October 25, 2005: Headlines: COS - Panama: Hurricane Relief: Crisis Corps: Sauk Centre Herald: Panama RPCV David Peterson serves in Katrina Response Team #1

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Panama: Peace Corps Panama : The Peace Corps in Panama: October 25, 2005: Headlines: COS - Panama: Hurricane Relief: Crisis Corps: Sauk Centre Herald: Panama RPCV David Peterson serves in Katrina Response Team #1

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Panama RPCV David Peterson serves in Katrina Response Team #1

Panama RPCV David Peterson serves in Katrina Response Team #1

"My role as FEMA Applicant Services Representative was to provide housing assistance. We met with applicants on a one-on-one basis, verifying their having been registered within the FEMA system so they could get all the help to which they were entitled. 99-percent of the applicants were grateful for the assistance given to them," said Peterson.

Panama RPCV David Peterson serves in Katrina Response Team #1

Former-Streeter helps Katrina evacuees

by Harry Hanson Staff writer

David Peterson recently returned from the front lines of operation in the Katrina and Rita hurricane relief areas.

He is the son of Vivian and the late Ed Peterson of Sauk Centre.

Peterson was in the Peace Corps two years and had been included in the organization's data base on its "first call" list as a volunteer for any disaster relief.

"As a returned Peace Corps volunteer, I had joined Crisis Corps, an arm of the Peace Corps, to help victims from around the world," said Peterson. "The organization's most recent venture, prior to the hurricanes, was in going to the rescue of evacuees in the tsunami catastrophe."

On Sept. 6, Peterson accepted the call from the Peace Corps to serve a 30-day assignment, Sept. 8 to Oct. 7, with the Crisis Corps in devastated Louisiana, the first time Peace Corps volunteers have served within United States borders.

"I was in the very first group to be called: Katrina Response Team #1," he noted.

FEMA had contacted the Peace Corps, asking for volunteers to assist in the processing of the overwhelming numbers of victims of both Katrina and Rita hurricanes.

"Peace Corps volunteers were approached because they had experience in living under adverse conditions in Third World countries," said the now resident of Malvern, Pa. "Another reason was that we 'chose' to be there to help, as opposed to being assigned there as a job."

30-day assignment

David's assignment consisted of three days at the FEMA training center in Orlando, Fla. and another three days at a FEMA Joint Field Office in Baton Rouge, La., the state headquarters.

From then on he was de-ployed to a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in Marksville, La., where 6000 evacuees were located. He was one of 14 individuals from various governmental agencies, which included Customs and Border Patrol, Peace Corps, and Immigration Service plus four from FEMA and three local hires. There were other support groups including crisis counselors.

"My role as FEMA Applicant Services Representative was to provide housing assistance. We met with applicants on a one-on-one basis, verifying their having been registered within the FEMA system so they could get all the help to which they were entitled. 99-percent of the applicants were grateful for the assistance given to them," said Peterson.

His assignment was mentally and physically draining as he dove into his work load.

"We worked from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. 7 days a week for 30 days," he said. "The stories told to us were tragic. One of my first applicants was a young fisherman who lost not only his boat and home, but his wife. Only he and his 16-year-old daughter survived."

Peterson experienced his first hurricane when Rita came through in the second wave of destruction.

"We 'hunkered down' in our hotel as the rain pelted the building and trees came crashing down around us. Fortunately, we lost our power for only a few hours, but some had no power for several days. Our DRC was closed for only one day while trees were removed from the highway," he said.

He said the compassion shown by the people of Louisiana was incredible.

"Many who were not affected by the hurricane opened their hearts, homes, and offered whatever they had to help those in need. Businesses gave free goods and services. Evacuees were housed in crowded shelters, church basements, in vacant buildings as well as homes of friends and relatives," said Peterson.

It was common for 20 to 40 people to share a single home.

Would Peterson volunteer again?

"Yes, in a heartbeat! But first I want to recuperate before taking another assignment. Thirty days is a long time to be away from loved ones, pets, friends, and your own bed," he said.

Peterson's life has been exhilarating

Following his Sauk Centre High School graduation in 1962, Peterson received his B.S. degree from the University of Minnesota in 1967, after which he served two years in the Peace Corps at a vocational training school in the Republic of Panama. He attended the University of Wisconsin and received his M.S. degree in 1971. His business career brought him to all the 50 states and much of the world, working as a flight attendant, airport ticket agent, and supervisor for Braniff and TWA Airlines. A career change brought him to administrative and management positions in the health field.

Now retired from Siemens Medical Solutions where he was an analyst and editor of patient accounting software, he finds solace in researching his family genealogy, teaching English as a second language while working part time as an office assistant.

When this story was posted in November 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Sauk Centre Herald

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Panama; Hurricane Relief; Crisis Corps


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