Letter to Editor: Peace Corps has addressed concerns about volunteers’ safety


To the editor:

I’m writing in response to the opinion piece “Students should err on side of caution when traveling abroad,” written by Ian Huyett. I’m a KSU alum who served with the Peace Corps in Guinea from 2004-2006. The Peace Corps was a life-defining experience for me. I had the wonderful opportunity to live, learn and work with a community overseas, and the experience made a difference in my life.

While I understand Mr. Huyett’s position for students to be cautious before they travel abroad, I want to also provide him with some updated information about the safety and security changes the Peace Corps has made over the past few years.

Mr. Huyett referenced several news articles from 2011, and the agency certainly acknowledged the concerns addressed by those former volunteers. Immediately following the stories that ran in 2011, former Peace Corps director Aaron Williams publicly apologized to the volunteers who were let down by the agency and immediately began the process to implement numerous reforms to better protect volunteers and provide effective and compassionate support. Since that time the Peace Corps has made many changes to improve the safety and security of their volunteers.

The safety and security of the volunteers is the Peace Corps’ No. 1 priority. The organization has devoted significant resources to providing volunteers with training, support and information they need to stay healthy and safe. They have implemented a number of steps to strengthen crime prevention and support systems, much of which is outlined on the website’s “Safety” page. With regard to the countries where volunteers serve, before the Peace Corps establishes a program in a country, they do a thorough assessment of the political climate, as well as health and safety conditions. If a volunteer ever feels in danger they can request to be removed from their site at any time.

Volunteers serve worldwide, sometimes in very remote areas, so health and safety risks are an inherent part of volunteer service. However, that is nothing to fear if you have the proper training, information and resources — and the Peace Corps does a great job providing that to their volunteers. The Peace Corps’ staff works hard to continue updating and improving their processes and systems to ensure volunteers have a safe and successful service experience.

From my perspective, I highly encourage any student interested in exploring the world to go for it. The Peace Corps is a great way to travel and make a difference.

Emily Sharp, K-State alum