Fallen Peace Corps Volunteers

September 7, 2010

This morning I found out that a PCV was fatally shot in Lesotho.  The news was shocking.  The Inspector General’s(Lesotho’s police force) response was not surprising where he indirectly blamed the victim for walking out on the street rather than choosing a private car.  Yes, the victim chose to get killed because he decided to walk out of the building in what was quoted by IG as a low crime area.  If it’s a low crime area, then why isn’t it safe to walk outside? It is hard enough to hear a death of a PCV, should the victim be blamed? Does that help in coping with someone’s death? Did this person think of the victim’s family, friends, or colleagues? Would this person appreciate if someone said this about someone he cared about?

Since I believe Fallen Peace Corps Volunteers have the same right as other service people to be remembered, I started a Facebook group for the Fallen Peace Corps Volunteers.  PCV’s sacrifice their time and energy to make a difference in people’s lives and in the communities they reside.  The ones who die in service should never be forgotten.  There is a memorial website for Fallen PCV’s–http://www.fpcv.org/.  I hope they accomplish their goal of constructing a physical memorial for those volunteers who died during their service.

While I was exploring their website, I ran into a link to Kate Puzey–the volunteer who was murdered in Benin during our Pre-service Training last year.  PC didn’t provide any information about her death at the time, or wanted to stay tight lipped in fear of offending PC headquarters.  The Government of Benin had pledged full cooperation and support in the investigation at the time. A year and a half later from what I’ve looked up there hasn’t been any arrest.  A year and a half ago Jody Olsen, former acting Peace Corps Director, commended Kate for her service and expressed sorrow for the loss.

Is that all? Just a few words.  Is that all what we–Peace Corps Volunteers–mean to the headquarters? Are we just a mere number that a few words will do? A number that is needed to fill a quota that is required in a country of service so the US government can gloat what kind of humanitarian work it supports.

When I read about Kate Puzey, I feel for those who knew her.  Her family who lost their daughter.  Her community who lost a leader.  Her students who lost a teacher.  Even though I never met Kate, I feel I lost a PC sister.

Can Kate’s family rely on Peace Corps to put pressure on the Government of Benin to bring her attacker/s to justice? Or is Peace Corps just going to put on a diplomatic face and add a few more words? If what happened to Kate occurred to one of the top Washington officials’ children, what would the response be? Is Peace Corps the kind of organization that Kate believed in? “one that’s transparent, efficient and respects and protects and empowers their volunteers.”(http://www.wsbtv.com/news/22798759/detail.html).

Time will tell.


Update: I learned from PC staff members & a RPCV that Kate Puzey’s perpetrator was found.  The perpetrator was her language instructor who killed her because she was going to blow the whistle on the instructor’s relative who was allegedly abusing children.  The US government wanted the perpetrator extradited to a US court and the government of Benin refused.