February 20, 2004 - Lawrence Journal Worl: Haitian riots puts Peace Corps Volunteer Renee Low's school in jeopardy

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Haiti: Special Report: February, 2004: Haiti Peace Corps Information Center: February 20, 2004 - Lawrence Journal Worl: Haitian riots puts Peace Corps Volunteer Renee Low's school in jeopardy

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Haitian riots puts Peace Corps Volunteer Renee Low's school in jeopardy

Haitian riots puts Peace Corps Volunteer Renee Low's school in jeopardy

Haitian riots put school in jeopardy

Coup attempt may bring early end to Tonganoxie volunteer's efforts

By Lindsay Hanson

Friday, February 20, 2004

Caption: Journal-World File Photo
Peace Corps volunteers Renee Low, Tonganoxie, and Corey Lewis, Michigan, have been forced to evacuate the country because of a recent revolt against the government.

A Tonganoxie resident's effort to give children in a small Haitian village a school could fall victim to an attempted coup in the country.

Peace Corps volunteer Renee Low raised about $8,000 from Lawrence-area residents to build a school in Prévilé on the southwestern tip of Haiti. But her plans have been postponed and they may have to be canceled after the Peace Corps ordered its volunteers to leave the country this week, Low's father said.

Amid increasing violence around Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, the United States on Thursday urged Americans to leave and sent four military experts to assess security at the U.S. Embassy in Haiti. At least 60 people have been killed since the first violent uprising Feb. 5.

Peace Corps officials announced Thursday that the organization had finished "consolidating" its volunteers in Haiti. According to a news release, the volunteers are waiting in a secure location until safety and security can be assessed.

Renee has been in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, since last week when she left Haiti for a vacation with her boyfriend's family, said her father, Jack Low, of Tonganoxie. Renee will remain in the Dominican Republic until she gets clearance from Peace Corps officials to return, her father said.

"She said she doesn't see it improving," Jack Low said Thursday.

If the Peace Corps evacuates its volunteers, the school-building project Renee started may never materialize. Renee had deposited the money in a bank account under her name in nearby Jeremie, a provincial capital, to ensure that it would be used for its intended purpose.

"That's really kind of upsetting her," Jack Low said. "She doesn't think they're ever going to allow her to go back to Jeremie."

Renee started fund-raising efforts in the United States after the Peace Corps notified her that a $5,000 grant for the school wouldn't be coming. The Peace Corps has suffered budget cuts this year as a result of the war in Iraq.

Renee appealed to members of her church in Tonganoxie, who responded with donations. After a story appeared in December in the Journal-World and on 6News, the fund-raising effort reached $8,000. That's a $3,000 surplus for a project in a country whose people are fortunate if they make $1 a day.

Ground for the school has been cleared but construction hasn't started, Jack Low said. In the village with fewer than 100 people and no running water, customer service isn't a priority, he said.

"She was getting frustrated because people were signing contracts for construction and then they didn't want to do it," he said. "They said, ‘Oh, well it's harder than we thought.'"

Jack Low's sons visited Renee for three weeks last month. In Port-au-Prince, where they stayed for three days, the constant smell of burning tires was a sign of the peaceful protests that preceded this month's violence, he said.

Although Renee had to bribe someone to drive her to the airport in Jeremie to get home for Christmas, she didn't experience most of the violence firsthand. The people in her village were too concerned about making a living to worry about politics, Jack Low said.

More than 20,000 Americans are in Haiti, the State Department estimates.

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Story Source: Lawrence Journal Worl

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



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