July 26, 2014
As you probably know, the New York Times has just come out with a story on the tragic death of Nick Castle, a Volunteer in China who died February 2013. As the person whose responsibility it is to notify a fallen Volunteer’s family with news that I know will forever change their lives, I can assure you that I experience deep grief with every Volunteer we lose – just as we mourn for every volunteer who is injured or sick while serving in the Peace Corps. The loss of a Volunteer is a tragic event for the entire Peace Corps family – from that person’s fellow Volunteers, to their Peace Corps staff, to their host and home communities, to Volunteers and RPCVs across the globe. I want to assure you that as part of our commitment to honor the memory of those we have lost, including Nick, we are dedicated to doing everything we can, every single day, to protect your health, safety and security.
Before I go any further, I want to thank you for what you do every day. I have traveled extensively in the past four years to more than 20 Peace Corps countries, and feel so fortunate to have met many of you. You are heroes, every one of you, for you have all chosen to take the path less traveled to serve in areas of great need – and great potential. In so doing, you have shown your communities our country’s best selves. We all know that we get more than we give through the Peace Corps experience. But you give a lot. Your commitment, innovative thinking, good humor, and hard work make a huge difference in the communities we serve across the globe. I am inspired by you every day.
But your good work does not come without cost. And it is not news to you that operating in the environments in which we serve can be difficult and pose risks. If it were easy, we wouldn’t be there. Most of you will have a safe, healthy and productive volunteer experience that you will cherish for the rest of your lives. While the number of Volunteers who die in service has dropped dramatically over the years, we have not been immune to tragedy. Even one death is too many. Each of our losses is personal – he or she is someone’s daughter or son, mother or father, brother or sister, friend or loved one.
We have been working very hard for the past four years to improve the quality of our support to all of you, particularly when it comes to health care, safety and security, and programming and training. If you’re not familiar with these reforms, I encourage you to learn about them at peacecorps.gov. I hope you’ll share this information with your families, friends and loved ones because I know they are concerned for your health and safety and would be interested to learn more as well.
If you have ideas about how we can better support you, we’d like to hear them. You are the reason we come to work every day. You can send those ideas to Director@peacecorps.gov.
Nothing is more important to the Peace Corps than our Volunteers, and though we can never fully overcome the fundamental challenges of operating abroad, we will never stop pushing the limit to try.
Thank you for your service, and for carrying on in the tough places where you work and where you do so much good.
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Hot button issue in Peace Corps Volunteer life now…..but please also read Peace Corps’ Director’s response as well:
Here’s a link to check out the varying temperatures and weather conditions I will encounter while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro between 11 July and 18 July. You can adjust for the altitude as well to see how quickly it becomes colder the farther up the mountain I go!! Brrrrr……
Site development for future PCV: Zankali, Northern Region