October 30, 2003 - Dayton Daily News: A positive response By RPCV-Senegal

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By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-165-54.balt.east.verizon.net - on Thursday, October 30, 2003 - 11:57 pm: Edit Post

A positive response By RPCV-Senegal

A positive response By RPCV-Senegal

A positive response By RPCV-Senegal

My response to the negative articles was:
Dear Ms. Hopgood,

I read your piece in the Dayton Daily News on Kristen Sweetnich's dismal Peace Corps experience. I'm sure if you interviewed a few of the 160,000 plus volunteers that finished out their two-year commitment, you'd have a more balanced opinion of the Peace Corps.

I read about Ms. Sweetnich's experience and much of what happened to me when I was in Senegal (1980-82) came flooding back to me. I don't often think of the days when I was sick (in training) with amoebic dysentery or the 4 times that I had outbreaks of malaria (throughout my two years). I almost never think of the allergic outbreak that I had from the oil of the cashew nuts that were being roasted in my village. And I rarely think of the week that I spent flat on my back with a cyst that blew up like a balloon in my neck right below my chin. Even though I couldn't eat and could barely swallow, I chose to get treated by the Senegalese doctor in my village who told me to go home and wait for the cyst 'to mature' before lancing it.

I consider my illnesses part of the trials and tribulations of living in Africa-- we didn't have the same immune systems as the Africans. Yet they died at frightening rates as well. During my time in Senegal, I had two students die, one of cerebral malaria and another from diabetes.

When I meet with returned volunteers, we often talk about our 'horror stories' but in fact, those stories bind us together no matter where, when, or how we grew up in the U.S. We survived-- some better than others, some never having ever experienced anything bad or unfortunate. But as much as we joke about what illnesses we survived, we all came away from our Peace Corps experiences better people, more open to viewing the world from a global perspective, more willing to try new things and go to exotic places (not on cruise ships or with expensive tour groups), and more able to criticize American ethnocentricity.

I stayed in Senegal for many reasons and have been back 4 times since. I have recently begun a non-profit foundation with Senegalese in my home town to provide educational scholarships and to provide economic assistance to the people of the Casamance, the region where I was a volunteer.
None of this would ever have taken place had I left during training when I had dysentery or had I left after my first bout of malaria (two weeks after I arrived in the village) when I thought I was dying and wanted to die because of the pain.

I encourage you to balance out Dayton Daily's negative reporting of the Peace Corps with stories from volunteers who 'survived' and who continue to support Peace Corps through the work that they do. Ask returned volunteers how their lives changed, and for the most part, your stories will be overwhelmingly positive.

Senegal 1980-82

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Story Source: Dayton Daily News

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



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