November 5, 2003 - Dayton Daily News: Guest Comentaries: Volunteer safety is top priority by Gaddi H. Vasquez

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Special Reports: October 26, 2003: Dayton Daily News reports on Peace Corps Safety and Security: Guest Commentary: November 5, 2003 - Dayton Daily News: Guest Comentaries: Volunteer safety is top priority by Gaddi H. Vasquez

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Thursday, November 06, 2003 - 9:29 am: Edit Post

Volunteer safety is top priority by Gaddi H. Vasquez

Volunteer safety is top priority by Gaddi H. Vasquez

Volunteer safety is top priority

Statistics, survey responses are evidence of agency’s focus on security

By Gaddi H. Vasquez

The recently concluded series, “Casualties of Peace,” in the Dayton Daily News suggested that during the past 30-plus years, the Peace Corps has failed to provide adequate safety standards for Peace Corps volunteers.

The stories focused on some tragic and difficult events that have affected lives and communities here at home and overseas. The Peace Corps family mourns every life lost. Every crime against a volunteer is a reminder that we must remain vigilant and continue to enhance the safety and security of every Peace Corps volunteer.

Each Peace Corps director, beginning with Sargent Shriver, the agency’s first director, has placed a high priority on volunteers’ safety. While the Peace Corps will never be able to issue an absolute guarantee, we remain committed to developing optimum conditions for a safe and fulfilling experience for every Peace Corps volunteer.

Since taking office in February 2002, the safety and security of volunteers has remained my No. 1 priority.

Based on my personal experience as a former public safety official, and aided by suggestions of others in the agency and volunteers in the field, a number of safety enhancements were proposed. In 2002, a reorganization was approved that created a new Office of Safety and Security and increased by 80 the number of full-time safety and security staff.

The staff, which includes a chief compliance officer, was restructured to better communicate, supervise, monitor and help set safety and security policy. In addition, each Peace Corps post has established a safety and security coordinator in country to oversee volunteer safety in the field.

While establishing new training procedures, expanding staff resources and insuring compliance are important, the ultimate evaluation should be measured by results.

During the past two years, the Peace Corps has experienced a significant drop in volunteer deaths, major sexual assaults and minor assaults. For an accurate and global look at the Peace Corps’ safety and security record during the past two years, visit the Peace Corps Web site (

Notwithstanding the statistical data, the most effective tool for gauging success is to ask volunteers. Every two years, the Peace Corps conducts a global survey to measure the levels of volunteer satisfaction with programming, safety, medical and other key indicators. In the most recent global volunteer survey, which had a 68 percent response rate:

• 97 percent of the respondents replied that they considered their housing "very safe" to "adequately safe."

• Volunteers were asked how safe they felt at their work site, and 99 percent of the respondents described their work site as "very safe" to "adequately safe."

• Volunteers were asked how safe they felt when they traveled, and 84 percent of the volunteers rated their travel conditions as "very safe" to "adequately safe."

• Volunteers were also asked if they would make the same decision to join the Peace Corps. An overwhelming number — 89 percent — responded in the affirmative.

The Peace Corps will not rest on our achievements and accomplishments. We will build on the successes and learn from events as they occur.

When President John F. Kennedy outlined his vision of the Peace Corps, he said, "Life in the Peace Corps will not be easy. . . . Men and women will be expected to work and live alongside the nationals in the country in which they are stationed — doing the same work, eating the same food, talking the same language. But if life will not be easy, it will be rich and satisfying. For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps — who works in a foreign land — will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace."

That vision remains strong and vital to the continued promotion of peace and friendship throughout the world.

Today, there are 7,533 volunteers serving in 74 countries. The current number of volunteers represents a 28-year high, and Americans across the nation continue to show interest in Peace Corps service.

Not long ago, I read a message from the parent of a volunteer who was grateful for the quality of care that was rendered by Peace Corps staff overseas and here in the United States. The parent wrote, "As a United States citizen, I am very proud of the Peace Corps; it is a superb organization worthy of every citizen’s support."

Gaddi H. Vasquez is the 16th director of the Peace Corps. His 23-year public service career began as a police officer and includes service at the city, county, state, and federal levels of government. He has served as an appointee of two California governors and two presidents. In October, he announced he is resigning from the Peace Corps effective Nov. 14.

[From the Dayton Daily News: 11.05.2003]

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Story Source: Dayton Daily News: Guest Comentaries

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



By Daniel ( - on Monday, November 24, 2003 - 8:51 am: Edit Post

I don't care what you say. Safety is not your number one priority when you place volunteers alone. You are the head of the Agency and can make those decisions. However, you are listening to the wrong Peace Corps folks. In your own statistics 86% of the victims of violence are of a minority of volunteers who serve alone.

Pairing volunteers is better than a three million dollar safety office. Prevention on the ground is the key. Volunteers are the program.
Most of the people you have advising you are wrong. Most of your advisers weren't a victim of a rapist, a murder, or a so called group that is now deemed by the government a terrorist group. No, they did not go through this type of experience. If they did most don't get jobs at Peace Corps anyway.

When american citizens are put into harms way because of faulty policy from you or any other director, I will speak out. If you don't do it, then we will pester Congress to have it written in legislation to protect our colleagues. As you know, they have now taken notice and they are listening. 27 volunteers since 1996 is too many. 2000 plus were victims of violence since 1990. Don't make the excuse you came in 2002. The federal employees who are advising you are the one's who kept the "alone" policy,making volunteers vulnerable more than if they were paired.

I am so glad Chris Shays got the pay raise for volunteers on the ground. That is a step in the right direction.

Gaddi, don't throw statistics around when the DDN provides you with more than enough evidence.
Nobody called my house with your poll.

By the way, why haven't you met with me to discuss my wrongful separation and the bogus record Peace Corps compiled on me. Are you afraid to handle the real issues? I didn't join Peace Corps to have my civil rights violated by the Agency. I challenge you to do the right thing. I will come with my family and a representative so we can erase the lies out of my file bogus file.

Your agency is holding twelve pages under my name under so called National Security. Now you are part of the cover up and holding back my career. The group who came to my site was against Peace Corps and threaten my safety. I was confused at the time. Peace Corps took advantage of that saying you either quit or take a medical. I am not quitter as you know. I was coerced (with my job on the line to take the wrongful medical procedure your agency employed). When I went through that process, I was wrongfully characterized and thrown out on the street with no health care and no recourse.

Not one director has met with me or my family over this case. If it takes me testifying before Congress exposing the "rats" who threatened my safety in Mali, coupled with being wrongfully separated and treated with discrimination after service, then so be it.

We will speak out in the Congress for a lawyer to protect us from people like yourself who weren't in Mali, the nurses were fifteen hours away from me. I was alone that night. In 1990, the northern part of Mali was evacuated. Tuareg Uprisings (that group was associated with the Tuareg resistence). Today, you know who they are.

It was unamerican to separate me from service under those circumstances and it continues today.
I think my case is a cover up. Many others here at home know it is too.

How aren't you correcting the past? Why don't we have an open amensty to go through our files to rectify (lies about our own experience) and be redeemed.

How are those cases being handled?

I am writing legislation right now for our own organization. We are a population of Peace Corps folks who are systematically discriminated by the folks who work at Peace Corps.

I will serve the third goal today by driving my fish truck because the Peace Corps lies about me.

How is that for your recruitment efforts?

You are wrong on the safety issue and until you have people working at Peace Corps who have been victims of violence handling FECA, Safety issues, medical services and job development.

The journalism needed to be viewed. There is more media coming on safety. The Peace Corps lied about the wrong guy. "You can't keep a good man down".

I am good guy with a good family. I won't be called a liar.

By dulce rivera ( on Saturday, May 02, 2009 - 7:55 pm: Edit Post

My history is different. I want make a public if some one read this messages and concern bring to me some help no body is perfect in this wordl ,but still I, think we need to have the oportunity to change our life and to have a chance. I'm a mother and I suffer a lot in this moment for infortunities matters but if you have heart maybe you can felling why sometime the people be desspres so, please i need support to help to have my son with me because the people from probation put his feet on my son head, and handle to ice for massive deportacion to my country but hi is no dangerous person for this society thanks and God bless you.

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