April 28, 2004: Headlines: Safety and Security of Volunteers: Atlanta Journal: News Reports from Dayton Daily News only spur Atlanta area volunteers to join Peace Corps

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: April 2004 Peace Corps Headlines: April 28, 2004: Headlines: Safety and Security of Volunteers: Atlanta Journal: News Reports from Dayton Daily News only spur Atlanta area volunteers to join Peace Corps

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-16-191.balt.east.verizon.net - on Thursday, April 29, 2004 - 4:23 pm: Edit Post

News Reports from Dayton Daily News only spur Atlanta area volunteers to join Peace Corps

News Reports from Dayton Daily News only spur Atlanta area volunteers to join Peace Corps

News Reports from Dayton Daily News only spur Atlanta area volunteers to join Peace Corps

Metro area volunteers ready to ship out
Peace Corps recruits eager, aware of risks

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 04/28/04

Caption: Betsyanne Henderson Harvey, soon to be 70, trains with Trey McNease to get in shape for her first Peace Corps assignment, in the Caribbean. She's among 74 new volunteers from this area. Photo by Joey Ivansco/AJC

A platoon of Atlanta volunteers is set to join the army of Americans aiding communities around the world as members of the Peace Corps.

Among those heading overseas is Betsyanne Henderson Harvey of Stone Mountain, a nearly 70-year-old self-confessed "risk taker." She and 73 others will be feted Thursday evening before they ship off to one of 71 nations where the Peace Corps operates.

The volunteers are enthusiastic, despite safety concerns that prompted a congressional hearing into the federal agency. In March, the father of a Peace Corps volunteer who went missing in Bolivia three years ago told the House International Relations Committee the government has to do a better job of protecting its volunteers.

The inquiry followed a series of reports by the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News that assaults had more than doubled in 10 years, yet volunteers were still sent to live alone in risky areas. The Peace Corps also omitted many crime victims from its published statistics and ignored or downplayed some volunteers' concerns, the newspaper reported.

The House committee approved reforms that would establish an ombudsman to handle safety, medical and other concerns, create an independent watchdog to oversee the agency's operations, and require the Peace Corps to maintain an office of safety and security. The measure has been sent to the full House for approval.

 Betsyanne Henderson Harvey

The news reports, however, only served to spur Harvey, who will be 70 on May 13, into signing up. She said the reaction from her children was mixed.

"My oldest son was very excited for me," she said. "My daughter said, 'Mom, you're used to creature comforts.' And my other son didn't say much. I just think it took him a while to realize that Mom's off again. The kids were saying to me, 'Mom, you're still going to go after you read that article?' "

A former registered nurse and educator, Harvey stays fit by walking, swimming and lifting weights. Still, she hired a personal trainer to get ready for her move in January to the Caribbean, where she hopes to work in "youth development."

'I always like adventure'

Harvey, who moved to Stone Mountain in 2000 to be closer to one of her children, has been involved with young people all her life, as a teacher in New Brunswick, N.J., principal at a community education center in Miami, and fund-raiser for a nonprofit that sent inner-city kids to summer camp.

"I'm active and spry. I always like adventure," she said. "I've been so blessed. I feel like it's time for me to give back in a big way."

Johnathan Wilson, 25, of Atlanta thinks the responsibility for personal security "lies mainly on the shoulders of the volunteer."

Wilson is aware of the risks and rewards of being an American on foreign soil at a time when anti-Americanism appears to be running high in several parts of the world. At Morehouse College, he participated in study-abroad programs in England and Denmark. He earned a master's degree in international relations at Bond University in Australia. And he has traveled all over the world with his family.

He is studying French in preparation for his Peace Corps service in West Africa, a 27-month stint that begins June 4.

Wilson, who hopes to join the Foreign Service, believes the Peace Corps is a vital part of the U.S.-led war on terrorism because it fosters interaction between Americans and people in other parts of the world.

"This isn't something you should ever go into on a whim, and the [application] process is long enough for you to kind of assess the risks," he said. "The good that will be done outweighs any reservations I have about going."

Spelman College senior Eva Lewis, a 21-year-old economics major from Maryland, has visited Spain, France and Italy. She said she joined the Peace Corps "to have somewhat of an impact globally on the world [and] to get outside of the United States."

Lewis, who goes to Africa in September, said her mother supported her decision to volunteer for the Peace Corps but made sure she knew about the safety issues.

"I understand what I'm getting into and know you have to be smart and not put yourself in certain situations," she said.

Volunteers get "extensive training" in security issues before they're assigned to a community, said Carla Murphy, the Peace Corps' public affairs specialist in Atlanta. After they arrive in a foreign country, they get "three months of additional training with people who live in the country who can best prepare them," she added.

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Story Source: Atlanta Journal

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