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amanda [userpic]
newbie
by amanda (aemanduh)
at March 2nd, 2010 (10:54 pm)

Hi my name is Amanda and I just was nominated for HIV/AIDS education in Africa.

I submitted my application on January 22nd, had an interview the next week and now I am working on my health packet.

I graduated from the University of Arizona with a BA in Anthropology and French, wherein lies my interest in going to Africa. I currently volunteer with an HIV/AIDS organization and am attempting to get more involved with education and community outreach.

I couldn't be more excited about my nomination, however my family and friends (who initially knew very little about the PC and have not known a previous volunteer) are SERIOUSLY concerned about my health and safety. I told them that you have to have common sense when it comes to traveling to a developing country but I also know that PC provides you with safety and cultural training to avoid potentially dangerous situations.

I guess what I am asking is should I be legitimately terrified about doing PC because I am a young Caucasian woman? I am fairly small (5'7", 120lbs) and am not sure if I would be capable of really defending myself in a dangerous situation. My family's concerns coupled with the stories I have read about attempted rapes/assaults and even the murder of Kate Puzey (http://www.coopercrier.com/local/local_story_078082546.html) have all started to intimidate me and have me really question my readiness and willingness to put myself in danger...

I was wondering
-Is it a legitimate concern to be afraid of something seriously dangerous happening, especially if assigned to a country in Africa?
-Do any RPCV have any stories about near assault/dangerous situations that came about during your 2 years of service?
-How safe do you feel as a PCV in your community, especially as a woman?
-Any advice???

Thank you!

Comments

Posted by: Rockin´the suburbs! (of San José, Costa Rica) (christine)
Posted at: March 3rd, 2010 01:16 pm (UTC)

Statistically speaking, there are more Caucasian women in PC than any other demographic. Situations like the one that you cited do occur, but they are extremely rare. There are nearly 200,000 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, but there have only been a handful of deaths that were the result of violence (of course, there have also been a deaths caused by accidents, medical issues, etc.). Each is a tragedy, but they are the exception, rather than the rule.

I serve in Latin America, but I'm not sure that the type of interpersonal violence that you're talking about is more common in Africa than in any other part of the world. PC publishes an annual incident report, divided by type of crime, by region and by country. It's somewhere on the website. When I get to the office later today, I can't try to find it.

I always felt 100% safe in my community. I would sometimes leave my house at 4 in the morning to catch a bus, and not think anything of it. Now that I've extended my service and am working out of the PC office, I am living in an urban area... of course, there is a higher incidence of crimes, and I need to take more precautions. But using those precautions (not walking around by myself late at night, taking taxis when necessary, not carrying too many belongings when traveling, etc.), I always feel reasonably safe.

As you said, PC will give you extensive training in cultural issues, as well as safety and medical. They will, of course, also ask you to engage your common sense and your personal responsibility to ensure your safety.

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