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

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By Matt ( - on Monday, November 03, 2003 - 1:40 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.

Matt Berinbaum
RPCV Republic of Kazakhstan 01-03

By RADU SADEANU ( on Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 10:57 am: Edit Post

why is it that people from western countries are always in foreign lands trying to sabatoge and destabilise

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