assaults is going to be higher. The lack of decent and immediate medical care will inflate the number of deaths. These are all known risks by Peace Corps Volunteers. Volunteers, men and women, walk into villages a hemisphere away with no guns or bullet proof vests. To dress them as soldiers would instantly deny volunteers the chance to do their jobs. Those in the Peace Corps must become a part of the communities wherein they serve. To teach or to learn (two of the goals of the Peace Corps), volunteers have to be approachable.

Those are the facts. Sadly I cannot dispute the stories told in the series of articles in the Dayton Daily News. All I can do is offer what I feel is a more realistic and honest perspective. When I was stationed in Pavlodar, Kazakhstan, I felt safer than at any other time in my life. Risks were there, but rewards were there, too. The sad truth is that writing a six day series about the positive aspects of the Peace Corps wouldn't sell many papers.

I apologize for the length of this two-part post, and for the fact the paragraphs magically vanished when I posted them. I guess the Dayton Daily News team isn't used to stories that go longer than one paragraph, so the concept of the Enter key could be foreign to them. It had to be two parts due to a length limit, again something a typical Dayton reporter never has to face. I urge anyone who reads this to support Peace Corps Volunteers in the same way you'd support troops assigned overseas. They are doing good work in adverse conditions, and they don't need to feel extra pressure from the states.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Dayton Daily News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Safety and Security of Volunteers; Investigative Journalism; COS - Kazakhstan



By Matthew Berinbaum (px4wh.vc.shawcable.net - on Thursday, October 30, 2003 - 12:05 am: Edit Post

In Response to the comments written by Miranda Bryant and Kevin Marousek

My name is Matt Berinbaum. I am an RPCV from the Republic of Kazakhstan and as both Ms. Bryant and Mr. Marousek know, I am one of the two volunteers who served in the “heroin-infested” city of Temirtau from September of 2001 through December of that same year. I have already written at length regarding my response to the Carollo article. Anyone interested can read my response, posted on the Peace Corps Online website, under the category “Are Rapes and Assaults in the Peace Corps Increasing?” Here, I would like to clarify a few points, as both Ms. Bryant and Mr. Marousek have brought my site-mate and I into this debate. First of all, I was a member of the 10th group to serve in Kazakhstan not the 9th group. Details folks…it’s all in the details. Secondly, although I appreciate your standing up for my rights as an assaulted volunteer Ms. Bryant, you have used my story in a manner with which I do not agree. I will not speak for my former site-mate but I will indeed inform that person that you have used their story as an example and I will allow them to judge how you have used their story.

I strenuously object to the use of my experiences as a criticism against the administration of Peace Corps Kazakhstan. Regarding my assault, I believe the APCD, Acting CD, Medical Office, and all others involved acted appropriately, assisting me in any way I needed and were completely responsive to my requests for support after the experience. Again, I will not speak for my former site-mates as they may have different feelings on this subject but the following is FACT. During PST (Pre-Service Training) I was approached by my project manager and was told that the site they had in mind for me was a challenging location. I was informed of its history and that former volunteers had been removed from the site. I was told that there was a good job and a very excited counterpart waiting for me. I was not disappointed by either of these claims. In fact one of my regrets is that I did not get to finish serving with that counterpart. I saw the city that you characterized as “heroin-infested” as an opportunity to work with young adults who are going through a tremendously difficult period. I felt I could help there. For the record, I witnessed a good side to Temirtau during my short-lived time there. I met some very dedicated employees of a youth center and people who could have become great friends. I would remind the reader that Kazakhstan is not the only country in the world that struggles with crime, drugs, and HIV/AIDS.

Regarding our incident at gunpoint on the bus, again, I am grateful for your support but believe, again, that you have misrepresented my experience. My site-mate and I made a ‘conscious decision’ to intervene in a situation that we found unacceptable, based on our cultural norms. We decided to intervene in a family dispute between a mother and her son (who was not to my knowledge “drug-crazed” but was probably drunk) because it appeared that the mother was going to be seriously injured. That situation and its consequences could have played out in any city in the United States. I am disappointed that you would use this story as a way to criticize the staff of Peace Corps Kazakhstan. I made my own decisions every step of the way. I decided to go to Kazakhstan. I decided to go to Temirtau. I decided to intervene in a family dispute. I will take responsibility for my actions and do not blame the Peace Corps for giving me the opportunity to do some good in a city that could use some help. Again, my experiences were different from my site-mates, who did have to deal with the issues you described.

As I said in my other letter, I believe that volunteer security starts with the volunteers themselves. Many of the volunteers that I served with took risks that I would not have taken. Their prerogative. Most of them characterized these risks as an inherent part of service. I tended to disagree. Peace Corps volunteers cannot be armed and cloaked in Kevlar at site. Though I will never blame a victim entirely for a situation I will say that often we make mistakes of judgment that put us into bad situations. A problem that I would point out is that many volunteers do not take the warnings they are given seriously enough. Then, when something terrible happens they and their families want someone to blame. Were there legitimate issues of security in Kazakhstan? Yes, absolutely. Many of the comments posted on these pages address similar issues that I witnessed in Kazakhstan. I also believe that the Peace Corps has a massive issue to deal with when it comes to post-service benefits and I agree with other submitted comments that we should receive the same benefits as others who served the government, be it in a military or civilian capacity.

All volunteers should receive extensive cultural training during their PST and I believe I did. All volunteers should be informed about ways to maximize their safety and security at site, and again I believe I was. I accept that other RPCVs may not have received the training that I did and I believe that is wrong. Our best weapon of self-defense in the field is our mind. To that end all volunteers should receive the best education available during training to maximize their safety and in the end we all have to accept that the world, inside and outside our borders, is a dangerous place. Thank you Ms. Bryant for standing up for me and other volunteers who have been assaulted even if your description was, in my opinion, slightly misleading. Thank you Mr. Marousek for adding a voice of caution and realism to this conversation but extreme sarcasm will not help us come to a clear view of the problems the organization faces nor will it move us closer to a discussion of solutions.

By Father of PCV (mid-tgn-nex-vty133.as.wcom.net - on Sunday, November 02, 2003 - 3:59 pm: Edit Post

How uplifting and hope-filled Matt Berinbaum's remarks are!!

His PC volunteering world is not a fantasy world of "freedom from fear, security above all else, novelty for novelty's sake" but rather a world of great need, of opportunities for compassionate giving of self, of hard work preparing for many eventualities hoped for or abhored.

It is no wonder that the Peace Corps has been a major contributor to our nation's leadership positions and other public servants, on all levels, internationsl, national, state, and local. It is the people of character, intellect, and courage, like Matt Berinbaum, who shine a light of hope for those he has served and for all of us. Thank you, Mr. Berinbaum!

Father of a current Peace Corps Volunteer in the Islamic world.

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