Tuesday, March 17, 2009

She Thought she was Safe…I am sure

Over the past few years there have been countless news reports detailing violence inflicted upon Americans who decided to live and work overseas as Peace Corps volunteers. Of course, the decision to become a representative of the United States via the Peace Corps is not an easy decision.

Most of the time the applicants rarely think about the crime statistics of the perspective country of assignment. It is usually the last thought while swimming upstream in the application process. I know it was for me. ‘Safety? What is unsafe about Antigua? People go there all the time to vacate.’ Was my sentiment! And, I never had any reason to think differently. Even as I lived there. However, other volunteers did not have my experience: I was safe. No bodily harm. Nothing!

Not the case for Kate Puzey. This caring young lady fell victim to a random act of violence. Like numerous men and women who walk through villages and communities thousands of miles away from their home. I am sure Kate was not immune to the ruckus that human beings create. She is from Cumming, Georgia. Not far from the once and on the rise hot-bed of violence, Atlanta, Georgia. So, Kate had to be well-aware that safety is paramount. But possibly, like many PCV’s we rarely think ‘it’ can happen to us. Especially, not in a vibrant culturally-contained community. Again, not the case for Kate Puzey.


As her family prepares to continue life without her in the Great Red State and as the PC community in Benin, Africa mourn her death, I want to share a brief conversation I had with fellow returned Peace Corps volunteers. It may just help further the understanding of our experiences. They are not all the same, and no one should blanket the Peace Corps journey with untruths, misinformation, and words of unjustifiable discontent. Like several of the comments left on the WSBTV web page.

It is my hope that Peace Corps continues to be safety conscious and ever so vigilant. The PC bureaucrats are! I was one for 8.5 years. However, there has been criticism lately of Peace Corps’ safety approach. Some constructive and some unfair.

America’s best assets cannot continue to come home in body bags. These individuals leave home to be advocates of peace and love. They do not deserve for their resting place to be tagged:

Here lies returned Peace Corps volunteer, Kate Puzey; she died sharing her life abroad

To follow the conversation please click on the Comment icon.

Written by Brian E. Payne. Inspired by Ms. Puzey. She was doing the Lord's Work!


Muata, The Shadow, The Black Rebel said...

Checkout the horrible stories a few RPCV's have shared in the Comment section on the news channel's website. Damage control DEFINITELY needed.


Muata, The Shadow, The Black Rebel said...

Reader response:

Extremely unfortunate. My prayers are with her and her family.

I always felt safe.


Muata, The Shadow, The Black Rebel said...

Reader response:

I just realized that was my applicant when I was a recruiter. One of my last ones before I left PC. Very sad. U read the comments and many of them come from a place of ignorance about Africa. The few RPCVs are probably speaking more from their singular experiences versus a true representation of PC. One of the things I ha d to realize is that every PC experience is different, and one cannot generalize their experience to the whole organization. I know many, many women in Africa that felt completely safe. I also know many women that were raped on college campuses - however we are not going to stop sending our women there. Yes, PC should always re-evaluate its standards to be sure they are doing their best to keep the volunteers safe. But there is an inherent danger with being anywhere - US or abroad.


Muata, The Shadow, The Black Rebel said...

Muata responds to XX:

Very true. Nonetheless, PC has to do a better job of conveying the message you just did. As it stands now within the international program community, PC is dropping the safety ball. And, I will be honest, PST 'safety training' is a joke in some countries. How can it prepare a PCT for the unexpected when the unexpected is downplayed to: 'You will be safe when and if you learn the culture.' Not the case. You know I stand with PC. I emailed battled with that former CD who was so unfairly critical last year - but PC must address these occurrences better/differently.


Muata, The Shadow, The Black Rebel said...

Reader response to Muata:

I agree with you!


Muata, The Shadow, The Black Rebel said...

Reader Response to XX and Muata:

I agree!! In referring to college campuses..they are also just as dangerous and MANY colleges are looking at how to make them not only safer but how to educate their students about campus safety.

Peace Corps needs to the same! I can't recall what my "safety training" was but it couldn't have been that memorable!


Muata, The Shadow, The Black Rebel said...

Muata responds again:

Also, some of the PCV's are responsible for the safety problems. I recall how carefree I was: camping on a hillside without informing anyone of my whereabouts, heavy heavy alcohol consumption, sleeping with the doors open, walking home in the middle of the night, etc. To my understanding nothing has changed along those lines within the PC community. The stats my reflect an increase, actually. PCV mentality may need to shift?

It is something about the PCV community that brings about a 'no-issue' feeling, and the behavior reflects that. Just think about the sex-free atmosphere of PC: 'We all have been tested for everything. We safe. No condom tonight...please.' Did I put someone on BLAST? LOL! Just being real and honest.


Muata, The Shadow, The Black Rebel said...

Reader Response:

Thanks a million for your very informative email on this sad news for all PC family. . After serving as CD for 6 years in a country with one of the highest crime rate I can relate to PCV Kate's death.I am mourning with the Puzey family.


Muata, The Shadow, The Black Rebel said...

Reader XX responds to Muata:

I don't know if I was THAT carefree - but I did have that "invincible" attitude. I remember going into Jo'Burg with other PC volunteers to party at a local club in South Africa - even though the Peace Corps office had warned us that it was off-limits. But we wanted to have fun. I remember walking through my village at night - where it was so dark I could hardly see the road. But I wanted to hang out with the local folks just a little while longer. I remember forcing myself into small mini-van buses - because I didn't want to wait an hour for the next, less-crowded, safer one. Would I have blamed PC if something had happened? No, because they warned me against all of these things - before training, during training, in written packets, and during my in-service trainings. Did we always listen? No. There is a personal responsibilty. I hate to hear what happened to Kate. I was her recruiter and encouraged her to take that plunge (although I am sure it didn't take any convincing). But I don't know if I can put it all on PC. Even if she was the safest of volunteers and followed every rule - things happen. They happen overseas, and they happen in Atlanta. I can't blame Kate, just as much as I can't blame PC. Can things be done better - always. Can things be perfect - never.