November 1, 2003 - Dayton Daily News: Ukriane & Peace Corps By ChandlerHarrisonStevens

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: November 1, 2003 - Dayton Daily News: Ukriane & Peace Corps By ChandlerHarrisonStevens

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Ukriane & Peace Corps By ChandlerHarrisonStevens

Ukriane & Peace Corps By ChandlerHarrisonStevens

Ukriane & Peace Corps By ChandlerHarrisonStevens

Ukraine may be the largest Peace Corps (PC) country with the most volunteers. Compared to traditional PC countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia, etc., those PC Volunteers (PCVs) serving in Eastern Europe sometimes refer to being in the "other" Peace Corps. Lessons from one might not always apply to the other. Nor is military service comparable to PC service. One difference is that PCVs are integrated into the communities they serve. This is clear in the Dayton newspaper story "Marked for Death" in explaining how the victim lived and interacted with neighbors and with strangers around him. I believe this series of articles about Peace Corps could either destroy PC or help improve it, depending upon how we react. My first reaction may have been like the Ukraine PC Director reacted in 1998 to that murder, in 1999 to another PC trainee death (possibly a suicide), and in 2000 when he ended his tenure after a Kyiv newspaper criticized the way PC Ukraine handled a police abuse charge by two PCVs, who were then transferred to other PC countries. I favor transparency, the sooner the better. The next PC Director will have learned that lesson in the US, just as the current PC Ukraine Director did.

Having been nearly the same age as the murder victim, I would have preferred to learn details of his murder from PC when I arrived in Ukraine in 1999. Instead, it was in 2000 that a PC nurse told me what occurred. The pattern seemed familiar, since the girlfriend of a known thief had asked me to dance at a restaurant and had then asked a waitress where I lived. Had the murder victim exercised the caution I did in distancing myself from strangers (following a circuitous route home immediately after the warning by the waitress), letting only co-workers and neighbors know where I lived, never leaving keys or valuables (like his or my laptop computer) to be seen even by visiting friends, not ever taking a (potentially spiked) drink from someone else, and making sure my apartment was always double-locked with a peep hole through which I politely spoke to strangers but never let them enter -- had he known these lessons that PC taught me during my first three months, he might be alive today. Perhaps some of those lessons were drawn from what PC Ukraine then knew about his murder but did not share too openly. If so, then we were safer because of those lessons nevertheless.

I am pleased to hear that PC has added an extra day to US staging to teach safety. That can help avoid some dangers when PC trainees first arrive in country. Unlike the military, we aren't segregated into camps but integrated into communities at the outset. Safety lessons that PC teach trainees would be well for tourists to learn. Returned PCVs (RPCVs) in fact do conduct some orientation sessions for travelers, as I have done for faculty of my community college before their visits to their new sister college in Ukraine. I have even shared some PC-taught safety lessons with friends to make them feel safer here in the US, since many of the dangers we face are similar here. What I suggest is that RPCVs through their organization, the National Peace Corps Association, use this Dayton series as motivation for making the world safer -- not just globally but also nationally, locally & individually. We may be the best trained for doing just that.

Many PC improvements can be made and not just about PCV safety. PC must survive this examination, even though some PC practices -- like being less than fully transparent about safety -- should not. Thanks!

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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 - Ukraine



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