|By Jeanne Stritch Daigle (jeanne1968) (pool-151-199-45-11.bos.east.verizon.net - 220.127.116.11) on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 7:33 am: Edit Post|
I was in Kenya 1992-3. We had very little safety & security training. One video on sexual attacks and a series of discussions on how not to get robbed.
PC sent me to a school where there were only men teachers. The only female on the school compound was the school secretary and she lived off the school compound. The only people who actually lived on the school compound were male teachers along with a boys dormitory.
About 6 months into my PCV assignment I was raped by one of the teachers and also got pregnant. It's interesting how the mind works - I managed to shove the actual rape into the back of my mind for close to four years. I was sent home about three/four months after the rape for my pregnancy - I refused to abort. I am now raising my 'world child'. She is 9 1/2 years old now and a joy.
I did call the PC in Washington DC about four years after the rape to let them know what had happened and how I felt that the situation they put my in (a school setting with no female teachers) contributed. No support was offered, nor did I ask for any. I was finally in counseling after finally admitting to myself what had really happened.
Anyway, that's my story. These things do happen, it could have happened to me in the US although here I could have prosecuted him four years later, if I had wished to.
|By Mike Waldmiller (cache2.cdc.gov - 18.104.22.168) on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 8:12 am: Edit Post|
I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi from 1998 - 2001. From my perspective, I would say that volunteer safety was one of the highest priories for the PC office. Our Peace Corps Medical Officer, Sheila Waterman, reviewed safety and security several times in training and addressed it on various occasions in our monthly newsletters. Furthermore, we were consistently reminded that our most powerful forces to prevent crime against ourselves were knowing the language, becoming a part of the community, and learning the cultural cues.
Malawi is relatively passive, but there were a few instances where crime was an issue. I remember Peace Corps removing volunteers from unsafe locations (almost ALWAYS against the volunteer's wishes) to assess the situation. Again, Sheila Waterman and the Country Director saw volunteer safety as a high priority. When a volunteer was actually assaulted (and reported the assault), I felt Peace Corps followed up approriately. I know of volunteers who were medivac'ed to Washington DC for follow-up. And it was always the volunteer's decision on whether to return. Of course, I also know of volunteers in isolated areas who may have not felt as safe -- again, I can only speak from my own experience.
But it is important to remember the reality of a Peace Corps volunteer. We do not go in with a bubble around us. Are we vulnerable to assault? -- certainly. Will assault continue to occur? -- undoubtedly. Will tragedy hit Peace Corps again? -- yes. However, I never went in to Peace Corps expecting to be sheltered from anything. I had a tremendous experience of both good and bad. I was reminded of the dangers throughout the application period, in my interview, at staging, at pre-service training, and throughout my service. I accepted my reality, including the dangers around me, as part of my service. Can Peace Corps protect every single volunteer from every possible assault? Of course not. Could things be improved upon? Of course they can.
In the end, I still felt safer walking down the road in Malawi than I do in Atlanta, Georgia. I am vulnerable here, as well, and I don't expect the police to protect my every movement. There are risks involved no matter where I go, no matter what I do. But I won't live my life in a bubble.
|By J Rachels (22.214.171.124) on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 9:23 am: Edit Post|
Your personal saftey is just that- yours. My experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Romania (Group 10, 00-02) bears this out. I was forced to move from my first site because I had the balls to get out of a car that my counterpart put me into, destination ?who knows?, with four young men. I jumped out and ran away when they stopped to get gas. I stayed with another PCV in town and found a new job. PC response? They forced me to move. I was placed in a site where I had no assignment and no place to live. This sounds like a joke, but I'm serious: My program director knew someone at the site who had a club for kids, so she sent me there. I lived with that family of 4 in a two bedroom apartment for 5 days with no running water. Then, I was called to the PC office and literally yelled at (My country director was yelling so loud he spit into my face). I was told I was sent to that site on purpose to make me quit. My program director stopped returning my phone calls. My response? I was upset, but I decided then and there to succeed. I found my own apartment (the common arrangment in RO), found my own work (which had nothing to do with my sector) and had a successful service. I tried to make it work out with the family I stayed with, but the son attacked me twice, and the kids club was non-existant. When I reported these things, they were, of course, ignored.
I'm not proud of everything I did, though. I'll take responsibility for that, too. I won't blame that on unresponsiveness from the PC office, or loneliness, or another culture that exploits women to a greater degree than we do here. Once, I jokingly tried to start a fight with a guy at a disco, who turned out to be pretty serious about fighting. I had to run away. The same night, I fell down, accidentally exposing myself, and embarrassed myself in front of dozens of people because I was too drunk. I'm lucky I didn't have anything serious happen to me. The fact is, almost all volunteers have these stories to tell, too. Some of them end in a laugh, others don't. I remember hearing a story during our training of a PCV involved in a knife fight in a bar over a woman. I remember thinking, "This is a PCV?" Yes. Let's be honest with each other, here.
To women: frankly, it's not PC's job to protect you. Before you come, they can't send a memo to all of the men in a country that says, "Hey, don't grab the white girl like you do the others because she's special." Hints: if you walk into a place and you are the only female, it's not time to do everyone a favor and break down gender barriers- you need to leave. If you see that all the women around are wearing clothing that covers their head, arms, legs, and even their face, then you need to be doing it, too. Jeans and a tank top are probably not a good idea. Don't take any form of transportation at night- you'll notice that women in many countries don't. No one in your country of service cares that you graduated cum laude from Harvard, with a double major in political economy and underwater basketweaving.
In short: PC is wrong to ignore volunteers. Volunteers are wrong to think PC can do anything about most of the problems they have. In addition to PC unresponsiveness, the series suggests that two other things have constributed to what they call a rise in attacks: unqualified and inexperienced volunteers, and more female PCVs. To PC Washington: we don't need your "protection", thank you. Send us to the same places as before, but use common sense when putting us in our sites. No housing? Guerilla fighting? Don't send anyone there. Anyone, male or female. No other females in the school? A volunteer has been raped in that housing before? Depending on the country and there are several options, whatever you come up with. Obviously, ignoring issues and witholding information are no longer options. Another suggestion: Keep people busy. When they have work, they don't get into trouble. I know, I know, cultural exchange is two thirds of the point. Let's get that done while people are working.
Sorry for the spelling, but I'm at work and trying to do this in a hurry...like the rest of us.
|By Diane Eggimann Glasgow (cookeville-24-159-18-53.midtn.chartertn.net - 126.96.36.199) on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 10:41 am: Edit Post|
I still believe Peace Corps can be a fantastic opportunity to stretch professionally and to figure out challenges safely. At the end of service at Nakorn Sri Thammarat Teacher Training College in southern Thailand '73-'75, I reported that tension between Muslims and Buddhists was rising and that it wouldn't be wise to assign women there. Peace Corps followed my advice, thank goodness, and soon after I arrived back in the U.S., my Thai roommate wrote that the college security guard had been shot, so she was moving her family to a different college.
I agree that it's important to follow cultural norms. For women teaching in Thailand that means no sleeveless tops because prostitutes wear them. Teachers in Thailand are so highly respected, next to God. We could talk about the double standard: that married men often have affairs in the same town; married women don't. Single women could not live with a guy before marrying. But we knew we would lose our job if we tried it! We had learned from a past volunteer who had tested that custom and did lose her job. Peace Corps learned, too, not to put PC women in NE Thai towns where U.S. military men lived.
In Peace Corps training we were told that in case of a political or natural emergency, we could be evacuated within 24 hours. During a revolution when the Thai prime minister and the military general were ousted, all media was blacked out for 3 days: no newspapers and no radio. Our college closed for 3 days. I traveled out of the country, 7 hours by train and by bus, to Malaysia to buy a Time magazine to find out what was going on, to see if I needed to evacuate.
As soon as I found out it was safe, I quickly returned in time to teach my English classes again. It's strange what happens to your mind when a news blackout occurs! At first I didn't know if I was safe or in danger. How can Peace Corps prepare anyone for such unexpected events? During training, tell important history?
I heard that in Senegal, men like to protect PC women. So SAFETY DEPENDS ON THE COUNTRY
and even the region of the country.
When I met PCVs in Nepal, I learned that a PC woman was found in a fetal position partly because Nepali men upcountry wouldn't listen to a woman. So PC wasn't putting women upcountry anymore.
I met an RPCV nurse from Afganistan who experienced a strange Afgani man crawl into her sleeping bag one night. Horrors! Peace Corps volunteers and headquarters had to learn the hard way. May past experience continue to teach current Peace Corps directors where to place women!
My husband, Dr. Sam Glasgow, RPCV Thailand '66-'68, and I believe that the Dayton Daily News report will hurt Peace Corps recruiting. Our son, a college sophomore has been thinking about joining Peace Corps after graduation. This newspaper report startled him and caught our attention! Our daughter, a high school senior, will hear our talk about Peace Corps next month. I need to be able to assure her and her classmates what countries are safest and that some countries should be avoided, and those country lists will change!
We hope Peace Corps will list assault numbers country by country to help Peace Corps recruiters, future volunteers, and their parents judge what to expect: which countries are the safest and which are the most dangerous. We hope Peace Corps policies and expert Peace Corps directors will take advantage of past experiences, acknowledge the causes of tensions, and most importantly constantly ask, would I put my own son or daughter at each site?
We are very proud to be a part of Peace Corps's accomplishments! We are relieved that a security officer will be placed in every Peace Corps country by the end of 2003. We want Peace Corps to avoid trouble whenever possible so it can grow successfully!
|By Susan Smitten (142.philadelphia-21-22rs.pa.dial-access.att.net - 188.8.131.52) on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 3:28 pm: Edit Post|
My husband and I were assigned to agencies in the Suriname capital, Paramaribo. We were living in a more or less middle class section of the city with all the required security installations. Unfortunately 3 unmasked men all with guns broke into our home at 3 AM one morning, woke us up demanding our money. They stole many things but did not harm us. Locked us in our bedroom and left. All authorities were notified but we no longer felt safe and decided to ET. It was our sadest decision ever.
|By Cathy Lampshire (d-hum-67x-62.fullerton.edu - 184.108.40.206) on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 3:31 pm: Edit Post|
In Cameroon 92-93 I was grabbed, handled, kissed, etc. by my landlady's husband one night. I was totally shocked because I had never met him before. He was very strong and would not let go!
They were having a party at their house which was next door to mine. He came over to ask if he could park their car at my house because I had a large dirt area enclosed by a fence to prevent thief of the car. It was 9:30pm and he met me as I was leaving to attend the party.
As we locked my fence and started to go to their house he grabbed me in the dark in the middle of the dirt road when no one was around. Before I knew what was happening he was kissing me and would not let go. I didn't have to go so far as to start screaming, but believe me I would have! I never went near him again, but it made me very uncomfortable to know he was my landlord and had keys, etc. to my home.
I always thought that placing a pair of PC volunteers in a compound or next door to each other would help to create a safer environment in the Peace Corps.
I also believe a "self defense course" should be taught to volunteers(male & female.) Also, why don't volunteers teach "self defense" classes to the girls/women in the countries where they serve? Perhaps in a club setting or an after-school program,etc. I am sure it is needed.
I have always wondered - If that happend to me, what did he do to others before and/or after I left?
|By naomi gabriela maita schwartz (cache-ntc-aa06.proxy.aol.com - 220.127.116.11) on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 5:38 pm: Edit Post|
I was a peace corps volunteer in 1991 in Bolivia. Even though I came into the peace corps a fluent speaker of Spanish I was refused Quechua language training until my last month. I was sent to my site without any contacts from the community and left to fend for myself in a Quechua speaking community. It is a basic Anthropological principal to always set a volunteer (especially a female volunteer)up with a "fictive kin" family in order that the volunteer has "fictive kin" to protect her and teach her the ways to function in the community. I requested to live with a family but was told I would have to find my own place to live. I learned Quechua in 1 month and began to only communicate in Quechua and that is when the kidnapping for marriage began to occur. I should never have been sent to a community where the local custom was to kidnap women for marriage. Luckly my Quechua speaking abilities prevented any physical harm from ever occuring besides the many bruises from being physically restrained and pulled into houses by family members who wanted me to marry their sons.
After the first kidnapping attempt, I complained to various members of the peace corps office in Cochabamba and to my counterpart (who was not part of the community, he lived in Cochabamba) and was ignored. Several other attempts at kidnapping made walking from my community to others alone to meet with health promoters and give talks on nutrition impossible. I was living with the daily fear of disapearing and becoming the wife of a community member. This became a daily threat that was communicated to me by community members. When I first complained to peace corps about the kidnapping attempts I was ignored then as I continued to complain I was blamed for the attempts and told I was to friendly to the villagers, that I needed to "distance myself." I asked to be sent to another community, one where the custom was not kidnapping women for marriage. I was told to stay in my community or get out of peace corps. When my parents called Washington, very upset about the extreme danger I was in, I was called into a meeting by peace corps adminstrators who accused me of exagerating the "incidents." They were very angry that I had told my parents what was happening as the "incidents" were not to be public knowledge, they were to be kept in Bolivia. In my group we already had a volunteer gang raped and an MD friend of mine (not associated with the peace corps) was attacked and barely escapted a rape attempt by one of the health promoters we worked with. I was sent to a therapist who agreed with me that the kidnap attempts for marriage that I had experienced were part of many Indigenous communities in Bolivia. As I was preparing to leave the community, a Mestiza friend of mine accompanied me with a big stick (as peace corps refused to believe the danger I was in) in order to fend of community members who came to my house crying and drunk asking that I not leave the community and why did I not want to marry one of their sons? Right before I left Bolivia I was told by several female volunteers that they commended me for my bravery at telling the truth about what happened to me as they were to AFRAID to speak of "incidents" with men in their communites, knowing that they too would be thrown out of peace corps. I had no choice.
Several of my fellow volunteers also left Bolivia before their 2 years ended.
Of course I learned much in my 8 months of experience in other Quechua communities.
The country administrators are the ones who have the power to make our lives miserable and hide the truth or they can support us in our desire to live, learn and work with peoples from other cultures. I am currently a PhD candidate in Latin American Studies, Anthropology and Linguistis and teach Ecuadorian Quichua, music and dance. I have been living with various Indigenous Ecuadorian cultures for 11 years.
|By Brenda K (h-66-167-70-179.chcgilgm.covad.net - 18.104.22.168) on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 7:36 pm: Edit Post|
Safety is a concern for many PCVs. You not only need to follow U.S. common sense rules for lessening the chance of being harmed (not walking alone at night, not drinking too much alcohol), but you need to be aware of local issues/customs that could place you in danger (clothing restrictions, etc.).
I was a volunteer in Micronesia (87-89) and on my island, it was the custom for men to crawl into womens' windows at night. The women were often welcoming. The custom was very frightening to me, as I woke up many times in the middle of the night with someone that I had not invited in my home. However, I never felt like I was in physical danger from the intruders. I would scream, and they would immediately run away. If they were caught, the local police would hand-cuff them to a coconut tree in front of the council hall for "bothering the Peace Corps." The PC did a good job of explaining the custom to us during training, and making suggestions for handling unwanted advances in a culturally appropriate manner. (Okay, screaming was not taught, but I could effectively rebuff unwelcome attention outside of my home.) On other Pacific islands where violence against women was prevalent, the PC only placed married PCV couples.
There are rapists in every country, and no one can insulate themselves completely. However, the only instance (that I am aware) of rape of a PCV in my host country involved a woman who was drunk and walking home alone at night. She did not deserve to be victimized, but her failure to follow common sense safety rules that night increased the danger of her being harmed.
My experience aside, if some country directors are failing to adequately monitor and respond to dangers in their host countries, this article may push them to respond appropriately.
|By Chip Barnett (sph23.sph.emory.edu - 22.214.171.124) on Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - 8:43 am: Edit Post|
I hesitate to comment, since as a man my experiences and vulnerabilities were different from those of women volunteers. But I'd second Mike's comments above (even to walking the streets of Atlanta, where I now live). I was in Nepal from 1998-2000 and remember thinking that Peace Corps was going overboard in constantly talking about safety. The few incidents I heard of were treated with great concern, and volunteers were routinely pulled from their posts, usually against their wishes, because of threats of violence.
And yet awful things happen, as I find from reading these other comments, so I can't help concluding that it depends not just on the country, but on the country director and APCDs. I guess I had good ones and other PCVs have been less lucky. Perhaps headquarters could put extra emphasis on training field staff to respond quickly and sensitively to PCV safety concerns.
|By Zachary Jean Chartkoff (12-245-172-3.client.attbi.com - 126.96.36.199) on Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - 9:48 am: Edit Post|
Since rape is a global dilemma affecting both women and men it always saddens me when I hear callous remakes, especially from RPCVs, that use "blame the victim" in their recommendations. Usually, comments like "your personal safety is just that -- yours," and "it's not PC's job to protect you," are followed by the implied quip "quit whining." Hope this person isn't working in any Human Relations department anywhere.
Is it the job of Peace Corps to protect its volunteers? Particularly when it promotes an image back home in the States that PC is trustworthy, that it'll take any warm body as long as you have a degree and that the "Global Community" wants us? (I suppose an ad campaign that went: "Join PC, we've had a 35 percent decrease in the rate of rape cases of late," won't win too many folks over) "We send volunteers only to countries and communities where they can serve safely, and we have systems in place to maximize their safety and security," Vasquez said. Right.
I can only draw from personal experience. About seven months or so into my Armenian service a rumor went around that one of our PC volunteers had been raped and was in the hospital. Some of us went down to the ask our Country Director and she at first flat-out denied it. Later she said nothing bad had happened but would not give us the address of the hospital. Only on the weekend after a large group of volunteers had arrived at the capital city did she tell us what had happened and where our friend was. When we got to the hospital I tried to control my facial expressions, but it was hard; she had beaten so badly that half her teeth were gone, her face battered and swollen beyond recognition.
My friend was not drunk and she was not in a remote village, the two excuses I've read so far from the RPCVs as to why female volunteer get attacked. This was the capital and she was not doing anything more than what PC asked her to do; she was coming back from teaching her lessons. It was the afternoon and right outside her apartment. Could PC have protected her? Of course not, not in the sense of some magic wand-type of protection. Did our Country Director blunder on her handling of what happened? In my eyes, yes. But that does not answer the question are we endangering our volunteers, male and female, by placing them in environments that aren't ready for them just to "fill a quota"? At the very least PC should quit making it sound that the risks are minimal and these so-called "systems in place to maximize ... safety and security," are anything more than the Medi-vac used to pick up the pieces, as it were. I think if the Dayton Daily News reporters wanted a critical voice from volunteers they should go down to the Virginia Hotel (or wherever they send Medi-vacs now) and interview some of the women and men whose "safety and security" was guaranteed instead of soulless RPCVs whose only practical advice is "stiff upperlip, pip-pip."
|By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (cache-ra07.proxy.aol.com - 188.8.131.52) on Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - 8:29 pm: Edit Post|
I had always thought that the antipathy toward the PCV from the staff was because staff were not necessarily RPCVs and that if they were, some of these problems would be solved. But, Zachary Jean seems to suggest that RPCVs are part of the problem. The boot camp mentality of training should be replaced by intelligent concern once the training is completed. Dayton series does not identify staff as RPCV or not. I would like to know what other RPCVs and PCVs think.
After Kennedy was killed, Colombia was flooded with non-RPCV staff who were inept and hostile. Indeed, people in my site felt it was part of their job to protect us from the intrusion of those people. So much so that we were called "cuerpo de paz" and they (pc staff) were called peace corps. The threats I experienced were out of site, impersonal and usually political. From reading these accounts, I realize how very lucky I was; althought, very scared, at times.
I am not surprised but still angered that for twenty-eight years, peace corps did not keep records on crime. I wonder on what basis the decision not place volunteers in pairs was made?
I figure the peace corps experience has a half-life of about 200 years, so there is still time to do the history. I hope that congress will hold hearings and some good will come from this.
Joanne Colombia 63-65
|By bankass.com (user-105n8o2.dialup.mindspring.com - 184.108.40.206) on Thursday, October 30, 2003 - 7:31 am: Edit Post|
Thank you. You have articulated what I have been thinking about.
Recently, I called the Foreign Operations Committee and ran into one of these folks who served in Africa who works for Jim Kolbe. Kolbe is on a very powerful Congressman who has held up bringing these issues to funding for years. This RPCV, said, "nothing happened to me". Therefore, that was his rationale in not helping us. This happens at Peace Corps heaquarters too.
Thanks for your comments. Daniel
|By Susan Joy Henderson (anx53-150.dialup.emory.edu - 220.127.116.11) on Thursday, October 30, 2003 - 12:30 pm: Edit Post|
When I decided to accept the Peace Corps assignment I had been offered, I realized that there were risks involved and accepted this as part of the challenge. I served in Togo between 1991 and 1993 as a Guinea Worm Eradication volunteer. In our training, we received many sessions on staying healthy and at least one on safety.
During the second year of my service, a member of the Togolese army pointed a gun at my face in order to emphasize the point that I needed to get away from the street where the president was being driven in a procession. Fortunately, I was unharmed, and realized that he was trying to intimidate me but not kill me. Since I was in the capital at the time, I went straight to the Peace Corps Medical Office, where I received counseling from the staff. The director at the time, Jim Bell, called me in to speak with me. We discussed the incident, he made a report (including calling the Togolese government), and he made sure that I was stable enough to go on with my duties. Other than being shaken up, I was fine, and also impressed that the office had taken the appropriate measures. There was nothing that they could have done to prevent the situation: I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Also that year, a volunteer was killed as a passenger in a bush-taxi accident. This was very sad for the rest of the group, as well as frightening. We took bush-taxis all the time. There is really very little control that you have once you get into a bush taxi, except for demanding to get out if the driver is reckless. But then you risk getting stranded on the side of the road. I minimized the trips I took by bush-taxi and used my bicycle more frequently.
I think the best way to stay safe during Peace Corps service is to stay close to one's post and gain the trust and respect of the nearby families and the community.
Overall,I felt safer in my village than I have felt since returning to the United States. I am also very appreciative of the opportunites that Peace Corps gave me to learn about a new culture, new language, do community service, and travel. I decided to go to Medical School after being introduced to Public Health through Peace Corps and am now an primary care physician. It would be a shame for the public to focus on the unfortunate incidents associated with Peace Corps without recognizing all the positive experiences that volunteers have had.
|By Robyn K. Addie (18.104.22.168) on Friday, October 31, 2003 - 1:06 pm: Edit Post|
My name is Robyn Addie. I served as a Peace CorpsVolunteer in Benin, West Africa from 1999-2001.
I served as an English professor at the only university in the country. When students began rioting on the campus where I taught, Peace Corps was unaware of the turmoil. As the rioting worsened, the national guard was called in. They began beating students, journalists and professors. There were reports that a student had died overnight from injuries sustained from the violence of the national guard. The next morning, the students blocked off the only North-South Highway in the country, setting fire to tires every few hundred meters along the highway. They entered my village and ransacked the mayor's office. I tried to get to the Peace Corps office in the capital city, only 30 minutes by taxi. I finally found a taxi who took a back route to Cotonou. When nearing the main highway, a man on a motorcycle drove by yelling that the national guard was shooting people on the main highway. Everyone abandoned the taxi, including the driver, leaving me locked inside. After a few minutes, people emerged from the bush, saying, "C'est faux." [It's not true.] I then walked to the main highway where the scene was surreal. There was a burned out taxi with windows smashed in blocking the center of the highway. When I finally arrived at the Peace Corps office, the administration knew nothing. They allowed me to spend the night in Cotonou and then told me to return to my village. They also told me to return to teaching as soon as possible.
I became afraid to go to work and asked that I be reassigned. Peace Corps administration refused. Meanwhile, our country director had told all PC staff who drove PC vehicles to avoid the area, for fear that they may vandalize the PC SUVs. Finally, I had to be medically evacuated to Washington, DC for 6 weeks of counseling.
Upon returning to Benin, the PC Administration set me up at the same post, refusing to reassign me. I never went back to teach at the university and eventually was medically separated from the Peace Corps four weeks before the official end of my service.
In retrospect, I feel that PC did an excellent job during our first three months of training of making us aware of the dangers in the country. They told us about the burglary, sexual assaults and other dangers faced by volunteers. The problem was that when I needed the administration to support me, they didn't. My APCD (Assistant Peace Corps Director) was Beninese, so she really didn't understand - from an American perspective - why I felt unsafe. Even the country director, who was a US citizen, was born in Burkina Faso. They both told PC Washington that I was "exaggerating" and "overreacting." They did little to change my circumstances to make me feel secure. The medical unit was truly my saving grace.
I don't regret joining the Peace Corps. It was a great experience. I learned so much about myself and how I cope with adversity. I am currently teaching in DeKalb County Schools in Atlanta. My students love to hear my stories about life in West Africa. My PC experience has been a way to bring a part of West Africa alive and make it real for my students.
|By Steve Manning (209-128-170-237.dial-up.ipa.net - 22.214.171.124) on Saturday, November 15, 2003 - 11:16 pm: Edit Post|
After reading some of the Dayton Daily News series, along with the postings on this site, I sent a letter directly to Mr. Jeff Bruce, editor of the Dayton Daily News. I have debated whether to post it here, partly because it is long and partly because I am sure I will be accused by some of "blaming the victims" which I will say in advance that I certainly do not. Each person has his/her own strengths/weaknesses/experiences which he/she brings to PC service and cannot be either blamed (or praised) for being him/herself. Beyond that, I have asked myself whether I am just "blowing my own horn" by sharing it here. However, I have concluded that it is better to let others make that judgment and that just perhaps there is enough substance in it to make it worthwhile sharing. Please be assured that I honestly do sympathize with those who have suffered and worse during their PC service and after. I can empathize - most of my bad experiences of living in fear and feeling intimidated were in junior high school and high school, and my Peace Corps (and subsequent overseas) experiences were overwhelmingly positive, for which I am very thankful. Anyway, it will follow shortly after this post for what it is worth.
|By Steve Manning (209-128-170-237.dial-up.ipa.net - 126.96.36.199) on Sunday, November 16, 2003 - 12:25 am: Edit Post|
Following in slightly corrected and shortened form is the letter I sent to the DDN editor on 11/4/03:
Dear Jeff (from an RPCV also living near an Air Force base, though it is the Little Rock AFB rather than Wright-Patterson):
As a returned Peace Corps Volunteer, I do confess to mixed feelings after reading most of your series. At first I thought it was a witch hunt and had a predictably negative reaction, but on the other hand can't help but be flattered that the Peace Corps and its volunteers are considered important enough for such a rare if not unprecedented amount of attention, and have concluded that the exposure is more likely to help than to hurt overall. (After all, public support for former President Clinton went up every time a new twist to the Monica Lewinsky stuff came out.)
I think one major angle that did not get emphasized by your very thorough series is that generally volunteers are probably at their best when they are on their own. What sets us apart from most other overseas workers is the extent to which we are able to bridge the cultural gaps and truly interact with persons in the host countries. Therefore, in general, I submit that more often than not, volunteer effectiveness is inversely proportional to the amount of Volunteer time interacting with Peace Corps staff. When volunteers or others complain about infrequent visits or interactions, this may be a symptom in some cases of those volunteers or others not having truly cut the "umbilical cord" of attachment to a Peace Corps or American presence. At least some of us actually appreciated, during our Peace Corps service, the opportunity to escape the paternalistic/maternalistic aspects of American life and interact with others through something other than a status based primarily on our nationality. I personally felt good about our Peace Corps director (in Nigeria) partly because I saw the absence of frequent visits as an expression of confidence in me that I was able to do the job (teaching) that I was there for without much supervision.
In a similar vein, I would point out that I seem to remember reference(s) to PCV's as "alone" if they are not assigned to a place where there are other volunteers. At least some volunteers and others would find that categorization offensive. It is as if the people of the host country do not count, or are at best some inferior subspecies not to be considered in placing volunteers. A very similar statement appeared in one of the publications for returned PCV's a year or two ago, and was followed by a letter to the editor making the same point.
I would go so far as to say, based on personal experience and human psychology, that those volunteers who are victims of such events as harassment and assaults, ON AVERAGE (certainly not without exceptions), may through body language or otherwise have been less willing or able than other volunteers to meet the people of their host countries on their own terms and almost invited such treatment, much as a wounded animal may attract predators. I really don't think more visits by staff, more record keeping, or assigning more volunteers to each station than needed just to keep two or more volunteers together is really likely to solve that problem; if it does, I would still say that volunteers are probably less effective in that kind of setting than when they spend more of their time actually interacting within their job descriptions.
Again, if PCVs' supervisors are considered to be Peace Corps staff rather than whomever they are working for or with day by day, I see that as a problem! For instance, I taught in a secondary school and I, like everyone else on the faculty, considered my supervisor to be the school principal - augmented by occasional routine visits from representatives of the Ministry of Education. Why would I need more visits under those circumstances? (I was the only American on the staff until a Peace Corps couple was later assigned there - it would have stuck out like a sore thumb if I had had visits from a Peace Corps official and none of the others had something comparable.)
Incidentally, I was robbed at gunpoint once, along with the other volunteer I was living with and a British expatriate in whose car we were riding when it happened - truly highway robbery as we were run off the road. I can honestly say, difficult as you may find it to believe or accept, that it never occurred to me to report the incident to the Peace Corps. What did occur to me and the other victims was to go to the local police station and report it as soon as possible, which we did. We got a sympathetic response, then went back to our station. It never occurred to me to consider any change in our daily routine, much less termination of service, any more than I would move out of Arkansas if I were robbed tomorrow just because it happened here.
To summarize, though I am sure your series is responsive to political pressures from some quarters, I think the most disturbing aspect is the underlying premise that somehow Americans and others are "we" and "they" and that the solutions are to be found in either more management or more American supervisors overseas - probably both - rather than fostering situations which build upon our common humanity. When crimes are committed in this country, do we see the solution as for our employers to hire more supervisors to "visit" us more often? Or to keep their own crime statistics? If not, why should it be so with the Peace Corps? What about mission or commercial organizations or NGO's? Do they do these things? How do they deal with crimes or harassment?
My heart does go out to all victims everywhere, including Peace Corps volunteers, and I am sure some find themselves in truly unacceptable situations. But on the other hand, even Peace Corps Volunteers are adults and benefit from being treated as such. Some of the Peace Corps' foot-dragging about disclosure, etc., to parents may actually be a recognition of this fact. Peace Corps volunteers have the same privacy interests as others and I am happy if one of the things Peace Corps staff do is to act as a buffer between the volunteers and officious intermeddlers, be they parents, politicians, or others, so they can go about their jobs without worrying about such things.
Thank you. Two of my friends who served in Nigeria in the 1960's, as I did, were living in Dayton the last time I heard, and I could probably dredge up their addresses if you would wish to interview them.
|By BANKASS.COM (0-1pool136-35.nas12.somerville1.ma.us.da.qwest.net - 188.8.131.52) on Sunday, November 16, 2003 - 11:45 am: Edit Post|
You served in a different time and I did not attract my threats. Stop blaming other volunteers who have gone through these situations so it fits your arguement. No your heart doesn't go out until you call peace corps for coupling of volunteers. It is unsafe policy. You aid and abet the people committing these crimes by down playing Peace Corps responsility.
No, you are backing up the Peace Corps. The actions they haven't taken have cost lives and are continuing to hurt others.
I have some others who call my home who were hurt. Perhaps we should go on TV with are arguements and really get the word out.
When an agency doesn't do the right thing in planning (two Volunteers at one site), supervising properly and handling cases of violence (by blaming the victim,through their own lies) then nothing much will change.
More stories are coming for you to refute. You better dredge them up because there are more articles coming in more main stream media.
If you don't listen to common sense, the American Public and nature will take over.
If you believe in god, perhaps he is speaking what should be done for these victims.
|By El Salvador RPCVs (adsl-64-169-242-186.dsl.sndg02.pacbell.net - 184.108.40.206) on Thursday, November 20, 2003 - 10:50 pm: Edit Post|
The El Salvador Returned Peace Corps Volunteers listed below are a group continually committed to an accurate depiction of a country in which we had the privilege to serve. During our service we developed relationships with countless generous people who exemplified perseverance in the face of hardship. We recognize our experiences in the Peace Corps as some of the most valuable and challenging of our lives. We are the friends of Carlos Amador, who hold great respect and love for his memory, laughter and enthusiasm. We hold that equally for his parents who demonstrate admirable dignity and strength in their refusal to lower themselves to the level of slander and negativity brewed by the Dayton Daily News. We find it inexcusable that due to poor investigative journalism, they are being made to recount the details of their son’s death, and to defend his reputation to strangers reading these articles and unknowingly accepting misrepresented data and distorted quotations as truths. We speak without any sort of coordinated effort on the part of Peace Corps, but rather as former volunteers who spent two years in a country portrayed quite heinously and incorrectly in this series.
Our hearts go out to those who have been victimized and/or abused, and we acknowledge that the Peace Corps has room for improvement. However, we are offended by DDN’s portrayal of the Peace Corps as an inept babysitting service and El Salvador as a haven for machete-wielding criminals. It is irrefutable and unfortunate that volunteers are sent to countries where crime rates are higher than in the US. But is this a lack of responsibility on the Peace Corps’ part, or a reality of the developing world, where civil war, poverty, indignity, and hunger permeate their histories? Volunteers are constantly asked to remain vigilant, and to take necessary and practical precautions-especially at night or when traveling. At the same time, they recognize that there is always potential for dangerous situations to occur that are beyond anyone’s control. Acceptance of this inherent risk is one of the most courageous and difficult tasks with which volunteers are confronted.
DDN would also like us to believe that any non-North American machete-holding male is a potential assailant. In one article, he asks a Salvadoran in a community where volunteers were raped if he had ever seen an American girl before. When the man answers no, are we supposed to assume that the novelty factor is the necessary incentive to turn him into a rapist? Taken in an extreme context, a machete can and should be recognized as a potential weapon. In its everyday context, however, a machete is an inextricable part of the rural culture, as vital to a farmer as a briefcase would be to a North American executive.
Although the DDN reports that volunteers in El Salvador were not told about the 1996 rapes in El Cuco, we were told several times about the attacks during training, and consistently warned to stay away from that area, violation of which would result in being sent home early from service. Trainers vacillate between giving harrowing crime statistics and warnings, and not ‘scaring the trainees to death.’ This kind of fear can keep volunteers from adequately integrating into their respective communities by making them suspicious of every encounter and situation. We believe that one of the best ways to keep volunteers safe is for them to form solid relationships with the communities they serve, and that these relationships are unique and essential to the kind of development work we are able accomplish in the Peace Corps.
While the public has a right to information about volunteer incidents, the victims have a right to privacy. We wish that the DDN had used at least a little discretion in the portrayal of PCV Carlos Amador’s story. Inaccurate statements about his cause of death and misrepresented interviewees made his parents feel obligated to defend his character to thousands of strangers, not to mention relive the pain and anguish surrounding his death once more.
Jeff Bruce states in his article that volunteers were not given information about the cause of Carlos’s death, but we would like to remind him that the cause still has NOT been determined. Does the reporting of the exact details of his death function more to prevent future PC fatalities, to tarnish Carlos’ reputation and perform a disservice to his family, or to further DDN’s own sensationalistic stories? Again, the author has compromised journalistic integrity in order to impose an inaccurate perspective on the reader.
Russell Carollo and others at DDN attempt to create a picture of Peace Corps sending unwitting befuddled (“mildly hysterical”) twenty-something year-olds to trek alone into third world anarchy in El Salvador and elsewhere. They portray an immature, ill-prepared, helpless volunteer pool that is predisposed to being victimized and using drugs. This is a gross generalization, both inaccurate and offensive. Public information is readily available about crime and violence in the developing countries where volunteers serve. DDN’s insinuating that Peace Corps should be responsible for educating recruits about the dangers of their host countries, and that this information is not available to those responsible enough to seek it, is as absurd as those suing fast food restaurants because they ‘didn’t know the food was unhealthy.'
Contrary to DDN’s claims, trainees select their own housing, discuss potential fears and inadequacies with Peace Corps staff, receive money to improve their house as part of a ‘moving in allowance’, and can apply for additional money if necessary to fortify the house or even build a new one. Volunteers are often placed alone and far away from other volunteers, but this also teaches them how to be self-motivated and independent. Additionally, it is discriminatory to postulate that North Americans are and can be the only valid and safe companions.
In general, our experience with Peace Corps in-country staff has been a positive one. DDN’s depiction of them as unconcerned, uncaring, and unaware is yet another prevarication. While there were times when they were unable to adequately relate to the realities of volunteers’ experiences, overall they were receptive to our needs, hard-working, committed to volunteer confidentiality, and concerned first and foremost with our safety. We challenge Carollo to find Salvadoran volunteers who did not tire of hearing security warnings and admonitions.
Finally, we would like to mention that Peace Corps El Salvador staff was every bit as distraught over the death of Carlos Amador as its volunteers were, and felt equally regretful as friends, community members, and fellow volunteers did for not looking after him better. Such is always the case with those who die young-the unnaturalness of it makes us all feel responsible-regardless of actual culpability.
We continue to hope that these articles will serve to improve the Peace Corps, but as much of the series is exaggerated, sensational, and riddled with falsehoods, we respond to clear some of the fog DDN has spread over what we have experienced to be a unique and wonderful opportunity of a lifetime.
Katherine King ’98-’01
Laura Cuoco ’98-’00
Dave Fogelson ’98-’00
Karen Everstine ’98-‘00
Marycel Tuazon ’97-’00
China Kreiker ’99-‘01
Greg Kimmitt ’97-’00
William Bryan Dwyer ’00-‘02
Janet Lynn ’96-’98
Celeste Parker ’99-‘00
William Mabee ’00-’02
Josh Brough ’98-‘00
Samantha Reinhart-Mora ’98-’01
Laura Dane ’99-‘01
Alejandra Pallais ’98-’00
Teresa Power ’99-‘01
Adam Barash ’99-’02
Debbie Silverstein ’99-‘01
Terrence Cantorna ’97-’00
Gian Paolo Einaudi ’99-‘02
Karen Sherman ’98-’00
Margy Annes ’94-‘96
Jason Stith ’00-’02
Maria Camoratto ‘98
Kollette Stith ’00-’02
Joel Naatus ’00-‘02
Michele Brzezinski ’99-’02
Stacey Simms ’99-‘01
Camille McCarthy ’98-’01
Kathryn Sell ’99-‘02
Michele Laskowski ’00-’03
Ana C. Sikula ’00-‘02
Jonathan Reichlen ’98-’00
Whitney Storm ’99-‘00
Keelin Schaffrath ’99-’01
Sherri Mangum ’99-‘02
Bianca Gentile ’00-’02
Aline Hansen-Guzman ’99-’01
Heather Joffe ’00-‘02
|By Concerned RPCVs (adsl-64-169-242-186.dsl.sndg02.pacbell.net - 220.127.116.11) on Thursday, November 20, 2003 - 10:53 pm: Edit Post|
The articles and responses to them written by volunteers seem to suggest that volunteers might be safer were they placed in pairs. While this could be true and definitely merits discussion, it also has several shortcomings. First and foremost is the assumption that the pairing of volunteers will prevent security incidents. Yes, having two or more volunteers per site could be psychologically more comfortable, and would allow them to work and travel together, but we would also like to ask 1) Will pairing up volunteers attract twice the attention and thus detract from a Volunteers safety? 2) Will these volunteers be so inseparable as to prevent any incident from occurring while alone? and 3) Will the pairing decrease effectiveness of volunteers integrating with their communities, including learning new languages? Also, while some volunteers would like to serve with another volunteer, others would not. Many volunteers enter the Peace Corps intrigued by the possibility of living alone in a different country, where they can test their emotional and physical ability to remain self-reliant and to be completely immersed in another culture. Perhaps pairings could be made an available option for those who desire it, but not required for those who do not.
|By bankass.com (0-1pool136-62.nas12.somerville1.ma.us.da.qwest.net - 18.104.22.168) on Thursday, November 20, 2003 - 11:47 pm: Edit Post|
If you are Peace Corps staff, remember that I am volunteering my time to ansewer these questions. If you are RPCV's, look at your particular employment and know that victims of violence served too. Many of these victims are not getting proper health care and job development after service. Many are blantly discriminated against from further employment with the agency and have a difficult time getting employment in development because of their service incident. Remember those who passed who can't speak for themselves and aren't able to seek further development in their life. Their families are left with a void, confusion and inability have their son or daughter back. One death of a volunteer should have been an alarm bell. 27 volunteers since 1996 is disturbing. Disturbing that this policy of having two volunteers at every site could have reduced these numbers.
1. It won't attract that much more attention and I would argue that it would detract people who want to threaten, harass, and commit rape and violence. Also, it would provide more man/woman power to that particular village.
2. This question can't be answered with certainty 100% but it will reduce the numbers vs serving alone.
Question about serving alone and options:
Some of folks who have had violence committed against them were vehemently self reliant and would argue against this type of policy, but after the incident they have changed their positions. Not everybody but many have.
My belief is that optional policy would make it the same as it is now. I think some volunteers would want to be alone. Most villages are big enough for independence too. But serving alone should be eliminated. The purpose: to strengthen man/woman power, provide a built in plan of support and reduce the chance of a safety breech because of the presence of a another person. Another person who swore in with you.
|By HALFORD E. JONES (cache-mtc-aa05.proxy.aol.com - 22.214.171.124) on Saturday, November 29, 2003 - 11:14 pm: Edit Post|
In reading this material posted here, I wonder just what you think is happening here in the US? Murders, shootings, arson, rape,etc. are all over the country. In some cases, if you read the papers and watch the news and listen to the news on radio, you will find that you run more risk of being killed,raped, attacked,etc. in the good old USA than you do in some remote country,except where civil war is raging! You have in the US more to fear from people around you than you do from any terrorist attack. But, of course, this is not what safety for PCV'S is all about when they go to their host country.First of all, I believe you need some background and interests that will prepare you for such,that is, survival training, similar to what is found in military training, martial arts training,etc. but this is apt to be a controversial and difficult thing to discuss entirely here. When I was training for the Peace Corps in Hawaii in 1963, the women were given some basic self-defense tactics but the men were largely on their own, no training provided. Some of our teachers even wanted to train us in firearms but that was dismissed as you might expect. I and a small number of others had served in the military and this perhaps helped us out a bit when we got overseas,etc. I was also a student of martial arts of all kinds and still am. There are various martial arts systems that can give the realistic type of training needed for self-defense,etc. Nevertheless, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Life itself is a risk and staying at home instead of seeking an assignment overseas is not for everyone. Culture shock still happens and it happens in the only way it can: when you set aside your fears and go abroad to whatever country you are selected(do they still do that?).You can't rely on the government, the US Embassy,the CIA, or the US Military to assist you on a daily basis, if at all, when abroad. I lived for eight years during Martial Law in the Philippines,1972-1981 after being out of the Peace Corps for five years or so. I have been back twice since then and plan to go back sometime soon. You can check my personal website at http://arnis.homestead.com Thank you for your kind consideration in these matters. Yours in martial arts, HALFORD E. JONES
|By M Hawkins (126.96.36.199.ptr.us.xo.net - 188.8.131.52) on Tuesday, December 09, 2003 - 10:30 am: Edit Post|
I realize I'm coming in on the tail end of this discussion. I served in Morocco (1996-98), and from the start of my PC training, especially when PCV panels came to talk to trainees about their cross-cultural experiences, that safety issues abounded. I also got the feeling that PCVs needed a forum to talk about these incidents, since so many were isolated in their sites, and an hour's session of counselling with the medical officer was not sufficient to process what had happened to them. It also seemed like the retelling was a badge of courage, that they had survived the situation and learned a lesson that they could pass on to the initiates.
By the end of my first year, I felt my own safety was compromised by various incidents (stalking, a knife pulled, a bad counterpart), and protecting myself became a real preoccupation, which meant it was harder to do the work, thus I felt I lost the reason I had wanted to join PC in the first place. But ETing was not an option for me because I had met so many wonderful people, and I loved the "fictive kin" (great description, Ms Schwartz) in my village.
This describes the dilemma of many PCVs, I think. We go wanting adventure and self discovery, but we find the cost potentially great. The PC/Morocco medical office was fabulous, but I saw the limits to what they could do to console/protect me. I am glad I stayed, and I wish I could say I was more sure about my safety. I always had the option to leave, so I hold myself responsible for continuing my service.
Peace Corps does need to do more to recognize the reality of personal safety in the field from an administrative level. Admittedly, I did sneak contraband pepper spray back with me after a visit to the states. I never used it, but I felt better having it. According to Peace Corps policy circa 1997, PCVs were not allowed to carry pepper spray, and having it, like failing to wear a bicycle helmet, is grounds for administrative separation. I just wish my bicycle helmet offered the same sense of security as my pepper spray.
|By fred maloney (du166129.leh.ptd.net - 184.108.40.206) on Thursday, December 11, 2003 - 2:15 pm: Edit Post|
As a former and now old timer, PCV Columbia 71 to 74. I would just like to comment that for good or bad Peace Corp is an institution. Now it's a bureauracy. Enough said.
All institutions first mission is to protect themselves not individuals. This is quite evident in Peace Corp honesty about PCV being attacked.
Security to PC is spending tons of money on the office and equipment protection.
Unfortunately PC management never gets out of the office never did and never will. Very much like Foreign Service people not having the faintest clue as to what's going on in Country. Live in American compounds and interact with american want to be's. Not an excuse for such sad behavior and conceren for PCV's but plain institutional truth.
My advice to ALL PCV's is to take martial art classes for self protection. It should be part of one's PC training but unfortunately couch potatoes never get mugged in an office. And that's where the decisons are made.
Always think of protecting yourself first and everything else second. I was fortuate to grow up in Bklyn in the late fifties and learn rather quickly to have personal radar about bad people and dangerous situiations. Very useful in my PC days. Also stayed away from talk about politics and Religion and away from bar room situiations. Booze is the lightening rod for trouble.
I had a wonderful experience working with children. When my director asked what I was doing?
I always replied, "I make kids laugh and bring alittle love into their lives". Which is what the world has always needed, more Love not WAR.
So I say to you and yours take care of yourself since no one else will. Sad commentary but true.
|By Gvibe (adsl-67-116-216-125.dsl.sndg02.pacbell.net - 220.127.116.11) on Sunday, December 14, 2003 - 8:44 pm: Edit Post|
Maybe that's how it was in the 70's in Columbia, Fred, but times have changed. Our PC staff spent plenty of time out in the field in El Salvador. Our Agroforesty APCD visited each PCV at their site once per year. He was in charge of forty. I agree with your safety points, but completely disagree that PC staff is like FSO, especially because much of the staff are Host Country Nationals. Now if PC staff in a certain country are lacking, then it will be a problem and there should be an accountability mechanism there.
|By Dennis Brennan (cache-mtc-aa05.proxy.aol.com - 18.104.22.168) on Tuesday, December 30, 2003 - 10:58 pm: Edit Post|
I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Micro V, Saipan/Pagan from 1967 - 1969. While on the outer island of Pagan (which was devestated by a volcano 10 years after my departure) in the West Pacific, I was assaulted. 230 miles away from the main island of Saipan where the Peace Corps Marianas/Micronesia had its headquarters, I contacted the police on Saipan to send up a policeman on the next ship to arrest the perpetrator on the island of Pagan. The policeman came and I found out he was related to the perpetrator's family. Nothing was done.
One person from the Trust Territory came, but no one from the Peace Corps came to get me off the island. When I returned to the island of Saipan,
the Peace Corps Director had taken off to another island and his assistant was nowhere to be found.
Three days later, I left for Japan for my vacation before returning to the states. Heard nothing from the Peace Corps thereafter.
Thank you for the space to describe, albeit in very general terms, my "hair shirt" experience with the Peace Corps.
|By Daniel (0-1pool136-11.nas12.somerville1.ma.us.da.qwest.net - 22.214.171.124) on Friday, January 09, 2004 - 9:37 am: Edit Post|
Peace Corps Lies about safety problems and has a careless attitude toward reports of safety.
TO HAlFORD, "you know Halford, my whole family from my great great great grandfather being a union soldier in Gettysburg all the way through the line to my father. I grew up with a father who was a boxer in the Marines and never lost a fight. He taught me how to fight. I have played ice hockey my whole life and rarely have I lost a fight. So, if you want to "talk tough and talk smack", anybody can talk this way. I also had my share of scrapes which, I didn't lose, before Peace Corps service.
After being threatened at my site, I have thought to myself if military service could have been a better option. Especially, the way the Peace Corps reacted to it. (For example, what if I took it into my own hands, now that wouldn't be the Peace Corps way would it?)
No, near the end of college, I decided violence was not the direction people should go to work out disgreement, jealousy, anger and ignorance, so I joined the Peace Corps. Let me tell you, it is alot more difficult to resolve things the Peaceful way than violence. Just look at my particular case. Peace Corps has not been Peaceful with me or my family after I reported the incident.
If you want to talk tough, just come to the place where I work. I will show you a profession that every man gets broken down by eventually. Because Peace Corps discriminated against me and lies about my record, I can't get a Federal job with my background. Therefore, I have had to take the road not usually taken. I move furniture and I have done it off and on for seven years now. So being a tough guy is not what this safety issue is about.
Its about people who are administrators at Peace Corps who are not mentally tough and defend unsafe policy. My sister said it well the other night, "even the military doesn't send you out there by yourself". If the Peace Corps was so tough, just, strong and thoughtful wouldn't they start to really look at the safety issue by reaching out to the families who have lost someone by memorial sites both at Peace Corps and in their hometown just like the military. Peace Corps could initiate that "tommorow" but they don't because they don't care. They could understand that the families of these people are going through a tremendous loss and try to help them in someway. That is a quality program.
FEAR OF REPRISAL FROM THE AGENCY: This is the biggest problem with safety at Peace Corps. The Peace Corps has separated so many volunteers wrongfully that volunteers who go in know, if they report an incident you will be treated like the past "most likely". They haven't corrected the past nor have they sent the "olive branch".
So, where does that leave us, "with volunteers staying out there under threatening and sitting duck circumstances without being able to report the incident. We are labeled a "wimp, paranoid, in a rape situation "that they wanted it", that you are lieing, that you are doubted automatically, that your APCD blames you for leaving your site, etc..... The list doesn't end because there are too many stories of this kind of non-sense with administrators at Peace Corps. These so called administrators who have not gone through these situations and are threatened by our experiences so they try to downplay them, send us for counseling ( more often not the doctor of our choice, thus we end up with DR. Leadbottom), and have a strong urge to attack us and say we are lieing. There is some malice for you.
I tell you, I did the right thing by reporting these thugs who came to my site dressed in military suits and had a weapon. I reported these guys came to my site. The Peace Corps "as a whole attack" my character instead of handling it correctly. The truth is stronger than the "city hall mentality at Peace Corps". Exposure of the people who came to threaten me will be done and done right.
There were three of them, one of me, they had I weapon and I was a Peace Corps volunteer. I made the appropriate choice. I was not going to volunteer my life way.
What has been the Peace Corps response? Number one after my case they have opened an office of safety and taken it away from medical services. I was told by members of the General Counsel that it could have been because of my case with Peace Corps. So, if my case with Peace Corps is stiring so much change, why don't they overturn my case and provide my true experiences and don't lie about my experiences. Not one administrator was at my site that night, they were 15 hours away and two days away in DC. That is Abitrary and Capricious behavior.
If you want to get tough about it. Just look who is the unpatriotic ones, look who is defending the prepetrator of violence and threats in my case. At least, I can write about it, unlike other volunteers who are not here to describe there ordeal. In my case, The Unpatriotic ones are the Peace Corps. They have even protected these individuals by saying that I can't have twelve pages with my name on it, under so called national security. WHO ARE THEY PROTECTING? People who threaten, not from Mali, but come from another country. They are also protecting the administrators who wrongfully coerced my discharge and lied about my experiences.
Wait until my story is told in full in the public and you will see what they have done.
"Injustice to one is an injustice to us all".
This includes you Halford.
|By ANONYMOUS (publicpc106.public.library.utah.edu - 126.96.36.199) on Sunday, February 22, 2004 - 2:36 pm: Edit Post|
THE TWO VOLUNTEERS REQUIREMENT PER SITE HAS BEEN AROUND FOR OVER TEN YEARS. THE SELF DEFENSE COURSES ARE NO LONGER TAUGHT, DUE TO POLITICAL CONCERNS OVER LOOKING 'TOO CIA.' MY RECRUITER DID ASK ME SPECIFICALLY IF I TOOK ANY SELF DEFENSE COURSES AND DID RECOMMEND THEM WHILE WAITING FOR AN ASSIGNEMNT JUST LIKE THE LANGUAGE AND CPR CLASSES.
PEACE CORPS CANNOT GUARANTEE A VOLUNTEER'S SAFETY. THE ANSWER IS THE EMBASSY IF YOU DO NOT FEEL SECURE.
|By nijma (dsc06-chc-il-209-109-243-18.rasserver.net - 188.8.131.52) on Thursday, February 26, 2004 - 10:47 am: Edit Post|
I know two volunteers who went to the embassy. They experienced reprisals from the Peace Corps and left early.
|By nijma (dsc06-chc-il-209-109-243-18.rasserver.net - 184.108.40.206) on Thursday, February 26, 2004 - 10:49 am: Edit Post|
I know two volunteers who went to the embassy. They experienced reprisals from the Peace Corps and left early.
|By Kerry (220.127.116.11) on Wednesday, March 10, 2004 - 7:54 am: Edit Post|
Our opinions as RPCVs are all juxtaposed and just coming from our own personal experiences. Though we might have all served Peace Corps for our own reasons and had differing experiences, we need to give honor to the work and dedication we have all given to our host countries. I do not believe after reading these numerous accounts that anyone here is blaming the victim for their plights, but it is also unfair to blame Peace Corps administration for all the wrongs that have happened.
I am a recent RPCV from Kenya, and due to this countries longevity as a hosting country faces many bureacratic policies and loopholes that are not faced in our neighboring countries. I have seen both sides of the spectrum where volunteers have been treated with kid gloves over a given situation and in other cases has completely rebuffed and ignored another volunteer in a similar situation.
Peace Corps can only be responsible for our safety up to a certain extent. What we do from there is up to us. Is the answer to put multiple volunteers in one site? Could be... Is the answer to have a volunteer call into Peace Corps whenever he/she steps out of their door? Could be... what it mainly boils down to is what can we do for ourselves to keep ourselves safe.
If we do not feel safe at our own sites, it is our responsibility to do something about it. If that step is taking it to Peace Corps, then it becomes a shared responsibility.
Now how Peace COrps handles different situations changes from individual to individual. Is this fair? No... but what it is is human nature. Should this proceed? Probably not, but are we really going to be able to change it?
We can lay down policies after policies and believe me Peace Corps has become extremely adept at this. Does this REALLY change anything? Can you change the fact that your host country Supervisor is a male chauvenistic prick and that your Country Director does not like you so won't listen to you? Not really... Are there any steps that you can take to make changes? Well, every situation is different. Sometimes it is possible to go to the IG's office and sometimes you can't.
What does this mean? Well to me it means that when something bad happens we can't keep going around pointing fingers and saying he did it or she did it. When someone has a differing opinion we also can't go around name calling because it is differnt than our own.
Peace Corps has some deep issues that need to change. There needs to be some kind of standardization and equal treatment of all volunteers. But realistically this is never going to happen. We are all human and sometimes how we present ourselves, though just and honest, is perceived as offensive, crude, uninformed, etc. Then others who are truly ignorant have the ability to bullshit their way in any given situation and get what they want.
Peace Corps is a governmental institution, and because of that it faces the challenges of all bureacracies. They are already buried in paperwork and more policies are not going to change how things operate on the ground level. It is just going to generate more paperwork on already understaffed overworked offices. This is not an excuse or condonement for certain administrative actions or responses... but it is realistic.
There is always room for improvement, and changes should and need to be made. But Volunteers can not cast all of the blame on staff or vice versa.
I know this is a bit rambling and no real answer... but this is a difficult subject. The idea of changing Peace Corps is not a black and white issue...
We are truly responsible for ourselves. If we were 25 and living at home in our "safe" suburban neighborhoods and walked down the street and were pulled aside and raped and beaten, would we blame our parents for not protecting us? COuld they have forseen such an instance? In retrospect, can we hold Peace COrps responsible for their actions after such an instance? Undoubtedly. But realistically how they handle different people are going to vary by the circumstances in their own lives, their perception of us, our own hostility or naivite or whatever towards a situation, and even how we handle ourselves.
That is my personal opinion. Please no name calling or whatever. We all believe what we do for our own reasons. That does not mean one is right and the other wrong, but just that our opinions differ.
Kerry Robarge- Kenya 01-03
|By Stacey Waterman-Hoey (69-10-198-140.localaccess.com - 18.104.22.168) on Saturday, March 20, 2004 - 11:42 pm: Edit Post|
Here is a thought: RPCVs are Veterans of Foreign Peace. We volunteer for dangerous duty, just like the military, but with a much more noble and constructive pupose. Shouldn't RPCVs be entitled to the same benefits as military personnel?
|By mike osborn (majoroz) (cache-dtc-aa06.proxy.aol.com - 22.214.171.124) on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 4:21 pm: Edit Post|
To compare military service with PC service is ludicrous and a grave insult to the military.
"...more noble...purpose..." What an admission of dilettanteism.
You need to get out more.
oz, RPCV, Micro 61; USAF, retired
|By Michael Nelson (adsl-69-104-245-115.dsl.pltn13.pacbell.net - 126.96.36.199) on Wednesday, June 30, 2004 - 11:58 pm: Edit Post|
I am unsure what the correct response to the concerns regarding safety and health is. But I wanted to add my own concern regarding this debate.
Peace Corps was one of the best experiences of my life, as it was for many others. One of the things that made it special for me was the fact that I was placed in a small rural village by myself, forcing me to immerse myself in a completely different culture. I had only two extremely brief visits from Peace Corps staff during my time and much of my first year was spent with little contact with other volunteers. This really enabled me to bond more with people in my village and "learn the language."
My hope is that others will be able to have similar opportunities to be on their own. My concern is that this debate about safety will result in a fundamental change in the kind of experiences Peace Corps Volunteers have had in the past.
- Mike Nelson (Ghana '97 - '99)
|By aninext (188.8.131.52) on Sunday, July 25, 2004 - 11:41 am: Edit Post|
i will like to join ur peace corp
|By Halford E. JOnes (216-107-219-14.cityofclaremont.nhvt.cust.seg.net - 184.108.40.206) on Thursday, June 22, 2006 - 6:07 pm: Edit Post|
I just re-read some of this after looking up my name on a search engine which brought me here. Reading some of the things discussed here reminds me of how some government agencies, as you might expect, one in particular, is said by some PCV's to have posed as PCV's in some countries to gain certain information,etc. The notion that the Peace Corps keeps tab on you after service,especially if you have done some things of which they do not approve,a few which are serious perhaps,is not far-fetched. There is/was a sort of 'good ol' boy network' of PCV's???? Have a great day and take a look at the world now. Cellphones are doing a lot of work in the world that PCV's tried to do!
|By Anonymous (220.127.116.11) on Tuesday, December 12, 2006 - 11:42 am: Edit Post|
i m studing in b.e in thrd year..but i have a 4year gap.. if a interviewer asked about my 4 year gap,, what is my answer??????????????
|By Esther (18.104.22.168) on Monday, March 16, 2009 - 1:57 pm: Edit Post|
who was the two volunteers went to the embasssy?